In our small, 536 sq ft house, we have to keep our stuff to a minimum—no clutter allowed. Every purchase, every buying decision we are presented with requires a level of forethought that was previously unnecessary when one considers the amount of space (about 1,500 sq ft) we “had” to fill.
Collections of stuff, whether it be stamps, coins, records or furniture, have no place in our new home, no matter how small in stature or how significant their value. We have one closet in our bedroom for nearly all of our stuff: our clothing, backpacks, travel bags, and a few odds and ends share the limited space. We have one vanity in the bathroom for towels, as well as a medicine cabinet for soaps and whatnot. Our kitchen storage also represents a significant reduction, so we retain a limited supply of dishes and dry goods—no bulk purchases possible. Nowhere in our home is there room for the collection of stuff as a hobby.
Real talk: If you are a collector, tiny living may not be for you, unless you are willing to make significant changes in the way you choose to live with and think about stuff. And if you think you are a hoarder, you may want to read this.
Question: But what about my baseball card collection from 30 years ago? Isn’t that worth something?
Truth: Clutter or stuff is only as valuable as one or another perceives it to be.
(Feel free to tweet the truth. LOL)
If you store stuff in your house (or a storage unit) until you find the right buyer, then your stuff is obviously “worth something” to you until it is “worth something” to someone else. But stuff is only “worth something” if someone is willing to buy it and actually puts up the dough; otherwise, it has nothing but sentimental value, and we can’t put sentimental value in the bank and hope to get to financial independence someday.
In the course of trying to downsize, we had to ask ourselves a lot of challenging questions about our stuff to assess real value v. perceived value v. sentimental value. Was it difficult to part with some of our belongings? At the time, I imagine it was, but I honestly cannot tell you today what those belongings were; I had to go back to an old blog post to see some of the items we had gotten rid of.
What we’re left with in terms of stuff exist in one of a few buckets:
- stuff we need on a regular basis (clothes, towels, soap, food, etc…)
- stuff we need on semi-regular basis (hiking shoes, backpacks)
- stuff we need for our future investment properties (tools)
- stuff we no longer need that sits at the big house (furniture)
Reducing our clutter to the items we truly need helped us achieve a state much closer to minimalism, perhaps semi-minimalism. As we continue to reduce our food hoard and digitize photos and documents, I think may well achieve the minimalist nirvana we seek.
Question: What do we do with stuff we no longer need?
There is seldom a time in which a stuff-related question cannot be solved by Craiglist. Need to buy something? Craiglist! Need to sell something? Craiglist! It’s a beautiful thing.
After years of wasting time trying to sell stuff via Craiglist, we came up with a framework to maximize the time we invest by setting a desirable hourly rate of $50. Depending on the item, this may or may not be realistic, so we donate or give items away that aren’t going to net a profit close to the $50/hr. Committing to giving away items if they don’t sell or aren’t worth selling made the downsizing part easier for us–we never have a “wait and see if it sells” attitude, which would have allowed for the stuff to hang around longer. Here’s a “hypothetical” situation of this in action. 🙂
Let’s say that we have a custom-made, solid-wood trash can for the trash and recycling for our home. Since we downsized, we can’t take this trash can with us, but it’s worth it to us to try to sell since we spent $350 for it. Let’s say we listed the trash can on Craigslist for $350 and fielded a couple of emails immediately, so we’ve invested, thus far, about 30 minutes. If the trash sits on Craigslist, we’re going to have to drop the price, which takes away from our potential profit and the time we invest. Thus, if we have to sell it for $100 to get rid of it, then we can invest no more than 2 hours into this given our desirable hourly rate of $50. Since this is an item we no longer need, it qualifies as clutter, but it’s worth it to try and sell it–a delicate balancing act, indeed.
Real talk: If you want to retain stuff in your tiny home, consider this elaborate exercise. Decide on the dimensions of your tiny house. Tape off a room in your current dwelling that matches the dimensions of your tiny house. Take all of the stuff you want in your tiny house and put it inside the taped dimensions. You’ll be surprised by how little stuff you can take. Consider the time and expense of moving and storing stuff in terms of your desirable hourly rate as well as the clutter/stuff you really, truly want to keep.
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 1: Clutter
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 2: Time
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 3: Diet
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 4: Routine
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 5: Noises
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 6: Smells
Real Talk of Tiny Living, Part 7: Misconception