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Downsizing or Minimalism? Declutter for a Simpler Life

Dream about simplifying your life but don’t know where to start? Join a growing movement! More and more people and families these days are dreaming of a simpler life – and that usually starts with getting rid of stuff that’s holding you down. Maybe you’ve started thinking about downsizing or minimalism, but don’t know where to begin. Here’s the difference between downsizing, minimalism and just plain decluttering.

See what makes sense to you and start enjoying life more.

What is Downsizing?

You’ve probably heard about downsizing when moving to a smaller place to live.

Downsizing is all about getting rid of stuff to fit the place or environment that needs to house the stuff.

So, for instance, you might live in a four bedroom house. You are moving into a two bedroom apartment. You will need to downsize to fit into your new space.

Which means you’ll have to get rid of the furniture that was in those two extra rooms you previously had, because there will likely be no room for it in your new place. So even though you might love the beds and dresser drawers and bedding sets that you had in the two rooms, you need to get rid of them or store them somewhere because there is no room for the stuff.

That is downsizing.

Notice that you might still like all of the stuff. You haven’t dreamed of giving it up before. And it might bring you joy. But the amount of space that you have to live in simply won’t hold it.

It’s like a drawer full of kitchen utensils. You simply can’t add one more spoon, whisk, or strainer unless you get rid of something else. There is only so much space in one place. You must downsize (get rid of stuff) before you can add anything new to that drawer.

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism is similar to downsizing, but it also can be drastically different. It all depends on your outlook.

Deciding to practice minimalism might be because you’re tired of having too much stuff. It’s similar to downsizing in that way, because you want to get rid of things that don’t work in your life anymore.

You might feel that you want to practice minimalism because you’re moving into a one room apartment garage to save money. You have got to get rid of everything that is not necessary because you have so little room.

So, downsizing can mean minimalism sometimes.

But sometimes it does not.

Minimalism is all about getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy anymore or that are holding you back emotionally, financially, spiritually or simply not allowing you to live the life that you want.

Notice that minimalism is not trying to fit your stuff into a defined amount of space. Minimalism is about creating a bigger space in your soul to allow more things in.

You can be a minimalist and still own lots of stuff and live in a big house. In fact, here are the ways you can become a minimalist without getting rid of anything.

Less is More quote against blue watercolor

Downsizing vs. Minimalism: What’s the Difference?

Okay, you might be scratching your head a little bit in trying to figure out what is the difference between downsizing and minimalism. You’re not alone.

There’s a lot of talk about minimalistic living lately. Is it a cultural fad or a new way of thinking about truly living in life? Time will tell. But in the meantime, you can go nuts reading all about everyone’s minimalism stories and how they have achieved bliss by giving away everything.

It’s not that easy. Trust me. (I actually secretly hate the word minimalism, here’s my story why.)

And you don’t have to sell everything you own to achieve a simpler life.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you should ONLY do what feels right to you in your life in this moment of time. Do NOT follow someone’s minimalism checklist or downsizing guidelines to get rid of all of your stuff. That worked for their situation. It might not work for yours. (In fact, I hope it doesn’t work for your life. We’re not all cookie cutter lives, you know.)

If you’re totally confused about how to go about downsizing and simplifying your life, here are some examples of the difference between downsizing vs. minimalism:

Example 1

You’ve got a guest spare bedroom that’s full of furniture for guests, and lot of “stuff” that you don’t know what to do with.

  • Downsizing: Find places to put all of those bags and boxes of little things that have accumulated in the bedroom so that your guests have a place to sleep when they come over.
  • Minimalism: Realize that you hate having house guests, anyway, and paying for the square footage for someone else to enjoy. Get rid of all of the stuff in the bedroom and turn it into a yoga studio for you to exercise, meditate and take care of yourself.

Example 2

Your kitchen cabinets are bursting at the seams. You can’t find anything in your kitchen drawers and cabinets.

  • Downsizing: Get rid of the extra kitchen gadgets you don’t need (do you NEED three food processors??) and organize your drawers and cabinets.
  • Minimalism: Realize that you hate baking and only open the oven to bake Christmas cookies. Give away all of your baking sheets, mixers and everything you never use to family or friends and rid yourself of the guilt that you should be baking homemade treats.

Example 3

You don’t have enough room in your pantry to store all of the food that your family eats in a week.

  • Downsizing: Stop buying as much food and decide to make more frequent trips to the grocery store.
  • Minimalism: Realize that you hate grocery shopping. You’d rather do it once every two weeks (or snag great deals on food by ordering online) rather than twice in one week. So you convert an underutilized closet or space in the garage to store more food so that you don’t waste more time in a week doing something that you don’t love.

Do you see how downsizing and minimalism can be drastically different? Downsizing doesn’t always make life any simpler, it just means having less stuff. Minimalism doesn’t have to always mean getting rid of your stuff, it’s all about creating a simple life that you enjoy.

What About Decluttering?

Maybe you’re not ready for downsizing or minimalistic living yet.

That’s OKAY!

Downsizing is all about fitting stuff into a certain space and minimalism is all about changing your way of thinking. You might not be in a place of life where you’re ready to change houses or do too much emotional thinking.

That’s alright.

But maybe the clutter is still driving you nuts in your life.

That’s where decluttering comes in.

Decluttering is not always about getting rid of anything. Or making hard choices of how to live your life from now on.

Instead, decluttering is about taking what you have now and putting it in order.

Decluttering is more about organization, finding the right space for what you currently own, and making your home pretty and clean.

You certainly can get rid of bags of clothes that don’t fit anymore, junk mail, broken gadgets, etc.

But notice that decluttering is more about finally getting rid of trash or useless items in your life. Rather than trying to get rid of things that you love or changing your mindset of how to live your life.

I think decluttering is super important for your health, both emotionally and physically! In fact, by decluttering you can get rid of potentially harmful things that might be impacting your health in your home. Take my 30 Day Declutter Plan for a Healthy Home to detox your life and get organized, too!

PLUS, we have a great tutorial on How to Declutter Your Bedroom for Better Sleep Tonight. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference!

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on downsizing vs. minimalism vs. decluttering. How have you simplified your life by rethinking your stuff?


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Thursday 21st of March 2019

This is an excellent article!! Long overdue. it's a real fine line... I think we all need to downshift rather than downsize. It's great when you are doing a great job climbing a mountain - but what if it's the wrong mountain? So too in life... all too often we end up doing things to 'pay the mortgage' that we would never do if we had the option. A great book on this is 'Radical Simplicity' by Jim Meer. It started me on a downshift mode in 2004 and I have prospered so much more since that shift. THANKS Kimberly.

Kimberly Button

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

I love the idea of downshifting. No matter what your mission is, if you’re on the wrong road it’s not right for you. Thanks for sharing ?