Imagining the Next Downsize

Only some of these things will be kept the next time around.

The other day I took two houseplants that weren’t doing so well and set them out on our front porch (where they almost instantly revived). With the plants gone, I was able to move a few things around in our living room which somehow managed to give it a fresher, more uncluttered and open look. I was surprised that the removal of only two items and a few other small changes facilitated such a big change in how the otherwise small room feels. Less had created more.

Brett and I are already starting to think about what we’ll ship back to the U.S. when we leave Kaua’i in a couple of years, and what we can let go of this time. Last time we sent back around 1,500 pounds for storage; we hoping for around 500 pounds this time. We already know we’ll be able to let go of more now, a reminder that downsizing and decluttering remain a process, not a one-time-and-you’re-done task. We know that was unbearable to let go of before can become bearable over time, and maybe even desired, and that we have a very different sense these days of what we want to live with than we did when we set off back in 2018.

While I think I already do a good job of not accumulating things, I came across an article the other day for decluttering or downsizing a room that I wish I had thought of or known about earlier, an idea which I plan to use mentally over the next couple of years as the actual process would be impossible given our current space. The exercise requires removing absolutely everything out of a room you want to declutter, from furniture to pictures to tchotchkes. Everything. When the room is completely cleared out, it’s deep cleaned it from top to bottom (and repainted if needed or desired).

The room should then sit empty for at least three days, but longer if possible while careful thought is given to the desired result for the room. After that, items should be slowly brought back into the room, maybe over a period of days, until the imagined result is reached. After that, everything else can go. The happy result should be a decluttered room with less needed than one initially imagined.

While we’re unable to do the empty room thing now, Brett and I will instead imagine a future empty space, and think carefully about how we’d like our room(s) to look. Our days on the road taught us that we prefer small, uncluttered spaces with a few thoughtful touches. What we’ll be asking ourselves going forward what pieces that we have now will be useful? What pieces will bring us joy?

We know that some things aren’t going to make the cut this next time, but it’s going to take time for us to figure it all out. For now we’ll appreciate, enjoy, and use what we have, but always with that empty room in the back of our minds.


16 thoughts on “Imagining the Next Downsize

  1. The empty room is a good way to approach your desired result. We recently moved back to Australia and have finally retrieved our items from storage where they had been for 25 years. I don’t even want to start thinking of how much that cost us. I was surprised in a good way by what I had kept from my years of travel. Our boxes from the US are scheduled to be delivered this week and once all our boxes are unpacked I am determined that what no longer gives us joy will be donated asap. I’ve already got my mind towards when we move next time I am not going to be taking all these things with us. However what I have noticed makes my spaces look more joyful are actually the indoor plants. I regularly move them outside for watering etc and the room looks empty without them. When I place them back in the room looks comfy and warm. Maybe that’s telling me I don’t need all those “things”.


    1. The idea of starting with an empty room really resonated with me – it’s something we can imagine even though we won’t be settling down again for a while.

      One day I figured out what our storage had *really* cost us once I figured in the price of shipping our goods back to the mainland for storage and then back over here again (and with the movers losing a box). Ouch. Even a small amount from here back to the mainland is very expensive – I can’t imagine shipping goods to Australia. One of the things we did when we downsized before moving over to Hawaii was to ask ourselves if we wanted to pay for the cost of shipping for that items. The answer was almost always NO.

      I absolutely loved having plants indoors but they sure didn’t like it. We have a beautiful view of lots of green from our front doors and windows, and for now I’m happier with the plants sitting outside – I can still enjoy them and they’re doing better.


  2. During our move last summer, there were things that each of us would not part with. Yet. What we’ve found in the 10 months we’ve lived here is that we’re slowly getting rid of a lot more stuff. I have a few lamps that I LOVE and couldn’t bring myself to part with. But now they’re in the storage area and I just don’t see a place for them. We’ve sold a few things on the FB Marketplace, made many more trips to GoodWill, and I’m sure we’ll continue. We still don’t agree on some things (I purge more than he does). But a new place does make me realize again that some things that were perfect in another house just don’t work here. And for me, there is a definite lightness is open space – whether it’s in the room or in the storage space.


    1. Downsizing is a process. I positively hate articles that showcase downsizing in 30 days, or similar because something you can’t bear to part with at one point is something that you can let go of later in the process, once you’ve had some time to think about it. We have found the more we get rid of, the easier it is to get rid of other things. That being said, there are already things we know we want to keep because of the joy they bring us. Brett used to be the “king of the packrats” but these days he’s almost more of a minimalist than I am!

      I think one of the reasons I enjoy modern design so much is that it’s for the most part light and uncluttered. That’s what I’m striving for now.

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  3. Have you considered storing what you want to keep in Hawaii? You seem to keep coming back there and it could always be shipped to the mainland if you don’t.


    1. Hawaii is not a good place to store things: too wet, too humid, and too much salt. We have heard horror stories from people here about what happened to their stuff when it was put into storage, even into so-called sealed and temperature regulated storage.

      I doubt we will move back to Hawaii again. Much as we love it here, it’s grown more expensive and too far away from everyone. Both Brett and I are very glad though that we did come back again and plan to enjoy every minute we have here until we leave.


  4. That seems like an interesting approach. Can you link the article? When we’ve been painting we try and remove as much as possible and it’s interesting that I love the openness a lot. But then things get put back in place and while it still looks good, I’m always for less is more.


    1. The article was part of a Swagbucks survey! I wanted to bookmark it, but couldn’t as the link went to Swagbucks and not to the article. I’ve tried to Google it but so far haven’t found it.

      I have looked at the pictures of when we moved into this apartment, before we got our shipment and before we started accumulating more furniture. There is such a thing as too little or not enough, and what we have now is just enough for this apartment, but we’d honestly like to own and have to care for less.


      1. So much of your things I’ve seen in your photos are SO beautiful and I’m sure will be difficult to give/sell. But since I started my minimalist journey, since 2012, I’m so less attached to things. Of course, circumstances are different, we have lived her 26 years and do not plan to move. Downsizing would be funny since our house is @ 800 sq ft and only one bathroom.


      2. I’m glad we’re able to think about this now, because I think that by the time we do get ready to sell it will be easier to let things go rather than if we had to do it in a hurry. Both Brett and I are growing less and less attached to things as time goes on so I think we’ll do OK this time letting things go.


  5. THAT is a great idea! I can do that!
    We just got an estimate on the price to send our stuff to Idaho. Nope! I am back in the garage tomorrow going through boxes already packed. It will take more effort, but we need to be more proactive. I am, also choosing to get rid of more furniture…again. Downsizing is work!


    1. Downsizing is work, both physical and mental, and from our experiences takes time.

      We were shocked when we got the first estimate of shipping our storage items back to the mainland, and even with a missing box the shipment cost more coming back. We don’t want to do that again, although this time our stuff will be going cross country once it hits the mainland, back to Massachusetts, so that’s going to be expensive no matter how little we ship. But, we plan to be ruthless this time about what we keep. I’m surprised by how much we are keeping for the girls, and I think the majority of what we ship back will be their things. We’re going to ask them to take some of it back when they come for Christmas, but not sure if that will make much of a dent or not.


  6. Interesting. I think if I were in your situation, I’d leave a few boxes of precious things (photos, etc) with my sister, but ditch all household & other items. I’d imagine the cost of storing & then moving would be more than the replacement cost of most items. I’m not a very sentimental person, though, so YMMV. 🙂


    1. Besides size, our rule this time for keeping something will be “is it functional?” That is, does it serve a purpose or is it useful beyond looking pretty? One of the things I will keep it my cookware – it’s All Clad, and I’ve had it for nearly 30 years. It still works great and looks great, and would cost me twice what I paid for it to replace it. It will go into storage. Some of our dishes we’ll keep as well, but lots of it can go this time. I’m hoping our children will take a few pieces, but not counting on it.


  7. This year I finally participated in a blogging challenge for Lent – getting rid of 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. I ended up with 33 bags/boxes less stuff in my house. I watched several different YouTube videos on decluttering and minimalism for motivation during the 40 days. One video said to tell yourself that if the answer isn’t a clear YES for keeping the item, then it is a no and should go. This really helped me each time I was waffling and imagining all the reasons I should keep it…otherwise known as the “what ifs!”

    I still have a long way to go and totally agree with you that the process is exhausting as each thing is a decision. I’ve been setting the timer for 15 minutes and working until it dings. I’m fine once I get started, it’s just getting over the hurdle of inertia! I also agree with you that the “onion” method of peeling back one layer at a time is what works best for me.

    Since I don’t have a deadline hanging over my head, I’ve been able to take photos of family items and “auction” them off to my sibs and cousins. Grandparent’s 1969 Oxford Dictionary, which is 6″ thick, with wooden stand anyone? Gone! Hand quilted pillow cover? Gone! The decision to let go of these items was easier knowing they were staying in the family.

    When my parents retired and sold the house they had lived in for 39 years, there was SO MUCH STUFF. I don’t want to do this to my son. Your daughters are probably too young to realize this is a gift you are giving them by downsizing stuff while you are physically able to do so without needing their help or just giving up and leaving it for them to do when you are dead.


    1. First, congratulations on some successful downsizing/decluttering! We have done so many similar things, such as letting things go if we hesitated in the least, taking photos of family items, or sending them off to other family members.

      Estate sales have been some of the saddest events I have ever attended. I have always thought of my grandmother as being a minimalist, but when it came time to have an estate sale and sell her house, I remember my mom saying, “she lived in that house for 50 years and NEVER THREW ANTHING AWAY.” She was just good at hiding things! The event was a chore for my mom and her siblings, and I don’t ever want that for my kids.


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