A Comprehensive Guide to Downsizing

Tiny Houses

By: Julia Speirs

So, you just decided to embrace tiny living, or perhaps you are a bit further along in your adventure and are ready to move into your new tiny space. Regardless of where you are in the process of building your tiny home, yurt, van, cabin or micro home, you will have to consider how much stuff you can fit into your new space. For many, this process of downsizing can be a challenge and many people don’t even know where to start. If you are struggling with this daunting task, then read this guide to get you started on the process!

Why Declutter & Downsize

Stuff = Stress. The more stuff you have the more stress it seems to bring on. As someone who has moved about 4 times in the past 3 years, I can tell you how stressful it is to haul every single one of my belongings from one place to the next. If I am being completely honest there are some items of mine that I only ever see when I am moving. Items such as these are the perfect example of belongings that can be disposed of. We all have a multitude of things that cause us stress, so why not declutter and remove at least one of those stress-causers?

No Stress

When it comes to your new tiny space, the last thing you want is too much stuff. You will want to ensure that everything you decide to keep has a place that it can be stored away when it is not being used. A lot of components in tiny spaces are multifunctional, so you have to ensure that their functionality is maintained. This is not possible if you have too much stuff. 

Tiny House Simplicity

Finally, stuff is just stuff. How much of it do we need? The answer is “not too much”. Stuff not only causes stress, but it can also be extremely distracting. Many people seem to think stuff is what fulfills them in life, but this is not the case. What is truly fulfilling in life is spending time with loved ones and experiencing everything that life has to offer. By downsizing you are choosing to focus on what is important. Say hello to more experiences, family, friends and the great outdoors!

Family Time

Where to Start

Starting this task can often be the hardest part, and so my advice is to just start somewhere. Whenever it is time for me to downsize or declutter I often find I spend so much time thinking about where to start as opposed to just starting, which draws out the process. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter where you start because, in the end, you’ll have to go through everything! 

Start Somewhere

I am currently in the process of downsizing as I have recently moved into a smaller home that can simply not fit all of my stuff. I found the easiest place for me to start was with the larger pieces of furniture that I had and working my way down to the smaller items. Another tactic is to go through your items by room. For example, starting in the kitchen, then moving on to the bathroom, home office (if you have one), living room and then finally the bedroom. If you do choose to go through your belongings by room, I find that working your way from big down to small seems to be the most effective. Since you are moving into a tiny space, you will, with about 99.9% certainty need to get rid of all of your current furniture and opt for some smaller and more custom furniture. *This is assuming you are moving from a larger home to a tiny home and not between two tiny spaces.*

Organizing clothing

Some common pieces of large furniture that you will most likely have to re-home include couches, chairs, tables, dressers, and beds. These items are too large for a tiny space and aren’t crafted to efficiently use the minimal space that you have. Furniture often found in tiny homes is multifunctional and to some degree, custom made. The best part about starting with the furniture first is that it looks like you have made a lot of progress quick (yay for small wins!) and it can help you set aside some cash if you opt to sell your furniture. 


I would just like to make a disclaimer that if you are not at the stage of actually moving into your tiny space then starting your downsizing with your larger furniture items that you use daily is probably not the best idea! 

How to Downsize

When it comes to downsizing we have discussed why it's important and where to start, but what about how to downsize? Well, there are a few methods which I will outline here. 

The first method is what is discussed by Jake and Gianna of Our Van Quest in their YouTube Video on how they minimized. This young family transitioned from living in a large home to a van...so, as you can imagine they are seasoned professionals when it comes to downsizing. Their biggest piece of advice is to live out your normal day, making a list of everything you use. Then after you have a list, go through your belongings and get rid of anything that isn’t on the list. This method may seem quite extreme, but it is a surefire way to get rid of clutter. For those of you with children, it is also important that you account for their belongings, including their toys. Jake and Gianna have a little toy box onboard their van for their child and the rule is, “if it doesn’t fit in the box, then it doesn't come in the van.” You can follow along with Jake and Gianna’s journey and get more helpful downsizing tips by following their Instagram and YouTube channel


Another method for downsizing is the 4 box rule discussed by MyMove in their How to Move into a Tiny Home article. With this method you simply set-up 4 boxes every time you work on downsizing, each with a different label. Whenever you fill up a box, simply grab a new one to fill! Label each box with one of the following titles: 

  • Trash - This box is for items that are no longer functional and would not be useful to anyone else. If possible try and recycle these items, but if it is not possible to recycle then the garbage is okay. If the item is truly garbage, please do not try and donate it. This just makes more work for those working at the donation centers and strains their resources.  
  • Give Away/Donate - In this box put items that you no longer need, but could still be useful to someone else. You can try selling these items, donating them, or giving them to a family member/friend.  
  • Keep - These items are things you use daily. When deciding what to put in this box, you could also combine methods and refer to the list mentioned in the previous paragraph. 
  • Relocate - This box is for items that you still want to keep, but simply do not have room to bring along with you to your new tiny space. This could include items like family heirlooms, keepsakes or even a very special piece of furniture. Try asking a friend or family member if you can store these items at their home or in their garage! If they need some convincing maybe throw in a pack of their favorite beer and some puppy dog eyes. 

If after completing this process you still have too many items to “Keep”, then you may want to repeat this process or pair it with another method!


A third method is to set out a certain number of trash bags and work on filling all of those with toys, knick-knacks, and extras. The idea is to work until they are all full. This method is also mentioned in MyMove’s article

These methods are only a fraction of the ones that you can employ to downsize your belongings. My advice is to try out various ones and find what works best for you! Everyone works differently and so it is important to adopt a system that suits you. If it works well for you and complements your style you are more likely to stick with it!


Here are some tips that I hope will help you with downsizing.

  • Start Slow - There is no need to take on this type of project in one haul. Take it slow and dedicate 15-30 minutes a day to downsizing. By breaking this project into smaller chunks you avoid getting overwhelmed.
  • Get help from a friend - If you have a friend that is willing, enlist their help! Some items that you think are necessary, they may think are not. They provide an objective eye and can help you weed through those items that you are struggling to determine where they belong.  
  • Go through MyMove’s Checklist - MyMove has put together a room-by-room guide to help you declutter every space in your home. If you are struggling where to start, this is a great place! 

You Got This

Final Thoughts

Overall, downsizing can be a daunting task and something that most people will put off to the last possible moment. If this is the case for you, I hope this little guide can help get you started! If any of these methods worked for you or you have a method of your own, let us know in the comments below!


Author Julia Speirs at Lake Como in Italy

About the Author: Julia Speirs

Julia has come onboard as the Marketing Coordinator at Tiny Life Supply to gain some valuable, hands-on marketing experience before returning to the University of Victoria to complete her Bachelor of Commerce degree. Growing up, Julia would spend time in the summer at her family’s lake property in Ontario where she got to experience tiny home living for the first time. It was love at first experience and she has been following the tiny house movement ever since. She is most fascinated by the innovation she sees when it comes to people building and outfitting their homes and is always eager to learn more about people’s tiny dwellings. 

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