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A few months ago, I received official notice that the cute cluster of bungalows I lived in had been sold to developers. In turn, I had four months to relocate from my cozy one-bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. Finding a decent place to live in the most unaffordable rental market in the U.S. was not going to be easy.

But by luck or chance, I stumbled upon a cute cabin east of the city. I would only be paying a couple hundred more. The trade-off? My new living space was a tiny 325-square feet, a significant downsize from my nearly 500-square foot apartment.

Downsizing would be a process in itself, but it had to be done. Here’s how I went about purging belongings and came up with solutions to make the most of my cozy new digs.

Purge Like There’s No Tomorrow

If you’re trying to declutter your home, make an inventory of your possessions and become aware of what you actually use on a daily basis, suggests Isabelle LaRue, host and producer of Engineer Your Space. “Whether we have a large or small home, we tend to fill the space we have with things,” says LaRue. “The first step in “right sizing” your home is taking an honest look at your stuff and what you really use.”

Besides toiletries, foodstuffs and clothing, I basically just needed my laptop. Living out of a suitcase the past two summers in Chicago and going on a bunch of road trips this year taught me just how little I needed.

Still, purging was easier said than done. While getting rid of the larger, clunky furniture such as a side table, bookshelf and fold-up desk was no big deal, it was the sentimental stuff I struggled with. I ended up getting rid of my record player, and my entire record and CD collection.

As a long-time audiophile and music lover, I felt as if those tangible items were part of my identity. I also parted with nearly 50 books and an old typewriter that I had long treasured. These were things that no longer had as much importance. (Hello, the Cloud!)

Clothes were a different matter. I went with the Marie Kondo method; I grouped my attire by category and applied the “Does this spark joy?” test to each article of clothing – and whether they’d fit inside my tiny closet. The most challenging part was getting rid of clothing that I kept for hypothetical scenarios – think costume garb, not everyday wear.

All in all, I got rid of about 25 – 30 percent% of my belongings.  

Make the Most of Vertical Spaces

The great part of my new space was that there were plenty of built-in vertical shelves, including shelving that took up an entire wall in the living room, kitchen and bathroom. I created as many additional storage places as I could; for instance, storing boxes underneath my bed.

To give my snug quarters a burst of color and personality, I set out the majority of my favorite trinkets, knick-knacks and a few potted plants. I do plan on hanging up some framed art and purchasing some original artwork to support talented folks. And because there’s such a generous amount of existing shelving, I won’t need to add any additional shelving units.

Find a Good Home for Stuff You Let Go

After I moved in, I ended up getting rid of more stuff, including my television. And I’m still not done. What made it easier for me to part with my belongings was that I donated all of it.

Knowing that there’s a sharing community that exists helps you let go of your stuff, explains Carla Truax of At Home Housing, an LA-based co-housing and cooperative organization. Plus, if you’re in a pinch and need to borrow something, you have a network to tap in to.

I donated the majority of my belongings through a Buy Nothing Facebook group and to local friends. It felt good to know that I could help people out through purging and freely giving things away. 

You Are Committed to Your Belongings

My partner likes to say that commitments are easy to get into, but hard to get out of. The same goes for your stuff. It’s all too easy to get excited about a deal or something you think you want. And it doesn’t take much to press the “add to cart” button and spend some dough. But when it comes to parting with your belongings, the mental energy you have to expend can take a toll.

Now that I have far less space, I have been pretty conscious about making sure every item I bring in has value or purpose. Case in point: a few months ago, a neighbor was selling his acoustic guitar for a mere $50. While I could afford the guitar in money, I couldn’t afford it in terms of space. Plus, every time I looked at the guitar, I knew I would get that nagging feeling that I should pick it up and play it more. I decided against the purchase.

While it was a hard process, it was necessary. And I’m glad I was able to get rid of as much stuff as I did. “We may think we need all this space for our stuff when in fact we’re just holding on to a lot of dead weight that doesn’t serve us,” points out LaRue. “Purging what we don’t use before a move will make the transition to a smaller space much smoother – not to mention reduce the number of boxes we need to pack for the move!”

Are you considering downsizing your digs? If so, what challenges do you anticipate and how will you find a solution? Tell us in the comments!

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