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By Mikey Rox / Len Penzo dot Com
October 28, 2015

When you’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and can’t seem to strike the right balance, it might be time to downsize. But that doesn’t just mean getting rid of tangible things. Sometimes you need to eliminate other variables that are holding you back from happiness, including obligations, activities and potentially relationships. Thus, if you think it’s time to cut the fat from your life, this post is for you. Here’s how to downsize in nine easy steps:

Log Your Daily Routine

You’ve got to start somewhere, and the best place is always at the beginning. To understand why you’re feeling overwhelmed and therefore to discover how to change your perspective, you’ll need to observe yourself like an outsider would.

“Keep a daily journal of how you’re spending your time,” suggests Mindi Blythe, a professional organizer and clutter management specialist. “At the end of one week, see what you can cut to make more time in your life.”

This chronicle should include all activities, including your morning habits, your commutes, what you do at work, after work, and more.

Inventory Your Stuff

In addition to the superfluous activities in your life — maybe you’re part of an organization or group you’re no longer interested in — there may also be a lot of tangible items that are cluttering your physical and mental space.

“Take an assessment of your home and write down all the things you have not used in the past year,” Blythe advises. “Rank each item from 1 to 10 — 10 signifying the most attachment you have — and anything that gets a 6 or lower, pack up and move out.”

Katelyn Cresmer, author of the minimalist blog Taking It Back a Notch, seconds Blythe’s sentiment.

“Have a vision in mind,” she says. “You want a nice spacious room? Get rid of everything that isn’t making it spacious. I broke down my apartment into areas and went through it. Piece by piece; paper by paper.”

Declutter — Then Do It Again

Once you’ve identified all the items you’d like to get rid of, begin the act of decluttering. Sell items that still have value at a yard or garage sale or online, donate in-good-condition items that perhaps don’t have a resale value, and toss the rest in the trash. After you make the initial sweep, walk away for a couple days then come back for more.

“I found that I came across items that sparked memories in me and I couldn’t get rid of it the first round,” Cresmer says. “By the second time around, my mind processed the memories and I was able to get rid of more things.”

Digitize!

Just because you’re sending your excess to the big litter pile in the sky doesn’t mean you have to part with it forever. They can live on in photos on social media, like Instagram, or files on your computer.

“Got a huge stack of papers you can’t get rid of? Piles of DVDs and CDs? Digitize everything!” Cresmer exclaims.

Get an Unbiased Opinion

When you come to an emotional crossroads — ya know, like when the people on Hoarders have a nervous breakdown — it may be time to call for backup.

Blythe says, “Hire a professional or have a downsizing party and invite your friends to help assist you if you have trouble getting rid of clutter. They can be your voice of reason.”

Live Smaller

Doing a balls-to-the-walls declutter could cause a bit of a culture shock at first. If it’s activities you’ve eliminated, you may find that you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with. In this case, just relax, and take a few days to learn how to live a little smaller. Your time doesn’t always have to be occupied by constant stimulation and movement. It’s OK to stay at home by yourself a couple of nights each week watching TV, reading a good book, cooking, or going to bed early.

Think Positively

The worst part about being overwhelmed with too much clutter in your life is that somewhere along the line you start to associate these people, places, and things with negative emotions. After they’re gone, it’s up to you to start thinking positively again. Try not to let outside elements get you down, especially when you’re the one in control of the situation.

Impose a Shopping Ban

If you’ve successfully accomplished what you set out to do during this downsize, you should have a home and office with only the essentials. As such, avoid bringing in more stuff to fill those voids. You’ve done well; don’t regress.

“Take a break from shopping,” advises Cresmer. “Take that time to process what you already have and then you can see what you actually need instead of making impulse purchases.”

Don’t Look Back

When you’re satisfied with your downsize, accept it and move on. Don’t dwell on the things you once had. You don’t need them. Rather, find healthy, more productive ways to spend your time, and start doing more with less. It’s totally possible, and you’ll be better off for it in the long run.

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