Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

How To Get Started: A Practical Guide Part 5

Today we are going to talk about how to start reduce your stuff.  I feel that it is important to start reducing things down before you even build your Tiny House because after you weed out things, you will begin to see how little your really need.  Inevitably you will still need to get rid of some things even after you do this when you move into your house, but I feel 2 passes are needed for most.

I should note that discussing consumerism and materialism prior to this step was an important choice in order.  We have now established a backdrop which should frame your mind when approaching these things.  So I am going to first offer up some tips then some techniques to start organizing.

Tips:

  1. Start small: Don’t try to tackle your house, or even an entire room, try just one are ie: your desk
  2. Everything has a place and everything in its place:  have a designated spot for everything
  3. Put it away now: Once you get things clean, if you use something, put it back right away
  4. Use an inbox and keep it empty:  This applies to mail, email, etc.  your goal is to have it empty at all times.  It comes in, you respond or calendar then file it.
  5. Setup a file system: Papers and emails seem to pile up on people, so take the time to have a file system, I digitize everything and I’m done
  6. Setup a system for pending items:  Where many people get into trouble is what to do with pending items, so setup a system to organize things that in holding

Techniques:

Box Method:

This is simply my favorite approach, it is effective and simple.

Find a box, any box, size appropriate for your stuff of a certain area.  The important thing to remember is to tackle one defined area at a time, usually you can define an area by its function.  Your desk is a great place to start (then later move on to your clothes, then the kitchen, etc.).  Take everything and I mean everything!  Out of and off of your desk (with the exception of your computer and desk lamp) and put it into the box.  No cheating now, just do it, I want every drawer empty, the desktop clear and the floor clear too if you have stuff piled up.

Now once you have done this, write today’s date on it and take this box and put it under your desk or within arm’s reach.  That’s it!  No just kidding, as you begin to work and find that you need things go to the box and pull out that one single item.  If you need a pen, get one pen, not all of them.  If you need ruler, take it out of the box.  Continue doing this for a month, hence the date you wrote on the box.  At the end of the month schedule 20 minutes in your calendar to sort through the remains.

When you do this take your box and set your trash can right next to it and begin considering each item.  For 95% of all the things in that box, you will end up throwing away.  A few items will be something that you use every now and then, but with no consistency, but you feel that your really really really need.  Then ask yourself:

  • Is this something that I could borrow easily when the need arises?
  • Could you achieve this function of the item, in another way?
  • Is there something in my desk that can do this function?

For many things you will find that you can borrow them or you don’t really need it.  There are those things that you just have to have.  You emergency inhaler is a good example, however the snow globe that Deborah in accounting gave you 4 years ago and that has been sitting the back of a drawer is not.

Throw away or donate the remains and you will have an area that is cleaner and has the things that you need, now just want.

100 or 300 0r ____ item challenge:

For some people a solid goal is what they need; Arbitrary goals mean they can’t take the first step, so I use this technique with those folks.  The concept is you set a goal for yourself in terms of number of items then eliminate down to that number.  What I suggest for determining the number is nothing above 500, but what ever number you choose, shave off 50 items to push yourself.  Now the rules for this is that each item counts as a single item.  For example, a fork, knife and spoon are three things, not a set of one.  There are some things I will give you a pass on to not count on your list, I don’t count fridge, stove, toaster, microwave type of things.  I do however count clothing, 1 shirt = 1 shirt.  Depending on the situation I will say items specifically for your work/income are not counted, but I would push many people to include them if possible or do a 100 item challenge on your work place, we spend a good amount of time at work, less stuff means we can think clearer, work better and more effectively.  Check out this guys website on this: http://guynameddave.com/100-thing-challenge/

Going Paperless

As if being greener isn’t motivation enough, going digital, as I call it, means that you are able to reduce the tangible items you need. Digital files take up no space if you have them stored online, with the added advantage of being able to access them from anywhere.

How to get started on this?  First you need a scanner, depending on how much paper volume you have, you might want to invest in an auto-feeding model.  I have yet to try out, but am anxious to try the Neat Receipts system which includes software to organize it all.  However you do this, please please please! backup and be really paranoid about it.  Combined with backing the files up, they become safer than real world things. I currently have my computer setup to automatically mirror my hard drive to another within the computer (google RAID), then I have 3 external hard drives that are backup to, then finally I have another that sits in a fireproof box at my house and another in a safety deposit box at the bank.  The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements.

But this extends beyond receipts. books which can take a ton of space can now fit on your Kindle, instead of renting and DVD’s get a Roku Box, for music I have it on my ipod and also online on a platform called OpenTape, I also put all my recipes in a wiki and finally I organize my documents on a free online file manager called Xoda.  The point is, I look at everything I have and look for a digital equivalent, then back it up religiously!

4 Comments
  1. Good article, I especially like the part about going digital. It’s important to note that most cheap all in one printers today have feeders on the scanner side to make it even easier to mass scan documents. If you really want to take the plunge, there are services which will mass scan whole banker boxes of documents for reasonable sums.

    A word of warning through, always have at least TWO copies of all your documents. I prefer to have a total of 3. There is one which sits on my computer for papers when I need to see them, the second is a piece of physical media, such as a DVD-R or a thumb drive (in my case, a DVD-R which sits with most of my other CDs in my case), and the 3rd is a second piece of physical media which I keep somewhere out of the house (such as with my family or in a safe deposit box).

    Online storage is easily hackable by a dedicated hacker, use only if you have a strong encryption scheme and understand it fully. Nothing less than GPG (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Privacy_Guard), a password protected zip file does not cut it. I prefer to avoid entirely.

  2. i find it difficult to imagine myself with 300 items or less. i am a builder/maker/arty type and i have that much stuff in tools and supplies alone.
    i have been getting rid of things for awhile though, and i like the feeling i have when stuff is gone. i think the real satisfaction will come when i have defined want and need and i no longer agonize over every detail.i will just know.

  3. I have reduced my stuff over and over for many years now, things keep inviting themselves into my home hehe.. But what I discover is that you really dont need a lot of books, cd`s and films at home when you have a library nearby your home. Making the decision to borrow whatever I want from my local library, helps me to live simple, with less stuff in my home. I kind of view the library as my home, it really make it easier to let go of books, films etc, I give them to my library. Then other people also get to enjoy what I once had in my home.

  4. I think it’s a great thing to live with less. My turning point came when I spend a year in Australia having only one suitcase with me. I felt so free. Even living in Germany in a small appartment right now I always try to maintain having less. This attitude made my life a lot easier and I can focus more on what I want.

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