Why Purpose is a Powerful Motivator for Purging
Whether you call it downsizing, purging, simplifying or minimizing, it’s simply a way of clearing out the things we’ve accumulated over the years that we no longer need, and which no longer serve us. However, starting the process of downsizing is never easy. Sorting through all your things and making decisions about what to keep and what to give away or sell can be a tedious and long process.
Find your purpose
It helps to have a goal and deadline, such as "I’m going to go through one closet every week." But more importantly, it helps to know the reason or purpose for why you’re downsizing in the first place. What will downsizing help you accomplish? Maybe you want to create more space in your home for a new hobby. Maybe you want to get a jumpstart on an upcoming move to lessen your stress. Maybe you want the peace of mind knowing that you won’t be leaving your children with the burden of sorting through all your things. Or maybe you simply want to create a more simplified, organized and spacious life.
Keeping that purpose in mind can be a powerful catalyst for sticking to your downsizing goals. When the going gets tough, imagine yourself in your new home. Or working on your new hobby. Or how great you’ll feel when that spare closet is your beautiful new home office. Keep reading to discover the three key steps to getting started with purpose.
Finding purpose in my downsizing journey
Downsizing doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process. Over the last five years I have downsized several times. Each time I had a specific purpose for downsizing. And I knew that downsizing would help me achieve a specific goal.
In 2017, before selling my 2,400 square foot beloved 1915 craftsman house, I knew I had to purge not only 13 years of accumulation, but all the furniture and items I had brought from Los Angeles when I’d moved to Portland. Going through four bedrooms of furniture and a packed attic, basement and garage was not easy. But I had three important reasons for lightening my load.
My plan was to put everything in storage and travel for a while. That gave me a strong motivation for getting rid of as much as possible as I didn’t want to pay a lot for storage. Secondly, by clearing the clutter, removing personal items and streamlining the décor, I was able to stage and present my house in a way that would appeal to more homebuyers. It took a two-day estate sale, several yard sales, multiple Craigslist sales, and umpteen trips to Goodwill, but I finally purged around 70 percent of what I owned, and everything fit into a 130 square feet of storage space.
My third motivating factor for downsizing was my desire to eventually move into a smaller house. This happened sooner than later, as shortly after the sale of my house, I found a smaller house and moved in three weeks before leaving for Europe. My first trip back to the continent in 16 years!
My next venture into downsizing happened two years later when I built a 700-square foot accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in my backyard and decided to make it my home. My main motivations for downsizing to a smaller home was to simplify my life and to spend more time traveling. I knew renting out my main house would bring in additional income and living in the smaller house would mean lower utility bills. But I also wanted to live comforably in my custom, one-bedroom house surrounded by the things I love without the rooms looking cluttered. This was a challenge and a tremendous catalysts for additional purging of furnishings and household items, as well as for sorting through boxes of paperwork I didn’t have time to purge during my last move.
Later that year, I slow traveled to France and Spain for three months. I returned home at the end of 2019, eagerly planning my next sojourn to Europe in the spring. Then the pandemic hit, and I and everyone else were not going anywhere. Although it wasn’t part of my original motivation for downsizing to a smaller home, living in the ADU by myself (with no room for roommates) was the perfect place to ride out the pandemic.
Over the next two years, I did a lot of thinking about my goals in life and I realized that if I wanted to continue slow traveling Europe, I would need additional income. While there are many ways to fund your travels. I chose to Airbnb my house while I traveled for three months.
I knew I would need to clear one of my two IKEA PAX wardrobes for my guests, so I started the process by cleaning out my clothes closets. This was my opportunity to create a capsule wardrobe with only styles and colors that flattered me. I donated all the career clothes I no longer needed. Researching best colors, I decided to stop wearing black. There went 70 percent of my wardrobe. Over a year's time, I purged over 200 pieces — yes, I had way too many clothes. For years I’d stand in front of my overstuffed closet and declare I had nothing to wear. Now I have clothes that mix and match effortlessly. And a whole empty closet for guests.
Setting up my house to Airbnb required a whole other level of downsizing. I needed to store away some of my dishes and décor as well as personal papers and photographs. I left my furniture, cookware, small appliances and some décor items. It was strange, because at the same time I was purging old items, I needed to buy new items for the Airbnb, such as towels, bedding, kitchen utensils, dishes and a generous supply of paper towels, toilet paper, coffee and other supplies. It felt like I was moving out and moving in simultaneously.
Knowing that the money from the Airbnb would fund my travels was a powerful motivator. I thought about how much my guests would enjoy the little touches throughout my home. And I imagined myself watching the income flow in as I slow traveled France.
Downsizing helped me achieve my dream of living the best of both worlds — having a beautiful home base and the freedom to travel.
When you’re ready to downsize, follow these three steps:
1) Find your purpose and motivation
Why do you want to get rid of stuff you no longer need? Why do you need more space? Why do you want to simplify your life? Envision how your life will look and, most importantly, how you will feel when you have accomplished your goal. When you feel overwhelmed or like giving up, bring that feeling to mind and keep your eye on the prize. It will inspire you to keep going.
2) Set realistic goals
You can’t do it all in a day. Downsizing is an ongoing process. It’s been five years of downsizing and I still have boxes of paperwork, correspondence and photos to sort through. Set a practical goal for what you can achieve in a realistic timeframe.
3) Reward yourself along the way
With each room or closet you complete, it’s a victory! Give yourself a high five. If you can do it once, you can do it again. Keep the momentum going and you will reach your goal and achieve your dreams. And that’s the best feeling.