How to Downsize Your Lifestyle (Even if Shopping Is Your Favorite Pastime)

Listen, we’ve all been there. You’re trying to save money, pay off debt, and live a little more simply, but every time you start a budget, you remember: shopping is your happy place. 

Swiping the card, feeling the rush of a new purchase, it’s like a scene out of your favorite movie. But when the credit card statement arrives, reality crashes back in.

Downsizing your lifestyle isn’t about ditching all you love or living in deprivation; it’s about reshaping your spending habits to focus more on what truly matters to you. It’s about finding ways to indulge your love of shopping in a smarter, more sustainable way.

Sporty and I have been there. We’ve looked at the mountain of debt and felt the strain of overspending. Giving our lifestyle a much-needed nip and tuck has allowed us to find a happier, healthier way of living that’s done wonders for our financial well-being.

If we can do it, you can too. Let’s dive in!

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What Is Downsizing Your Lifestyle?

Piggybank with coins next to it - How to downsize your lifestyle
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Downsizing your lifestyle requires taking a step back, looking at all the things you own, and all the money you’re spending, and asking yourself, “Do I really need all of this?” It’s about cutting through the clutter—both in your home and in your spending habits.

Maybe it’s eliminating that weekly shopping spree, or waving goodbye to a few of those non-essential, oh-so-enticing purchases. It could be about creating a more minimalist living space or finding clever ways to spend less on the things you need.

The goal? To create a life with less stress and less stuff. A life where you’re not defined by what you own, but by the experiences you have, the relationships you nurture, and your personal growth

It’s all about shifting your priorities, and making changes that lead to a more fulfilling and yes, more financially stable life. Easier said than done, I know, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Reasons to Downsize and Simplify Your Life

Learning to downsize your lifestyle is a crucial skill that can significantly impact your life for the better. We live in a consumer-driven society, where advertisements and brands constantly tempt us to spend money. 

This constant push can lead to unnecessary purchases and financial stress. By downsizing, you’re not only creating a healthier financial situation for yourself, but you are also likely to experience less anxiety related to clutter and possessions. 

It can lead to improved mental health, better financial control, and a deeper appreciation for the things you truly need and love. This is not just about saving money; it’s about creating a life that truly reflects your values and goals.

Financial Freedom

Downsizing can help in reducing expenses, increasing savings, and lessening debt. In the long run, it means achieving financial freedom, where you are no longer living paycheck-to-paycheck or worried about unexpected expenses.

Reduced Stress

Owning and maintaining too many possessions can be a source of stress. Downsizing can help in decluttering your space and your mind, leading to a calmer, more peaceful life.

Improved Focus and Creativity

With fewer distractions, you can channel your energy into things that truly matter to you. Be it career development, mindfulness practices, hobbies, or relationships, downsizing can lead to an improved focus.

Now that we’ve unpacked what downsizing your lifestyle means and why it’s so beneficial, it’s time to dive into how you can actually do it.

Whether you’re an avid shopper, a sentimental hoarder, or you’re just not sure where to start, this post will provide you with practical, effective strategies to downsize all aspects of your life.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Downsize Your Life

Closeup photo of woman journalling
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

This isn’t an overnight process. It’s a journey that will require you to question your habits, needs, and wants consistently. It may seem daunting, but we’ll walk you through it one step at a time. 

  1. Determine your why
  2. Visualize and journal about your shiny new lifestyle
  3. Examine your expenses and priorities
  4. Simplify your finances and automate your savings
  5. Declutter your physical space
  6. Streamline your digital space
  7. Simplify your routines and habits
  8. Maintain your new way of life
  9. Celebrate!

Right, let’s dive into each of these steps. By the end of this tutorial, you will have a clear vision of what a simplified, downsized lifestyle looks like for you and the specific actions you can take to achieve it.

Step 1: Determine Your Why

This initial step is arguably the most significant one in the entire process. Before you begin to downsize your lifestyle, you need to establish why you are doing it.

What is the primary motivation behind this decision?

It could be as simple as wanting to save money, or as profound as desiring a life with less stress and more fulfillment.

Perhaps you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed by your belongings or being constantly anxious about money.

Or maybe you yearn for more time and freedom to pursue your passions and interests. Whatever your reasons, it’s essential to clearly define them at this stage. 

Step 2: Visualize and Journal

Visualization is an extremely powerful tool. It entails envisioning the life you want to lead after you’ve downsized and simplified your lifestyle.

Picture the stress-free, clutter-free environment you’ll live in, the financial freedom you’ll enjoy, and the additional time you’ll have to spend on the things you love.

When you have a clear mental image of this life, write it down. Keep a journal and document your vision in detail. Describe your ideal living space, how you’ll spend your time, and what your finances will look like. 

This exercise will not only keep you inspired but also provide a clear vision to work towards. Each time you face a challenge or feel overwhelmed, refer back to your journal as a reminder of your end goal. 

Step 3: Examine Your Expenses and Priorities

This step involves taking a good, hard look at your current expenses. Draw up a complete list of your monthly costs, from fixed expenses like rent/mortgage and utilities to variable expenses like groceries, dining out, entertainment, and discretionary purchases.

Once you have a comprehensive list, it’s time to prioritize. Which of these expenses are necessities, and which are luxuries? You don’t have to cut out luxuries completely, but you will need to reduce them or find more cost-effective alternatives.

Knowing where your money goes each month can be incredibly revealing. You might find that you’re spending a lot more on unnecessary items or activities than you initially thought. Use this knowledge to make informed decisions about what you can and can’t cut back on.

Closeup photo of woman's hands make piles of coins
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Step 4: Simplify Your Finances and Automate Your Savings

To simplify your finances, the first thing you need to do is consolidate your bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and any other financial accounts you might have.

The goal here is to make managing your money as straightforward as possible. If you have several credit cards, try to consolidate the debt onto one card with a lower interest rate or transfer it to a loan with better terms.

If you have multiple bank accounts, consider merging them into one. This will help you to see at a glance exactly how much money you have, how much debt you’re in, and where your money is going.

It also makes it easier to keep track of payments, which can help avoid late fees and other penalties.

Next, automate your savings. Set up a direct deposit from your paycheck into your savings account. This ensures that a portion of your income goes straight into savings each month before you even get a chance to spend it.

By automating your savings, you’re making a commitment to put money away regularly, helping you achieve your downsized, financially streamlined lifestyle more easily. 

Step 5: Declutter Your Physical Space

By now you’ve simplified your finances and prioritized your expenses, but it’s equally important to declutter your physical surroundings—this includes your living area, workspace, and even your car.

Start by identifying items you no longer need or use. This could be outdated electronics, clothes you haven’t worn in years, kitchen appliances collecting dust, or even sentimental items.

Donate, sell, or recycle these items. Not only does this free up your space, but it can also provide a mental lift as you remove the unnecessary clutter you’ve been holding onto.

Next, evaluate your wardrobe. Stick to functional, versatile pieces that you love and wear regularly. Donate or sell clothes that don’t meet these criteria. A minimalist wardrobe can reduce stress and decision fatigue, and make your mornings easier.

Last but not least, apply the same downsizing principle to your workspace. Remove unnecessary items from your desk, keep your files organized, and digitalize paperwork wherever possible.

A clean, human-centric workspace can immensely increase your productivity and mental wellbeing.

Remember, the goal isn’t to purge everything you own, but to make mindful decisions about what you bring into, and keep in your life and space. Transform your surroundings into a place of peace and simplicity, reflecting your journey towards a downsized lifestyle.

Step 6: Streamline Your Digital Space

Streamlining your digital space means decluttering your digital life, including your emails, social media, and digital files. This can help reduce distractions and make your online experience more enjoyable and productive.

Start by cleaning up your email inbox. Unsubscribe from newsletters, promotions, and other unnecessary mail that you do not need or wish to receive.

Create folders or labels for various types of emails, such as work, personal, bills, and so on, to keep your inbox organized.

When it comes to social media, consider cutting back on the number of platforms you use. Only keep the accounts that truly add value to your life, and don’t hesitate to unfollow or mute accounts that negatively affect your mental health or productivity.

Conduct a thorough review of your digital files as well. Delete redundant files, and organize the rest in clearly labeled folders, or use a cloud-based storage system for ease of access. Regularly back up your important files to prevent data loss.

Additionally, take advantage of digital tools that help you automate tasks or manage your time better. This could be everything from online banking and bill pay to calendar apps and productivity tools. 

Lastly, remember to regularly disconnect from digital devices to give yourself a break. Too much screen time can have negative effects on your physical and mental health.

Through the combination of these steps, you’ll find that your digital life becomes much more manageable and less of a source of stress. 

Step 7: Simplify Your Routines and Habits

atomic habits book
Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

Simplifying your routines and habits can be a gradual process of reevaluating and adjusting, but once done, it can greatly reduce stress and increase the quality of your day-to-day life.

Begin by examining your daily routines. This includes:

  • Morning and evening routines
  • Work routines
  • Meal preparations
  • Exercise habits

Look for areas where you can streamline or eliminate unnecessary steps. For instance, consider meal planning or cooking in bulk to save time and effort throughout the week.

Next, evaluate your habits. Are there any habits that are causing you stress or taking up too much of your time?

This could be anything from excessive television watching to spending too much time on unproductive tasks. Try to replace these habits with ones that are beneficial for you such as reading, exercising, or developing a new skill.

Meanwhile, don’t underestimate the power of small, consistent actions.

Regular habits such as keeping your living and working spaces tidy, preparing your meals in advance, or setting a specific time for unwinding can greatly simplify your everyday life and save you a considerable amount of time and stress.

Finally, remember to build routines that prioritize your wellbeing. This includes ensuring sufficient sleep, eating healthy meals, regular exercise, and taking time for relaxation and leisure activities.

By making these activities an ingrained part of your routine, you’ll be supporting your physical, mental, and emotional health, which are crucial for a simplified lifestyle.

Step 8: Maintain Your New Lifestyle

Getting rid of the extraneous is a big step forward. Once you have decluttered, streamlined, and simplified, it’s important to maintain and nurture your new lifestyle.

This goes beyond just keeping your spaces tidy. It’s about being mindful of the choices and actions that you make each day.

Firstly, develop an upkeep routine. Regularly review your space, both physical and digital, on a regular basis and remove anything that is no longer necessary or that does not add value to your life.

This periodic decluttering ensures that you continue to live in a controlled and comfortable environment.

Secondly, be conscious about your consumption. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you really need the item, whether it adds value to your life, and if it’s environmentally friendly.

This can keep clutter from reappearing and help you live more sustainably.

Thirdly, do not neglect your simplified routines and habits. They are the backbone of your lifestyle, helping you save time, reduce stress, and increase efficiency.

Regularly reassess these routines and habits to ensure they are still meeting your needs and adjust them as necessary.

Finally, continue to make mindfulness a priority in your life. Whether it’s through meditation, journaling, or simply taking time to pause and reflect upon your day, being mindful helps you stay connected with your goals and values.

Remember, maintaining a simplified lifestyle isn’t a one-time task. It’s a continuous process, a commitment to living intentionally.

It will require ongoing effort, but the rewards—less clutter, less stress, more time, and a healthier life—are well worth the effort. 

Step 9: Celebrate!

Row of cupcakes with blue icing and hundreds and thousands
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

After all the hard work of decluttering, streamlining, simplifying, and maintaining, it’s time to celebrate your accomplishments. Recognizing and celebrating your progress is an important part of the journey towards a simplified lifestyle, as it helps to reinforce the positive changes you’ve made and motivates you to continue on this path.

Plan a celebration that aligns with your new lifestyle and values. This could be a simple self-care day, a quiet evening with a good book or movie, preparing a special meal, or spending time outdoors surrounded by nature. The key is to do something that brings you joy and relaxation.

Also, consider setting some milestones or rewards for maintaining your new lifestyle. For example, after a month of living with less clutter, you could treat yourself to a relaxing spa day or a new book that you’ve been wanting to read. These rewards not only serve as motivation but also as a reminder of the positive changes you’ve made.

Oh, and remember to share your achievements with your friends and family. Not only can this provide a sense of encouragement and pride, but it may also inspire others to start simplifying their lives as well.

Finally, take some time to reflect on your journey towards simplification. What have you learned about yourself? How has your quality of life improved?

And what do you want to improve or continue doing? Reflection is a key component in maintaining and continually improving a simplified lifestyle. 

Key Considerations for Successfully Downsizing Your Lifestyle

Keep your eye on your ultimate goal. Perhaps you desire a tranquil environment, more time for worthwhile activities, or want to give sustainable living a try.

These motivations should form your guiding compass, driving you forward during challenges. Be gentle with yourself, recognizing that it’s okay to retain items or routines that still bring joy and value to your life. Simplification doesn’t equate to deprivation.

Simplification is a personal and transformative journey, not a one-size-fits-all solution. Define what a simplified lifestyle means to you.

It could be owning less, reducing your digital footprint, or minimizing commitments. Make sure your definition aligns with your values and supports your overall well-being and happiness.

Stay open to experimenting and learning. Use techniques and strategies that work for you and discard those that don’t.

As you embrace the process of simplicity, you’ll discover the serenity and fulfillment it brings into your life. Keep an open heart and mind, and remember to enjoy every step you take towards this change.

Taking It To The Next Level: How To Go Beyond Downsizing Your Lifestyle

As you master the art of simplifying and downsizing your life, you might find yourself wanting to explore deeper avenues of minimalism. One such avenue is reassessing your relationship with work.

While it’s crucial to maintain financial stability, the concept of ‘work less, live more’ could inspire you to explore options such as flexible work hours, remote work, or even part-time engagements that free up more of your time.

Another aspect to consider is the idea of slow living. This embraces the notion of doing things at a more relaxed pace and not rushing through life. It’s about being fully present in the moment, enjoying and savoring each experience.

This could mean choosing to walk instead of driving, taking the time to prepare a mindful meal from scratch, or simply dedicating regular spaces of ‘doing nothing’ into your daily routine.

Ultimately, the journey doesn’t stop with just decluttering or simplifying. It’s a journey towards self-discovery and personal growth.

By continually refining your lifestyle and habits, you are creating a space to explore what truly matters to you, and opening up the possibilities of living a life that is more intentional, fulfilling, and aligned with your authentic self.

By taking it a step at a time, you’ll keep discovering new ways to enhance your lifestyle and find deeper joy and satisfaction in your day-to-day life.

Alternatives to Downsizing Your Lifestyle

If the idea of drastically downsizing your lifestyle seems too overwhelming, there are some alternative approaches that you could consider. 

Firstly, you might want to try the “one in, one out” strategy. This simple rule means that for every new item you bring into your home, you have to get rid of one existing item.

This way, you can gradually declutter your space without feeling the need to dispose of multiple items at once. 

Alternatively, you can focus on organizing your home instead of downsizing. Having a place for everything and everything in its place can significantly reduce clutter and help create a calming, orderly environment.

Another alternative is to focus more on reducing your mental and digital clutter rather than physical clutter. This could involve decluttering your online presence, managing your time more effectively, or implementing mindfulness practices to reduce stress and increase focus.

Unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters, limiting screen time, and prioritizing your to-do list are small steps that can have a significant impact on your mental wellbeing.

Remember that the goal is to create a lifestyle that works best for you. It’s not about following a set of strict rules or conforming to a specific lifestyle model.

The important thing is to make mindful decisions that align with your values, enhance your overall well-being, and contribute to your happiness.

Wrapping Up and Our Downsizing Experience

Ang and Sporty living off the grid in plant-based paradise

In 2008, Sporty and I had a house full of stuff. And then we sold most of it. Over the years the number of things we own has gone up and down depending on where our lives are at. 

When we untethered ourselves to try our hand at permaculture farming we whittled down our possessions to two duffel bags and a couple of backpacks. Right now we own an apartment, a car, and a small amount of furniture.

The one thing that’s remained constant however is our commitment to remaining debt-free and living below our means. This was arguably the biggest takeaway and benefit from embracing a simpler life.

But here’s the thing, simple living is different for everyone. You don’t have to ditch all of your material possessions to enjoy the same benefits.

Change your consumption habits and re-evaluate your needs versus wants, and you’ll start to notice a shift in your quality of life. Intentional living doesn’t equate to scarcity, it’s about making space for what truly matters.

So, are you ready to simplify your life and make room for the things that truly matter? Remember, it’s not an overnight change, but a journey. One that’s filled with enlightenment, understanding, and growth.

Today, right now, could be your first step toward a simplified and more meaningful life. The question is—are you ready to take that step?