All You Need is…Less

Too much stuff is…out. Minimalism is on trend. Whether you’re an empty nester, a kid just starting out on their own or you have a house full of kids, dogs and in-laws, it’s time to consider what you actually use and which of those things makes you happy.

Instead of deciding what to get rid of, focus on what you want to keep. If your destination is a dwelling with fewer square feet, start with the furniture but think beyond what you already have. Perhaps it’s time for a Murphy bed, a trip to Ikea for some cool storage and planning for multiple use spaces in your new abode. Oversized sofas will just dwarf your new digs, but your dining room table might double as a desk, craft corner or surface to assemble, wrap and roll.

In cohousing, consider all the things that you use occasionally and get in the mind set of sharing…or as my new friend Carl likes to say, “figure out who has the best shovel and we’ll garage sale the rest of them”. The common house will be well equipped for entertaining large groups, so you no longer need 24 place settings. Car sharing and limited covered parking may motivate you to downsize your vehicle quota as well.

Like diets that allow for a splurge day, consider that category of indulgence most important to you and within reason go for it. My thing is greeting cards and Office Max has some great wire baskets sized just for my hoarding. The Container Store and California Closets can help you make your limited space more efficient.

If you haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past year, it needs a new home. Consider rotating clothes at thrift shops (buy it, wear it, donate it back when it’s no longer chosen) for less cost than a Starbucks habit. Do you really think you’ll fit in those jeans again? If you recently retired, your work clothes can help others land a job.

Specialty consignment stores and thrift shops supporting a cause can take the guilt out of purging. That treadmill that doubles as a clothes hanger and camping gear that no longer fits your B & B lifestyle might bring you some cash or at least support a non-profit. If you’re going to invest time in a garage sale, make it social and communal. Better yet, consider selling valuable items on line or check out the brick and mortar e-bay store. If you have amassed building materials, think about the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

Many things that are beyond keeping, selling or gifting may qualify for recycling. Arvada has opportunities for shred-a-thons, electronic recycling and large item pick-up. Near-by metal recyclers actually pay for specific metals they sort and price by metal and weight (copper, aluminum, steel etc.).

Are you hanging on to things you think your kids might like to have or storing their stuff? Think again. Unless they have requested inheriting a family heirloom (yup, it’s time to have that conversation) your stuff and their stuff is a burden. Storage units are great for households in transition, but items stored long term seldom see the light of day.

Cohousing gatheringHouseholds joining a cohousing group early on (the forming stage) have the advantage of participating in the design phase of the project. They can brainstorm with other community members (and the architect) for the best use of space in both the private homes and common house. Tours of other communities can inform individuals about things they like or would alter. Features like pocket doors, tall ceilings, shared laundry facilities and flats without stairwells can maximize square footage. Spare bedrooms in the common house can allow individuals to downsize by eliminating the need for the guest room they used infrequently in their previous home.