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How I Simplified Our Home and Became More Content

Simplify your home and find true contentment! I LOVE this testimony of downsizing that led to more joy! Less IS more.

Guest post by Sarah of The Jelly Jars

Over the course of the last year, my husband and I have completely rewritten our life plans, moved away from the city we thought we would retire in, said goodbye to our best friends, gave away 1/3 of our possessions, and downsized our living situation from a 2600 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment as we pursue this new dream.

The biggest surprise for me in this whole journey has been how much I’ve loved downsizing!

Here is what I have learned in the process:

1. I only own what I love.

In cutting down on our possessions, we asked a lot of questions. Did the item have great value – was it of high quality, an investment that we made? Did the piece have great sentimental worth – were we tied to it because of family history or special memories? Did the item serve a specific purpose – does it serve a necessary function in our home?

If an item met certain criteria, we kept it. If not, it was donated.

2. I don’t need as much as I think I do.

Because of this process of downsizing, I realized I had accumulated so much stuff without even realizing it. Our basement was filled with boxes of decorations and extra clothes and anything I wanted to hold on to “just in case I need it one day.”

But now, without these extra items, I realize that I am still content and still can live a full and joy-filled life because life is not made full by material possessions.

How I Simplified My Life & Became More Content

3. I opened up room in my life for things that mattered.

I am no longer worried about that season’s trends or decorations or the fact that I need a better mail organizer.

My heart is less tied to material possessions and is now more available to the little gifts that I see in our moments and sprinkled throughout our days.

4. I gained perspective.

It’s so easy to compare yourself against advertisements or movies or even your neighbors and friends, thinking you need more and more to keep up. But when I looked at our possessions with a different perspective, I saw how very much we have and that we actually are very well taken care of.

Once I silenced the driving need to keep up with friends or commercials, I have been able to find contentment with what we already have rather than being discontent with what I wish my life looked like.

The process of simplifying helped me to clean out our home yes, but even more so it helped bring about a new way of thinking for us.

Now we are much less apt to buy something without truly evaluating if it is worth it to us or if it is just a purchase to satisfy a short-term desire, and we have found much more contentment through no longer buying into the belief that we always need more.

Sarah is a mountain-loving, dark chocolate-eating, Frank Sinatra-listening, owie-kissing, truth-telling, freelance writer/blogger who seeks out a passionate life with her husband and two kiddos. She writes at The Jelly Jars.

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  • Marcia says:

    This one is tough for me. Too much emotional attachment to “stuff” because of the memories the stuff evokes. I also struggle with getting rid of clothing/accessories I paid alot for. You’re right though: I don’t need nearly as much as I’d thought. A work in progress for sure.

    • Angela says:

      Remember: paying a lot for clothes or accessories you don’t wear doesn’t change the fact that you don’t wear it. ;0)

  • Jessica says:

    I feel like this post is missing important info. You don’t have to move away from your best friends or a city you love just to minimize your belongings or the size of your house.

    • Vanessa says:

      I think that was simply the situation they were in. In deciding to move came the decision to downsize. Not necessarily the other way around.

  • Kelly Cox says:

    Well said! I agree that being content with less is a goal of my heart. Right now, we are living in a temporary home b/c ours sold and we haven’t found our new one yet! So our stuff is in storage! (Other than what we brought with us) It’s been a test of contentment as we wish we had something that we need; however, for us we’ve learned to relax and do without or make something do. A good excercise. Plus, our life has become more simplified and less focused on our possessions or lack thereof. 🙂

  • LeahB says:

    We get asked all the time when we’re moving to a bigger place. We have 3 kids in 1000sf (apartment, with no storage). Even if we could afford it, I’m not sure we’d make a change. It makes us be disciplined in what stuff we bring into the house.

    • Shanna Slight says:

      We have 2 kids in 700 sqft, and we get the question of when we will move all the time too, and to be honest, once or twice a month I get fed up and go look at listings, but then I remember how lucky we are to have what we have, and how many people would see our life and rightly call us rich. I wish American society would take a look around and just take a moment to be grateful.

      • Bobbie L. says:

        I totally agree with you! We have 4 children – 9, 6, 4, & 8 mo. – as well as two dogs – in a 680 Sq ft apartment, with no yard and no storage (military academy with 80 Jr high cadets just outside our door)! 🙂 I lived many years in other countries around the world and can become easily aggravated by the sense of entitlement for space and property in our nation. Peace and a grateful heart are so very important for maintaining balance.

  • I was so good at buying/saving less for such a long time. It is definitely something I need to get back in the habit of doing.

  • kariane says:

    I love this! Thank you for sharing. We’re working on simplifying so we can make our small home continue to work for us even as our family grows. I’m writing about our simplification efforts here:

  • Delorise says:

    Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy reading about someone simplifying their homes and lives. I also practice this daily. It is amazing how much easier the house is to keep clean since I got rid of all the excess. I now think twice before I purchase something and when I do buy I hit thrift stores first. Having less stuff (junk) is so liberating. Wish I had done this when I was in my thirties— Oh the time, energy and money I could have saved.

    • Laurie says:

      Try the book The life changing magic of tidying by Marie Kondo.
      She simplifies this process. I was a clothing junkie!! I lived for the next outfit spent thousands on clothing , thought I could never part with. It’s extremely fascinating to me that I enjoyed donating 9 bags of clothing and my walk in is still 3/4 full!
      Also magically inspired my husband without one ounce of nagging!! He revamped and discarded his side of closet as well.

  • I’m always amazed at how relieved I feel whenever I declutter and simplify. The feeling of letting go is amazing! I will have to check out your blog to find out more about your move and simplifying process. Thanks for sharing!

  • While I’m all for cathartic organization and purposefulness for one’s belongings, I am not sure moving away from friends and family, as well as discarding “gifts from friends and family” makes sense to me. I believe that when one takes time to properly organize your home, clearing off counter tops and creating work stations, all of the items you need from day-to-day will become accessible, and the need to buy less and less item gradually becomes personal, intrinsic, and more organic to each home. I say more organizing, more purposed saving, and less downsizing! Thanks for the article!

  • Mary H says:

    I would err on the side of caution in disposing of, or donating items of great sentimental worth. You state “were we tied to it because of family history or special memories? If an item met certain criteria, we kept it. If not, it was donated”.

    Please check with other family members who might also have sentimental ties to items before disposing of them. I am still struggling to get past my brother donating to Goodwill an afghan my 95 y/o almost blind grandmother knit shortly before her death.

    • Guest says:

      Perhaps I just read it differently but I felt like she was saying that may be a criteria for keeping it? (has family history, etc.) I don’t like to have a lot of stuff but I do have certain things (not many) that are simply because the person who gave them to me/made them for me is very special to me. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother’s afghan as my grandmother’s quilts are incredibly special to me.

  • Angela says:

    Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your experience and new adventure. With no move for me on the horizon, I’ve felt the urge to declutter (especially my books) to make room in my life for space and whatever may come up next!

  • What a great post! Thanks for sharing your story. Purging an over-stuffed home is such a great feeling. Last year, I eliminated about 90% of my closet….and no joke, I have MORE to wear than ever before. Then I did my office, then the rest of my house…it is shocking how much we accumulate. And the best part? I don’t miss a single thing I’ve let go of. I might think of them, but I don’t need them.

  • Chelsea says:

    We moved into a 900 sf fixer upper with our 5 kids two years ago. I’m learned to perfect the art of minimalist living, and it’s so freeing! I have fibromyalgia and I physically could not manage all our “stuff” and decided it had to go, and it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made!

  • Missie says:

    We just moved from a city we’d lived in for 12 years and a 2200 sq foot home to a town five hours away and an 1100 sq foot home. It has been quite the change. I never thought of myself as a person who had too much stuff…until I tried packing it. 🙂 I was relentless in my purging. And it felt wonderful. I have about 70% less clothes now than before, but part of that is because I was going from full time office work to being a stay at home mom. I went through every item in my huge kitchen to determine what I truly needed in our new, small, baby kitchen. 🙂 It was so freeing. In fact, now that we’ve been here for three months, I find there are many things I don’t need or use that I have been trying to find a place for, so it’s time to purge again.

  • Changing perspectives from what we don’t have to what we do have and seeing how blessed we truly are definitely boosts one’s attitude and contentment. Being content with what we have helps make a home a very nice place to live in for all that dwell within. It’s funny I came across this post today because I recently read the book Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, a book with a message to be glad and rejoice in all circumstances. It really is a good read and encourages the reader to play a simple “glad game” to choose to be glad and joyful.

  • Ellen says:

    We have now purged for the third time in preparation for downsizing and yes, moving to a less expensive area. We have found that having, say, seven spatulas was just a few too many. After 27 years of marriage and two adult children it was time. Feels great!

  • Megan May says:

    Love this! Thank you for posting!:) We are also on a journey to declutter… it has been life changing and wonderful!

  • Mim says:

    I love the whole simple living/minimalistic approach to life. I find that I still have clutter hotspots though, and am a work in progress for those spaces.
    Great post!

  • This is definitely something that my family is trying to embrace. Letting go of things always feels so freeing, but it’s difficult to get started because of the emotional attachment to some of the things. I do know that whenever I make a massive donation to Goodwill or set things out on the curb for a charity to pick up, I always have a tremendous sense of relief! I just need to get into better practice of doing it so the pain of letting go of things becomes less as I get used to it. Great article!

  • Jem says:

    Me and my hubby are currently living in a room. Young newly weds. We got married for religious reasons meant we don’t have money to afford our own place yet but we love it. We are going through the process of clearing out so both our stuff fit into the space. I’ve cleared out soo much stuff can’t believe I still have loads the change of perspective is most important

  • Emma says:

    Love this. We too downsized pretty drastically and now live in 860 sq ft with our two boisterous boys! I choose to be delightfully grateful for what we do have, rather than focusing on that which we’ve given away, donated or sold.

    It’s just stuff, and the smaller home is saving us so much money that our life is now about traveling with the kids and spending more time together, rather than needing to have two incomes to pay a large mortgage. It was worth it for us.

  • Kimberly Walker says:

    This is completely off the subject, but I have to tell you how grateful I am that I saw your kitchen with dishes in the sink! Every blog/article I have seen about downsizing and letting go of stuff shows a perfect house. Everything is put away, nothing is out of place, it is picture perfect. For someone like myself who is struggling to overcome a hoarders’ childhood (and to NOT be the hoarder that my parents were), it is difficult for me to think I can actually do this, even though I have been trying (and making tiny little improvements) for a couple of years now. This picture of your kitchen, neat and tidy, but with real living of things on the counter and dishes in the sink has inspired me to start trying again. Thank you so much!

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