My Story: The Art of Downsizing

contributed by Patricia Nixon


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My Story: Clutter Stole Her Life

Clutter Control

After living in a large, roomy two-bedroom apartment practically all my life, I was seriously shocked at all I'd found when it was time to move. While I'm not a pack rat, I've always bought in bulk as often as I could. So when I was boxing up my kitchen, I found boxes upon boxes of salt, bags and bags of beans, and can goods that had puffed up because they were so old. I'm single and don't even have children! Although I always felt blessed when times were hard and I could look in my cabinet and see ample amounts of provisions, now that I'm moving into a smaller one-bedroom apartment, my frugality must flow to fit my current space (or lack thereof).

One thing that has been noted for years now is that people tend to use less of a product when they have a smaller amount with which to work. For instance, it's the natural inclination to use less of a smaller bottle of household cleaner to clean the same mess you would with a larger bottle. You see more and so you use more. Having less to start with, you're more inclined to ration out the portions more thoughtfully.

For me, this will be worked into my new and revised approach to frugality, as I just don't have the space I did previously to store two or three of everything. I have half the cabinet space in my kitchen now, and I'm reduced to one less closet to store clothes, blankets, shoes and tons of books. While some might consider this a sad day, I'm truly joyous as it's an opportunity to methodically analyze how I spend money, how much I really need of everything, and I can scale back for a more comfortable, less cluttered lifestyle.

My first week I'll spend going through every item I plan to hang in my closet. If it doesn't fit or it's just not my style anymore, it is being donated to my local church. Any shoes that are too tight will go the same route, and those that are oldies and goodies but need shining or repair will be dropped off at the shoe shop. If it's a high-end piece, like an almost unused size 4 leather jacket, it'll go on ebay

I have about four comforters that take up a lot of space, and at most, I use one blanket and a comforter on top of it in even the coldest of winters. The good thing is I have two reversible duvet covers. By just getting rid of two of the comforters, I've still got six different looks and more closet space! I got rid of all my old sheets, but plan to buy only three sets of 300 thread count sheets. It's not hard to find some irregulars for a full size bed at about $39 a set, but the higher thread count is worn down less by more frequent washing so they will last longer. Besides, I just love how they feel.

In my old apartment, I had a separate closet just filled with hair and beauty items that often were half-used or forgotten. Now I'm allocating just the cabinet under the bathroom sink for all beauty, hair and health items. No new hair conditioner until the last bottle is used. Goodbye to 12 different shades of red nail polish, foot soaks, body scrubs, and separate lotions for feet, hands, back, thighs, neck, nose and tummy! Epsom salt is great for soaks and makes a great body scrub, too. A trick I use is to pour in a couple inches of Epsom salt into a big clear container, add a few drops of essential oil, repeat until the container is full, and cover. I keep it right by the bathtub. The scent permeates the mixture. When time for a bath, a handful tossed into the tub gives you soothing scented bliss and it's natural.

While my kitchen is smaller (I can literally walk in, cook, turn on the dishwasher and back my way out), fortunately I can still fit my separate freezer in it so savings still abound. But I will save cabinet spices by being mindful of things as simple as seasonings. I've been such a sucker for every kind of seasoning just for fish, just for chicken, just for this and just for that. Same basic ingredients mixed in different ways. Sticking to the basics like oregano, thyme, coriander, and plain seasoned salt lends to creative cooking, cost savings, and less cluttered cabinet space.

And a home phone bill will be a thing of the past for me. I thought this one out and realized that whenever someone doesn't get me at home, they call me at work or on my cell phone. A home phone has fees connected even if I never use it, whereas my cell phone plan allows me free minutes from 8 p.m. through 7 a.m. and all weekend long. I'm never left idle waiting for a call. On the rare occasion (not once so far this year!) I have to get a fax, I have a free email fax service, and if I need to send one, there are plenty of local places I can run to and pay a small fee.

Any incomplete place settings and flatware sets, as well as books that collected dust for years, will all go on either Half.com or eBay.com. It's like getting paid for cleaning out my closet and decluttering my life. My new home will be filled with only the things I love and cherish.

While I will still shop at supermarkets that double coupons and shop for the best bargain in price and quality in all purchases, I will no longer be looking for the largest amounts. Here's how I look at it. Having good food to eat, a warm and comfortable place to sleep, and knowing that everything in my closet is wearable is a little piece of frugal heaven.


"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com

Copyright 2003, Patricia Nixon

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