We recently moved from a large 3-bedroom townhouse to a small 2-bedroom apartment. We no longer have a 2-car garage or a big back patio and garden. As a minimalist, I assured myself that we didn’t have a lot of crap other than baby things that could be sold or given away before the move. When it finally came time to get settled in our new apartment, I was overwhelmed by the number of boxes. So, with heavy hearts, we embarked on the arduous quest of downsizing our stuff. Pack rats and sentimental folks, listen up: You can get rid of clutter. Here’s some ways we did.

Pare down the holiday décor. Those of you who know me know I am not a holiday decorating fanatic, and it was just recently that we bought a fake Christmas tree so Baby J would not grow up “deprived.” With a smaller place, though, only a few special items (like family heirlooms) from the major holidays are really necessary. If you must, buy used or clearance holiday items out of season and then donate or recycle them.

Not everything needs to be kid-size. If you visit any baby store, you’ll know the aisles and aisles of feeding and clothing items organized in three-month increments. When we first had Baby J, we took one look at the baby registry suggestions and in our usual new-parent mix of enthusiasm and fear, asked for several of each item. In the move, we donated a lot of her stuff. We now feed her most of the time with regular bowls and plates, and even dry her with (gasp) big-person towels!

Recycle wine glasses and donate kitchen items you don’t use. When we moved, the number of boxes labeled kitchen literally covered our entire new kitchen. For all my ruthless downsizing, I had failed to eliminate the biggest source of barely or rarely used stuff. With less storage space, we donated the mugs and wine glasses we had accumulated over ten years of drinking too much coffee and wine together. Better yet, don’t take home any more “free” wine glasses. Besides, I think wineries only do this so they can avoid the pain of washing them.

There’s a library near you, so you don’t need one in your house. I love to read, but books are heavy and hard to move. That cherished book on your shelf could be in someone else’s hands right now, changing his or her life like it did yours. Pass your books onto a friend, stranger or fellow traveler, only keeping the few that really are special to you. Of course, you can then get rid of your bookshelf.

Put the blinders on at Costco. Shopping at Costco encourages me to buy all kinds of wacky stuff, usually impulsively after eating a whole sample cheesesteak. Among our odd purchases at Costco: a $400 superhuman blender, a year’s supply of hummus, giant bags of BBQ potato chips that go stale before we can even eat them, etc. It’s important to really stick to a list if you are shopping at a warehouse, and then only buy things you actually need. We love to go there for samples, and we savor the benefits while we buy diapers, toilet paper, cheese and coffee.

As any minimalist with kids knows, downsizing and decluttering can be daunting. I hope that living with less stuff will make Baby J enjoy time outside and have an awesome imagination in the long run. When we finally do book our round-the-world trip, we’ll have less stuff to store. James tells me I’m crazy for planning for such a thing, but I like to be prepared just in case one day he decides we can pick up and leave for Costa Rica.

Photo by misteraitch