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“Are you willing to give up what you have for what you want?” The phrase I muttered over and over again to myself in the months leading up to our move to Portugal….There is no better excuse than a move to another country to ‘downsize your life’. Often, making a move to Portugal means moving to rented accommodation for a short or medium period of time, or – like us – moving to the middle of a field with nothing while renovating an old barn to live in! I am a hoarder. Hands up! I admit it. I have been for as long as I remember.

After the initial burst of excitement when we finally bought our own piece of paradise in Portugal, I felt the gut-wrenching realisation that I would never, ever be able to take all of this ‘stuff’ with me.

I am not materialistic, I don’t care about labels and high value items, but I do love my ‘stuff’. As I looked around our four bedroom home – literally full-to-bursting with trinkets, art, ornaments, books, records, clothes and horse tack – I felt completely bereft at the thought of having to part with any of it. The stark reality was that we could afford one large van-load of belongings to be taken by the removal people, and this had to include everything we needed for our new off-grid, back-to-basics life.  We moved to an olive grove with a large bell tent and a caravan given to us by friends, so it was really a case of having to be ruthless whether I liked it or not!

Starting tentatively, I went through drawers removing obvious rubbish and making piles of recycle, sell, give away, keep … and I must say after a few days of feeling quite sick at the thought I turned more ruthless than I ever knew possible.

The feeling of liberation I experienced by removing the responsibility of caring for all of these items literally made me feel I could breathe and think better, it not only created space inside the house, it also created space in my brain, and within a week I realised I was sleeping better, and felt more free than I ever remember feeling.  This was to be lesson number one of many lessons in self-development which Portugal helped me with!

As Gandhi (or someone) said, “There is no path to simplicity. Simplicity is the path.

Whether you are about to make the move or still in the early dreaming days, I can promise you de-cluttering is something you will never regret! So stop looking wistfully at that kitchen drawer full of old mobile phones and chargers, the steps below will help you get started in your new clutter free life!

Measure Up

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first, moving country is stressful enough, without having to buy new furniture for every room of your new property. So, it’s always a good idea to re-use the pieces you already have if possible. However, if your new home is likely to be smaller in size, it’s vital that you measure everything up and work out what’s going to fit where. Bear in mind that you could well make a good sum of money from fixing and cleaning up unwanted furniture and selling it before your move, which would give a fund towards buying the right pieces when you land on the other side and know exactly what is going to fit. Yes, your sofa is comfy, and it was where you cosily sat and cuddled your kids for their bedtime stories every night for the last 12 years, but do you really want to cart it all the way to Portugal, take up precious room in a removal van, and then discover it doesn’t fit through the door (or window)? If it’s a family heirloom maybe see if a friend or relative can stash it for you until a later date, and if it’s not, and you are in any doubt about its use in your new life in Portugal, sell, give away and recycle.

Divide And Conquer

Putting items into piles of keep, and not keep really can help you to figure out what you are going to be left with, I did this several times, and downscaled the keep pile each time I got more comfortable with being ruthless about what we were taking.

Be Ruthless (but realistic)

When you’re decluttering in preparation for downsizing, you should try to be ruthless. Otherwise, you’ll end up transferring boxes over to your new house that you’ll never open. I was guilty of bringing several boxes on each one of my 28 house moves (yes really … 28 and I still hadn’t figured out how to downsize my belongings!). While you should keep anything that you use, see yourself using in the near future, or that means a lot to you personally, items that don’t fall into these categories are likely to be clutter you no longer need, bogging you down physically and mentally. Being ruthless is one of the biggest hurdles for many people. For one reason or another we find ourmselves unable to give up many of the items that clutter our lives due to sentimental attachments. Perhaps it’s hand-me-downs from family or school trophies. The unfortunate fact is a certain amount of sacrifice is necessary for downsizing, but rest assured, it gets easier. Once you get rid of one or two sentimental items and live to tell the tale, the next ones become easier to part with. You will start noticing that the value of having less is often greater than the sentimental value you placed on the dearly departed item you were clinging to. Soon you wonder why you kept the stuff for so long!

Do a 30 Day Declutter

If you still find you have a pile of ‘keep’ items bigger than the Titanic, a great way to declutter is to take one item from the keep pile on day one and bin, donate, recycle or sell it. On day two do the same with two items, on day three do this with three items and so on … when 30 days are up you will have removed a staggering 564 items in total! Even if towards the end of the 30 days you just resort to coat hangers and old packs of notelets that your gran gives you for Christmas, it will all add up and removes a hell of a lot of ‘bulk’ from your moving pile.

Beware Of ‘Just In Case’ Items

We are moving for a ‘simpler life’ and in many cases this means DIY, Off-Grid and Self-Sufficient, and this was my reason for hoarding things – that old gate latch, piece of hose, bags and bags of screws, old hammers and axes whose handles I planned on replacing ‘one day’… Of course part of being self-sufficient is having these things to hand so you can refashion and fix up for next to nothing, but if the cost of moving and storing the items is higher than their individual value it’s almost certainly not worth taking them. These same things will almost certainly ‘find you’ again once you are settled if you really need them. We got rid of hundreds of books, I even had a box full of music books ‘just in case’ I decided to learn the clarinet again one day, most of which I would nostalgically flick through once every few years (or house moves) and would then replace safely back in the ‘just in case’ box. I gave them to a small orchestra group who desperately needed music and they will no doubt have given them more love and use than I could in several more lifetimes.

So there you have it, it’s not easy. You really have to need or want to start to declutter to make a success of it, and it may well be something you find you need to redo each year.  But I think the freedom that comes with clearer spaces, allowing you to move onto your new future full of possibility and the excitement of new experiences is far better than a bin bag of odd socks.

Need a removal service? Check out the two brilliant companies we work with in our Services Directory

If you have already moved and have a spare, dry and secure space or building which could be used as storage, you could make some extra money with little effort by contacting us to advertise this space to our community to use as storage (for those who couldn’t face downsizing!) We need people located all over Portugal – send us an email today to find out more

If you have successfully simplified and/or downsized your life, what has worked for you? Let us know in our comments section below.

4 thoughts on “Downsizing

  1. i’m leaving France and going through the pain of giving away some of my many thousands of books which I have carted around Europe endlessly. It’s hard, but I’ve whittled it down to about 15 boxes from about 50. It’s the Kindle app on my computer from now on. But oh – the pain of parting with those beloved books.

    Hoping to end up in Portugal before Brexit.

    1. Hi Rosemary, oh I totally understand, one of the hardest parts was parting with my beloved books, I found I had formed more of an attachment to them than I ever realised before. I kept the resource books I knew I would need and use, many books on herbalism and off grid living, and some favourites which I always turned too, and found using a kindle for the rest was a good way around it, it did take me a while to adjust but I now find I don’t miss them like I used too. best of luck on your journey x

    2. Rosemary – that’s exactly what we’re doing! I have a shop’s worth of books – can’t decide whether to take them to Portugal or not! Not to mention all the brocante type stuff! Where are you hoping to move to?

      We are definitely going to be in Portugal before Brexit!

      1. We’re not sure yet but probably the Silver Coast. We’ve done a few trips but want to explore more. How about you? Where are you aiming for and by when? It would be great to exchange info!

        All the very best in your search.


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