How to Negotiate Downsizing

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.

A lot of friends, family members, and blog readers assume that I was the one to suggest downsizing our lives. Believe it or not, my husband, Logan was the one who brought up the idea of downsizing. At the time I was working in the investment management industry and was extremely unhappy. I wanted to go back to school and start a new career in the social service sector, but, we were stuck and couldn’t figure out why. We felt stuck because we didn’t have enough time or money to follow our passions.

When Logan pitched the idea of downsizing we were having a conversation about why we were not going to buy a traditional house. We basically gave up on buying a traditional house because we were having money problems and realized that we could never afford a dream-home in the suburbs. And frankly, we were starting to wonder if we really wanted a traditional house because the interest on the house payment would have been more than our rent.

Logan said, “Why don’t we try moving into a one bedroom apartment to save money? Then we can use the money saved towards whatever we want, like education for a new career or a house in the future?”

With my hands on my hips and a snarky look on my face, I replied: “We can’t fit into a one bedroom, we have too much stuff. Plus, where am I going to put my parents when they come to visit us. On the couch? I don’t think so!”

If you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t keen on the idea of downsizing, try some of these ideas:

1. Communicate. Talk about all the costs and benefits of downsizing together and make your intentions known so there is no room for assumptions. In my experience, communication is key to any successful relationship. While you’re talking make a pro/con list together and ask each other a lot of “why” questions, like:

  • Why do you need to keep a particular item?
  • Why not try something new?
  • Why are you feeling so freaked out by this idea?

2. Encourage your partner to read inspiring books. While I was trying to decide whether or not downsizing was the right option I read a number of life changing books, including “Your Money or Your Life.” Reading books convinced me that downsizing was the best action to take.

3. Talk about the financial benefits of downsizing your abode and what you can do with the money you save. Crunch the numbers with your partner and show him or her how much money you can save by living in a smaller place with less stuff. With greater savings comes freedom and flexibility to make choices.

4. You can always move. While change is scary, it’s always good to experiment to try new things. And if you don’t like your new living situation, you can always move.

5. Compromise. If you don’t want to sell your house or commit to a new lease, try treating your current place like a smaller home. For example, I didn’t believe we could fit into a small one-bedroom apartment. So we did a test run by clearing out all the stuff in the guest bedroom and locking the door. Basically, we treated our two-bedroom apartment as a one-bedroom apartment for a few months. By taking that step, I was convinced we could start going smaller and smaller.

6. Start small. Remember you don’t have to declutter your whole house over night. Set manageable goals based on your life circumstance. When I started to simplify my life, I felt like I was in a competition. I kept looking at what other people were doing, in both blogs and books, and I tried to model those folks. There is nothing wrong with modeling and I learned a lot of valuable tips through reading and research. However, I finally realized that I had to start small, with one shelf at a time.

7. Take action! Now it’s time to take action. Keep talking to your partner about the benefits of downsizing and start the decluttering process.

No matter how small your accomplishments are, start celebrating them. Take a deep breath and admire the simplicity of your clutter free home. Living in a small space with less stuff is one path to creating space and a very happy life.


Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and tiny house enthusiast. She created her blog,, to share her story of embracing simplicity. Since then, her story has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and in a variety of other media outlets. Tammy writes regularly at Rowdy Kittens and her new book is called, “You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap).” I’m proud to contribute an official endorsement to the book. You’ll love it.

From the book “You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap).” Copyright 2012 by Tammy Strobel. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. or 800-972-6657.

Image: Rowdy Kittens

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Great advice Tammy and thanks for laying it out in smart, logical steps. It can be hard to convince a partner of something so seemingly drastic. But as you say, weigh up the pros and cons. And maybe creatively and positively bring it back to money if that is likely to work, i.e. how much can be saved.

  2. says

    This makes my heart race with excitement- yes to simplifying, minimizing, and making happy! It’s amazing how much people still believe that “stuff” or space will make them happier. And it definitely adds an element of complication to try to simplify with someone else- your tips on how to communicate with a partner are spot on perfect. It’s a dance, and there’s nothing wrong with learning another way to shake it with your sweetheart.

    • says

      I loved this sentence, “It’s a dance, and there’s nothing wrong with learning another way to shake it with your sweetheart.”

      So true. I’m so lucky to still be dancing with Logan. We recently celebrated our nine year wedding anniversary and feel so lucky to have him in my life. :)

  3. says

    Ha, hope my wife doesn’t see this and try these tactics on me. We have downsized tremendously through the years, but it’s not enough for her. She recently mentioned selling more stuff and moving into a smaller space, again. Don’t get me wrong, I like minimalism to a point but she has even discussed getting rid of our bed-frames and sleeping on mattresses in the floor! Yikes.

    Dan Garner

    • Christopher Storer says

      I was the one to suggest getting rid of the bed frames in my house, and we like it a lot. Of course, we have two small children, and we like that they can get on and off the bed as they please, so that may be a big part of it. I don’t think my wife will keep it that way, but to some extent, it’s fun to experiment with removing something for a while to see how much you miss it.

    • says

      I wonder, Dan, why getting rid of the bed frame would be such a problem for you? I ask this from the perspective a person whose partner is likely to be of the same opinion as you. However, I think a lot of it is based only on intuition and hasn’t been deeply thought through.

  4. says

    I loved hearing this part of your story! My husband was the one who suggested drastic downsizing (into a tiny house) and I thought he was nuts! I instantly felt defensive – I had to defend my castle! Your blog was one that I found when I was soul-searching and deliberating about downsizing. Your story really encouraged me and we now live in a tiny house that we designed and built! It was an amazing experience – challenging and rewarding – and it’s small, but I am loving it.
    – Carrie

  5. says

    You can make the downsizing fun if your see the process as a competitive challenge. We just remodeled our home which took out a chunk of my closet. I had to hang up my clothes in about 30% less space.

    I decided to take this on and would not leave the room until my clothes fit comfortably in the remaining space. I found I really didn’t need all the clothes I had and a local charity was the beneficiary of the excess. Everyone won.

  6. says

    Communication is very important in the relationship. And becoming minimalists is a big decision, so the discussions may be long and intensive ;) But it is worth the time and nerves. I’m on the way with my Dear :)

  7. says

    My wife, son and I live in a 1,300 square foot town home. There’s so many benefits to it I never realized. I grew up in a 3,000 square foot home with my family, and the amount of cleaning and yard work that go into it are insane. It’s feeding the beast, quite literally. The way my setup is now, I don’t have yard work every weekend, so I have more time with my family, and I don’t have to do any of the outside maintenance to the home. So…all that to say, someone is going to have to convince me to upsize!

  8. says

    Great post Tammy! Really like the practical suggestions for action – especially starting small. Our family has been gradually de-owning and simplifying over the last year and it is liberating! I also like the reminder that you can always “move back” or go back to having more stuff – makes taking that first step less intimidating. Look forward to checking out your book.

  9. Astrid says

    Everything is relative.
    In my area (Amsterdam, Netherlands – high population density) our 700 ft appartment is considered a very nice size. If you want to stay in the affordable range, and not get huge mortgages or rents, this is a good size to go for.
    In our building, there are plenty of families with 2 kids. Granted, that can be considered a bit cramped, but I hear talk around here of 1000+ft homes as cutesy, small and undersized for couples without kids.
    My husband and I are not minimalists, but very comfortable in it, and never considered it small. We’re definitely not cramped We don’t rattle around in it either, but there are enough rooms so we can accomodate guests for sleeping, and a few times a year we entertain 8+ person dinner parties. I have had as many as 12 people stay overnight on a weekend long get-together. So everyone sleeps on mattresses on the floor. Having fun can be greatly enhanced by some creativity!
    Everything is relative, guys.

  10. Claire says

    The good thing about a 700 sqft apartment is that it wouldn’t swell with accumulation the way larger North American homes do. So it is a different starting point as a result of a different lifestyle and living space. I think your point that 700 square feet is livable for a family is a good one, but for us it is quite a journey to get there.

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