How We Fit Everything We Own in a 6’x12′ UHaul Trailer

From There to Here, Small House Living

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When I think of all of the steps it took to plan and prepare for this move, nothing was more daunting than setting a goal of pulling our belongings in a tiny trailer. It was an audacious goal, and we changed our minds several times over this past spring. Price-wise, we weren’t saving much money going this route. But as is often the case in life:

money doesn’t matter nearly as much as staying true to our values and challenging ourselves to dig deeper into a life rich in experiences, light on stuff.

Our 4Runner came to us with a brand new and very strong hitch installed; all we had to do was pull the trigger and reserve a moving trailer rather than a truck. This is how we condensed 10 years of adult living, the belongings of 4 people, and the accumulations of things spread across 1300 square feet into a 72 square foot trailer.

MINIMIZE: We started the minimizing process years ago, but became truly ruthless last fall. I would routinely go through drawers, closets, and surfaces in our house looking for things we no longer loved, cherished, or used. If it wasn’t something we used 80% of the time and fairly often, we got rid of it. Kirk and I sat down one night with a notepad and made a list of every item that each of us loved and insisted on keeping. The list was small, much smaller than I would have expected–probably a dozen things total. That list was our guiding light through the process, and it kept us on track.

CONDENSE: I then began condensing the things we needed to keep. I like having some physical paper copies–tax documents, personal papers, etc.–but I was able to condense a file cabinet into a small plastic file box. I took a 15 lb box of paper to Office Depot and let them shred it for me. It was totally worth the $0.99/lb price to have all of that magically gone. I also went through all of our old physical photos and kept the best, getting rid of duplicates, fuzzy, and unimportant photos. We still kept family photos albums, however. I’m not a diehard “100 items” minimalist, you know. Finally, we also reduced collections of items, such as keeping only 4 coffee mugs instead of 15, 1 large box of favorite toys instead of a closet’s worth, and reducing our large book collection to the absolute favorites and life-changers.

CAPSULE: We also went through every person’s wardrobe and created the beginnings of a capsule wardrobe. We were able to reduce the girls’ clothing from a full closet’s worth to 1/4 of that same closet. Each girl has a week’s worth of everyday dresses/tops and leggings/shorts, 1-2 church dresses, a couple pairs pajamas, and 2 pairs of shoes. More on kid’s capsule wardrobes in a later post. Kirk and I also reduced our wardrobes so small that we were able to fit all of our clothes across two small suitcases. I sold our best clothes to a nice consignment store, and we donated the rest (local foster agency for the kids stuff and Goodwill for ours.) We are still refining our capsule wardrobes, but so far it has been an amazing thing for how we feel about ourselves, and it has reduced our laundry load significantly.

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About 75% of our collective wardrobe. Seriously.

SELL: We also made a list of every item to sell with the dollar amount we thought it was worth. This goal encouraged us to find a home for each item and to make some extra cash to help with the move. I made a private Instagram account and let all of our friends know that we would be having a virtual garage sale. With only 35 or so followers, we managed to sell about 90% of the stuff on our list for asking price or close to it. We also sold a few items on Craigslist, but I try to avoid that route if I can. Finally, we took all of our extra books to HalfPrice Books to sell. Some of the things we sold were: furniture, a refrigerator, decor, kids toys, and lawn care items.

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Books upon books

  • DONATE: I also put free items on the Instagram account and got rid of a lot of stuff that way. The rest we bagged up and took car load after car load to Goodwill. We donated house repair items, such as brand new paint or caulk, to the Habitat for Humanity Restore.
  • TRASH: Finally, we had about two city trash cans worth of stuff to throw away. I absolutely hate throwing anything away that can be used because 1) it is so wasteful and 2)it is a reminder how careless and flippant we can be about money and material possessions.

In the end, we did have to make some last minute calls on a few items, such as our daughters’ Learning Tower (which we do hope to buy another one, if we can find it on Craigslist), highchairs, and a cute end table. But the most precious and important items were securely inside the trailer; nothing irreplaceable was sold or trashed.

So what did we learn from this process?

It is far better to do without an item than to buy something that is cheaply made, will not last, and must be thrown away. We learned that as minimalist as we think we are, we still own a lot, more than so many other people around the world do. This experience opened our eyes even more to how our culture views so much “stuff” as necessity instead of the luxury that it is. Finally, as we pulled away from our aging house with only our favorite things along for the journey, we realized what freedom there is in letting go, in saying that people and experiences are more important than things, and in embracing the uncertainty of an unidentifiable future.

Have you undertaken any massive streamlining? What did you gain from the experience?

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