Imagine downsizing from a three bedroom home into a minibus. That’s exactly what Cassia Cruz, her husband, Vitor Penalvad and two young children did.
The decision to downsize was largely to free up the weekends.
“We lived in a relatively big house, my husband and I ended up having to spend most of our weekends doing house shores and organising. The minimalist life permits us to focus on what really matters; which is our time with family and friends,” Cruz said.
After much research and talking to other families who had made similar changes, they decided a minibus would give them the space and the flexibility to move.
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“The van fits into parking spaces when we go grocery shopping etc. the windows are wide enough to open when it’s hot. We bought the bus from Canberra because that was the best value.”
The couple designed the interior and had a professional convert the minibus into a home, which cost approximately $40,000.
And the best thing she has found about downsizing? Feeling more grateful for the simple things of life.
“We sold all our things on FaceBook Marketplace and it felt like I was getting rid of 20 kilograms in my body. It felt great after all the stress of moving and decluttering. We’re grateful for our family’s health and happiness. It really lets us focus on what matters - our family.”
“Interestingly enough, we could still get rid of half of what we have in the bus! I have literally one shelf for my clothes. The kids have one small drawer each for the clothes and there are still some clothes they don’t use.”
While they have saved some money living with less, the main costs now are spent on tourist park charges.
“Just like a home we have wear and tear, plus the tourist parks are pretty much the same cost as living in a unit, but we did save a bit. It allowed my husband to focus on his own business without the financial pressure, after spending more than 15 years in the big corporate world.”
Cruz added that at times she does miss her personal space, yet on the other hand, the family time together is so valuable.
“The morning routine is a challenge because everyone needs to get ready for the day at the same time. The kids off to school and kindy, I work full-time as a marketing and communications manager and my husband starts his meetings at 8.30am.”
How to declutter
Jennifer Manefield, organising professional at Decluttering Solutions has been helping clients declutter and downsize for eight years.
Manefield said that clutter is very expensive in a multitude of ways and usually represents a lot of money being spent on things bought on a whim.
“Things bought to replace items people forgot they had or can’t find. Things that take up valuable real estate space in a home or drain a bank account with monthly off-site storage fees. Clutter can make you late for work because you can’t locate your keys, or spend money going out because you can’t stand to be home amongst it all.”
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She adds that once you declutter a home it becomes a sanctuary.
“You’ll spend less, because you can find everything you need and are using items to the maximum before replacement. You are free to make new life choices,” she said.
Here are Manefield’s seven tips to declutter your home.
Start small to build your decluttering muscle and experience. Pick small projects that you can reasonably finish in the time allocated.
Start at the end. Have a plan for where your decluttered items are going. Know before you start the charities that will take the items or friends who will take things off your hands and avenues for selling items.
Plan for how you are going to get decluttered items to where they are going, i.e. boxes or bags. Will you drive them, send in an Uber, or can they be picked up?
If you are considering off-site storage, ask yourself are you just putting off making decisions about all that you own and also consider the cost of storage?
If you don’t know where to start, get a decluttering “buddy”. Avoid people who have strong opinions about what you should and shouldn’t keep. It can end in fights and frustration.
Make it fun. Document progress with photos or a video. Share it on your social media or with your support network. Plan a reward at the end such as an experience; not more stuff.
If you are struggling, think about using a professional organiser who can coach you through your options and allows you to tell the stories and support you when decision making gets tough.