tips for fitting into your tiny life

The day I moved out of my 200sqft Seattle house into my bus that grey September day, I was under the delusion that I had downsized enough to fit my new lifestyle. After all, the house I was moving out of was by any definition small (around 200sqft). But at the end of the night, the bus was stacked to the roof with my belongings and there was still plenty left in the house. With hours ticking to my move-out deadline, I took the route that many people take when downsizing. I cheated and purchased a storage unit.

A converted school bus filled with building materials and belongings.

When I moved into my bus in November 2019, it's clear that I still had way too many belongings for my storage space.

Space in Seattle isn't cheap, but I got a great move-in deal. One dollar for the first month. It was $98 for any months beyond that but I figured I’d be gone long before then. Flash forward nine months and $900 later and I finally freed myself from that dreaded 8 x 10. To help you avoid my mistakes, here are five tips for downsizing.


three plants sitting in a window sill shelf

I love a home full of plants. Space for plants was always in the plan. Books take up a lot of space but I cant live without them!

Books on a floating shelf.


Deciding what you have space for is necessary not just in a physical sense, but also to separate which activities and belongings truly enrich your life and which are just clutter.

A lot of my belongings were from hobbies I dabbled in over the years. When faced with a choice, I concluded that camping/hiking, snowboarding, music-making, photography, and painting made the list. That doesn't mean those things are most important, but I also tried to consider things from the standpoint of how much I enjoyed doing something, versus how much space it took up. For example, painting is not a huge part of my life, but brushes and watercolors don’t take up much space so they made the cut.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have snowboarding. Boards, boots, helmets, outerwear, all take up a lot of space. But as snowboarding is something I couldn’t imagine living without, I had to make space. Decisions like that are the basis of downsizing. Once you decide what is truly important to you, the decision of what stays and goes becomes much easier.


When I moved into my bus, it was rather sudden due to a change in circumstances. Before that, I had imagined all my belongings fitting neatly into the bus with not a thing out of place. In the weeks leading up to moving into the bus, I did my best to narrow down what I would actually be bringing in. I started with the things I used/touched every day and worked outward from there eventually working my way outward to the junk that had been stored in the closet for years. Unfortunately, at this point, I ran out of time. Hence, the dreaded storage unit.

The benefit of deciding what is coming with you to your new life early on is that you can adjust your build accordingly. It takes away the guesswork. Laying out my backpacking gear on the floor I physically stacked and measured it to figure out how many cubic feet of space would be needed to house it. Are you a fashionista who has to have all the clothes, shoes, and accessories? Lay out all the objects you will be bringing and plan that space into your build. This way you will end up compromising far less than for the sake of fitting into your tiny life.


Of course, it’s easy to talk about these things with some distance, but at the time it was not easy. Looking back I can see some of the missteps I made along the way. First, I did not give myself enough time. Having to make emotional decisions with so much time pressure only made them more difficult, and disorienting. This led me to get rid of some things I would have liked to keep and to keep some things I didn’t really need. Give yourself the time to sort and re-sort. To decide and to change your mind. When the decisions don’t have so much finality, they lose a lot of the anxiety associated with them.


Ask yourself, is this object (this pair of shoes, this dish set, these clothes...) more important or valuable than the future that I want for myself? Is it replaceable? And for those extra difficult sentimental items, ask yourself "Can I hold onto the emotion and feeling in this object while letting go of the physical object itself?"

Downsizing is always easier said than done. You can reach a place where you have given up everything you don't absolutely need and what is left still doesn't fit. That’s where you have to recall your motivation. Remember the reason for all these sacrifices. Make a vision board of your new life. Plan that first road trip you are going to take, calculate how much money you're going to be saving, or whatever the core motivation for this change is for you.

Hold onto those things when the going gets hard. I found that donating or giving objects to close friends made it easier to part with, as I knew they would be used and cared for.