Yes, that’s a clickbait headline if there ever was one. But I went on a purge recently and threw out, donated or consigned over 200 pounds of “stuff” that had been cluttering up closets, file cabinets, drawers and shelves.
And I actually do feel lighter as a result.
My urge to purge started last August when I went to Colorado to help an elderly aunt move to California. Her one-bedroom apartment was a study in excess. She had over 50 linear feet of hanging clothes crammed into three large closets and a jury-rigged 12-foot length of closet pole suspended between a bookcase and a bureau. Virtually every surface (bed, sofa, dining table, chairs) was covered in piles of clothes. Drawers were overflowing (example: I counted more than 60 bras and 90 pairs of underwear). I gathered over 35 purses and 100 pairs of shoes. I found 8 years’ worth of bank statements, receipts and other papers stuffed in boxes, bags and drawers, and loose change totaling more than $250.
As I sifted through her possessions to pare down for packing, she volunteered her rationale for acquiring so many clothes and accessories: “I’m an entertainer, and I needed them.” Real-world translation: She sang karaoke at dive bars two or three nights a week, and she was a QVC addict.
But I digress.
When I got home to Maine, I vowed that I would never put my stepson and daughter-in-law through that kind of experience when Hubs and I kick the bucket. Granted, we don’t have my aunt’s propensity for buying crap, but when you have a four-bedroom house with a full basement, attic, two-car garage and storage shed, and you’ve lived there for ten years, the space just seems to fill up with stuff.
So we’ve begun clearing things out. At first it was little projects, like the spice cabinet (the six-year-old turmeric, garam masala that I used once, and hard-as-a-rock garlic powder can go). Under the kitchen sink (I really don’t need three nearly empty containers of floor cleaner). Bathroom vanity drawers (those dozens of hotel-size toiletries can be put to better use at a homeless shelter).
Next, we tackled the basement, hauling old deck furniture, a broken dehumidifier and wood scraps to the dump. Tossing boxes we were keeping “just in case.” Placing online ads for items we don’t want or need—like the refrigerator we replaced eight years ago, furniture that belonged to my mother, oriental rugs we impulse-bought at an auction and no longer use.
Then I really got religion about clearing things out. For Christmas (at my request), Hubs gave me Marie Kondo’s bestseller “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I read it in one sitting and, since I was taking the holiday week off, figured there was no time like the present to put her guidance to work.
I started with the double closet in my office. A repository for writing samples (some going back over 25 years), office supplies, old computers, monitors, phones and cables for gawd-knows-what, business books, gift wrap—the list goes on—it underwent major editing. Multiple loads of paper trash, including the writing samples, went to recycling (my recent work is available online, and why would I show a prospect a 25-year-old sample anyway?). Old technology got disposed of at Best Buy (they take it for free). Then I tackled my filing cabinet and desk drawers, reducing the contents by two-thirds.
I moved on to the guest room closet, filling three 33-gallon bags with Salvation Army donations of bed linens, rugs, decorative pillows and shower curtains (I really don’t need six of them), a pile of towels for the local animal shelter, and off-season clothing for consignment.
From there, I purged my section of our master bedroom closet, coming up with more clothing and some purses for donation and consignment. Next up: weeding out books (our local library accepts donations year-round) and clearing out the walk-in pantry (I have never used that trifle bowl we got as a wedding present, nor do I need eight vases—especially since whenever I have fresh flowers, one of the cats eats them and pukes).
This process has been liberating and enlightening in various ways:
- Hubs and I are planning to move and downsize within the next year, so by paring down now, it’s going to be SO much easier when the time comes
- If we both keel over tomorrow, it’ll be a lot easier for his son and our daughter-in-law to deal with the disposition of our possessions
- It’s calming to look around our home and see only things I value and enjoy (Kondo’s criterion for keeping something is if it sparks joy), and not think, “Sh*t, I really should declutter that bookcase”)
- I don’t need nine pairs of black slacks
- I’ll no longer feel as if I have nothing to wear because what now hangs in my closet are clothes I actually like
- My approach to shopping is going to be based more on “need” than “want”
- I feel as if I started 2016 with something akin to a clean slate, and trust that bodes well for the focus and clarity I want to bring to my work and this blog in the year ahead
- I really do feel lighter—and what’s not to like about that?
But perhaps the most important lesson I learned this past week is that paring down isn’t as much about getting rid of things as it is about learning to let go—especially of the emotional significance we attach to stuff. It inspired this haiku:
Letting go is an
important skill to acquire
as we get older.
What about you? Do you feel an urge to purge and declutter your space—or have you done so recently? Conversely, do you like having a lot of stuff around? Do you find it hard to let go of certain things? Please share.