The other day at work, a coworker asked me, “Are you still doing that purge thing?” Why, yes. Yes, I am. For those of you that are new to my party, I have been trying to reduce the number/volume of my material possessions since the first of the year. Reduce. De-clutter. Simplify. Purge. It’s a continuous project.
It was definitely easier earlier in the year when I started and my goal was to purge one thing a day. It’s relatively easy to look around the house, a storage room, or a garage and find one thing that you can live without. We’ve made multiple trips to Goodwill with a car full of useful, but ‘extra’ items, and my household is definitely better for it. That’s not to say that there isn’t an occasional miscalculation.
In January when I excitedly started my purge project, there were three vaporizer/cool air misters in our storage room. MOH and I had a storage room huddle to discuss our vaporizer inventory and quickly determined we definitely didn’t need three. We discussed how long it had been since we used any of them (at least five years), and the probability that we would be using one anytime in the foreseeable future. Final determination: three vaporizer/cool air misters purged. Storage room huddle complete.
Guess who ended up getting a head/chest cold in February (both of us) and ended up buying a new vaporizer (me) with gritted teeth?
I have not been able to keep up with my ‘purge one item a day’ initiative. Days, and sometimes weeks, go by in which I don’t get rid of anything. But I’m conscientious about my purchases and try not to buy anything that I don’t need or that won’t have long term usefulness. I have made new initiatives toward my longer term goal, and I try to switch it up along the way.
“I proclaim September to be Purge Your Drawers month,” I announced in a text to my sisters and nieces earlier this month. I have 41 drawers in my house that are either mine exclusively or shared with MOH. I intend to clean out a drawer every day. I’ll have to double up on drawers on a couple days, but some drawers are super easy (the bread drawer, the potholder drawer). I’ll save the harder drawers (file cabinet, costume jewelry) for days in which I’m feeling stronger.
And I do need strong days to get me through the bigger projects and when making decisions about sentimental items. “You know I said we can get rid of these matchbox cars,” my son said when he saw his case of matchbox cars was hanging out on the guest room bed and still had not made it into the Goodwill box. “I know, I know. Don’t rush me,” I exploded for some reason unknown even to myself.
I also found it hard to part with the collection of ceramic items he made in elementary school. “Do you want these?” he asked me trying to purge them from his inventory of belongings. I don’t want them, but I didn’t want him to get rid of them. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep them?” I asked. My brain couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to keep them, but my heart was having trouble letting go. We took a picture of them, wished them well, and sent them on their way.
The thing about most items that have been boxed up and moved to storage, whether it be a storage unit or an attic, is the out-of-sight, out-of-mind rule is really true. Once you put it in a box and scurry it away, the truth is that you most likely won’t even miss it. That is, until the day you are cleaning out boxes, open the box to see what is inside, and then once you see it and that memory springs out, you’ll totally think you can’t live without it.
One thing I have learned is, if you like it and want to keep it, don’t store it. Use it. Display it. And if you think you’re saving it for your kids, don’t. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but they probably don’t want it. They’re busy amassing things of their own.
Labeling storage items helps. The best labels look like this:
Expiration date 9/8/2020 Donate
This means that if I haven’t used this item in the next year, I don’t need it. No need to look in the box and remember that Aunt Sarah gave it to me as a wedding gift. No need to open the box and let those memories out, sucking me into keeping something I don’t use. On September 9, 2020, I’ll thank the unidentified item for its service and take the box to Salvation Army.
My sister recently handed me a Cool Whip container she found in her basement/storage area. It was a triple whammy. 1. Labeled in my mother’s handwriting. 2. A gift from beloved cousins. 3. A treasured play item from childhood.
I haven’t thought about these little doll dishes in over 30 years, and I wouldn’t have missed them had I never seen them again. But now that I have, they aren’t going anywhere. So in sticking with my own rule, I carefully unwrapped them and put them on display. I still have a china cabinet and they are a fun addition.
Sometimes people misunderstand my journey. My goal is not to see how many possessions that I can get rid of, it’s about having few enough possessions that I can use and/or enjoy them all.