Guest Blog Part 2: The Art of Purging: Only keep things you use and love – By: Carly Pray

Hi again! Thank you to those of you who gave me positive feedback on Part 1, I really appreciate it. As I said before, I hope it was truly helpful. 

Now to Part 2, the most difficult part for most people: THE PURGE. Getting rid of the stuff you don’t use or want. 

PERSONALITY, AGAIN

“Stuff” is an interesting thing and if we are going think on it for a moment, this once again ties back to personality. There is another spectrum here, and it is the spectrum of how emotionally attached you are to your possessions. I see this so clearly in my kids. I have one kid who just said to me yesterday, “Mom, can we purge my bookshelf soon? There are books on there that I don’t even care about and I am never going to read.” This kid loves being able to find toys easily when needed, likes a neat room, and enjoys knowing that the purged things will go to another person who will use them. This kid is practical and not emotionally attached to most stuff (notice the word most – if we were to try and purge the stuffed animals in that room there would be strong feelings flying all over the place). Then I have another kid who is very good at expressing feelings and does a full self-lecture through a purge. “I love this, but I know I don’t use it. But I love it. I remember buying it. I want to keep it, but I really never use it. URGHHHHH!” Luckily this kid is old enough and logical enough to get through it. Obviously I have guided her through it and forced her to prevent hoarding. I used to purge kid stuff during naps or school so that she would never even know anything left the house. She told me once that she was glad I hid my purges from her; it was just easier for everyone and she did not even notice what was missing. This kid attaches high value and emotion to everything she owns. Like I said in Part 1, a lot of things come down to this: Know yourself and adapt accordingly.

Here’s the extreme end of the stuff-attachment spectrum: One time I was purging kid toys while my kids were napping. A friend of mine was hanging out with me while I did it. When I told her what I was doing she said, “Awwww, don’t get rid of her stuff! That’s sad!” The practical part of me just about snapped. I do not think it’s healthy for someone else to attach unnecessary emotion to my stuff that I know is unneeded and/or unwanted. That friend of mine has kind of personality that will have the hardest time with purging. It is smart for this kind of person to ask a friend on the other side of the personality spectrum to come over and help her purge. 

That little memory leads me of an important point: If you are an adult, you should be the only one assessing the value of your things. If you hear your mom’s voice or your friend’s voice in the back of your head saying “Don’t get rid of that!” Shake it off. Do not keep something because you fear what someone else will think if you part with it. You are in charge of your things and it is your prerogative to decide what to do with your things. I give you permission to move yourself toward a healthy relationship with your possessions. This healthy relationship results in feelings of usefulness and/or pleasure. No one else can feel those things for you or tell you what to do. Do not allow anyone to burden you in an unhealthy way. Saying goodbye to some of your stuff does not mean you are a mean person.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

If giving everything a home (that is not on the counter) was difficult for you, you probably have too much stuff. How much stuff you are allowed to keep is directly related to how much space you have. I live in more or less 1500 sq feet. For where I live this is on the smaller side of homes. If I lived in a mansion or in a tiny little San Francisco apartment, I would obviously change the amount of stuff I chose to keep. 

Regardless of how big your space is, the big question is this: 

Can you truthfully say about every single thing in your house one of the following statements? 

I USE THIS. I LOVE THIS. 

As you go through your house, I recommend that you purge in small bites. It almost always takes you longer than you expect and it can quickly get overwhelming. I recommend only doing one room at a time – even if you really want to declare a purge on the entire house. Finish purging one room completely (meaning everything you are getting rid of is in a bag or box and in your vehicle and everything you are keeping is put away in it’s home) before you move on to the next room. When you start to go through an area you should already have one bag or box where you are going to put everything that you are donating, and one bag/box for trash. Don’t make a pile that you will bag later – that’s double work. If you decide you are done with something you put it directly in the bag/box. 

Here’s how it looks:

1. Take everything out of the area you are working on. Just one drawer/cupboard/shelf at a time.

2. Set aside the items you use frequently. Only the favorite items that you love or use regularly.

3. Put any items that you immediately know you will not be keeping in the trash or donation bags.

4. Now you should have your “Maybe” items remaining. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Do I actually use this?” “Do I really love this?” “If I got rid of this, would I even notice that it’s gone?” If the answer is “No” to more than one of those questions, you need to be done with it.

5. Put everything back in its home in an organized manner: like things together, frequent use items toward the front, small things corralled into containers.

The Maybe pile is the hardest part. If it feels impossible for you to get rid of Maybe items, you can do this test: have a storage bin to put those items in. Instead of taking that bin to the donation center, hide it in your garage. If you end up desiring one of those items in the next couple months then you can go and dig it out. If you go a few months and items are still in that box, it’s time to say goodbye. 

ROOM-SPECIFIC TIPS

Kitchen

This is a classic clutter place because you got stuff as wedding gifts and then realized a few years into your marriage that you don’t even ever use the trinket that someone else thought you would love. Once again, this should not be a guilt game. If you don’t use it, you don’t use it. Set yourself free. One person can only use so many decorative serving bowls. Your bowls do not have feelings. You are allowed to have favorites 😉 Keep your favorites and donate the others to someone who will be excited to have them and actually use them. For example, I only need a small and a medium sized sauce pan, a big fat soup pot, and a skillet. I chose to part with all the others to save space and I don’t even miss them. If something is of high value, take the steps needed to sell it and enjoy the money you get from it. Your pantry should only have foods in it that you eat regularly, you only need a minimal stockpile of items unless you live in an area where you won’t be able to get to the store for several days in case of an emergency. 

Clothing

One idea I’ve tried is to put all of my hanging items with the hanger facing backwards. Once you wear an item, you flip the hanger back to normal. At the end of the season you part with the clothes that are still on backwards-facing hangers. It’s good to see what you are actually wearing or not wearing, even if you thought it was adorable in the store or during a different season in life.

Unless you are not done having children and you have a bin of maternity clothes, Do not keep clothes that don’t fit you. Just don’t. Those poorly-fitting items will look great on someone else and you do not need them to distract or depress you. Be honest with yourself about why you are keeping those clothes and say goodbye. A shirt that fits you well and flatters your figure is worth 10 shirts that make you self-conscious. If you have shopping habits that are hard to break, consider going on a clothing fast where you do not buy any new clothes fro 6-12 months. I have done this twice and it really helped me to stop browsing items just because they were a good deal. 

For non-hanging clothes you can use some pretty basic math to help you know how much to keep. You do not need 20 pairs of underwear. Unless you go 20 days between laundry sessions. I never go more than 10 days without doing laundry. Just in case I get really behind, my husband has 12 undershirts and 12 pairs of undies. I wear my PJ pants a few times before I wash them, so I only need 2-3 pairs. I only let myself have 2-3 pants and 2-3 shorts for sleeping. I workout 4 times a week, so I have 6 workout tops. If you have a big closet and a generous budget, you can afford to have and keep more. But if you are trying to pare down, use this kind of easy math to give yourself a number and stick to it. When you pull everything out of the drawer, put the keepers back in priority order of how much you love them and stop when you get to your set number. 

Linens

Again, there is math here. You technically only need one set of sheets per bed in your house. I only have one set of summer sheets and one set of winter sheets for my bed. When they need to be washed, I wash them that day and put them back on before I go to bed that same night. For the kids I have the set of sheets currently on their bed and one extra set per bed. That’s it. For towels I have one towel per person in the house. For extra towels I imagine that I will never host more than 6 people overnight at a time, so I have 6 additional towels. For snuggly blankets I have one per person in the house and a handful of extras for when guests are here. 

Cleaning supplies

You do not need a ton of cleaning supplies. You really only need a multi-purpose cleaner, a toilet cleaner, and one way to disinfect (wipes, bleach spray, etc). You also only need a few tools – a few rags, a scrub brush, a toothbrush for little tricky places, a magic eraser and a duster. Many of you can really scale down in these areas. 

Beauty Products

If you don’t love a product, you don’t love it. Do not put a bottle in under your sink or in the drawer simply because it’s not empty and you feel guilty. Throw it away and move on to a product you like. Again, under your sink and in your bathroom cupboards there should only be cosmetics and products you USE or LOVE.

A FINAL THOUGHT: DON’T RUIN YOUR PURGE

Once you purge, you need to be very careful to avoid ruining your hard work. If you go out and buy a bunch of things that you do not need or love, you will just reclutter your space. As you put things in your cart at the store, you should be imagining where you will put it at home. Imagine exactly when you will be using it. Ask yourself if the item is worth storing. Wait until you completely run out of something before you buy it’s replacement. Do not buy craft supplies for yourself or your children unless you can imagine exactly when you will complete that craft project and know that you will actually do it. Trust me, I know that everything in the Target Threshold line is adorable and I want all of it. But I have to put the breaks on and remind myself that I have limited space. I am committed to only bring things into my house that I know I will use or love.  The 3 questions mentioned above really work to help guide you. Once you have your purged items in your vehicle, head to the donation center as soon as you can – your purge is now complete and you can work on the fun part of organization: Smart and Practical ways to store your stuff. See you next week for Part 3!  – Carly

And since I had the chance to read this yesterday, I took her advice and went after my kitchen pantry.  Let me tell you she’s right when she says it may take longer than you’d expect.  Bonus of my hard work?  Discovering a lost bottle of champaign that was on the verge of expiration, so of course I had to drink some while making dinner last night.  I toasted to a (mostly – the kids will purge their own boxes) purged pantry!img_9670

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