The Purge: How to Get Rid of the Stuff You Don’t Need

“Purging is not for the weak, and you NEED to be in that I-don’t-need-this-stuff state of mind or you’ll get (possibly literally) buried alive.”

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of stuff.

It just seems to show up out of nowhere. I say ‘nowhere’ but I know damn well where it comes from: thrift, antique, and craft stores. Mostly.

We also have a toddler with mountains of toys and clothes. As the youngest cousin, he gets alllll the hand-me-downs. Oh, and then there’s the contractor husband who brings home unique treasures from work that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Just yesterday he brought home a magnificent antique oil painting that was on the metaphorical chopping block. Sure, it isn’t in the best shape, and yes, it is gigantic, and of course, I have nowhere to hang it, but it’s stunning! How can I say no to antique art?

And yet I still find myself asking the universe, “how did we end up with so much stuff?”

So, that brings me back to purging. About twice a year, I get a wild hair and decide my house just has too much stuff. Since I have lived with myself for 33 years now, I know that I have a tendency to start projects with vigor, only to dump them when I get bored. I have created a system that allows me to purge and clean without losing steam.

Purging is not for the weak, and you NEED to be in that I-don’t-need-this-stuff state of mind or you’ll get (possibly literally) buried alive.

When I start getting the inkling to purge, it usually stems from a wish to clean a particular area or room. The more I think about it, the more I realize more areas or rooms in my house could stand a good purging. Knowing where you want to start will give you direction.

Here are my phases I stick to for a successful purge:

  1. Plan
  2. Purge & Clean
  3. Put Away

No. 1: Plan

As much as I’d like to think of myself as a fly-by-the-seam-of-my-pants kinda girl, in reality, I thrive when I plan, especially since I am more prone to anxiety and the overwhelm-ment (Yes, I make up my own words).

Decided on the nuances of purging beforehand can help keep you from decision fatigue (it’s a real thing!), if and when you start feeling overwhelmed or tired. Take a quick peek at the area you’ll be purging and make a note (mental or written) of things you don’t think you’ll need, that areas you’ll be purging, and what cleaning supplies you’ll be using.

Next, think about where you’ll put those things during the transition period between purging and putting away. Pick out spots or designate boxes for your piles: broken or undonatable items, recyclable items, donation items. Items that need to be moved elsewhere, put in storage, given to X,Y,or Z person, projects you’d like to one day tackle, or need to be filed away. These are generally the piles I end up with, yours may be different. Get your cleaning supplies ready. I generally use a basic multi-surface cleaner and a few rags.

Don’t forget about the most important planning tool: time. You’re gonna need time.

Maybe you only need to purge one area, maybe a whole room. Give yourself ample time for what area you will be working in. This includes time spent actually purging, cleaning, and putting away. If you only have, say, an hour, and you want to purge your whole bedroom, you’re probably not going to have enough time. Chances are you’ll start, only get a certain amount done, and run out of time. Once you get back to the bedroom, you’ll could get so overwhelmed with the beast you created, you’ll say “screw this,” and go eat ice cream on the couch and silently sob as SVU reruns play in the background. I’m not saying this hasn’t happened to me.

Instead, if you only have an hour, pick a crowded windowsill, a cluttered bookcase, or that chair that doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than being a catch-all for laundry. Make the time you have to dedicate to purging really work for you in the long run.

OK, let’s get to it!

No. 2: Purge & Clean

This step is the easiest and the hardest. You need to be in that I-want-this-stuff-gone state of mind or you’ll (possibly literally) get buried alive. So, let’s go!

Pull things and really assess if you need that thing. Scrap papers from work? Recycle pile. Old pictures? Save pile. Clothes you don’t wear? Donate pile. As you put items into piles, think about where they’ll go. If you find things you need to put in, say, the kitchen or with your crafting supplies, think about where the item’s now home will be. That cookbook? It will go in the kitchen with the other cookbooks. Washi tape you forgot about? It will go with the rest of the washi tape.

Start in the highest section and work your way down. This will keep dust, dirt, and grime out of freshly cleaned sections. Always clean as you go. If you’re purging your bookcase, start on the top shelf. Once you’ve purged it, clean that area. Spray with a cleaner and wipe it out with a rag or paper towel. Get in the corners and really get that gunk out. I promise, cleaning is worth it. It’ll give you immense satisfaction that your newly purged area is not only cleared of stuff, but cleared of dust as well.

Now, do another shelf. And another. And another. Keep your piles organized. Move onto another section. And another. And another.

Here’s the fun part: take a break. Work for 15 minutes and take a 2 minute break. Or, work for 30 minutes and take a 4 minute break. Don’t take breaks that are too long, though. The longer you stop, the harder it will be to keep the momentum going.

When you’re done with that section, move to another section. Repeat steps. Next thing you know you’ll be done! Now what?

“Make the time you have to dedicate to purging really work for you in the long run.”

No. 3: Put Away

Congratulations on your purge! Take a few minutes to rest. You absolutely deserve it. Now, while it can be gratifying to know you purged what you needed, once you look down at your piles you may be daunted by all piles of stuff. Don’t stress! Remember, when you started this, you knew you’d have to put this stuff where it needs to go. And don’t just put things in the room or area where they belong, actually put them away where they need to go. If you’re not exactly sure where it needs to be put away, create a pile (I know, more talk about piles) you can store it until you have time to purge that area.

If you have trash, take it out. Same with the recycling. If you have things to donate, put them in a sturdy bag or box and put them in somewhere where the likelihood of it making a mess is low. I usually put my bagged donation items in my car’s trunk so I can drop them off when I have time, or in a closet away from busy toddler hands.

Congratulations, you’re DONE!

You planned, you purged, you put away, your conquered. How good do you feel? Now you can go sit on the couch, eat ice cream, and watch reruns of SVU knowing you completed what you set out to do.

Photo by Alvaro de la Rica on Unsplash

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    Great article! I’m in the mood to purge!

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