What I’m Learning As I Purge Our House

There was a time in my life when I moved at least once a year. It was during those college years, and the years of being newly married, before Ben and I finally built our little house in Niverville.

During that stretch of time, I didn’t have a lot of junk. I used what I owned, and I got rid of the rest. Moving is very handy that way.

But during the times when we’ve stayed in the same place for a number of years, and added a couple of kids to our family, oh my word, is it ever easy to store up stuff!!

STUFF! Tons of it is so unnecessary.

So as our moving day is approaching, I’m purging away like crazy, and I have lots of time to think while I’m emptying drawers and packing up boxes of belongings I do not wish to belong to anymore.

Here are some of the things I’m learning while getting ready to move again:

1. The less stuff I own, the happier I am.

I always think that shopping and getting new things is fun and exciting. But how long does the excitement last? (And how shallow is that excitement, anyway?!)

I’m finding that when I own less stuff, I get rid of guilt in my life over things I shouldn’t have bought in the first place, or don’t use because I don’t like it but feel that I should be making use of it.

For example, I read somewhere that we only wear 15% of the clothes we own. That’s a pretty small amount of clothing. I think I need lots of clothing so I will have lots of variety, and not get tired of my clothes, but then I only end up wearing my favorite stuff, anyway.

So I got rid of all the clothing I don’t actually like and never actually use, and it feels wonderful. You would not believe the joy I receive when I open our closet, and see only my favorite things in there. Pure happiness.

2. The more I get rid of, the less I feel like shopping.

All the effort of sorting and purging makes me think twice about buying more stuff. When I think about how much money I spent on all that stuff, and now it’s just getting shipped off to MCC, it seems like a very big waste.

When I choose to buy something, I am spending money on it, I’m spending energy on it by shopping for it, and then organizing it, and finally getting rid of it.  It would be better not to buy so much stuff in the first place.

To read more on that topic, check out this fantastic blog post.

3. There is a very fine line between owning stuff, and having it own you.

I want to have things. I want to own things. I look at stuff on Pinterest, and it is very beautiful. I go to the mall, and suddenly, I am very convinced that I must own all of those wonderful new things that will make me appear more stylish and trendy and rich. (It sounds so ugly, but let’s just get it all out there, shall we?)

But then I come home, and all of my stuff controls how much time I have to spend cleaning and organizing. My stuff takes up room in our house and in my head. I didn’t actually realize it until I started getting rid of it. When there is no guilt about items I’m not using, and there are no objects to clean around, and the girls actually play with most of their toys, and I actually like reading all of the kids books in the basket, I wonder why in the world I put up with all that stuff for so long. Now that it’s gone, I can feel the space it left behind – and it’s a very, very good kind of a space.

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Now, I realize that not everybody is actually moving right now, and are therefore not experiencing the same motivation. If you wish you had that same motivation, you could always try the little game Ben and I used to play when we were living in Niverville. We cleaned out our basement one spring, and the question we asked ourselves over and over again was, “If we were moving to Africa, would we keep this?”

Africa, because it needed to be somewhere very far away to make it more dramatic and obvious which items would have to be stored, and which items just WERE NOT WORTH IT!! It worked very well. I highly recommend it.

Wouldn’t it be fun if MCC stores were suddenly swamped with boxes because everyone was “moving to Africa”? 🙂 So much freedom, so much joy.

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For some practical tips on purging, read this post.

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12 thoughts on “What I’m Learning As I Purge Our House

  1. I completely understand. We are in that time of moving also, and there has been stuff in storage for 3 years….hmmmmm what did I miss? My vaccuum and my washer dryier…and maybe some other things. Happy purging.

  2. Our saying around here is…When in doubt, throw it out. If it hasn’t been used for 6 months or more or you don’t know when you would use it next, it goes. So happy for your joy while purging! Now I am off to MCC to see if I can buy any of your stuff:)

    • I like your saying! And we’re bringing in a new shipment on Tuesday, in case you want to keep an eye out for it at MCC. 🙂

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  7. Just came across your post and it is great. Very much in line with the work we do with clients when we are helping them clear clutter. Occassionally we’re brought in to help someone move, but even when that isn’t the case, we use the “would you pay someone to move it?” question to help someone determine the value (beyond monetary) of the item in their life.

    I love the idea that you planted in my mind about our belongings. Do they belong to us, or we to them? Good food for thought!

  8. Just came here via pinterest, I really like your writing style. I am not a mom or a wife or a Christian but I am enjoying your writing and your beautiful photos.

    Here is where I trip up. I grew up poor. And right now, I am extremely poor. So when I get something, I keep it. A lot of blogs and articles I read say things like, get rid of it and if you need to replace it, buy it then. But sometimes I NEED IT and I don’t have the money. Or like now, I don’t have a car. Popping over to a store is a big endeavor, and I will spend minimum of $5 on bus fare PLUS the cost of the item. So I keep stuff “just in case” a lot.

    I also keep stuff bc not having a car means I cannot just take a quick bag of clothes to a thrift store. To get anything out of my small apt, I have to – again! – take a bus and haul it. But the stuff is TOO NICE to just be thrown away. So I keep it. Today I finally threw away an eye shadow that was too dark for me. But but buuuttt… It was MAC! I had to drive to a mall 30 miles away to buy it! It was so expensive! and I used it 3 times. And it was tiny…

    But I have so many tiny little things that I can’t bear to toss into a landfill. I can’t give a used eye shadow to a thrift store, even if it cost $16 plus gas and tolls (I had a car then) and I used it only twice.

    And then theres the stuff that I truly don’t “need” but I just like it. Getting rid of things I don’t like and don’t use is easier. But I have some stuff I keep that I haven’t used but it really is so cool. Like this dress. I bought it online 4 years ago. It’s fantastic. But in 4 years I’ve never had an occasion to wear it. I don’t want to get rid of it – I want to find a reason to wear it! (it’s the kind of dress you wear on a THIRD DATE with a man you really really like and intend to invite in for “coffee”) How sad is that LOL.

    Ok anyway that’s my story – I struggle with stuff! 🙂

    • Oh, wow, I can see how purging would be difficult for you! I can’t really relate to what you’re up against, but a few thoughts came to mind as I read your comment.

      First of all, we tend to ask the questions, “Do I use this?” or “Do I need this?” when we purge. But I just finished reading an amazing book called “The Magical Art of Tidying Up”, and she asks the question, “How does this make me feel?” And then only keep the stuff that brings you joy! This has really changed how I purge – if I don’t like something, I’m never going to want to use it. But if it makes me feel happy, and I really want to use it someday, I can keep it guilt-free, like that fantastic dress you’re hanging onto! Being surrounded by only the things you use or love would be pretty awesome! And a lot of the time, I think we avoid using stuff we don’t like, so it just makes sense to get rid of it.

      I really don’t think it’s a big problem to keep some stuff “just in case” – unless it’s been years, and you really, really don’t ever use it. Then I would get rid of it, but that’s just me.;) Everyone needs to figure out how much stuff they are comfortable living with.

      But one thing I do know: Keeping something because you paid a lot of money for it is not worth it. Chuck it. You DO get your money’s worth out of it, because you learn a valuable lesson – you learn to shop more carefully. Whenever I get rid of a big load of stuff, I realize that I could have been a lot more careful with what I bought in the first place. After spending the last nine months purging, I am very, very careful with what I bring into my home. And that is always great for a tight budget! You can’t change the purchases you made in the past, but you can change the ones you will make in the future, so get rid of “guilt items”, and make a new start.:)

      Also, I’m wondering if it would be helpful for you to try selling any of your stuff on Kijiji, Craiglist, or Facebook – whatever works for you. The town I live in has a “Buy and Sell” Facebook page, and I’ve made a few hundred dollars in the last few months by selling stuff – and I always ask people to come pick it up from my home if they want to buy it! You don’t even need a car for that!

      I can see how having a car would make it easier to get rid of stuff – can you collect stuff for a couple months, and borrow a car from anyone?

      In the end, you need to do what works best for you, and what you feel good about. I think you should keep what makes you happy, and get rid of all the guilt! For me, it’s about living more light and free.:)

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