Tips For Purging

I am in pursuit of a simple, joyful life.

Lately, I’ve been achieving this through purging. Who knew there could be so much magic in the act of purging?!

I wrote a post on Friday about how purging is changing the way I feel about my life, but since then, I’ve been thinking there’s a lot more to be said about the topic.

Getting rid of stuff can be hard to do. It can be even harder to get your family on board, so today, I’m going to share with you a few of the practical tips I’ve been using to help my family purge along with me!

1. Provide physical evidence of what items do not get used.

Toys – I used to think our girls played with all the toys they owned. Maybe not all the time, but we don’t have tons of toys, and surely they would miss some of those fantastic toys if I just got rid of them.

Just to be sure, I put the toys to the test. I arranged a number of toys in a corner of our living room where they would be easily accessible, and over the next few days, I watched to see which ones my girls grabbed first. After a week, there were some that had never been touched. Out they went! The girls never even noticed.

Clothes A few years ago, Ben needed a little enlightenment. He was CONVINCED that he truly did wear all of his clothes in our closet. I was pretty positive he didn’t.

I had read in some organizing book that a simple way of testing this is to turn around all of your hangers so they’re hanging “backwards”. On laundry day, when you’re hanging up all the clean clothes, turn the hanger back so it’s hanging the way it normally does, and after a few weeks, you’ll have a pretty good idea, from the direction of your hangers, which items are not being worn.

I did this without telling Ben. He noticed the hangers looking a little funny, but never thought any further about it, and I never said anything. After a few months, I finally told him my little secret, and convinced him to get rid of almost all of his unused clothing. (Some really dressy stuff just isn’t used regularly, but we still needed to keep it.)

And apparently, we absolutely need to keep the sports jersey collection from around the world. Even if they aren’t worn, like…ever.

2. Get rid of things in stages.

A Box of Extras – Some things are just hard to get rid of. I get that. But it doesn’t mean they should be kept. For myself, I’m finding that if I don’t purge until it hurts a bit, I’m probably not getting rid of enough.

But sometimes, you just can’t let go. Ben has a navy fleece hoodie he really doesn’t wear, but he is unwilling to part with it. He believes a day will come when that hoodie will be the only article of clothing which will perfectly suit his needs.

And that’s fine. It’s his clothing, and I’m not going to bully him into getting rid of it. But he is okay with me putting a box on a shelf in our closet marked “Ben’s Extra Clothing”, where he can pull it out if he needs to. He’s agreed that if he hasn’t used the clothing in that box one year from now, we can get rid of it at that point.

I use the same method for our bathroom. I have a bin in our linen closet for items I’m not sure if we need, so we’ll wait for awhile, and if, in a few months, we haven’t taken anything out, I’ll feel okay about getting rid of everything.

The Second Sweep – I had already gone through our closet within the last six months, and there were some items I knew deep down I didn’t really use, but I just wasn’t ready to part with them. I left them in the farthest corning of the closet, rather than getting rid of them.

This time, I’m ruthless. It all goes. And somehow, something’s changed in the last six months. I almost got rid of stuff last time, and this time I’m actually able to let go. (Good grief, you’d think we were talking about something important here, but it’s just clothes! Still, it can be really hard!)

I thought it was just me, but then I read this blog post about going over things a second time, to get rid of even more. And that’s okay! Whether it’s a box to save for later, or going through things a second time, it’s okay to take some time to sort things out. Do what you need to do.

3. Get rid of the guilt.

Gifts – The most common reason I keep things is because of guilt. What if the person who gave me this item asks about it? (Do they ever?) What if they happen to see it at the thrift store I bring it to? (Seriously, what are the chances of that actually happening? Bring it to a thrift store far away from them!)

What I’ve come to realize is that whether the item was a gift or not, it’s still just STUFF. That person gave me stuff. Why? Because they love me, and wanted to express it in physical form. They wanted to bring pleasure to my life with an act of thoughtfulness and kindness.

And that is wonderful. I will bask in the kindness of receiving a gift from someone who loves me. I will focus on the intent behind the gift given. If I need  it and can use it, I will certainly do so.

If I  can’t make use of it, I will still be grateful for their thoughtfulness…and then I will send the gift to the thrift store. That may sound a little harsh, but for the sake of letting go of guilt and objects I do not need or want, I am choosing to think about the feelings behind the act of giving, rather than the object given.

Mistakes I Purchased –  I should not have bought that shirt. It fits funny. We did not need that popcorn popper, seeing as we never eat popcorn. I thought we might start eating it, but we didn’t.

I keep stuff because I think I should be using it.

No, I shouldn’t. We use what we use. I should not have to force myself to use our stuff. IT IS STUFF. If we haven’t used it yet, there’s an extremely good chance we never will. Get rid of it.

For some good reading on the emotions we attach to the things we own, read this post.


And what if I suddenly realize we need an item we no longer have because I got rid of it?

Well, in all my years of moving and purging and simplifying, I don’t even remember it happening, until this last week! Anika came home from Awana and announced that she needed to wear green for St. Patrick’s Day this week.

Her only green shirt was in one of the eight boxes I had packed up to send to the thrift shop.

I had two choices – go through all those boxes (Please don’t make me!!), or buy a new green shirt for Anika.

But then I thought a little longer, and realized I had a few more options – she could borrow one from a friend, or I could look through a boxful of clothes that are a size too big for her, and waiting to be used next year. For one night, she could wear a shirt a size too big.

And guess what – there was a green shirt!! I was saved from the first two options, thank goodness!!

Moral of the Story: If you get rid of something you later end up needing, you might be able to find a way around it. It will just take some effort and creativity, but is that so bad?


Your turn! I am eagerly awaiting any purging tips you care to share!

26 thoughts on “Tips For Purging

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  4. “Purging” has been my motto these past 2 weeks. I even went so far as to throw Tupperware into the Thrift Store box, along with a bunch of Christmas decorations…very freeing!! But my husband just won’t let me get rid of some of his anciently old suits, so I’m going to move them from our closet to the back of the guest room closet. I cut up some old t-shirts for the rag bin and gathered up candle stubs for recycling. (The Hutterites make beautiful candles from recycled wax.) Now to deal with those unmatched socks!

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  7. My grandmother taught me this: “everyday, throw something away. When in doubt, throw it out.” But what if the stuff actually belongs to someone else, but it’s stored in your home? If they wanted or needed it, they would retrieve it ?

    • When I had some things out my sister’s and my daughter’s, I gave them a 3 week deadline to pick it up. I told them it would go. My sister kept telling me don’t get rid of it. I called her often to remind her. She didn’t pick up the items. They went to the thrift store. She was mad. But if it wasn’t that important for her to pick up, it wasn’t that important. And as a bonus, she never asks to store things at my house!

  8. I have been cleaning out all my stuff!!!! I got rid of most of my clothes, stuffed animals, and gadgets I don’t EVER use!!! The second time around thing really works! This summer is henceforth called THE SUMMER OF GOODWILL!!!!!!!

  9. I am a recent college grad and have moved back in with my parents to build up my finances and get a little established and it is AMAZING to me how much stuff I STILL have that I don’t need after going through it every summer break and twice during the last 5 Christmases! I have been slowly prepping to move out, so things like getting rid of pillows I made in middle school and using the space to store kitchen essentials that will save me MEGA bucks by having when I move out! It’s so freeing and exciting! I recently got rid of all but my favorite loung pants and I am down to 3 (I thought it was 2 but recently found another pair in the purge! Haha!)

  10. I have been purging a lot in the past couple of years. Last year we sold and donated about 25 blue bins worth of stuff. This year in May was the same. I didn’t think we had so much unnecessary belongings but having moved 9 times in the past 15 years it’s hard to ignore how many boxes get moved from place to place. Now although my husband likes to think we’ll be in this house forever, I’m getting ready for the next move. We try to keep each other on track from unnecessary purchases and gently question the other about belongings that are keeping to use once in a blue moon, maybe.

  11. Thanks for these very useful tips. Actually purging is the best way to clean the house and get rid of unused stuff, by doing these you will how much stuff you have to sell, donate and how much junk you have and you’ll be amaze how big your space is by getting rid of all these things when it is already organized in its proper place.

  12. I’ve been purging as well. My goal for this Year was to get rid of a box or bag of stuff every week. I keep a box in the hallway and during the week will toss things in it as I come across something. Two extra labels, a tortilla warmer I’ve never used, etc.

  13. I feel like decluttering or “purging” is the best use of energy for keeping a peaceful & clean home. I’ve been living a minimalist/simplistic lifestyle for 20 plus years. Friends who have come to my home(s) over the years are always surprised at how little I own ( how little owns me, really). Some have asked for my help organizing; I tried to teach them what I know. It’s about letting go. Letting go, of your fear, mostly. It comes down to dealing with your emotional baggage, willing to trust that things, life, you will be okay. Letting go of some imagined safety net.

    • Wow, I love that – letting go of your safety net. It’s so true! And I agree – organizing our junk still leaves us with junk!! My home finally stayed tidy when I was willing to get rid of the clutter, not just rearrange it!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  14. I have been asking my hubby and young adult children (1 still at home, the other left and left his ‘stuff’!) to help purge. We have lived in our home for 21 years and live on a small farm. DH has tools, and SPACE to keep stuff. I have just begun to make meaningful headway and have found great joy in giving to a friend’s Dayhome, a friend’s work with underprivileged children, the online sell groups and of course the Thrift store! It has just begun but is long overdue. Our home literally stresses me out and I feel like our house is closing in… and no, we are not Hoarders like on TV! I do agree with your point on gifts and would add that I’m extremely sentimental so it’s difficult. This post has been helpful – thank you!

    • I’m so glad to hear this post was helpful! And I think it’s awesome that you’ve begun to tackle something that’s causing stress in your life – it will be so worth it!! Have you read the book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”? It is such a fantastic, practical read, and she has really helpful tips on dealing with sentimental items!

      • Hi Kendra, No I hadn’t heard about that book and you won’t believe it but it’s on sale 40% off right now at our book store (Chapters)!!! I’ve even passed it along to a very good friend of mine. Thanks SO much and I’ll keep in touch on how it’s going! Thanks for doing what you do… you really area helping people 🙂

  15. Hi Kendra, Thank you for this post. I began a “whole-house” purge over a year ago before our son was born. It is still in progress and I am always looking for more inspiration to get rid of the “what if we need it someday” and sentimental/guilt items. Your post helped with both of those areas. I also love the section about children’s toys. Our son’s room looks very different than our daughter’s room – we learned from our mistakes with our daughter who is our first child! If you are ever looking for another book on this subject; I love: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. He explains the importance of only keeping items that help you live the life you want to live. He does talk about the what if we need it items and sentimental items but those are my most challenging items so I am still looking for inspiration to purge more of them! Thank you again for a great post.

    • I’m so glad to hear you found this post helpful! And thanks for the book suggestion – I’m always on the look out for a good decluttering book! I’ll have to check it out.:)

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