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!