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Purging the Clutter

When we were first married, I didn’t know what my home style was. I relied on others to tell me what I “needed” to have. After a while, I found that I had enough in our home that I didn’t use, didn’t like, and was taking away from the sense of peace and calm I craved.

The summer we celebrated our one year anniversary, I decided to make a change. I purged each and every room in our home and had a series of garage sales to eliminate the excess. The sense of relief I experienced led to a change in how I approached our stuff, and I began a constant cycle of purging.

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Why Purging Is Important?

Let’s look at purging from a realistic viewpoint as opposed to a sentimental viewpoint.

  1. Our homes are only so big- When you consider the size of your home, the people living within the walls, your four-legged family members, basic furniture, and necessities, you have already given up a chunk of space within your home. Add to that the years of mementos you have collected from your past, each child, and other family members, and pretty soon, there isn’t any room left for new memories, hobbies, or mementos.
  2. Interests change- I used to be an avid scrapbooker. My kids used to like Elmo. Brian used to scuba dive. “Used to” being the operative words. Since these are all things we have left behind, why would we hold onto the “stuff” that went along with them? By removing these items from our space, we have created more space for our current interests.
  3. Our children outgrow their “stuff”- Have you noticed how quickly children grow? With each new size they grow into, there is a size they grow out of. Keeping all of their clothes because of some sentimental value it may hold will fill your space with unusable items.

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What About the Sentimental Stuff?

Granted, we all have a few items that we hold dear. My mother’s last Christmas, she returned some of the gifts we had given her (she must have sensed she would not be around much longer) and used the money to buy the shoes that my daughter would wear at her baby dedication. Those shoes have been put aside for safe keeping, but the outfits my little one wore as an infant (even the ones my mother gave us for her) have been given away or sold at garage sales and consignment shops.

  1. Be ruthless about what stays and what goes- If your items are serving a useful purpose or have an actual monetary value, consider keeping them long term. If it is a piece of furniture that a family member handmade for you, definitely keep it and be sure to make good use of it. But seriously consider the necessity of holding onto every craft your child made in class.
  2. Take photos- For my baby shower, my mother made a diaper cake using size 4 diapers. It was beautiful, and after she passed away I held onto it as it was the day of the shower. Eventually, however, my daughter reached size 4 diapers, and I had a decision to make- was I going to go out and buy a package of diapers or use the ones my mother had put into the diaper cake? I pulled out my camera, and snapped a few pictures of the cake, and promptly used the diapers. If certain items are sentimental but you do not feel compelled to keep the items, snap a photo and make a choice that works for you and your home.

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How Should I Purge?

Each and everyone of us has a different situation we are working with. You may be a working woman or you could be a stay-at-home mom. You might be a work-from-home gal with some flexibility in your schedule or you may have a tight schedule because in addition to being Mom you are also a taxi service and your car is your second home.

Whatever the case, here are three ways to purge the clutter from your home and hopefully bring some calm to your space and life.

  1. The Cycle Purge- With the Cycle Purge, start at one end of the house and begin the organizing/purging process one room at a time. By the time you make it all the way around the house, it has been about 4-5 months and it is time to begin the process all over again. This method keeps things from having a chance to build up around you. It also makes the next cycle of organizing and cleaning out easier because fewer things have had a chance to accumulate.
  2. The Seasonal Purge- There are certain times of the year when purging specific areas is easier than others. At Christmas time, I use what I am going to use, and the rest of it goes into a tub for a future garage sale. While the items for a particular season are out and available, go through them and decide what has served it’s purpose and is ready for retirement and what is still useful and has some years left in it. Purging our clothes with each season (what doesn’t fit anymore, what has holes, what didn’t we wear) is also a good idea.
  3. The Twice a Year Purge- When I was teaching, I would go through our house twice a year. The first purge happened during Christmas break, and the second purge happened during the summer (my two big breaks). I would go through my closets, drawers, cabinets, and garage, toss what was unusable, give away or sell items that were in good condition but would not be used again, and keep only what I needed. What are the two times a year that make sense in your world?

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When It’s All Said and Done, Then What?

Once you have purged the unnecessary, don’t keep it around. Use one or more of these ways to eliminate the excess.

  1. Donate- Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and your local church can use some of what you have.
  2. Garage Sale- If you are one income, finding ways to make a little extra cash for your family can come through selling what you already own.
  3. Consignment Shops- I love taking items to our local consignment shop. I provide the clothes and toys (must be quality items to be accepted), they provide the store and access to customers. I make a percentage of the sale and use my earnings to purchase clothing for our kids. Another great option for one income families.
  4. Online sales groups- (use at your own risk) There are so many online options for selling items  (especially great for larger items). Always choose to make your purchase exchanges in a public area and not at your home, if at all possible.

Sometimes having a friend over while you purge can be helpful. She can help you look past the sentiment of an item to the actual value (or lack of) it gives to your home. Having a buddy to talk to also makes the process more enjoyable.

As we enter the season of Spring Cleaning and organizing ourselves for the summer, add a little purge into your plans. You will be glad you did.