If you’re serious about putting the pedal to the metal, let’s get ready to do some purging!
NOTE: This is part of a series; if you haven’t yet, check out De-clutter, Un-Clutter, and Clutter No More. The series is designed specifically to help you bring order to your living space and life. Use these posts as a guide.
Getting organized — and perhaps more importantly — staying organized is a process. It’s a journey and requires both physical work (aka the process of dealing with your things) and mental work (shifting the way you think about getting things done).
If you’re into yoga (and even if you’re not, stay with us here — you’ll still be able to follow along), you’ll notice how each class begins without movement: The instructor will have you either sit or lay on your back with eyes closed. There’s nothing to do yet in those first few moments. All that’s required of you is to simply exist in that space. Depending on what kind of class you’re in and your instructor, you’ll be guided through steps that culminate in you clearing your mind.
What you’ll be working to clear is the thousands of little tasks, things to do, annoyances, grievances, lists, deadlines — in short, everything that makes up everyday human existence. (And yes, there’s so much of it, constantly.)
And it’s only when you’ve listened to the instructor’s voice with your eyes closed for a little while, and your mind really does begin to focus on the here and now (versus constantly running away to, don’t forget to stop at the dry cleaners on the way home, and remember you have that meeting early in the morning, and on and on and on) that the actual class — all the movements that comprise yoga — begins.
We want to take you on a bit of a similar journey here. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re ready for some action. We’re going to help get you there.
But first: Do a mental inventory. Are you ready for this purging thing? Are you excited? Hesitant? Nervous? Does it seem impossible, or perhaps like a fun challenge you’re definitely up for? The answer might even be that you’re feeling ALL of the above.
Purging, the very act of letting something go, is not simply a series of physical movements. The things that surround us, the things that we have surrounded ourselves with, hold meaning and value. Sometimes that value is material, sometimes it’s emotional.
And part of the purging process is figuring out whether that meaning/value translates to, I should keep this in my life or — if it’s OK to let it go.
How will you know?
Let’s start with some concrete examples.
CLOSETS, CLOTHES, SHOES
Pretend for this next paragraph that you’re about to pack for a fabulous 2-week trip. It’s going to be a marvelous vacation, full of the things that you most love to do. What do you pack? What sorts of outfits do you want in your suitcase? What will you wear while walking, riding, boating, dancing, whatever-ing during those two weeks? What sorts of outfits do you want in your photos and selfies?
Chances are, they’ll be the clothes that you really love. Items that make you look and feel good.
Now, say that the vacation has been cut down to one week. 7 days of bliss in your favorite spot in the world, with your favorite people in the world. Same question: What do you pack? Now imagine that you’ve just come home. Open up your closet and take a look inside. The things that you didn’t take.
Some of them, of course, fulfill a specific purpose for non-vacations. But others… they’re in there because you once loved them and now don’t, or maybe they don’t fit anymore, or maybe they need to be repaired/cleaned. Let’s deal with those items next.
Pick a number. Any number! Let’s say it’s 3. And quick: Look in your closet and grab 3 items that you can get rid of, just like that. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t quite fit. Or you’re never comfortable in. Or something that has an unpleasant memory attached to it. Now, grab a box or a bag, and place those items inside. You’ve begun your purge pile. Don’t look back into that box/bag. Once stuff is in there, it’s in there. No looking back. Let’s move forward!
Go through your clothes one section at a time: Work clothes, Workout clothes, Relaxing around the house clothes.
- Do I love this item? If I never saw it again, would I miss it?
- Does this item fit?
- Do I like how I look/feel wearing this?
- How often have I reached for this item in the past year? 6 months? 3 months?
You may also have items that need fixing. A missing button, a tear somewhere, or shoes/boots that need a cobbler’s care. If so, set these aside in a separate bag/box. Don’t have things in your closet that aren’t ready to wear right off the bat.
If you’re stuck in this process, here are a few things to try:
- Invite a friend over! Someone who can help you go through your closet. You can try stuff on, put together outfits. Make sure it’s someone whose fashion sense you trust, and who will be both truthful and kind.
- Get a buddy! Or a group of buddies. Set goals for yourself, and check in with each other regularly. And then celebrate together!
- Set yourself a goal of one item a day for a set amount of days. Sometimes it’s easier to do stuff like this piecemeal, and that’s absolutely OK. So, maybe put one item a day into your Purging Box for 15 days.
- Hire a professional. Being accountable to someone who you’re paying is a powerful way of getting things accomplished.
MORE PURGING: KITCHEN, BATHROOM etc.
Now let’s move on to other rooms in your apartment or house. The process is the same. Let’s look at some problem areas.
Are your cabinets so full that items spill out and you struggle to find space when putting away the dishes? Are your bathroom counters so cluttered that you keep knocking stuff over every time you reach for a hairbrush?
These are great areas for purging!
Go through the same process. If you’re drowning in coffee mugs, for example, pick out your 5 absolute favorites. (Or 3 favorites — that number truly is arbitrary.) Then take a look at the rest. Can you part with any of them? And if so: Do it. Grab the ones that you never, ever reach for, never drink your coffee or tea or hot chocolates in. And put them into the Purge Box.
Bathrooms are easy places to over-clutter. A good rule of thumb is to only have items out on counters and in the open that you use every single day. Everything else should either go into storage (seasonal items, for example), or into the Purge Box. If you’ve been hoarding little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, throw those into the Purge Box right away. Lots of charities continually put out calls for those types of things, and they’ll be much more useful there than cluttering up your space.
Let’s chat a bit about items with sentimental value that you never use. Perhaps it’s a teapot you inherited from a beloved family member. You love the memory and feelings associated with that item, but you know that you’re never going to use it, and it just is going to keep annoying you every time you need to move it out of the way.
Instead of that, consider one of the following:
- Repurpose the item. Maybe it doesn’t work as a teapot. Can you use it for something else? Perhaps it’ll make a beautiful pen holder, and then you can have it on your desk and think fondly of the person who gave it to you each time you reach for something to write with.
- Is there someone you know who would love it and use it? If so, ask them if they’d like it. Having a cherished item go to a good home where it will be loved and admired is a really nice way of honoring that item.
- Take a photo, or have a friend with a knack for beautiful photography, take a beautiful photo of it. Put it in a nice frame and hang it up. You can then donate the item or do with it what you like, while still being able to look at it if you wish.
DEALING WITH THE PURGE BOX
Finally and lastly, we’re going to deal with that Purge Box you’ve been amassing. Because hopefully, by the end of this process, you’ll have amassed a good Purge Box or Boxes.
This is the final step. Without it, the purging process will not be complete. It’s just like at the end of yoga class, the instructor will have you come to another point of no movement so that your mind and body can be still and process all the wonderful yogic movements you just did, and prep for moving forward with your day.
The Purge Box (or bags, or crates, whatever containers you’ve used) need to find new homes. Sometimes, it’s as simple as placing them in the trash and/or recycling. But there is a myriad of other things you can do, including:
- Host a garage / yard / stoop sale. Get your neighbors in on it, as nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. And at the end of the sale, the items that haven’t sold go back into the Purge Box (nor your home). More options:
- Donate the goods to a local charity or shelter. Do some research on what’s in your area that you’d like to support. Most places will have lists of what they need and would like on their websites.
- Organize a friend swap. This is fun to do with clothes and shoes if you have friends of similar sizes. Give away the items via an online forum — whether it’s your local neighborhood or school, lots of places have locations where you can list what you have.
PURGING IS A GOOD THING
It really is. It’s healthy for both the mind and body and — especially if you’ve donated or gifted items along the way — is also good for your community and environment.
Once you’ve done some good purging, take a step back. You’ve done a good thing.