Purging and organizing…the goal many ponder on, but most ditch the idea before they even get started. The anxiety that comes along with simply thinking about where to begin with such a daunting task is the culprit of many purging false starts. Don’t fall victim to this mentality! Do not give up…especially before you have even begun! There is nothing you can’t conquer once you get your head right. The rewards and satisfaction that come along with seeing the results of your efforts are the feeling of freedom and less stress…and who doesn’t want more freedom and less stress in life??
What is the right way to purge? There are a lot of organizing “challenges” and programs out there that involve creating huge game plans, mapping out your road to success, goal setting, rating your clutter by levels of importance, setting specific dates to achieve your goals, etc, etc. Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about how long that would take to plan out. And let’s be realistic…when is the last time you planned something and it went exactly the way you planned it? I’m pretty sure historically the more thought I’ve put into planning things…the more off path that journey ended up taking me. I’m not saying those programs are “wrong” but what I am saying is OMG what a time sucker (in my opinion). I mean you are probably in this boat in the first place because you don’t have a lot of time to spare right? The last thing in the world I personally would suggest you do is waste more time with detailed planning when it comes to the subject of purging. I believe you will be much more successful if you spend a very small amount of time preparing and you actually get started physically purging immediately. Hey, if you have very little to do on a daily basis and want to make fancy charts, color coded and in pretty fonts to make yourself feel better…by all means go for it! However, those that decide to skip the “doodling” step will be done with their first purge project before you’ve even gotten started.
So how do you get started on this ambitious journey you desperately long to achieve? Here’s a checklist to get you started on the right foot and headed in the direction of success.
- Calm down…like seriously…it’s going to be ok. Don’t overthink this process, causing yourself more stress. At the end of the day remember this…it’s just STUFF. The decisions to keep or to let go of something are not life or death decisions. There really are far more stressful things in life than getting rid of clutter, so don’t make it out to be more than it really is. No one ever reflected back on their life and said…"geez if only I wouldn’t have tossed that 4th cheese grater". Taking control over the “stuff” in your life doesn’t mean that you are a slob, hoarder or anything else so stop beating yourself up. It simply means that you are probably a busy person that just hasn’t had time to commit to this project, but you have decided you would like to start making progress on it. Take a deep breath, get your head right and commit to just getting started for now.
- Get over the money you spent on your stuff. That money is long spent and gone…so it’s just something you are going to have to come to terms with to make it through this process. Sorry, please don’t shoot the messenger ha! We've all wasted money on something we thought we needed and never used at some point or another. It's unfortunate but not uncommon or the end of the world. The more you open your eyes to the purchases you've made that you didn't have a need for...the more likely you are to not repeat the same mistake in the future. Every day that you continue to hold onto these things, the more likely they are to depreciate in value, so if you want to recoup any of your money at all, the sooner you get rid of it the better (except wine - there's no need to purge wine unless you are dropping it off at Legacy;). If you spent $100 on it 10 years ago and it is sitting in the closet taking up space and not being used or you spent $100 on it 10 years ago and donated it to someone that could use it (or sold it, etc) what difference does it make? Neither option gets you the $100 back, but one option stresses you out and clutters not only your home, but also your mind, while the other option either puts a little money in your pocket or saves someone else a little money…so pick the better option of the two.
- Accept that you must do the hard work before you get to enjoy the fun. Do not go shopping for containers…yet. I know this is literally the most exciting part of organizing…I totally get it. BUT…you aren’t at the organizing phase yet, you are in the purging phase. You shouldn’t be bringing anything else into your home until your purging process is nearly complete. You don’t even know what containers you will need yet or what sizes you will need until you have completely purged your space, so while I get this is the “fun part” it is a premature step that is nonproductive at this time. If the idea of container shopping excites you (I can’t be the only one right?) then use that as motivation to get yourself into gear to purge quickly so you can get to that step sooner.
- Start small by setting a single realistic goal. Don’t bite off more than you can chew in a day/weekend. Your ambition is highly admired, but if you have unrealistic expectations such as purging your entire home top to bottom in a single weekend, you will end up with a more dysfunctional environment than you began with. Determine how many hours you have to dedicate to this project today and do not allow yourself to start purging multiple areas at once. Start with a single task and do not move forward until that area is 100% completely purged and put back together as best it can be until you later revisit it for the organizing phase. The biggest way to set yourself up for failure is to try to tackle too much at once. If you shove the entire cupcake in your mouth…you will probably choke right? Additionally, you will probably have such an unpleasant experience that you won’t want cupcakes again for a long time. MODERATION
- Understand that some spaces (such as your own closet) will not be fully purged in one day. Some spaces will require more thought and will need to be purged multiple times before they are truly “done”. For example, the first round of closet purging is the easiest, by getting rid of stuff you obviously don’t like/wear or that is out of style, worn out, damaged, etc. Do round one of your closet early on in your purging process so afterwards while you are working on other spaces you can think more about those size 4 jeans…are you really ever going to be a size 4 again? Wanting to be…and actually physically making things happen aren’t the same even if your intentions are the very best. Even if you do fit in those jeans again…are flare leg pants even the style anymore? This is a fact…you only wear 20% of the clothes in your closet. I think if you are honest with yourself you probably won’t even question the authenticity of that statement. We all have the best intentions and feel shame when we don’t do the things we really meant to do, but the best way to shed the shame is to get rid of the very articles making us carry around that guilt and expectation of our self that we are probably never going to be able to really meet.
Now that you have the right mindset (I hope) it’s time to start actually making progress. Make a trip to Walmart and get the following basic supplies…and for crying out loud don’t buy anything not on this list while you are in there. You should be in and out in 30 minutes…if you self checkout. You probably have several of these items already so you might be even quicker.
- Spiral notebook and pen – Your basic single subject spiral is perfectly fine – You will use it to make a list of things you realize you need as you work through different spaces (ex: light bulbs you forgot you needed, kid A owns a total of 3 single socks without holes so you need to get him some new ones, running toilet upstairs you keep forgetting to tell hubby about, etc. Each page can be designated for a certain type of store – hardware/Walmart/grocery and one page for repairs). This will help you stay on task so you don’t get sidetracked and pulled away from your purging project.
- Sharpie – for labeling ziplocks and brown bags
- Gallon size zip locks – for grouping small items
- Large brown trash bags (the lawn kind) – You can also use just regular trash bags but I’m partial to these because they stand up on their own and I can drag them room to room without having to find a spot to hang them for easy filling.
- Brown grocery sacks – These are good to have handy to collect items that belong in different spaces in the home so you can take it all at once instead of making piles that feel counterproductive. Use your sharpie to label them with which room they need to be taken.
- 5 cardboard boxes – Size depends on how much time you have allotted yourself for this project this particular day/weekend and how much clutter you have. Label them accordingly…
- Trash – The stuff that no one wants, pieces are missing, stains/holes, anything just not really even worth selling or donating
- Donate – Whatever items you have chosen to donate instead of selling
- Sell – Whatever items you deem worth selling
- Revisit later– These are things you are sitting the fence on right now and need to remember to think on what to do with them still so you don’t leave them in the closet/room and forget about them
- Give back to owner– The Tupperware you borrowed at Thanksgiving for leftovers, kids friends clothing they left after a sleepover, etc.
The donate and sell categories will be unique for everyone based on their personal preferences and finances. Some will want to sell as much of the stuff as they can, so they can use the funds for purchasing containers, etc while others will want to donate more, taking the tax deduction to simply be done with it quicker due to lack of time to pursue selling items. Whatever balance you are comfortable with is perfectly fine.
I completely agree with Dale, so make the best of your project at hand and find your harmony in whatever music or audio books interest you, ditch the painful bra, put your hair in a messy bun and let’s get it done! In fact...how many bras do you have that you really need to toss? That might be a great place to start!
When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, here are a list of questions you should ask yourself to help make the decision easier for you.
- When is the last time you used it? 6+ months ago and it’s non-seasonal?
- What if I need it later? Is it something that you can easily go to Walmart or Target and purchase if the rare opportunity presents itself for you to use it? Or is it a rare and valuable item that is irreplaceable?
- Can you sell it now and buy it again relatively easily if you do need it one day?
- Do you really “need” it or is it something that you “intend” on using one day?
- If you can sell it now for $20 and brand new cost is $35 is it worth the risk that you might lose $15 but didn’t have to store it for however long?
- Is the tax donation more beneficial than storing it “just in case”?
- Can someone else use this and appreciate it more than you are that you could be a blessing to by giving it to them?
- Is it worth something right now, but before long will be outdated and undesired?
- Did you say “I totally forgot I had this” when you pulled it out? You should probably let it go if so.
This is an ongoing project that will take time depending on your schedule and lifestyle, so the immediate goal is progress. The more progress you make, the better you will feel and the more excited you will become about continuing to tackle this aspect of your life. At the end of the day/weekend, quit purging about an hour or two before you are mentally ready to call it quits so you still have the energy to wrap up loose ends such as taking the bags of trash out and taking the small brown bags to the correct rooms. Go ahead and take the donation box the same day to be dropped off or call your local charity and arrange for it to be picked up if they provide that service. The sooner you can get things out of the house, the quicker you will begin to experience relief and see the progress you have worked hard to achieve.
I will be rolling out an entire program along with accountability features in the very near future, but in the meantime if you are serious about making purging progress in your life, take our 12-12-12 challenge. Even better…be one of the first 12 people to complete the assignment AND submit your “pile pic” to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reward you with a FREE candle! Only the 1st 12 to complete the mission will get the free candle so hurry and get started! We love reading your blog comments below so be sure to drop us a note!
Details on the 12-12-12 challenge…
- Find 12 items in your home to donate
- Find 12 items in your home to throw away
- Find 12 items in your home to return to the owner or that need to be returned to their correct location in a different room
- Email a pic of your piles of 12 to email@example.com