The Big Purge
by: Julie Cincera
January is that time of the year when we all make New Year’s Resolutions-resolutions that we probably won’t keep! But 2013 was different for me. For the first time in my 40 plus years, I actually followed through with my resolution to de-clutter my 3600 square foot house and attic.
It all began in December 2012 while I was up in the attic getting out my Christmas decorations. At one point, I actually worried that the floor of my attic might possibly crash down into my daughters’ bedrooms while they slept! I remember imagining them being suffocated by all my STUFF! And that was the moment when I knew it was time to start letting things go!
So began the “Big Purge” in January 2013- a purge that would last all 365 days of 2013.
Having four daughters, it is easy to accumulate. But really, did I need to hang on to the two portable cribs, high chair and bassinette now that my girls were teens? Why was I keeping the Barney and Teletubby Halloween costumes? Did I need 10 Easter baskets of all different sizes?
The answer was no.
But since I am a very sentimental person, it is hard for me to part with things that remind me of a certain moment in time.
But, hanging on to all this stuff was causing me to have a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Closets and cupboards were stuffed, bookshelves packed and drawers filled to the brim. And the attic…well, you know what I thought about the attic… I knew that if I could clear out these “things” I would feel more peaceful and relaxed. My clutter was taking over my life and there was no more room for anything else.
I made a commitment to get rid of something every day during 2013. Some days I gave carloads to Kidney Foundation, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill. Other days, I just threw out an old bottle of medicine from my cabinet.
My posts on Facebook went something like this…”Day 31 of the Big Purge – I feel like I have only scratched the surface and I have done so much! Today was all of my binders from my job at PaineWebber in 1997. I added some things I used to do to my resume and then into the recycling bin they went. Also, I shredded old notebooks that had my to-do lists for the past 14 years. – OMG—Shred!”
My friends followed me on Facebook and were inspired by my purging. It felt so good to be lightening my load. When possible, I tried to make my trash someone else’s treasure. I gave an entire container full of tap, jazz and ballet shoes and dance leotards to the YMCA for girls who can’t afford dance equipment. A dear friend of mine was glad to receive my grandmother’s 70-year old dining room set and she repainted it for her own dining room. A young mother in need received my beautiful baby bassinette. I gave 6 fancy dresses to “The Evening of Believing Prom” for kids with cancer! Old towels and blankets sent off to the animal shelter to keep the pups and kitties warm. Giving my belongings to people who could use them really made them easier to part with. One day I even got paid for my purging. I found a stash of international currency from Taiwan, Costa Rica, the Philippines and Singapore from all of my husband’s overseas travel. I made $47.89 that day!
Now that it is January 2014, a year after I started my purge, I have removed so much from my home and I now feel less stressed. When I look at my house now it feels like a home rather than a storage locker. I even was able to do some redecorating of my house in a new style that I love because I let go of things that I really didn’t like, but had been holding on to for sentimental reasons.
If you are interested in a Big Purge for 2014 here are my suggestions:
- Complete one room at a time and don’t move to the next room until you have completely finished that room. It will give you a great sense of accomplishment after each room. Consider starting with a small space first.
- If you haven’t used something in a long time, it’s time to part with it! For 20 years I held on to 10 tablecloths that my parents gave me from our old restaurant business. Seriously…I don’t even use tablecloths.
- If something is really hard to part with, maybe it isn’t time yet. I had some binders from college that really brought great memories. My dear friend and I had worked hours on these projects and had lots of laughs. She came to visit me over Thanksgiving and I was so glad I didn’t throw them out because we went through them and reminisced together. Tuck those items away neatly until it IS time.
- Take a photo of something that you know you shouldn’t keep but you don’t want to forget it. I have been hanging on to my Kindergarten ABC letter books for 40 years. I took a photo of them and then put them in the recycling bin.
- Remind yourself you will have less to clean if you remove the clutter.
- Purge a little each day. If you set big goals for the day it will be too overwhelming and you might quit. Conquer one shelf of a closet, a drawer of the filing cabinet or a kitchen cabinet. Remember that it took you a long time to accumulate all this stuff so it will take you a long time to get rid of it. You would think that after 365 days of purging I would have nothing left in my house. Nope. Yesterday I purged my kitchen junk drawer. As you are purging, new things are coming back in so it will be a daily job.
- Keep a log or post your progress on Facebook. Every so often I would post a photo or a status update. It motivated me to keep going as my friends commented and told me “way to go, Julie!”
- Always have a box in your garage where you can place items to be donated. Every week make a trip to the donation center or have it ready for a pick up.
- Don’t feel bad about the landfill. Sometimes I was embarrassed that my two garbage cans at the curb were overflowing. What did people think of me and my trash? Let it go!
- 10. Remember, you can’t take it with you and your kids won’t want it. Someday, when it is time to leave this Earth we won’t be able to take our stuff with us. And, leaving it for your children to sort through is not very thoughtful. So…start getting rid of it now so everyone will be happy!
The “Big Purge” brought peace, organization, patience and joy to our household! We got rid of so many unused belongings that we made room for …..a new puppy! Happy purging!