The Power of Purging [Your Possessions]

The act of purging is vital. This helps get unused items into the hands of those who can make better use of them.

In order to be resourceful and effective with our recirculation methods, we need to find means to purge on a regular basis. After 27 years in the same house, a friend of mine recently made the decision to downsize significantly. She didn’t have time to get rid of things thoughtfully, passing them on to the right people or charities and recycling what she could. It was such a massive undertaking, she freely admits, that much of it ended up in the garbage. We all know that nothing is ever actually discarded, only relocated. Landfills are the typical destinations for discarded items.

If we make purging a regular practice, I believe we will also become more discerning shoppers. A shift has occurred in the way we shop. After keeping track of what we use and what we don’t, we’ve learned to cut back on unnecessary purchases. If we are in the habit of regularly decluttering, we are less likely to impulse buy unnecessary items.

And it is connected to happiness and the load we shoulder.

Many people wish they could simplify their lives by getting rid of their excess belongings, but they have no idea how to go about doing so. The act of purging can be very daunting and overwhelming. We break it down for you.

How to Let Go:

1: Purge In Increments

Choose to do a little every day, every week or every month. If you decide to do spring cleaning once a year, it may be too overwhelming to accomplish. But if you take on one room or one closet a month, then you can be done in a short time, and keep a rotating upper hand on accumulation. This also helps you keep nooks and crannies cleaner – I find that when I purge a closet or cubby, I am inspired to wipe away dust bunnies I hadn’t known were there. You know why I am a good purger? Because I moved every year of my life for a decade. Nothing like having to pack and unpack items to take a good look at your stuff. Travel lightly even if you are settled. Pretend like you move every two years.

2: One-Year Rule

Ask of every item: Have I used this in the last year? If the answer is no, get rid of it. Good reasons to break this rule include: I have set plans already to use it in the near future, or it holds tremendous sentimental value and I’ve intentionally decided to keep it. Otherwise, if it has been in a box for a year, you don’t need it. Out it goes. With clothes, try it at the end of each season when it is fresh in your mind. If you didn’t wear a sweater once in a whole winter season, chances are you won’t wear it next year.

3: One-Day Rule

When going through clothes I ask, “Will I wear this tomorrow?” If not, I don’t like it enough to keep it. If I am not going to wear it tomorrow, I won’t wear the next day or the next. You can try the same with books. “Would I pick this book up to read tomorrow?”

4: Keep An Active Goodwill Bag At All Times

Become a chronic purger by constantly questioning the usefulness of your stuff. Challenge yourself to walk things straight over to an active Goodwill bag that you keep out of sight. Once or twice a month, when running an errand near a second hand shop, drop the bag off and start a new one right away.

5: Let the Bag Speak to You

Be aggressive with what goes in the Goodwill bag at first. Put more than you think you should in the bag and try out life without it. If you miss an item, go back and get it. You’ll be surprised what you don’t miss.

6: Establish an Identity

Self-identify as a purger. It gets you a lot of respect at parties. When it comes up, people want to know all about it. The sheer act of having an identity of a purger as a positive things will fuel you to continue to be a purger. We feel amazing when we purge. We feel amazing when we talk about purging. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.

7: Only Buy What You Love

This is a challenge if you love deals or freebies. Be thoughtful and intentional with purchases. Decline a perfectly good free thing that you don’t really needing in the first place.

Be Savvy About Storage:

Store In Clear, Labeled Boxes

If you can’t see something, you’ll forget you have it and won’t use it properly.

Garages and Basements

Are potential black holes for stuff. If you have them, pretend like you don’t and see how you would prioritize your stuff. Limit the areas in your home that you use for storage.

Let the Storage Dictate the Volume

Have a set number of bins, bookshelves or hangers. If you buy a new shirt and don’t have a hanger for it, something has to get donated to free up the hanger. If your bins are full and you have something to store that you want to keep, it is time to look at what you aren’t using. As you get braver, cut down on the number of hangers and bins and bookshelves you use. This will help you keep volume under control.

Kids and Stuff

Kids come with stuff. It’s unavoidable. But they will benefit from you being intentional about how much stuff they have access to:

Go “Shopping” in the Basement

Keep half of their toys in bins in the basement. On a Saturday, make it a fun event to go shopping in the basement. The kid gets to choose how many items to bring down and swap out.

Be Honest About Gifts

It’s hard, but it will pay off in the long run to be honest with friends and family about how much stuff you want coming in at each birthday and holidays. Think about quality over quantity and experiential gifts. The normal you create will be normal for your child. Ask for second hand things. Model to your children by having them donate things they feel finished with.

Swap Out Seasonally

Keep some toys in storage and every few months, when you sense your child needs a refresher, swap the toys out for toys in storage. It will keep toy exciting for longer and limit clutter.

Moving Forward:

Go Strictly Utilitarian

When something comes in, something else goes out. Every item you buy or are given as a gift must replace something you currently own. Purchases are for when things need to be replaced.

Buy Used

Don’t buy anything new except food, underwear and personal care items. Shop at thrift shops primarily or just continuing to use old stuff.

Gift Boundaries

Make boundaries around gifts that you will accept. It isn’t a gift if it causes more stress due to being just another thing you don’t need and have to take care of and find a spot for.

Become a Swapper

The more you do things like host clothes swaps or share items with friends, the more loosely you’ll start holding on to objects. Ownership will feel different and you’ll trust that you’ll always have enough.

Quality vs Quantity

Think about what is worth investing in that will last.

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