The Purge Begins

Going hand in hand with our resolution to not bring any more stuff into our house, we are also going to actively work this year on getting rid of the clutter. Our clutter is the hidden kind. The kind that lurks deep in the back of closets. The unopened boxes in the attic that have been with us for 13 years and moved with us, and yet have never been unpacked. We have lots of those.

The boxes books saved from college that serve no purpose other than to remind me that once upon a time I read books with big words and discussed those books with other smart people. And I had ideas, lofty ideas that I was passionate about. And I was well rested.

All those words have long since left the lexicon of motherhood and have been replaced by words like poop, Target, and a good nights sleep. I actually had to just look up the word lexicon because I wasn’t sure I was using it correctly. Goodbye brain, I have hardly missed you.

And then there are my neatly organized bins of toys that have not seen the light of day for years. What am I saving them for? Will there be a toy shortage one day?

So this week was week one of the purge. I filled one large black garbage bag with stuff for Goodwill and four fully packed boxes of books. It didn’t even make a dent.

Sometimes when you are embarking on a big project it is hard to know where to start. I stood up there in my attic looked around. This is the point where I am tempted to walk away, overwhelmed. And then I try to justify it by saying that everything is organized and in neatly stacked boxes, who is it really hurting? It isn’t like we don’t have room, we have plenty.

But the bigger point is that I do not need that stuff up there. I feel the weight of it on my shoulders. Every time I buy yet another storage container so I can store more junk, it weighs on me.

So every week I am going to purge. I am going to be ruthless about it. And I am going to keep at it every week until there is nothing left. Even if one week I only find the time to empty out junk drawer.

Fifty-one more trips to Goodwill left to go.

44 Responses to “The Purge Begins”

  1. Alissa Says:

    good for you! i have a mountain of stuff sitting in my garage to donate… need to get the motivation to actually load it into the car and drive it over.

  2. Diane Says:

    Wow - you’re brave! :-) I think I’m going to love how you have this idea for the new site … maybe I’ll even try the no shopping and purging! Keep the stories come - on both sites. Love you blogs!

  3. Diane Says:

    Oops - should have ready before sending!! “Love you blogs” should be “Love YOUR blogs.”

  4. Emmy Says:

    I have struggled for years with my constant need to get rid of things. In fact, I have spring cleaning at least 4 times per year. I even enjoy getting to the end of the toothpaste so that I can discard and start fresh. I must be one of those weird people that really enjoy the process - or perhaps I need professional help.

    Happy cleaning/purging to you! It really feels good.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    After reading your post, and watching this presentation at http://www.storyofstuff.com I have been inspired to seriously purge and simplify. I was away for a few weeks for Christmas with my three kids, and I thought when we got home that would have fun playing all day with their new toys. I think the toys got maybe 10 minutes of play and the rest of the day was with the kitchen utensils, drawing supplies, and dancing around. I bet I could get rid of half our household stuff, and we wouldn’t miss it. It might be a little painful at first, but I’m guessing the less cleaning and laundry would feel really good. Thanks for the idea!

  6. Stephanie Says:

    It seems like this is the way a lot of people are feeling lately, freeing ourselves from stuff. I have been doing much the same: ditching, donating, selling. But most importantly, stopping the stuff from entering our space in the first place. Recently I watched this http://www.storyofstuff.com/ and it only strengthened my conviction to give up the buying of stuff.

    Best of luck on your year off. I always love reading your blogs; thanks for sharing your words, pictures, and humor.

  7. Maine Mom Says:

    This is great! Through your experience, we not only get motivation to look at what we’re buying and bringing into our homes, but we also get motivated to take a look at what is already in our homes. I love it!

  8. shannon Says:

    Ive been giving away at least one thing a day. it’s been nice. so far 20 things are out of my house and 6 friends have been *gifted*- only ONE of the things Ive offered are still here. Im trying this for the month of January.

  9. twosquaremeals Says:

    The folks at Goodwill are either going to love you or hate you by the end of this year. Either way, you will definitely be on a first name basis. I am inspired! Our young family of four intentionally lives in 1180 square feet because we wanted to keep down the level of stuff. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate in that small of a space! I am going to start purging, too. A little at a time until it is done…

  10. Ellen Says:

    You are so inspiring! Way to go! I’m with you! One thing I do once a year is Got Junk. They come and take everything away. I cleared out my crawl space and basement this summer and it was wonderful! (of course, it’s somehow re-cluttered itself, but hey!) I’ll join you on the once a week “getting rid of”!

  11. Catherine Says:

    I find purging cathartic. It’s like spring cleaning, except it’s of those deep, dark places that you seldom go. One place that I think can use toys but is often overlooked is your children’s hospital. Usually the toys have to be disinfectable (hard plastics usually) and in great working order.

    You’re stronger than I … when I get the sense of being overwhelmed I take to my bed like Scarlett O’Hara.

    This hardly sounds like “a year off”, it sounds like a year of hard work. I’ll keep rooting for you!

  12. Dawn Says:

    You’re preaching to the choir sister. I need to do the same thing. It is much easier to buy more storage containers…sigh…

  13. Sharon Says:

    Chris, purging stuff is the best. Keep at it. When we moved to our current house we only needed to use the crawl space in the basement. Nothing is stored in the attic. It’s the best feeling. I find that the day before garbage day is a great time to take a trash bag and scour the house. By the way, I love Notes from the Trenches!

  14. Cassie Says:

    Can I have your plastic bins?

    No, really, the ones I’ve been using broke when we brought out the winter clothes and I still haven’t gotten the summer clothes put away because I don’t have plastic boxes to put them in.

  15. Zoot Says:

    We will now be squeezing five people in a house with only 3 bedrooms so we’re purging for our SURVIVAL. I have a pile in the garage to take to Goodwill that looks like it could have filled an entire room. Yet, I can’t find the space it left behind. That’s the most frustrating part to me. All that cleaning and I can’t even find the space it left.

  16. Kelly Says:

    Today I cleaned a small portion of my office and it was great to fill a bag of trash and a box to donate. My kids did there rooms and came out with so MUCH stuff. It is nice to see it go out the door. Everytime I load the car I plan to take a picture of it and put on my blog as a reminder to not buy anything we do not need. Typing this got me excited to take the picture. I think I will keep on working tonight to get more out of here.

    Keep up the good work Chris

  17. megan Says:

    so is your other site going away and this will be the only one? i am looking forward to seeing this no buying journey. it is one i wish i could take, but i question whether i could even do it for a month! sad, i know. but i also enjoy your other blog and seeing snippets of your life. and of course your writing. you are one talented writer - and when i say talented i mean funny. and talented too of course. thanks for sharing pieces of your life - it always makes me laugh out loud! happy 2008! here’s to accumulating less stuff! :)

  18. susannah Says:

    it’s a great idea — the once a week purge. I am so overwhelmed by all of our stuff! And thanks for telling about your Target shopping — that happens to me, too! You are an inspiration…

  19. Johnna Says:

    That is so weird because just this morning I went through all the toys on the upper level. I organized them (again) and filled up a laundry bin to get rid of. BUT, I put it in the office and can’t get rid of it yet. What if one of the kids wants that dog they’ve never played with?? I’m gonna have to get my husband to help me over that final hump. I just can’t decide: Should I let my 4 year old know and have the final say before I’m off to goodwill?

    Chris says: I wouldn’t let your 4 yr old know unless you want all those toys going back where they were.

  20. Julie Says:

    Congrats on one big load done! Just make sure those winter coats don’t end up in a mid-July purge! ;)

  21. Fairly Odd Mother Says:

    I’m working with you! The kids even gave up a ton of stuffed animals and some dolls! Oh, but the attic. I really don’t wanna go up there!

  22. Sarah N. Says:

    I am loving your idea of no reckless spending for a year. I can’t wait to continue reading your entries.

    I am also in a purge sort of mood. i started when I was putting away all the christmas stuff. I decided that I didn’t see hand written christmas cards anywhere in my near future so I have a Target bag full of boxed cards ready to go! I also cleaned my bedroom closet today (kids had been sleeping there - yes it is that big!). Now I have a lundry basket full of stuff to go to Goodwill.

    Keep up the good work!

  23. Toby Says:

    good for you!

  24. The Simple Family Says:

    I have a fun game we play on weekends. It is “donate until you see a difference.”

    You’ll be surprised just how much has to go before a dent is made. Welcome to the Goodwill Club! Woohoo!

    PS: Remember, your cutie little fabrics are not wanted by goodwill. They are wanted by Texas.

    Chris says: Yes, all fabrics are to be sent to Texas.

  25. slynnro Says:

    I’m giving up shopping for 60 days. Now I feel inadequate!

    You are my new idol.

  26. Tara Says:

    I absolutely love the idea of purging each week. I say this as I look into my closet and see piles of clothing that I will absolutely never wear. Need to get cracking on that one.

  27. Brigitte Says:

    But where, oh where, do all the stuffed animals go?

    It also took until recently to finally get rid of all those college textbooks that prooved I wuz smart wunce. ;-)

    Most of the stuff that I think is junk to be purged belongs to my husband, while the stuff HE thinks is junk belongs to me. Luckily, there isn’t really a heck of a lot of it, at least compared to what it sounds like you have!

  28. Rachel May Says:

    I’m with Emmy. I’m a purging freak. I spring clean during every school break (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, and Summer)– it’s the only time I really have since I’m a teacher!

    We, too, are in the same mindset, though probably not a fierce about it as you are. We will be downsizing into a two-bedroom apartment this summer. We only have one child — a three year old boy — so maybe it won’t be quite as hard as I think it might!

  29. Angel Says:

    I just scheduled a pick up from the Vietnam Veterans of America (vva.org) They come to your house to pick up the donations so the stuff doesn’t just lounge in my car for weeks on end while I mean to but don’t get to Goodwill. Thanks for the inspiration.

  30. Teena Says:

    Hey, cool!

    I’m doing the same “no shopping” thing this year, except for necessary items (replacement undies, food, replacements for things that break and are needed.)

    My motivation is to use what we have and save a few $$ in the process. Adding you to my bookmarks.

  31. andrea from the fishbowl Says:

    re: purging kids toys.
    if you’re worried about your kids noticing… Here’s the trick:

    - put the toys you want to donate in a box with a lid. Put it somewhere they won’t find it. If they don’t ask for those toys for a month it’s time to donate them to Goodwill (without them seeing it, of course!). I did this with a box full of various plush and they never missed it.

  32. Heidi Says:

    Much luck with your project. You’re right that it is hard to break something like that up into smaller pieces.

  33. Sarah L. Says:

    Our attic is sort of a middle step in my toy purging process. Whenever I pack up a box of toys, it’s under the premise of “oh, we’ll just stick these in the attic and rotate them back in later.” Then I wait until no one has missed them and then purge it. Strangely, it’s more my husband than my kids who are attached to some of the toys. I think he feels guilty if, say, his parents gave the kids something. Me? No guilt. Chuck it. I am the one who has to trip over this crap all day long! Out with it!

  34. The Simple Family Says:

    At Johnna: The kids, especially if they are younger, won’t notice (usually). We’ve gotten rid of some big items that I was sure they’d notice (a play washer/dryer) and not only did they not care, they didn’t really seem to miss them.

    Okay, they didn’t miss them.

    I think, as parents, sometimes we feel that we’re depriving our children of something if we take it away. But, as you cut the # of toys down, you’ll be surprised how much they play with the other toys– most likely because they aren’t overwhelmed!

  35. Missy Says:

    I am inspired. I read your “other” blog regularly, and was so excited to read your resolution, because it fits perfectly with mine (in as much as I’m copying yours). We are a family of 5, with a 3600 sq. ft. house that is full. Ridiculous. So, thus begins our year of de-cluttering. Be my guru.

  36. angie Says:

    Some of those places, like Salvation Army, Nu-Way, and Volunteers of America actually come to your house to pick up your donations. Just saying, because I know how exhausting it is to load the car and the kids in the car to go down to Goodwill. I haunted them for a while.

  37. Kate B Says:

    I spent New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day purging. I even got a babysitter for the occasion! I find that when we start accumulating too much stuff, the energy in the whole house feels bogged down, clogged, stuck. Purging is so cathartic! Take baby steps, don’t get overwhelmed, and keep it up!

  38. carrie Says:

    Can you please steer some of that motivation my way?

    I have a crawlspace (instead of an attic) with more boxes than I can shake a finger at.

    Makes me want to run and hide!

  39. Kathy Says:

    I find the purging is much easier if I’m really pissed about something!

    I absolutely hate clutter. I have been following the rule–unless you really love it or it’s really useful, get rid of it.

    Tip I heard recently for the kitchen–put all your kitchen utensils/tools in a box. Give yourself one month. If you use one of those utensils within that month, you are allowed to put it in a drawer and keep it. If you don’t use it within the month, get rid ot it. (I personally would allow exceptions for bbq tools!)

  40. Susan Says:

    Chris, how do you decide what to keep for your kids when they’re older and may want some of their toys, etc. to pass down to their kids?

  41. Jamie AZ Says:

    We recently moved into a new house after spending the last 8.5 months in a rental after a move from Texas to Arizona. We didn’t have a lot of time before the initial move to purge, but we’ve been doing it little by little ever since. It’s sad how much CRAP we have! Hubby finally yesterday dumped the box of college textbooks and his binders/work from 10+ years ago. The only book I kept from college is a basic English/grammar book, but now that everything’s online, I can probably dump it, too!

    I really would love to do the “not buying stuff” challenge, but don’t feel like I can just yet due to the new house. Excuses, excuses! :) How ’bout I just cut down on buying for myself right now?

  42. Abigial Says:

    Good for you! However to avoid burn out you might want to check the FLY Lady. She can help you purge to your hearts content. This is her website: flylady.net

    Have fun!

  43. Tammy and Parker Says:

    We are following in your footsteps. My husband and I spent quite a bit of time over the holidays purging and discussing some of the exact same thing you are here. Hope I can keep up with you!

  44. miriam Says:

    Hey, in case no one has mentioned it and you have more books to go through- why not take them to a used book store? In my town there’s a big hip famous one and we always get store credit- often more for the books I am sure they don’t want. If they don’t want a book, they donate it in a program that sends stuff to Africa.

    My thinking is, you could take the store credits in gift cards of $25 each and then use those for gifts rather than the dreaded gift closet, which for me was always an excuse to pick up stuff just because it looked more expensive than it was. Kind of an ugly thought behind gifting, really. You mentioned giving cash generally, which is also a sweet gift, but I love giving bookstore cards…

    Chris says: I don’t think we have any used bookstores around me. I just bring the books to Goodwill also. Ours has a huge book section.

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