Let the Purge Begin

Sometimes an idea hits you with the force of a Mack truck and there’s no earthly way to miss it. Other times, it takes a more subtle approach, weaving its way into your brain through various channels until one day the pieces all converge and you realize you might be onto something.

So it went with my latest idea. I had no ‘aha!’ moment, but several seemingly unrelated events in the past month clicked together and it occurred to me that perhaps they weren’t as unrelated as I supposed.

A quick synopsis of each of the events is as follows:

1) While visiting my sister I was struck by how clean her house was. She’s always been neat, but it was the utter lack of clutter that impressed me the most. Her kitchen counter tops were bare. Seriously, the only things on them were the KitchenAid and the Keurig (both essentials, obviously). There was no toaster, no salt and pepper shakers, no pile of bills waiting to be paid. It was… calming. I returned home with renewed energy to organize.

2) About two weeks after my return, I discovered that I had failed to pay a couple of bills on time. I thought I had been so good and paid everything before I left on my trip, but apparently a few fell through the cracks. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting money, so those late fees have been irking me ever since I found out about them. It made me realize that I need a much better system for handling our paperwork.

3) Recently a guy on the radio was talking about our desire for stuff. We assume that the more we have the happier we’ll be, when in reality, the opposite is true. The more we have, the more we want. (Ironically enough, when I heard this, I was on my way to Gap to buy a bunch of clothes that no one in my family needed). Two days later a friend of mine made the announcement that she and her husband bought a house. They will be moving with their daughter from a 3000 square foot home to a 383 square foot cottage. She described it as living the opposite of the American Dream. They want to focus on what they find truly important: spending time with each other, traveling, making memories instead of money. This move will require a huge lifestyle change. They will be selling, donating, and trashing probably two thirds of what they currently own.

That was my tipping point; the moment when all the pieces converged and the idea formed. Most of the time I feel like I live in utter chaos. My house is a mess, I’m disorganized, my sanity is hanging by a thread. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe part of the problem is all the stuff cluttering up the house. The more I ruminated, the more it made sense. Think about everything you own for a minute. Now think about everything you actually use. Estimate a percentage. I easily use less than half of what I have lying around.

So what does all that extra stuff do for me? It creates chaos. It clutters up my cabinets so that I can’t put away the things I do use. It hides that important piece of paper I’m looking for in a pile of junk on the desk. It increases the time I spend attempting to clean and organize because I have so much to work around. It decreases the amount of time I spend with my family for the same reason. It stresses me out, plain and simple.

It’s clear that all these material goods we think will make us happy are not living up to their promise. So I’ve had enough of them. If I don’t use it, I’m done with it. I will be spending the next… who knows how long (month, three months, three years??) going through everything we own, one room at a time. I will get rid of the things we don’t use. I will be ruthless. I will need your help!

I can see two things standing in the way of this project. The first is ‘What if I Need it Later?’ Syndrome. Sure, I forgot that I had that platter tucked away in storage since 2001, but maybe I’ll need it for our next get together! The kids never play with those Lincoln Logs? Yeah, but what if they wake up in five weeks with a sudden love for rustic architecture? The second potential problem is the fact that some things either hold sentimental value or were given to us by someone who might be offended if we get rid of it. Sort of two sides to the same coin. The blanket that the cousin of my great aunt twice removed knit for us might be collecting dust, but gosh, it would be a shame if she showed up out of the blue to introduce herself (after all, we’ve never met) and discovered that we sent it packing. Clearly there are items whose sentimental value will outweigh their perceived usefulness (some of the kids artwork, the outfits they wore home from the hospital, etc.) and there are also items that I would prefer to hang onto simply because someone’s feelings are more important than my purge. However, please don’t be upset if that thing you gave me for my birthday six years ago doesn’t make the cut. It doesn’t mean I hated it (or you), it just means I don’t need it anymore.

Why do I need your help, you ask. Well, when I arrive at an item that I’m stuck on (To keep or not to keep. That is the question.), I’ll post it on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ohhonestly and you can give me your opinion of what should be done with it. I’ll also be updating the blog each time I complete a room. That means there will not be any set schedule for how I do this. I bet I could knock out the boys’ room in one day, but the bonus room (where all our papers currently reside) could take a month. And the basement… oh my!

This is obviously a long term and on-going project (new stuff comes in all the time!), but it’s one that I truly hope to keep up with. Beyond the benefits I’ve already mentioned, my ultimate goal is a heart change. I hope that through this purging process I can learn to be content in the many blessings I’ve been given. And I hope that as my children see me model contentedness, they will develop content and thankful spirits as well.

I’ve decided to tackle the kitchen first. I’ll see the difference the purge makes pretty quickly which will keep me motivated. Plus I’m not too attached to all of those unused utensils, which means I won’t get hung up on something before I’ve even begun. So bring it on, Kitchen. I’m suited up and I’ve got my game face on. Let’s see what you’re made of!

Lauren Cormier

About Lauren Cormier

Lauren is a 30-something stay at home mom who doesn't have it all together and she's pretty sure you don't either. She hopes that by sharing her real life (not the glossy made-up version) she can encourage you to drop the act and get real. Lauren lives in Hermon with her husband and their three children. She also blogs at www.ohhonestly.net