The Great Purge
Over the last few weeks I have started to seriously contemplate living “off-the-grid”.
Stop laughing. I’m serious over here.
You probably need more information, so let me back up. The other day I watched one of those tiny house shows. You know the ones, right? The ones that follow people on their quest to simplify their lives (and thereby ruin their marriage) by essentially choosing to live in large, well-decorated hamster cage? It is an admirable concept but…let’s be honest…totally insane. Am I right?
Anyways, this one couple not only wanted to downsize but also wanted to live “off the grid”. Meaning that they would not have to pay a utility bill but they might also not have access to things like electricity and indoor plumbing.
While on their search, the phrases ‘no hot water’, ‘generator’ and ‘outhouse’ were thrown around on the regular. What was surprising was not the fact that these people wanted to voluntarily live like hobbit, smack dab in the middle of the 21stCentury. Nope. That wasn’t it. What was surprising was that I found myself wanting to move into their little ram-shackle, hot-waterless shack with them.
Something about living so simply and being immersed in nature really resonated with me. I think this is mostly it is due to the fact that my life these days feels so polar opposite of simple and natural. It is filled with noise and obligation, dust and pollution, traffic and plastic. Lots of plastic.
Like a caffeine-deprived mama, I’m craving that “fix”. A simplicity fix.
Let’s be clear…I wouldn’t last a full 24 hours without hot water and access to Internet so this whole off-the-grid thing is never actually going to happen, but it did get me thinking about how I choose to live.
Namely, that I choose to live surrounded by stuff. What is interesting is that I really don’t like having so much stuff around. I am attracted to clean, simple spaces…but you would never know that by looking at my house (or in my closet). I have stuff oozing out of every little crack and crevice. And it legitimately drives me insane.
Speaking of insane, here is the even crazier part…while I hate the accumulation of stuff, I love, love, love buying stuff. It is seriously a problem. Why does it feel so good to purchase something new? I am sure my shopping obsession is really a sign of some deep rooted psychological problem stemming from a Vitamin D deficiency in childhood or whatever…but let’s not dwell on that. Let’s just address the present situation: I have too much stuff.
With that in mind, I set myself a task of ridding myself of some of the noise.
I’m going to lay out some bits of advice here in hopes that it might help to inspire others to purge. But keep in mind, I’m no “purging expert” (if there even is such a thing). And even after all my efforts, I still have a lot of shit. So there is that.
Develop a Mantra. You need to think about your goals and purpose of purging and come up with a saying that will help to keep you honest. Throughout this process you will have moments of weakness. You will find that cute black skirt you wore when traveling around Europe and think, “I used to love that skirt. I bet if I worked out really hard, I could fit into that again”. And you are probably right. But does that mean you should keep it? Maybe. But probably not. If your goal is to only possess things that you love and use right now, the skirt has to go. Develop a mantra and repeat it like a crazy woman at the top of your lungs while sifting through the piles. Something like: “Function! Fit! Freedom!” or “Love it or lose it!”. Something really cheesy, but powerful! My mantra? Stuff or Space. I know, I know…it is not a very powerful mantra. But, oddly, it still worked for me because it aligned with my goal of ridding myself of stuff to make space for things I truly love.
Take it slow. Purging is not for the faint of heart. It can be emotionally and physically exhausting; so be realistic. Don’t try to take on your whole house in one session. Rather, choose one problem area or room to tackle at a time. Small successes will eventually add up to big change. I decided to start with our bedroom. Then, I made a list of the main problem areas in that room. For me it was: My dresser, my two closets and my jewelry.
Set a goal. Aim to rid yourself of a certain number of things per problem area. Because I was feeling ambitious, I decided that for every category of clothing I owned (i.e. dresses, pants, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, sweaters, shoes etc), I would rid myself of 10 items. Obviously choose a number that you are comfortable with, but also one that challenges your tendency to hoard. If it is too easy, you need to pick a higher number. You should have to make some tough choices.
It probably goes without saying that you are allowed to go over the set “goal” number. In fact, you are encouraged to. I actually found that the more I let go of items, the easier it became to get to 10 items. By the end of it, I was a purging machine. Favorite Tees. Favorite Sweats. Nothing was safe. It helped that by the end I was tired so it became way easier to throw stuff in the give away pile than to put it away. See Mom? Laziness can pay off.
Do it fast. While you should try and spread your purging out over a few days or weeks as to not overwhelm yourself, give yourself a time limit for a specific room. I think 1-2 hours is just about right. And honestly, the shorter the better. If you have to work quickly, you don’t have time to question whether or not you should keep that sweater. You are forced to make quick decisions and move on. As I am the most indecisive person ever to walk the earth, it was important that I had limited time. I tackled my bedroom one morning when Brado took both kids to Beau’s soccer practice. I knew I would only have about an hour and a half to go through everything and then put the keepers away. The time crunch forced me to stay focused on the task at hand and did not allow me the opportunity to second-guess my decisions.
Physically remove the piles from your life. If you are like me, you have very good intentions and very poor follow through. It is very “me” to rid myself of piles of stuff, only to have the bag of unwanted items sit by the door for weeks until I can drop them off somewhere. This is what you call anti-climatic and uninspiring and likely to contribute to your husband cursing you under his breathe. In order to actually feel the positive effects of your purging, all that stuff needs to be out of your sight and out of your house. So, before you even start, have a plan for what you are going to do with the unwanted items. Are you going to selling them? How? What steps do you have to take to make that happen? Are you donating them? When and where can you drop them off? Yadda, yadda, yadda…you get the point. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it the very same day.
I am currently on room two (Finley’s room) of The Great Purge. While I still have a long way to go, I can assure you that I feel lighter (and better) already. And inspired to do more. And really puzzled as to why it has taken me so damn long to throw things away that I never even really liked.
Do you all have any of you have any tips for getting rid of stuff? Or perhaps a better question might be, do you have any tips for how I can stop myself from buying the stuff that I later feel like I need to purge?
Now that would be a useful blog post. Quick, somebody with will power, get on that! My tiny house awaits.