It was over green tea lattes at the Wayward Coffee House with my friend AJ that I confessed my pre-hording tendencies and revealed my packed-to-the-gills spaces. AJ made a comment that “It might be easier if we simply Purged with Fire!” Am I going to burn down my garage (or my kitchen closet or my basement or that space under the stairs)? No. Am I recommending you do this? Nope. However – this is the mantra I now use when I am sorting through anything in my home. “If I lost this item in a fire would I be heartbroken?” (repeat). Am I holding on to something for me? For the guilt I feel if I don’t “preserve it” for my children or because it was a gift? Or until I find a use for it? If it was lost in a fire would I maybe feel just a little relieved? One of the big revelations as I started to use this mantra was how many things I was keeping to clutter my kids’ future. This included everything from their pre-school artwork to jewelry. The Purge-with-Fire mantra helped me define what was REALLY important to pass along, saving my future 40-year-old-kids from receiving a large portfolio of each finger painting and clay pot they ever created.
Start Small and Re-home.
Step One. Pick one small area so you don’t get overwhelmed – bed side table, that corner of the garage, one box of holiday ornaments, the bathroom closet or the buried desk-top. Make three piles Give Away (to friends or a donation site), Throw Away (or, of course, Recycle) and Worth Keeping. Be honest with yourself – you can also take photos of items you want to remember but not store.
Step Two. Have a plan in place of where Give Away pile will be moving on to – If you have a friend who would love your Nora Roberts and Jude Devereux collection, great. If you can drop it off on their front porch, perfect, but if you can’t and they never come and get it, bring it to your local library. Or post it on your local neighborhood group or Buy Nothing Group. Or call a charity service. Just have a backup plan in case your first option falls through.
Step Three. Most of your Throw Away/Recycle pile can be sorted into your weekly bins. That should leave one (hopefully) small Worth Keeping pile. Dust or vacuum your newly vacant space, replace the items that truly belong there. Sort, store and – if you are feeling wild – label the remaining items appropriately, file papers, store mementos in clear plastic boxes.
These three things will give you a great start to creating more space in your home and defining the necessities in your day to day life. When you retire and live in a sunny condo on the beach in Cancun do you want to be paying for a storage unit? I really don’t think so.
If there is a chance you will be selling your home in the next couple of years, this is a great way to ease your way into getting ready and avoid doing this under pressure. Better it be on your timeframe and not with potential buyers knocking at the door.
Start small, keep at it and give yourself a pat on the back!