Do you all get like me at the end of the year? I just have to purge!
I purge at the end of summer and usually each member of our family purges one item each day in November, but I somehow missed that boat this year, so I’m on double-duty to purge now.
A LEGACY OF CLUTTER
My childhood was riddled with things. We reused or kept everything from screws to paper for the potential that someday, somehow we would make use of them. You know the bolt you may just need … that mismatched sock that somehow has a partner that may show up … the sentimental scraps of artwork from every craft day in elementary school, tattered and faded, but precious enough to avoid the ever-looming trash can?
My mother married a genius of a man who has a penchant for reading five to twenty items at a time … all over the home. You literally struggle to find an open seat for want of misplacing the magazine, newspaper or book taking a respite in the very spot meant for your tush. Ah well, genius has its price. He is a keeper, so we all endure the scattering of literature and scientific journals.
All that said, you can easily see why I am at odds with clutter. I have the seeds of sentimentality sown deeply into my psyche. Every little thing has a meaning and threatens potential loss if thrown out.
IT’S NOT YOUR MAMA’S CLUTTER
Still, after years of living with my husband and all the inevitable accumulation of what-nots, junk and miscellany, I got the itch to ditch. Add to that equation my two boys (now 7 and 14 years old) and we have a veritable hoardfest if I don’t get serious, lay down the law and bring out the empty Trader Joe’s bags several times a year.
This, my friends, is one of those times. All through Advent I am caught up in the spiritual significance of the season, but once the blessed day of Christmas has come and gone (forgive me all ye lovers of the 12 days …) I’m ready to pull up the C-Train, and start tossing!
WHY THE RUSH TO PURGE?
You might ask why I’m in such a fevered-pitch to get rid of stuff and whip out the label maker and see-through Tupperware shoe boxes so I can organize to my heart’s content. It’s quite simple.
I want to own my stuff. I don’t want my stuff to own me.
Every year I have found that all this miscellaneous stuff doesn’t only take up room in my home. It rents space in my brain. The mittens stuffed away in a rubbermaid in the garage, the candlesticks up on top of the laundry shelves, the old playdough, gone hard in its container due to lack of use – they may be out of sight, but they aren’t out of mind.
Every time I toss, give or sell something, I am lighter. It’s as good as shedding a few pounds – and at my age, it’s far easier.
THOSE THINGS WE CLING TO
I have improved over the years in this habit of purging. We do two “end of season” purges (as mentioned above). One before starting back to school and one after Christmas. The other big purge has to do with making Thanksgiving truly thankful. We each purge one item a day in the month of November and that allows us to keep what we love: whatever is beautiful, meaningful or purposeful.
It’s ironic how letting go of what was unnecessary or no longer useful makes you appreciate what you keep all the more.
Here’s what’s also a bit funny to me … How is it after purging as a habit and routine for years now, I still end up with things that have been around and survived purge after purge? I think it has to do with my ability to let go. Each year I outgrow this strange and false belief that my things are vital. I realize that I hold the truly important memories and sentiments in my heart. No bucket, box or attic full of mementos will recapture the significance of those moments.
CHERISH THE PRESENT
I’m allowing time to go by more freely and I am cherishing the now more than the “what was.” I’m making room for the future – holding my hand open. Clearing out physical space is a spiritual exercise too. Don’t get me wrong, I kept some very precious things from my boys’ childhoods. God help the person who tries to throw out my oldest son’s stuffed dog or my second born’s first lost tooth. Still, each year I get a bit better about saying “farewell” to some things that seemed impossible to release just six months back.
For those of you in need of a little purging inspiration, I wrote a little “Dr Suess-ish” story to inspire you …
I’m on a roll and it won’t stop there,
I’ll purge the cupboards til they’re nearly bare …
I’ll toss things we can’t or don’t use at all …
I’ll search through the attic, under beds, down the hall.
This purging gives life, makes room and brings peace …
When I finish here, I’ll go to the house of my neice!
Once you get started you’ll see what I mean.
There’s nothing like the feeling of getting things clean.
Don’t hang onto old junk thinking someday you’ll use it …
Get rid of that frame, the old pot and your whatsee-doosit.
You may feel a pang as you drop things in boxes.
After all, those were great grandpa George’s old sockses.
Ignore that feeling and do what you must.
Get rid of the excess. Salvation Army or bust!
I’d love to hear your purging stories … or your hanging on stories … or whatever you feel like sharing.