Tips for a good purge

recycling and trash

Four bins of recycled materials and three bags of trash. Not too bad for a day’s work.

Last week I took Friday off to take advantage of the kids being gone to the grandparents’ house. It’s a good thing they weren’t here, as I might have accidentally thrown them out in the midst of my purge.

So the kids were gone and it was just the wife and I with the house to ourselves. In preparation for kid No. 3 she wanted me to look for a few things she knew was “under the stairs in the basement.”

Oh no. Under the stairs. I wonder what’s down there?

Yeah, it was pretty much what I expected. Some of the things I already knew about: there were baby and kid clothes, holiday decorations and toys. As I dug deep, I found a couple of boxes filled with nothing but empty DVD cases for all the movies we’ve purchased. I tend to store the DVDs in a portable mega case, but kept the individual DVD cases to “help retain the resell value” when the time came to get rid of them.

Of course, that never happened. And there I was, stuck with all these cases and a decision to be made. I decided to recycle all the DVD cases. We’d keep all the movies until they rotted or broke or whatever. If all else failed, I could make frisbees out of them or something.

I will admit I was sightly overwhelmed at first. I had to call a friend for a little pep talk to get me started. Once I got under way, I became a madman. I took pictures or “scanned” the things I wanted to keep. I chucked things I had held onto for years that hadn’t seen the outside of boxes in forever. My sentimental attachment dissipated. And the things I needed input on from my wife, I grabbed her, sat her down, and had her go through those things with me so I knew I wasn’t getting rid of anything important.

It was amazing.

In the end, we had three bags of trash and four bins of recycled materials exit the house. Our trash and recycling containers are filled to the brim now, so I’m kind of in a holding pattern for a few days until they get emptied. I loaded up the back of the van with items to donate, which either went to Goodwill or to a friend who was going to put them in his garage sale.

What a liberating experience!

The purge taught me a few things that I wanted to pass on. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Free up as much space as you can in trash and/or recycling containers. Our refuse is picked up every Wednesday, so filling our trash and recycling containers on Friday kind of boxed us into a corner until trash day. While the recycling was empty, the trash can was about one-third of the way full. Had I to do it over again, I would have sorted my recycling better and taken it to one of the recycling centers we have in town so I’d still have room for household recycling. I’m unsure what I could have done about the trash, however. Sometimes you just have a lot to throw out.

2. If you need input from a partner about your stuff, then go get your partner! Several of the items I got rid of I had put off for a long time because I wasn’t sure if I should keep or pitch them. The lightbulb moment for me came when I realized I needed my wife’s guidance, and made myself, right then, to go ask her to sit down with me to make progress. This was incredibly helpful, as there was much that needed to go, but a few other things she wanted to keep that I might have otherwise thrown out. By devoting a little time with her, I was happy with the decision we made together and didn’t think anything we got rid of was a mistake.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected. I had forgotten all about the DVD cases, and after I got over the initial shock of seeing how many there were, I was able to get on with business. The simple fact is this: we’re pretty good at accumulating “stuff” and keeping it forever. There will be things hidden you have completely forgotten about. That’s OK. Take your time and do what you can; it doesn’t have to be perfect today. Which leads me to my last point …

4. It’s OK if you don’t get through everything in one setting. I have three boxes of pictures that I don’t want to get rid of, but I would like to keep. I’m working on some options for turning old film prints into digital so I can keep them in my hard drive and external backups. This is going to take time. I realized early on that it wasn’t going to all get done in one day, and accepted it. I weeded out a few photographs I absolutely knew I didn’t want to keep and then stored the rest in a plastic storage container for processing later. And really, you’ll get to a point where you need to stop the process and enjoy your life. There will be time for future edits — pace yourself.

I’m go glad I took a day off of work for this. When we were done (for the time being) I reveled in what we accomplished. I’m really starting to enjoy the freedom of having fewer possessions. It gives me some satisfaction to know that in the event of a weather emergency like a tornado, we’ll now have room to get under the stairs in the basement. Perhaps most important, I found it easier to let go of things that I thought I needed to keep, but clearly weren’t that important or else I would have used them.

The really odd part? I wonder just how deep this rabbit hole goes. How much can I get rid of? Were will it end? What is the endgame?

I guess we’ll just have to see. I’m excited for the possibilities.

One thought on “Tips for a good purge

  1. Pingback: Peak consumerism | The Chaff

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