The Great Purge

Memento from the Great Purge, The Dew Abides
Memento that lives on in my digital mind palace

It started with a trip to The Netherlands, gained momentum after reading Root Simple’s “Everything Must Go” posts, and reached a crescendo with Brad’s decision to digitize our music collection.

After much disorder and disarray in the wee homestead, The Great Purge has finally come to an end. It seems every time we turned around for the last few months, we were taking another truck full of stuff to the donation center. At one point, our friend Cheryl shook her head and asked, “Where is it coming from? You didn’t have that much to begin with.”

It’s true we don’t buy a lot and don’t have much storage. But, after twelve years in one spot, the closets and shelves we do have were crammed beyond sense. One of the dangers of being frugal DIYers is thinking “This [odd bit of lumber/cable/unidentifiable-piece-of-metal] might come in handy one day!” or “Why should I give away these perfectly good pants, even if I haven’t worn them in seven years?”

I found myself becoming mindful of how we interacted with the things in our home and noticing which areas caused stress and irritation. Those were the places we tackled first and, oh, what a difference it has made:

  • No doubt, my closet still holds more clothes than necessary, but so much has been given away that what remains is hanging up neatly with room to spare. Gone are the piles of shirts falling to the floor as I rant and dig for a base layer.
  • We sold most of our small end tables and side chairs. No more Magnets of Clutter beckoning a tossed jacket or pile of unsorted mail. The few remaining flat surfaces are only big enough for coasters, and that’s how it’s going to stay.
  • Bookshelves have breathed a sigh of relief, as all of our beloved tomes are now easily accessible and have room for future expansion. I no longer have to play a deadly game of Jenga when reaching for a field guide.
  • The filing cabinet has been reorganized, and approximately 1.4 tons of out-of-date records have been shredded. Paperwork doesn’t stack up anymore because of my sense of impending doom.
  • We’ve almost completely emptied one room in our house, which will pave the way — we hope — for installation of a wood stove. More on that later.

But the biggest improvement came from shedding emotional baggage:

  • A lot of satisfaction has come from finding a better home for valuable, unused things. A car trunk full of more fabric than I could ever use went to a senior center with a quilting bee. And remember that canopy bed? It’s going to my goddaughter’s young sister, where it can be loved and appreciated, just as my parents would have wanted.
  • Along those same lines, my wedding dress has been preserved and stored for years, taking up most of one of our few closets. Maybe this sounds strange, but it’s too special just to sell on Craigslist. So instead, I donated it to Wish Upon a Wedding, an organization that grants weddings to couples facing serious illness. May its good karma bring someone else as much joy as it brought me.
  • Three haphazard boxes of photos have been pared down to one user-friendly box, with dividers for each year. This task was surprisingly easy because, upon careful inspection, there were so many repetitive shots — did I need four pictures of someone opening four different birthdays cards, when one good photo would do the job? Before, I never went through those boxes because they were too much, but now I feel like I can enjoy my photos anytime. And isn’t that the point?
  • Mementos were tricky, but I was ruthless with them as well. I had a trunk full of memorabilia going all the way back to my first grade report card. Everything went except for a handful of items that were too precious to toss. But a digital photo of each keepsake will allow for a stroll down memory lane anytime I want.

The house feels lighter, and so do we. Several weeks have passed since discarding things that, for decades, I couldn’t live without, and there hasn’t been a moment of regret. Rather, the deep sense of relief is surprising, and I’ve discovered that the memories carried in my mind are far more real than the ones I’ve been toting around in that dusty old trunk.

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