Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Urge to Purge

Every now and then I get an urge. For chocolate, for salt, for hunkering down with a good book and a cozy fire. Then there are the times I get the serious Urge. The Urge with a capital "U". The Urge to Purge.
No, this is not a post about my bulimia. I'll pause here for those of you who know me to stop laughing. This urge to purge is all about ... STUFF. Too much stuff, precisely. Way, way too much stuff.
Most of us in America are blessed with the ability to go to a store and buy what we need. Food, clothing, household items--these are things I rarely have to think about. They're just there. Walk in the house, see the furniture. Open the fridge, see the food. Open the closet -- get knocked over. By STUFF. Way too much, as I mentioned earlier.
A couple times a year, I change from a mild-mannered, Christian homeschooling mama (pause again for my friends to stop laughing at the "mild-mannered" part), to a drill-sargeant hellbent on "cleaning this place UP!". I'm sure my family wonders what on earth they did to bring on the transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mrs. Hyde. Clutter didn't bother me much when I was younger. But it certainly does now. I blame my husband, a man who could live like a monk if he had to. In fact, he was living like a monk when I met him. Turns out my eldest daughter is the same way. And you know what? They're onto something. Who doesn't feel better in uncluttered surroundings? Who actually enjoys being drowned in stuff that no one cares about? No one. Don't tell me you don't mind it. Don't tell me you can find your things just fine in your mess. Don't tell me because I've used all those arguments myself in the past, and I know them for the lies they are. Take a moment and be really honest with yourself. There is no--absolutely no--pleasure in crowded, cluttered, uninviting surroundings.
And you can't clean clutter.
So every few months, I morph into another person and declare war on excess. Somehow, even though I might purge several sackfuls of stuff and re-home it to worthy causes, the clutter comes back. Time for a reality check, complete with transparency: I'm the one bringing it back.
There. I've said it. That wasn't so hard.
Actually, yes, it was.
You see, I wasn't raised right. The sun was in my eyes. My feet hurt and I'm hungry. And I had to walk 5 miles uphill all the way to school while holding 20 pounds of books. In the snow.
You don't believe me? You shouldn't. I'm lying, of course, and I have lied all along when I said the clutter doesn't bother me. What I really meant was, "I don't think I can give this stuff up." And I think most of you packrats out there can relate.
Well, I have good news for you: You can give it up. If I can do it, you can, too. Yes, I'm looking at you.
Yesterday, I turned militant again. Didn't really tell anyone what I was going to do, but made a silent declaration just to myself. First thing to get de-cluttered was my scrapbooking table. What. A. Disaster. It's downright obscene how much there was to clean up. Of course, no actual scrapbooking was able to be done there, since there was no room. Next on the agenda: My 5-year old's wardrobe. There is no better shame-inducer than a child who starts to cry because she can't get to her clothes to dress herself without being injured by falling debris. Got right on that one. It's now organized and fabulous, with just the clothes that actually fit her in it. What a concept. Next on the list was my glasses / plates cupboard. My youngest child is nearly 6 and I still had sippee cups. Lots of them. Way too many to be excused by saying, "If a friend with a toddler comes over, I want to have something in case she forgets to bring a cup with her." Seriously? Is it really my responsibility to plan for every possible scenario that might happen, to the detriment of my family's mental and physical health? I think not. I know not. I got rid of a huge bagful of baby-toddler items and several items that simply were not serving us any longer, like the well-intentioned metal water bottles that make water taste like ... metal ... that no one will use.
Next up in my whirlwind tour-de-declutter: The under-the-stairs closet. This was originally supposed to be a fun hidey-hole for my wee one to play in. It quickly became a place to stash stuff that I didn't want to deal with. Like baby clothes that I might need. Sometime. You get the picture. They're all going to my local shelter for pregnant teenagers.
The funny thing here is that I'm not so different from many of you. I shower every day. I floss. I wash my car often, and have a clean-LOOKING home. But like a clean vessel filled with poison, unnecessary clutter--stuff, excess, junk--taints the recipients, in this case, the people who live in a cluttered home. It's one more thing that weighs on a person's shoulders and soul. It's one more thing to attend to, and I have enough already. I want to have more time with my family. My kids are growing fast, so fast. It's time for me to grow up also and take responsibility for what I've been: a packrat. Perhaps not as bad as you, or her, or him. Definitely not as bad as some. But too much for me and my family.
It doesn't matter that I like this item, or that I might need it sometime. It will not faze me that I paid a lot of money for something. If we're not using it and loving it, it will go. And we will all be happier for it.
For more inspiration about decluttering, see Minimalism Challenge on my buddy Bethany's blog:
Now go clean out a drawer. You'll feel a whole lot better.


Anonymous said...

Holy cow! I feel like I just got hit by a whirlwind. Is it the full moon??? Anyway, I'm WITH YOU! I've just subscribed to FlyLady and even though I haven't done 1/4 of what she recommended this week I feel virtuous for what I have done. Have fun and when you're done-----come to my house HA!

Lisa said...

Good for you, Anita. FlyLady is great, as are the Slob Sisters, who preceded her.