The Urge to Purge

I’ve been doing a lot of purging the last several months.  It’s more than just a need to do some spring cleaning, it’s a change in how I look at my possessions, contemplating each one and deciding whether or not I own it or if it owns me.  When I was on a plane trip at the end of the year, I took the time to make a list of everything I owned.  Even though I lumped a lot of things together, like dishes and clothes and books or DVDs, the list was still really, really long.

Accumulation seems cyclical – life changes result in a flux in what comes in or out of my life.  I got married when I was 20 – there was wedding cash to be spent and that’s exactly what happened.  Every time there was a move to a new city, old things were sold and new things were purchased.  Kids came along and more things were purchased.  I decided to live on a 36 foot boat for a while, which meant I had to let go of a lot of things.  More moves, more cities, more selling, more buying.  Every home needs to be furnished and decorated and what works in one place doesn’t seem to work in another.

Then there are collections.  Random things I decided I wanted to have.  I wanted to have a lot of them.  Then what I liked changed and I got rid of those things and collected something else.  I can’t even tell you how many times that has happened.  Then there are things that other people give me.  Letting go of those things is painful – the person means a lot to me and they took the time to get me something.  Even so, I know that no one who cares about me would want a gift to become a burden so I have let a lot of things go.

I’ve always known that ‘stuff’ doesn’t make me happy, but that hasn’t stopped me from accumulating a fair amount of it.  Now I’m finding that owning things has become more of a burden.  It seems there’s a never ending cycle of cleaning and dusting and moving it around.  I’ve purged my kitchen at least three times and each time I see something that hasn’t been used in at least two years.  Sometimes it will go in the sell or donate pile, but other times I wistfully envision how I might use that item one day in the future.  Back into the cupboard it goes. 

Not gonna to lie – it still feels pretty weird to open a closet or cupboard and see a bunch of empty space.  But that empty space seems so refreshing, like I somehow have more room to breathe.  There are a lot of great blogs about minimalism, one of my favorites is Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker.  Almost every week he posts interesting articles he’s found on this topic.  One of my favorite books about decluttering is It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh.  Peter lays it all out there and helps you work through all the emotional baggage of possessions.

Peace and contentment are much more present when I have less stuff.  I have more time to do what I like instead of caring for all my things.  I am trying to get to the place where everything in my house is something that I use or enjoy regularly.  If it’s not, why am I letting it take up precious space?