Physical Clutter = Emotional Apathy
Let’s review...shall we?
So you’ve been through you’re home tour twice now. You’ve seen the collected stuff first, through the eyes of a stranger to determine if the narrative still matches who YOU are now—today.
You’ve then been through your home yet another time with the rose colored glasses off. Just remember, if purging was completely unemotional, than everyone would do it, and do it often. That’s why it’s not about simply reorganizing. It’s about opening up your personal creativity to re-think your life using the things you already own to give you insight about what’s going on inside that head of yours. It’s healing from the outside in because the mental and physical interiors always match. If you can’t let it go physically, than emotionally there’s a worry about it…the “what ifs.”
What if I need it again—you know during an apocalypse?
What will people think—you know, I’d get shunned and put in the town square blockade because I gave away my grandmother’s hope chest?
If I get rid of the thing, the person’s memory who gave it to me, will vanish too—and will they come back to haunt me?
If I get rid of that thing, then all the money I paid for it is down the drain--and so I should keep it so I can continue to not use it forever and ever?
Instead of paying a shrink to regress you back to your “Summer of 42” and only getting “How’s that feel?” or “go with that,” we’re cutting through the crap by getting rid of the obvious crap which is your next step. Ha!
BIG NOTE: Nothing wrong with therapists, and journaling, and picture boards and coming to some important life truths. I’m all for greater enlightenment. I can’t imagine my life without faith. But faith, untested, is merely a contemplated theory and untiltested really isn’t faith at all, is it?
So, why not start that rejuvenating process of unlocking your creativity and actually seeing dynamic physical results of change immediately?
Then you can actually create a nest that inspires greater creative thinking, that leads to higher enlightenment and rekindles faith in ones self as well as the unseen, each and every day.
In phase two, I asked you to consider many things as you view your current inventory. You might want to do a refresher as you begin the physical first step of purging.
I also asked you to simply look at the physical square footage each item is taking up. In many cases, $8-$12 dollars a square foot and then the price per inch you keep paying to keep those smaller things. I reminded you that:
No matter what the item originally cost, you continue to pay for it whether you can visibly see it or not.
So the simple question is: Is it still worth it?
Some of these things are also just practical decisions.
EXAMPLE: You might have a small bedroom but think you need a huge chest of drawers when perhaps 80% of the stuff in those drawers, you’ve never worn in years. Yet you’d love, say, a bigger bed or an upholstered chair where the chest currently is—or a writing desk under the window with the inspiring view. Or you’d like your bedroom to feel like a suite, with even a coffee station so you don’t have to greet the rest of the family until YOU’RE ready.
EXAMPLE: You may love cooking but have a tiny kitchen with every drawer stuffed and every cabinet is overflowing making the preparation of a meal far more of a hassle than a creative joy. Yet, when is the last time you actually acknowledged what you cook with every day—stuff you actually use weekly? How do you eat now, versus how you used to cook before? Do you still bake? Do you actually need the foot and a half-long fish poacher and over 30 storage containers? How many spatulas, wooden, spoons, and frying pans do you actually need to turn out a great meal? How many people do you actually cook for now, yet you have all the trappings of a caterer? When was the last time you used your dining room? Do you even want to entertain like that anymore? What else could that room be? A library? How about a private cozy retreat away from the rest of the family? I know a friend who turned it into a guest bedroom so the real guest bedroom could be her new creative space. During the day it looked like a library but at night a Murphy Bed came out of a free-standing armoire.
In this day and age, the square feet you pay for are yours to reorder and creatively rethink any way you want to.
How about the tiny bathroom that is so crammed with stuff you think you might need, filled with dated medicine from a cold you had last year, but you buy new every time you get an ailment? How about the old makeup, the beauty products that never turned back the clock or the…well you name it!---or 5 towel sets when you really only need maybe two so your linen closet is no longer a total nightmare?
Are these things antiquated things contributing to your quality of life, or not? Or are you in a constant state of rummaging all the time?
If your home is acting like that bad purse where you couldn’t find a thing, then it’s time to make new choices.
So, are the choices you refused to make about those things, worth the quality of life you’re postponing? Gulp.
Is the fear of “re-choosing” more about not knowing why you're re-choosing? Or…is it more about the fact that you've never taken the time to create a new narrative about what your life actually is now—or could be? Well, this process is finally doing something about that! So yay!
Remember, this whole process isn’t about you suddenly living a minimalist lifestyle (unless that’s your thing). So for those of you who thought so…umm…you’re skim reading… so…busted!!
The fact is, this process has nothing to do with lifestyle “design” at all. It’s more about getting rid of stuff you don’t use so you have room for great stuff that fits your new lifestyle better.
Yes Virginia, not to worry...the thrill of retail therapy is still in the future—but now with real (versus impulse) direction.
Purging simply addresses that:
You can't get rid of the life you thought you wanted until you begin to imagine the life you really want.
Sure, you can't pack for a trip if you don't know precisely where you're going, but you DO know if you're leaning towards, say, the South Pacific. In which case the snow boots and parka aren't EVER a good idea. Right?
Okay, now it’s time to start the physical process of taking actual action:
Now here’s where you’ll need supplies. Well, really just three things (in addition to your observation pad and pen).
The biggest heaviest, leaf or plastic garbage bags you can find. Yep the expensive strong ones! You must not be able to see what’s inside! This is key!
It’s like the Bermuda Triangle: What goes in NEVER comes out! Out of sight, out of mind! Bye-Bye now! So the black or dark green or even silver opaque ones will do just fine.
Next you also need super strong tall kitchen bags in white or black – just not clear. Here again—once in, it never comes out. These are easy to hand carry because you’ll spend the next 10 days never leaving your home without taking one to the trashcan.
I know…If you’re like me, I hate emptying the trash and don’t until it’s absolutely overflowing and I’m standing in it with both feet. However, if you know in advance that it’s gonna be a daily thing, you can re-set a new good habit.
Quick note: I like trash bags versus boxes because they conform to any space--like the back seat of the trunk.
Get yourself a box of Sharpies that will write on anything. This is also for those of you who have strict recycling mandates. You can pre-separate into individual kitchen bags…
Know your vendors:
Next: Go online and locate the nearest donation centers, thrift stores and even consignment stores in your area plus any drop off /pick-up bins closest to you. Then as you progress, build in a frequent drive-by/drop off stop into your biweekly schedule and put the addresses in your google maps or navigation program. More on this later.
As you identify the thrift stores, donation centers and consignment shops in your area, actually go in and see what’s there. Ask in advance, what each outlet will or will not accept. It’s not like the old days where they just took everything. Thrift and Consignment is a huge business now that the stigma of “pre-owned” is finally gone. In some cases this pre-owned world is even being touted as “the new retail” so they’re far pickier than you might think.
Going through those stores yourself will really tell you what’s acceptable and what’s not. It will also show you how much this pre-owned category has really mushroomed. Who knew?
Lessening the global footprint guilt:
By knowing what you actually can donate and pay forward, it also relieves the guilt for many of you, of ridding yourself of something that may seem perfectly good but you just no longer want it yourself because it no longer fits the new narrative.
Also remember through advanced recycling (now done at many landfills and local dumps that consumers never actually see) there’s also a practical and real value to the raw materials that make up that stuff you no longer want. So taking much of this stuff to the curb is still not a total waste.
As you also begin to fall in love with shopping at thrift, pre-owned and consignment stores as I have, (ONCE YOU’VE PURGED) you begin to feel really good about not widening your personal footprint. By giving pre-owned items (at often better quality at way cheaper prices) a brand new life. You begin to understand that you can actively re-design a lovely new lifestyle without harming our planet or encouraging manufacturers to keep cranking out new stuff we actually don’t need.
Add to this your ever-growing personal creativity, and well…after the great purge, curating your new lifestyle becomes an artful joy where you meet people just like you—folks who want a truly unique environment that doesn’t look like the normal cookie-cutter Target, Pier 1, Walmart, Create & Barrel or Ikea interiors that seem to permeate the average American household.
Also as you wander through these venues, look at stuff you’d actually buy to replace (upgrade) what you currently have like sets of mugs that aren’t chipped and glassware sets that can replace your mismatched ones. You’d be so surprised what you can find for a fraction of the cost now. I’m talking like a buck apiece.
EXAMPLE: My first kitchen setup costs were in the thousands of dollars. When I did it again starting from scratch and NOT going to Bed bath & Beyond or Williams Sonoma, it cost me less than a fourth for just as good of stuff and in some cases better than what my budget could afford. Oh and I found a set of dishes from W&S for a buck each instead of $21.95 each….SCORE!
As you also experience these pre-owned and vintage places, you’ll also see that indeed the stigma once associated with these places (i.e. only for “the underprivileged”) has completely vanished. In fact, I know top local designers that flock to many of these places looking for classics for their clients. There’s a whole affordable category of stuff that are no longer available but don’t necessarily classify as rare antiques either. For more on shopping places like these, check out the category on my site.
Okay, have I helped you put this whole purging thing into a better context that will make the harder decisions easier? I hope so. Life reinvention should be a new journey of discovery. So let’s start with the easier stuff like Junk and Trash. That’s your first physical purging pass.
Don’t just push it around: Eliminating the vicious circle
As you purge it’s best to do all the rooms at once, according to category if you can. Otherwise stuff you can’t decide about gets taken from one room to another and it becomes a truly vicious circle. Especially with the first category (TRASH), it just starts the thinning out process quicker so you see results quicker. As you sift through your treasures looking for the trash, you’ll get better and better at remembering what you have, thus making every pass of the physical purging process easier.
Remember, you’re creative mind is re-cataloging everything you have and taking a new snapshot of it at every pass. As the once invisible becomes visible again, and as you rethink why you bought it in the first place, then keeping it or paying it forward becomes a deliberate and more intentional decision. Sometimes you’ll be so sick of something that you’ll toss it just based on that. That’s a good thing. LOL
Let the elimination process begin!
Category #1 Trash:
It’s basically waste. We’re all clear on that right? These are the no-brainers:
Packaging product materials.
Broken items and items missing essential pieces.
Magazines and newspapers etc.
Stuff you thought you’d fix but never did. No one else will either.
Disposable items like gift boxes, old food containers and the like. Remember, it’s cheaper to buy a new gift box once (as you need them) than the price you pay ongoing, to store them.
Torn (or threadbare) items that are basically just worn out.
This also includes things like:
Broken, or dented lampshades with chipped bases
Broken or chipped picture frames
Serving pieces you’ve not used in over a year.
Anything you can’t remember what it goes to. If you can’t, no one will!
Anything that’s in a closet because it doesn’t go with what you own.
The stuff above (that will fit) all goes immediately into the kitchen trash bags and out the door every time you leave the house even if the bag is only half full. Or they go into the big leaf bags for the next donation run. Remember if you dragged it in, you can drag it out. Also, once it’s in the bag, it stays. No second-guessing. This is a case where what you can no longer see won’t hurt you. Yep, out of sight out of mind works really well here.
Okay so what’s next? The junk?
Wait? Isn’t one man’s junk another man’s treasure? Umm…NO!
Anything you yourself would not buy if you saw it pre-owned at a retailer. I mean, a good rule of thumb? If it creeps you out to buy it, no one else will either. I’m being glib here but I think you get the idea.
Junk can also be:
--Upholstered pieces with torn fabric covers (that aren’t worth reupholstering).
--Single items that once had mates or were in sets (that single wash cloth, that one sock, that single wine glass that matches nothing, the top sheet with no bottom one).
--Kitchen stuff like mismatched plates, single placemats, chipped serving pieces, old coffee makers and other unused appliances even dated foods that you now longer use. Remember when you were going to dehydrate all your veggies for those healthy snack alternatives? This also includes the aforementioned salad spinner, yogurt maker, the Mickey Mouse cake pan you only used once and basically anything you ordered after midnight on QVC.
Remember, as you stay intentional in the new choices you make, the idea is that you can have fewer, but much nicer things that actually promote great design, remain dual functional and that you use on a weekly basis. Once you’re creativity gets reactivated you start coming up with much better and more clever choices.
Example: When I put my new kitchen together, I wanted all serving and dining stuff to be white...pure white. Food looks great on white and if I had to have the serving, baking pieces, canisters or stacks of plates out (versus behind closed cabinets) everything would match. Even better it lent a visibly crisp and fresh attitude to that space and actually looked quite smart and deliberate. So when I went through the pre-owned shops, if it wasn’t white, it didn’t come home. Period. If what I already owned wasn’t white—off to the donation pile it went. Buh-bye.
All my glassware, mixing and measuring cups, and storage containers had to be in clear simple glass. So between the bistro white and simple clear glass, what I used in my kitchen was actually great to look at too – and will never go out of style.
Example: For sheets, towels and other linens, I chose a color palette of solid white gray or black or brown so everything could completely mix and match and remain timeless as well. If you focus on texture, rather than print this time around, everything you purchase will never go out of style because prints are the first to date any space.
As you start to wonder if you should keep that one blue delft plate, that one purple bathmat, that single yellow napkin ring or that…well you get the drift. When you start rethinking your home in a fresh new way, you get to rid yourself of the past choices that went with the old life and re-choose from a whole new perspective.
So, first let’s get the obvious trash and junk out first.
Just remember to do it room by room leaving everything else in the space until your ready for the next purging phase. Now, in an average household, this process done right (looking at every single thing) generally takes about a week. However, the habit of getting rid of what’s not working should be a biweekly habit that should last forever. Remember from now on it’s “instead of” versus “in addition too.” But once you free up valuable space taken up by things you never use but still pay for, life starts to change right in front of your eyes.
So, by the time I do my next post, hopefully you’ll be ready to move on to Layer # 4: Debunk & Detox.
You can do it!