My Bingeing on Purging

I am reminded of a question posed in one of my grad school classes: If you had access to all of your music and DVDs online, would you actually need to physically possess them? This was back in ’08 when things were digital but not as digital as they are now. A lot of students protested. “Well, the internet can be flaky.” The response was, “Imagine that it’s not.” “Well, sometimes providers take away access.” “Imagine that they wouldn’t.” “Well, I just like having my things.” “Why?” I don’t think everyone was convinced at that point that they didn’t need their possessions, but I’ve continued to ponder that question ever since.

Marie Kondo poses similar kinds of questions in her organizational advice book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” about why we keep the things we do. She wants to know why we’re really hanging onto that thing from 5 years ago that we thought we might need but never look at or think about. And why on earth do we keep the box that the cell phone came in?

I had to admit after reading her book that I didn’t have answers for those questions, and thus began my decluttering journey. The real revelation of this book is to clean by category, not by room. Get all your shit that belongs in category A together, from all different parts of the house, then realize that you have way too much and start paring down. Thus, I awoke early last Saturday (okay, was awoken) and started on what Kondo suggests as the first category for tidying: clothes. This took me all day. Literally. About 9 hours total. I was surprised, but I got through it and filled up a medium-sized moving box plus a smaller box of clothes for donating.

The next day, I started on the next category: books. This didn’t take too long as I’d recently donated several things, but I still came up with another small box to take to the library. Then it was time for papers, which I started on Sunday evening. I was dreading this because I knew it was going to be a slog. Unlike the clothing and books, I didn’t have to decide if papers “sparked joy,” but I did have to go through them one by one and keep only what was necessary.

Oh, the treasures I found! Receipts from just about every cell phone Shaun or I ever bought – including one receipt from that brief period where AT&T went insane and called itself Cingular!

Cingular Wireless

Cingular Wireless

I also found receipts from Circuit City…

Circuit City. Where dat?

Circuit City. Where dat?

And that time we got married and then bought a bunch of stuff from our registry ourselves…

Wedding Registry Receipt

Wedding Registry Receipt (Little did I know how much of this stuff would eventually be clutter. Not the lamps. Those still spark joy. And electricity.)

And from that time we adopted a cat and immediately changed his name…

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…because Maxie? Yuck. Sid should really be nicer to me just for giving him a proper name.

And from the first piece of furniture we bought for our apartment…

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I also still have the papasan chair, but after last year’s new couch purchase, it resides in my office.

And from the halogen lamp I requested and my grandfather bought me when I was in college…

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I still have this but it was living in the garage and got mysteriously dented. I think somehow the cat knocked it over.

I also found instructions from the lava lamp that I bought and still have…

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I had no idea there were so many rules and regulations concerning lava operation.

By Tuesday, I was clearing out a second filing cabinet and having the time of my life. This was exactly the project I needed at exactly the right time. I hadn’t realized how long some of this stuff went unattended. We’ve been in this house for nearly 10 years now, when we expected to be here for a maximum of five. George Carlin said when you get too much stuff, you gotta get a new house, but we bought in 2007, so you do the math on that. With nowhere for us to go, it was time to say sayonara to some of the belongings.

After reading all those instructions, I decided to see if the lamp still worked. Here it is after turning it on for the first time in who knows how many years.

After reading all those instructions, I decided to see if the lamp still worked. Here it is after turning it on for the first time in who knows how many years.

And here it is after being on all day long. Sorry, lava lamp, no worky, no stay-y. (Sniff.)

And here it is after being on all day long. Sorry, lava lamp, no worky, no stay-y. (Sniff.)

Some decisions have been harder than others, but I am so very happy to unburden myself. One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about this process is the concentration I have applied to it. Rather than worry about making the house clean or presentable, I have allowed certain messes to stagnate and sometimes grow so that I can completely finish what I’m doing, knowing that that will help to keep the house cleaner in the long run. This is not a new or radical concept to me, it’s just been dormant the last five years as I’ve struggled to finish so much as a thought. I have to say that Sonja has been great this past week, allowing me to get more done than I ever thought possible. She also started making her own “keep” pile out of stuff I was trying to get rid of, but that was inevitable. Some of the things like old stickers and stamps and paper I gave her willingly. I’m sure I didn’t think when I bought that Pinky and the Brain eraser as a teenager that I’d one day give it to my daughter (I’m sure I didn’t think any future children would even know what Pinky and the Brain was) but clearly, that is why I kept it all these years.

Floppy Disks. Somewhere, somebody has the technology to read these.

Floppy Disks. Somewhere, somebody has the technology to read these.

Though I consider myself very organized, I was flabbergasted to find how many of the same type of thing (e.g. DVDs) were scattered in different places. I consider this the real value in Kondo’s suggestion to hold everything you own to see if it sparks joy. If you actually go through all of your things, then you know where all of your things are. The joy thing is secondary, really, and to me just means don’t keep anything for the sake of keeping it. Only keep it if you want it.

I wish I could say that the house looks ship shape. I am nearly through the third category, which is the large and nearly all-encompassing miscellaneous items (komono). However, I haven’t decided how I am going to store everything that I am keeping, and have piles scattered around the house. I am waiting to get everything done before making the final decisions. Still, even though things appear messy, everything just feels lighter. Boxes are lighter, drawers slide easier, there’s more space surrounding things and more sunlight coming in the windows – it’s wonderful.

I, however, am exhausted. I’ve barely slept all week. I’ve stayed up late tidying, then been unable to fall asleep. This weekend we’ll tackle the garage, and for the first time, I feel that I have a real handle on how to do that. Maybe then I’ll be able to get some sleep.

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About suitejen

Writer. Video Editor. Mama.
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2 Responses to My Bingeing on Purging

  1. Pingback: My Done List | Suite Story Productions

  2. Pingback: My 2016 Year-in-Review | Suite Story Productions

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