So many of the words we usually use to describe cleaning out the house are simply far too polite.
When you’re so overrun by worldly goods that you’re storing Legos in the linen cupboard and linens in the coat closet and coats in a heap on the floor, you’re ready not for “paring down” or “cutting back” or even “cleaning out,” but for “purging.”
You should be thinking in terms of “flushing,” “jettisoning,” and “eradicating.” This is war.
Speaking of war, some of the best stuff-purgers are military spouses. Melissa, a military wife who professes feeling no stress at the prospect of moving, states that she and her partner “only buy things we need . . . or we love.”
The idea of only buying and keeping possessions that have true value to you is key. The first step in any good purge is to rampage through the house and make a huge pile of all the stuff that simply isn’t important enough to keep. A good approach is to think of your house as a store and consider whether you want to buy each item you come across. If you wouldn’t buy it today, whether because you need it or want it, out it goes.
Help this process along by inviting a friend over for coffee while you do it. This person can be a great devil’s advocate, asking whether you really still enjoy those rococo candlesticks often (or thoroughly) enough to have them continue taking up valuable real estate on the mantle. A child can be the best motivator of all; who else is likely to observe how that favorite hat you’ve been hanging on to makes you look like SpongeBob?
Throughout it all, a key rule is that if you’re waffling on whether to pitch something, then out it goes. You have no room in your life for things you feel undecided or luke-warm about. And that doesn’t mean you need to adore everything you own. You might kind of hate the look of that plastic camping cooler but feel very strongly that you will curse the heavens if you still don’t possess it next time you pack up your gear for a night under the stars.
Ultimately purging is about exerting your will on chaos; possessions seem to take on a life of their own and it is up to you to stop them from overrunning and ransacking your home. As I said, this is war, and you are the general in charge.