The Crazy Things I Learned By Downsizing & Organizing My Life

I've moved several times, and each time I went through a "purge" - only to build up my possessions in my new home. This recent move, I decided I wasn't going to clutter my life or my home anymore. In this article I write about the things I have learned - about myself, about my needs and how sometimes the things you own might own you.

I think I could call myself the queen of clutter purging. I have moved several times in my life, but in the seven years I have lived with my husband we have moved six times. And two of them were out of state moves. I have taught myself how to get rid of my crap.

But then, I get to my new place and I build it up again.

Does this happen to you, too?

We recently moved to our dream state, and I essentially did the entire move on my own since my husband had to be here quickly for his job. As I was deciding what to take and what to give away I made a decision — I am not doing this purge thing anymore. Realistically, the next time I move (locally!) there will be some things to get rid of. But no more purchasing crap to fill my home that truly doesn’t bring me joy.

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Once all of our stuff arrived (two pods and two SUV’s full — this was after giving away a lot of stuff) and we unpacked, I still looked around and thought “do we really need ALL of this stuff?” But at that point, I was just determined to have some sense of organization in my chaotic wejustmoved home and I found a place for everything. Closets, drawers, under beds, garage. And we still accumulated MORE stuff in the months that followed — but necessary things. We didn’t have any living room furniture, and with the exception of our couch we wandered second hand stores for everything else. People — I got my dining room table for $10. And there is nothing wrong with it.

Once things got settled (why does it take months to really feel settled after a move?) the holidays arrived. I had to move a lot of household decor into boxes to make room for my Christmas decorations. Christmas ended, and as I packed away all my holiday trinkets I realized something — I loved the emptiness of my house. Is that weird? I loved how the clutter was removed and things just looked clean. That is when I fully decided that things had to change — and it was time for another purge.

Does This Bring Me Joy?

I had heard many great things about the book — The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up — and so naturally I purchased it and read it in a few days. Marie Kondo guides you through determining which items in your house spark joy — and which ones don’t. I went through every room in my house and pulled out every item I owned (I didn’t subject my husband to going through his, he can go on his own clutter journey when he is ready). I literally would hold up an item and say “do you bring me joy?” There were some things that I had an actual emotional response to — things I never expected I would. Like the beer mug we swiped from the bar in Wisconsin the day we got engaged. We hardly use it — but there was just no way I could get rid of it. And things I thought I would be emotional about, but was a-ok putting it in the box of giveaway items. There are also things that won’t (and shouldn’t) bring you joy, and you still need to keep them. Like rain boots. I don’t have an emotional reaction to boots, but I need to keep them.

I’ve Only Gone Through Two Rounds

Even though I was ready to get rid of everything — like overly ready — I still had to do it in stages. I knew if I tried to do it ALL at one time, I would be completely overwhelmed. I was also afraid that I would go on some crazy rampage and get rid of everything, only to realize I really need those rain boots I tossed into the box.

I have only gone through my possessions twice. And I know there are more things I can get rid of, but I am ok with the space I give myself between purges.

What These Cleanses Have Taught Me

My Stuff Was Suffocating Me

When you just live among your things, you don’t realize it at the time but it can be pretty suffocating. At least it was to me. Cluttered mantles, overfilled side tables, stuffed dresser drawers — its almost like stimulation overload. When my house was a blank slate after Christmas, I realized I breathed a little easier. I still put out my photos of family — that’s not clutter to me. But trinkets and candles and other kitschy things — they went away.

I Was Holding On To Things That Were Holding Me Back

This is going to be a weird one — but I felt like holding on to my “office attire” meant that I was holding on to the idea that I can’t be successful on my own. I haven’t worked in an office since 2014 — why am I lugging around dress pants and button down shirts? Purging them meant I could make it as my own boss. Plus, who knows if they actually fit me anymore (cringe!)

Recommended Reading — The Minimalists — You Are Not Your Khakis

I Realized I Had Emotional Triggers

As I was going through things left and right, tossing them into boxes and bags I realized something — shopping used to make me feel good. Shopping still makes me feel good. There is a rush I get when I purchase something new that I think I definitely need. Bringing the bags home and laying out all your new items and being all excited for something new and shiny! But really? It was a band aid for something that was bothering me. I now knew that the next time I get the urge to purchase, I need to step back and think about what is really going on. My consumerism has dwindled a lot in the past year, so the good news is I must be happier now than I was many years ago when I racked up credit cards at trendy restaurants, swanky bars and late night diners.

My “Stuff” Doesn’t Define Who I Am

Until recently, I purchased a lot of items to prove to other people (and maybe myself) that I was successful and had a good life. That by wearing certain clothes or accessorizing my home a certain way that meant that I was a certain kind of person. If I could buy these great things, then life was pretty good — right? And don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t and never was terrible. But now I realize purchases need to have a functional reason. My husband and I purchased a plain, brown couch that was comfortable because really that’s all that matters to us. I don’t want to spend the lifespan of the couch making sure it didn’t get stained or torn. Why get stressed out over a piece of furniture?

Quite frankly, what I “am” is only important to me. And I am confident enough with my choices in life and where I am at that I no longer need “stuff” to prove who — or what — I am to other people. I am a smart woman. I don’t need a library full of pretty books to prove that.

One Person’s Trash IS Another Person’s Treasure

I made two piles as I purged. Give away and try to sell. Clothes were just too much of a pain to try and sell, but other things — books, dvds, home decor — other people wanted my crap! And better yet — other people wanted to pay me for my crap! I hope all of those things that no longer bring me joy bring it to someone else.

Check out this article on another take of purging, and how she misses her stuff

What’s Next?

My next adventure in the Purge and Renew chapter of my life — my files — both digital and paper. Organizing my digital photos. And starting my “No Spend Year” on February 1st. It’s going to be a difficult and wild adventure, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

PS — If you are looking for some awesome resources on organizing and de-cluttering, check out the Conquer Your Clutter Super Bundle on sale now until January 30th. I purchased the bundle myself, and I am super excited to get started. It’s a curated collection of 38 eBooks, eCourses, and printable planners to help you organize your life, created by people who’ve learned how to conquer all the different types of clutter (physical, mental, digital) in their life — and win! The combined value of the resources in the toolkit is over $650, but you get EVERYTHING for 95% off!

Check it out here

I've moved several times, and each time I went through a "purge" - only to build up my possessions in my new home. This recent move, I decided I wasn't going to clutter my life or my home anymore. In this article I write about the things I have learned - about myself, about my needs and how sometimes the things you own might own you.
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