Get Rid Of It!

How I changed my life with one radical purge.

Tracy Barbour
Oct 31 · 6 min read
© Tracy Barbour 2015

Everything I own right now fits into three suitcases. I have a large hard-sided suitcase and two smaller ones. In other words, coupled with a leather duffel and a canvas bag, I could take everything I own, carry or wheel it around by myself, board a plane and be gone. Just like that. My entire life packed up neatly, ready for take-off.

I am not going anywhere, however. I am still here, growing my coaching practice, working with clients, and living my life. Except now I am many pounds lighter and free from the burden of all that stuff.

Some of the stuff was given away. The most valuable items were sold for a donation of whatever the buyer was willing to give. The remainder of it was put into plastic boxes and set out by the stoop. No, the items did not go in the trash. I watched as people came by one-by-one and took the bulk of it. A mom came by with her child. She needed coats for her family. I had 5. She took all of them. An older gentleman who sells shoes on the street corner to supplement his social security took almost all of the 20 pairs of shoes. Most of them were fairly new, some of them never worn or only worn once or twice. I hope they bring him enough to pay the rent this month. As for me, I walked away with $100 for a pair of headphones. I also walked away with peace of mind, clarity, and a vision of how I would approach the accumulation of stuff in my life.

I have done purges before. I had even purged my belongings in April of 2019. This time it was different. This time I didn’t sell anything for money. I didn’t drop it off at some random dropbox or thrift store with no clue where the proceeds of my belongings being sold were actually going to. Instead, I donated it to the community at large, people who lived in my neighborhood who could benefit from it by whatever means they deemed necessary. I didn’t do this because I am independently wealthy either.

I did it because I hadn’t missed any of it for a month. I hadn’t touched it, looked at it, or worn it. I did it because 99% of the items were attached to conditions at some point. Most of the items were “gifts” I had received in my former abusive relationship. Some of it was purchases I made out of an attempt to validate myself through a depression that was a result of being in a job I hated. I justified my purchases because I had the money at the time and it cheered me up for the moment. I purged all of it because I needed to make room for experiences, not more stuff. I purged because my heart called me to the necessity for my soul to be free of negative energy.

I was hoarding negative energy. Despite my attempt to create a zen-like atmosphere in my space, there was still a long way to go. Even when the stuff was staring me in the face day after day, I continued to weigh myself down with questions.

“What if I need that later?”

“What if I can’t afford this later?”

“What will I do without that?”

With every what-if I left my belongings where they were at, piling up in boxes and drawers and on shelves. That’s the danger of what-ifs. Every what-if is an excuse. What-ifs are the baggage that weighs down the lifeboat of your life. Enough what-ifs and your lifeboat is going to sink.

I took my lifeboat to shore. I took it sans baggage, sans the weight of belongings that I had not missed nor found comfort in. I did it with intention, by implementing a few simple steps that led me to realize I didn’t have to be weighed down by stuff.

1. TAKE A SABBATICAL FROM YOUR STUFF FOR 30 DAYS.

Your first step is removing yourself from the space of your stuff. Pack everything you think you will need for 30 days for your personal and business life in a couple of suitcases. Be selective. Do not go back for anything and do not buy anything to replace what you might be missing. I realize not everyone has the ability to physically remove themselves for 30 days from their living space. You can achieve the same result by either packing up your belongings you are not going to use in a closet or by packing everything you are going to use in two suitcases. You live for 30 days only using and taking from the two suitcases or by not opening that closet. It will take willpower and it will be a testament to the strength you have inside.

2. RETURN HOME TO SEE WHAT YOU HAVE MISSED.

After living for 30 days with minimalism, with only what was essential for your daily functioning, return to your home or open your closet and remove the belongings you have packed away. As you do take an inventory of how you are feeling. Reflect on the freedom you felt for that 30 days.

When I stepped back into my own space, I was hit with an energy that could only be described as foreign and negative. It was too much, the stuff I had accumulated was staring me in the face and it felt crowded, as if there was not enough space for me. I had gained a tremendous amount of clarity in that 30 days. I had disconnected myself from the physical and the mental connection to the stuff.

3. DONATE OR GIVE AWAY EVERYTHING YOU REALIZE YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT.

This will be the most challenging of the steps. You will find yourself reasoning that it is logical to get rid of it by selling it, therefore putting a little extra money in your pocket. What you won’t reason is the amount of time and energy it is going to take you to get rid of it that way. If you put it up for sale online, there are the costs of listing it on eBay or Craigslist. Even if you list it on the Facebook marketplace, it is going to take time. There will be time and energy in deciding what each item should be sold for, photographing it, posting it, screening potential buyers, shipping, as well as insuring each item arrives safely with the buyer. This process could drag on for a couple of months or more, giving you time to analyze it all and counter on your original intentions to get rid of it. By giving it away you are giving this stuff to someone who needs it. You are recycling the negative energy into positive energy for someone else. A bonus to giving it away was the joy I felt in witnessing what my stuff did for someone else who truly needed what I had to give.

Will you struggle with this challenge? Yes, you will. This is why I developed an exercise to help guide you through.

Close your eyes.

Imagine being on a lifeboat, weighed down with all of your belongings. The boat begins to sink lowering you and everything you own into the ocean. Soon, you are treading water. Your belongings are floating beside you, spreading out into the ocean, and then sinking into the depths. There is nothing but you now. Your belongings are gone so you begin to swim for shore. You make it to shore, settle into the sand, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and the breeze is blowing softly. Your thoughts are not on your belongings. They are gone. There is no comfort to be found there where they lie at the bottom of the ocean. The only comfort you have in your heart is that you are safe. In that safe moment, you realize you are free.

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club


Before the radical purge, baby steps:

Tracy Barbour is a trauma-informed, mental health first aid certified Change and Transformation Coach based in New York City and New Jersey focused on helping you make the transition from surviving to thriving in your life, career, and business.

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Tracy Barbour

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Change & Transformation Coach. From surviving to thriving. Meditating, trauma-informed, domestic violence surviving wordsmith. https://linktr.ee/athrivelife