6.19.2012

To Live Simply

A little over a year ago, something changed in me. It was like I had become tired of caring for all of our stuff - dealing with it, dusting it, washing it, looking at it - overnight. Towards the end of last summer, I brought boxes home from the pharmacy and started filling them with with stuff. Nick-knacks began disappearing from tabletops, photos and art that had no sentimental value were removed from the walls, holiday decor was simplified, and clothes that I had owned since high school (or perhaps even junior high) were tossed.

In January, I started cleaning out the office in earnest (thanks to the William Morris Project), which is when I uncovered twenty-three reasons why I needed to stop shopping with the mindset that I might never make it back to Target within the next fifteen years. I had to stop the "what ifs" and "just in case" purchases. Stop the "I don't need it now, but I might later and it's on clearance" impulse buys.

I forced myself to be brutally honest -- did I really use it? Did I love it? Would my life be worse if I no longer owned it? Or would I even miss the fact that it was gone? Over the last six months, I have purged and donated, tossed and sold. Two weeks ago, I held my very last yard sale with my sister-in-law. And yet, after all that, I just went through my (post-yard sale) closet, opened my dresser drawers, took an honest look at my shoes, and have subsequently moved another huge box of shoes, shirts, pants, and skirts into Clothing Purgatory.

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Clothing Purgatory? It's in our guest bedroom closet. It's space we don't need, and is perfect for storing items that I'm not 100% sure I want to part with, but I'm 96.7% sure I won't miss if they are out of sight. Shoes and clothes get moved into the closet where they wait it out for 1-2 seasons. If, during that time, I find myself looking for an item that has been regulated to Purgatory, it is saved (so to speak) for another day. However, if I go months and never miss an item, it gets donated without any qualms.

One of the issues I've had to face, is finding a balance between keeping things I truly love, and understanding that holding onto an item for years doesn't make it worthy of keeping. While doing the post-yard sale closet sweep, I kept looking through my dress shoes and wondering if I should keep them. I finally pulled out several pairs that have survived previous purges because "they were good shoes", and tried to remember the last time I had actually worn them. The answers startled me: 7, 11, even 14 years! I'm only 30, for goodness sake!

Just as I had an epiphany in February about no longer needing to buy those "just in case" packs of Scotch tape, I realized - while standing in my closet - that I didn't need to hang on to shoes that hadn't been worn in well over a decade ... just in case. In case of what? If I ever find myself in need of black heels, and the world's shoe manufactures have suddenly stopped making them, I'm probably going to have bigger problems to deal with than a lack of stilettos to match my outfit. Just sayin' ...

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This shirt is one item that survived Purgatory ... for now

When was the last time you took an honest look at what you're storing?
Do you clean out on a regular basis? What makes the cut?

14 comments:

  1. Do I love it? Do I use it? If I don't get at least one yes answer, out it goes! I too have been purging lately and finding it so liberating. I actually went through my closet and matched up my clothes into outfits that I both love and wear on a regular basis, and got rid of everything else. It is so nice to no longer have episodes of "I don't know what to wear." This has also limited my shopping for new clothing items, because I am only replacing worn items.

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    1. Christi - I'm finding the same thing (re: shopping). Now I am simply looking for replacements or items that compliment/complete outfits that I already own. I'd rather have multi-purpose clothes that can be rearranged and used together to create new outfits, than pieces that can only be used with one thing. Loved the "episodes of 'I don't know what to wear'" comment! :-)

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  2. That is the beauty of moving back and forth every few years. We sort and store and pack EVERYTHING regularly. Hard to hoard when you know you have to haul it around! Harder to hoard when you know when you come back the termites may have eaten it or the heat may have destroyed it! Easy to not hang on to non essentials when you have to dust them literally EVERY DAY! There are a lot of challenges in our life style, but this is one of the blessings!

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    1. Beka, that is certainly an upside!! Knowing it could literally be EATEN when you return is one sure way to make sure you either use it up, or realize that it's all just stuff with no reason to get attached. Love that viewpoint! Sometimes when I find myself standing in my closet and moaning about not knowing what to wear, Peter will say, "You didn't have that problem in [XYZ country], you only HAD a suitcase full of clothes." Maybe having less options will actually make it easier. :-)

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  3. I LOVE the idea of "Clothing Purgatory!" I'm hoping to have a bit of a clean-out day tomorrow... We'll see... =)

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    1. Would love to hear a report on how your clean-out day goes, Kaysi! :-) Have fun!

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  4. Every time we move, we purge. Every time we move, I swear that I will not acquire as much stuff in the new house. And every time we move, I end up with the same amount of stuff as before the purge before the last move. It's madness!

    I did scale down my wardrobe quite a bit last year and don't miss when I donated/threw out one bit. In fact, I am itching to scale it down even more!

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    1. I SO hear that, Karen!! When Peter moved up to Boston (two months before I arrived), he packed every thing he owned (minus his aviation tool box) in a tiny 1988 4-door Mazda 323. One year later, it took a 26' U-Haul with a car dolly to move both of us back to Tennessee. How sad is that?? One wedding (read: gifts), one move, and 6 months later, we couldn't fit all our stuff in three cars, and a 26' U-Haul, so a huge pile of stuff was left by the curb. It was at that moment when my dear new husband looked at me and said, "YOU have a problem. I will not do this again." I remember crying, but I KNEW he was right. I've been purging ever since, but even though the house is SO MUCH BETTER, every time I walk into the basement, I shiver at the thought of ever having to move. There's always room for improvement...

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  5. I do purge my closet pretty often... but you've given me a little push to take a more editorial eye to my closet very soon.

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  6. ooooh inspiring! It's something I must do and have been on a much smaller tidy up of my own this week. Must do more of it!!

    And on another note, would you consider offering a feedburner subscribe by email to your blog? I'm hopeless at checking blogger or twitter and I was hoping that you might have a widget that would email me when you do new posts! I want to read and comment more often!!

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    1. I'm off to look into the whole feedburner thing, Sophie. If I can figure it out, it shall be added! Thanks for asking! :-)

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  7. I ask myself three questions for clothing (in this order): Does it fit good? Does it feel good? Does it look good? No matter how great the bargain, if I can't answer a resounding "yes" to all three, I don't buy it anymore. More and more, I also have to be willing to part with something I already own that it can take the place of--because I have enough, right now. Really like the idea of purgatory for those things you just aren't sure of. I have one of those, too!

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    1. Rita - thanks for stopping by and saying hello! Yes, I ask myself similar questions now, and it has cut back on my shopping a LOT. Shortly after we got married 12 years ago, my husband made me implement the "One In - One Out" rule, and it was the best thing that ever happened to my closet. :-)

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