Downsizing and Organizing Your Life (And Stuff): The Purge

When I landed my first teaching job and moved three hours away from home, I thought I had done a sufficient job at going through all of my STUFF (carefully gathered and used during college) and only taking what I truly needed and only some things I wanted to keep. I have never claimed the title of a pack rat, a hoarder, or even someone who was afraid to let go of things, so I was assured that I had done enough purging to start off my new life on the right foot. Needless to say, I still managed to fill an entire 12' U-Haul and a car for my tw0-bedroom apartment.

Loaded Van

Oops.

Over the past year, we've had some changes in our family, resulting in me acquiring more and more stuff over the passing months. It eventually got to the point where I purchased an IKEA Expedit shelving unit to accommodate and organize my growing pile of STUFF. (I highly recommend these, by the way!) By the end of the school year, I had more things than I could house properly with the intention of using them "down the road." You know, when I had a house. Isn't that how it always works? The perfect item for our future walks into our lives a little too early or at the wrong place. It ends up collecting dust and adding to the stress of coming home to a cramped apartment or home. But I'll need it when I learn how to sew my own clothes that require bias tape AND rare red buttons AND basting spray AND yards of pink fleece! I have to keep it! Or the ever popular: Someday I WILL master that recipe and will need that.specific. pan. for it to be perfect. Yes, it takes up an entire shelf. But how can I let it go when I'll just have to buy it again later?

Alright, so I already knew I had a bit of a problem, but when I decided to move to a fully-furnished apartment at the end of this summer, I had to be really realistic about what I was going to take with me this time. I thought it would be helpful to share the process I've taken myself through to purge through my stuff and how I decided what stays and what goes.

Downsizing and Organizing The Purge

Clothes

Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourself.

  • Have I worn this in the past year?
  • Does it fit me now?
  • Is it in style and/or does it reflect my personal style or where I would like to be in terms of style?
  • Can I wear this in more than one way? Is it versatile?
  • Is this item in good condition and can last me a long time?
  • Am I in LOVE with this item?

If you answered no to any of these questions, put the item in one of two piles: Donate or Sell/Consign. If you want to keep items around in hopes that it will fit again, carefully choose only the classic items and pack them away.

*A Note About Consigning Clothes* Do the research about the specific consignment stores in your area. Most stores will only take name brand items that are within a year or two of purchase and are free from any noticeable signs of wear. Take the extra time to iron and hang each item; you'll be more likely to sell the item! Also, you'll get more money for your items if you go to local consignments than to Plato's Closet, but that is still a good option if you don't have as much time or patience.

Electronics/Appliances

It's not as easy to part with our more expensive items, but sometimes it's necessary and can be just as freeing. Take 10 minutes and go through your old electronics and appliances.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I used this item in the past two years?
  • Do I need this item to complete tasks/be more productive/to have fun?
  • Have I already replaced this item with something else?
  • What am I gaining by storing and keeping this item?
  • (If you are moving in with someone . . .) Does someone else have a better, more efficient and useful item I can use?

Consider your answers and use your best judgment. For me, I will be getting rid of my old crock pot, microwave, TV, A/C unit, DVD cases (more on this later!), and possibly my old camera. I will either have replacements or these items will be included/unnecessary for in my furnished apartment.

*A Note About Tossing Electronics/Appliances* Don't just toss these items in the trash; be sure you seek out the closest electronic recycling center or thrift store and/or if someone else could use it.

Furniture

Just like appliances/electronics, getting rid of furniture is not an easy task. If you're just looking to organize your life, you may not need to get rid of your furniture, but you can ask yourself if what you currently have serves its function properly or if you should invest in a replacement. If you ARE looking to get rid of furniture, you have several options to consider:

  • If you want to keep the furniture but don't need it now, research the cost of storing the furniture in a storage unit. If the furniture is in great shape and worth a good price/holds great sentimental value, this may be a good option.
  • If you have time, place an ad on Craigslist or have a garage sale. You'll make the most money this way.
  • If you have limited time, donate to a thrift store or search for used furniture stores in your area. I will be selling my furniture to a used furniture store and will make a decent profit, as my furniture was mostly free to me. 
  • If it's not in great shape/you don't care, place it on your curb with a "free" sign or list it on Freecycle.
  • If you're feeling generous, give it to a friend or family member. Some will even pay you ;)

Weigh the cost of storing or keeping your furniture with the time and need you have. I decided that while I will need new furniture in a few years, it was not worth the cost of storing it in a unit. This way, I am free to choose my own pieces and can move a lot easier to my new place.

Hobbies

I'm definitely guilty when it comes to accumulating stuff for my hobbies. This includes sewing/crafting materials, books, photography equipment, electronics, journals, and more. Maybe for you this is a vast sports equipment collection or a lot of comic books.This is probably the most challenging to get through, but it is really worth it to add to your purge.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I need this item to enjoy my hobby? (For example, obviously I need my sewing machine; someone else might need her football or his camera cleaning kit.)
  • If it was organized, accessible, and/or visible, would I use it?
  • Do I use this item frequently?
  • Would I prefer to buy newer items than use this particular item?
  • Do I really need multiples of this item?
  • Does owning this item add value to my life?

For me, this was really important. I decided to get rid of extra buttons, fabrics, zippers, ribbon, and more. Initially I had kept these items with the intention that I would one day use them, but in reality, I would end up buying fabric I really liked instead of just settling for what Grandma hadn't used and I wouldn't really use all of that bias tape.

After you've gone through these areas, here are some other areas you can look into:

  • Kitchen supplies
  • Accessories (I parted with many necklaces I didn't wear anymore!)
  • Bags
  • Makeup
  • Shoes
  • Hair/Beauty supplies
  • Nail polish
  • Gift wrap
  • Holiday decor (I downsized from three boxes of Christmas stuff to just one!)
  • Linens
  • School/work/desk supplies
  • Batteries
  • Medicine
  • Pantry and refrigerator
  • Sports equipment

I know it seems overwhelming, but I can't even begin to tell you how great it feels to be FREE from all of that STUFF. Just take one or two areas each day and soon you'll be dropping off loads at the thrift store and feeling great.

I plan on writing more posts about some of the specific things I've done to downsize and organize, so check back soon! How have you downsized/organized your life recently? What tips can you provide all of us? Share in the comments below!