Writings from my little corner of modern domesticity.

The Need to Abandon

It’s strange, what a birthday can do to a person. Especially when it’s a milestone birthday. They might not produce any profound changes when we are young and enjoying them- 1, 7, 10, 13, 16…but as we age and, often; mature, they can bring on rather unexpected results.

Around this latest, during which I turned 25, I found myself with a very odd urge. Not the usual quarter-life crisis of identity where one questions their job, their friends, their relationship (or lack thereof), their station in life, no. Mine has simply been the urge to purge.

“Purge what?” you might ask. Well, it’s become complicated.

I began with the obvious and simple- a closet purge. I knew I had too many clothes because they were taking up too much space. I also knew I had to edit what I owned to reflect my current station in life and not what had been or what I thought might be. I am a wife, a mother, and not someone who goes out to parties or fancy dinners all that often. I wear more flats than heels and really tend to wear the same few things over and over, and it was time to make my wardrobe reflect this. I tried on, I took stock, I pared down two trash bags to donate, another trash bag that really was beyond anything anyone would want (stains, holes I knew I wouldn’t repair, etc), and a large Rubbermaid tub of things I thought I might be able to consign or sell.

Part of the "gotta go" pile.

Part of the “gotta go” pile.

Granted, I did this only with clothes that were in the seasonal rotation at the time or passing out of it- I keep off-season clothes in a couple of plastic bins under the bed- and some items were just plain being stored because while they were in season, they didn’t work well with my needing boob access to nurse Moonbaby.

What's left of my everyday clothes, with the exception of 4 T-shirts and about 5 camis that live in a cubby.

I will need another purge when I transition back from my fall/winter wardrobe to spring/summer, and that is ok. I have a set of 30(ish…I don’t actually know the number offhand, but I remember buying 3 packs back in the day) felted skinny hangers from the days when my lack of space solution was to find ways to just cram everything in there, and there are about 15 of them now empty- before (even WITH off-season stuff hanging out under the bed) I was borrowing from my husband’s set of black plastic skinny hangers. You’ll see in the photo at left here that when I put things back, I also hung them backwards on the rod. This is to help me see what I am actually wearing- and to date, there are now only 3 things still hanging backwards.

Now, there ARE still a couple things in there I’d actually like to purge, but would first like to replace, because I’ve simply worn them out.

But enough about my closet purge- I actually have another post about it in edit mode that I go more in detail with, both with the physical process and my thoughts about it.

The part where my need to purge has gotten complicated is that now, I want to purge everything. Except my books- because they’re books, and you can never have too many books. Don’t even try telling me otherwise.

I’m just sick of all the stuff I have. We have- Ryan, to his share, has 2 plastic bins under the bed just full of random papers. I bet if I threw them away wholesale he’d never even notice the stuff missing.

In the beginning, I was going by only two criteria:

  1. Is it useful? or
  2. Is it of sentimental value?

But this led to me simply shuffling some things around and not really eliminating as much as I wanted, so I developed a new strategy:

  1. Is it useful AND do we use it?
  2. Is it of irreplaceable sentimental value?
  3. Am I saving it for future children?*

Once it has passed one of those, there are more rigorous standards:

  1. Do I have somewhere to put it?
  2. Is it worth it to me to store it until I HAVE a place to put it?
  3. Does something else or could something else we own fulfill the same purpose?
  4. If so, do we need multiples or will one suffice?

And if it’s still stubborn (and not something cheap and seldom-used, but still worth its space like printer paper, index cards, art supplies, etc):

  1. If I had to pack up and move in 24 hours, would I pack it or leave it behind?

If it does not pass through all 3 tiers, it goes. *With the exception of this particular criterion- this applies exclusively to Selenia’s things, and even her things are subjected to a few more tests. For example, I’ve sorted through her packed-away clothes and toys for things to sell or consign, and I will do so again either at the next change of season or the next change in sizes/toys.

It is a merciless strategy when applied from top to bottom, and I will admit that, even having developed it for my use, I struggle with applying it here and then. But multiple passes will usually win out, so if I waver on an item, I let it stay and return to it later. So far, the item has left in all but one case (a pretty mirrored vanity tray we picked up at a garage sale a couple years ago- it is now actually in use, corralling bits of jewelry my jewelry case is just not made to accommodate!)

I come from a line of packrats (or hoarders, if you prefer, though none of us have quite managed to get like one sees on TV). My maternal grandfather survived a time when he had very little, and now cannot for the life of him (or my grandmother’s sanity) let anything go, just in case they need it later. Neither can my mother- every little scrap of paper that drifts into her house stays, just in case. Clothes she doesn’t wear, just in case. Things my brother and I left behind a decade or more ago- just in case.
I’ve decided I no longer have room in my life for “just in case.” I’ve even mentally reprimanded myself while sorting and muttering those words- Just in case of WHAT, Mandy? In case your other 6 sweaters in this color spontaneously combust? No. The urge to keep things just in case you need them is insidious- it sneaks in there with one or two things, because you wouldn’t want to be caught without, and then without you really noticing, it is a way of life. You have extra everything, just in case- but nowhere to put it, so it festers and clogs your space, your life, and you need to escape.

I’m getting out, right now. And it feels so good!


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