Reader question… “I’m confused about simplifying by purging. I know what I’m supposed to do but I just don’t like throwing away my things. Is there any other way? Any help would be really appreciated.” –Jennifer

There are indeed many good reasons to purge. It makes sense to purge when an item breaks and repairing it isn’t possible or feasible. It makes sense to purge when clothing becomes too worn or faded or no longer fits. It makes sense to purge as tastes and circumstances change. This “purging for a reason” involves only one… or a few… items at a time and is a gradual, almost automatic purge that happens naturally as your needs change or an item no longer fits your lifestyle.

But you’re asking about the “purging by numbers” that some people advocate as a means of achieving order and simplicity. This purging is a relentless, ongoing purge… if you bring a new item into your home, you MUST purge another item already in your possession. If you haven’t used an item in the last six months or year, you MUST purge that too. Possessions must be limited to x number of jeans, x number of towels, or x number of dishes or knives or pots and pans. The list goes on.

Some people enjoy this kind of purging, and that’s good for them. But if you’re looking for the secret to creating an organized life and home… if you’re looking for the secret to controlling stuff… purging alone is not the answer.

Knowing what is enough for you… IS.

Think seriously about each item before you purge it or bring it into your home. If you need the item, truly want it, or value it for some other reason… then find a place for it. Anything else… purge it, don’t buy it, or just say “no thanks.”

There is only one reason why anyone would need to endlessly purge boxes and bags of stuff, month after month after month… and that is if they are continually accumulating more unwanted stuff as fast as they purge. The easiest purge of all is to not bring things you don’t really want into your life.

Don’t just accept someone else’s arbitrary numbers and guidelines because these numbers and guidelines are based on what is enough for them… not what is enough for you.

Your “enough” should… and will be… unique to you and your lifestyle. Trust your instincts.

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Comments

Jennifer T

Thank-you sooooo much for answering my question. I didn’t expect a post. Wow! I feel so much better now. I had a bag of stuff I didn’t want to throw away. I just took a few minutes and went through the bag asking myself your questions and I couldn’t believe how my answers clarified the question of keeping them or not. Some are staying some are going but I know why now and that is making me feel so much better, I can’t tell you. Thank-you thank-you thank-you.

Misty Lynn

I have always lived simply. I really like your definition of purging for a reason. It makes a lot of sense to me and made me think of my momma and how she used to do things. I think everybody should trust their instincts not follow the crowd.

Mrs. Stanley B.

I just wanted to say that I love your new background. It looks so bright and optimistic and hopeful if you know what I mean. Just like your blog. I thank you for both.

Betty

Great post. It seems to me the younger (20 something) people are going for strict minimalism and it seems competitive. I love living simply and being organized, but having what I love and need whether I use it every 6 months or not makes sense to me. What’s the harm of stored sentimental items and keepsakes? Isn’t that what attics are for?
Betty

Una

I have another reason for endless months of purging (well..hopefully not –endless– but it sure seems like it) is clearing out the stuff left behind by a packrat spouse. I think the end is in sight, but it’ll still be at least another month, and I started, with help, in January after my husband passed away.

Since sometimes it feels like I’m going from one extreme (packrat clutter) to another (in comparison, the cleared out rooms look positively minimalistic even though they’re not), I’m working to land at ‘enough’ rather than the opposite extreme of 100items or less type minimalism – which won’t happen because I have more than 100 books alone that I want to keep :)

Becca

I agree heartily with your statement about thinking hard about an item before you let it into your home.
Many years ago after buying articles of clothing that I hardly ever wore, I decided to view every item in the dressing room mirror with the question, “Do I LOVE it?” in mind. Now, if the answer is no, I don’t buy it.

I work in an office where we get lots of free sample items. I started saying no thanks to them because it was just one more thing I didn’t really need and would just clutter my desk or home. I have enough trouble with things I actually WANT and USE turning into clutter in my space. It’s an ongoing struggle!

Ms. Practicality

This is such a great way to look at this issue. I love the idea of finding my “enough.” It’s such a constructive way to look at this purging phenomenon and I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more. I recently found your blog and am truly enjoying it!

Marie

my surest method for never being sorry about purging is to donate my unused items to charity. whenever I have a moment’s regret, I remind myself that someone else has made good use of the item ever since I’ve purged it. love this post!!

MS. Smith

Thank you for a great website! I feel like I am surrounded by people who don’t understand the choices I have made to “live simply and simply live.” I have downsized my home and belongings, don’t shop for recreation, eat a simple (vegetarian and mostly vegan) diet, shop at second hand stores when I need something, etc. and I have never been happier. NO trips to the mall for this girl! I love the practical support your site provides and will be referring to it time and time again!

Robin

I redistributed most of my stuff to friends, goodwill, and the great sea of Craigslisters about two years ago. A friend just sent me photos of some of my old things “at work” in their home. It made me feel really good; I bought those things because I liked them a lot, and it’s nice to know they still have some life.

For me, backpacking is always a really good tool for finding my “enough.” What do I take when all of my things must be carried on my back? And when I return home, what are the things that give me the most pleasure?

D.M.

well said. I am daily trying to find my “enough.” sometimes, *gulp,* paring down is difficult; sometimes easy. ALWAYS worth it!!

Linda

Yesterday we had over 90 tornados in Ks, while in the basement waiting out the ones nearest us,I realized what I had brought- pictures, keepsakes and my mother and mother-in laws wedding rings! Obviously, most of my precious “stuff’ is expendable!

Dori

I just discovered your blog and I find it interesting. We have been living pretty simply since we were married 40 years ago this June. We bought our land almost 30 years ago and have been building our house little by little over the years, meanwhile raising 4 children and running a small business doing historic restoration on old houses in our area. This is by way of introduction. We now own our house free and clear and are ready to put on the last additions to take us into our “golden years” in as simple and efficient way as possible. We want to age in place.
I have been looking for kitchen layout ideas but of course everything is granite counter tops and stainless steel. I’m looking for ideas from real people who work in their kitchens as I do, cooking from scratch, doing some canning, having a small garden, recycling…..
I would love to see how others have set up their kitchen (I love light) but I am not interested in spending whatever money I have to build a big show place. I want a space I love to be in- one that WORKS and welcomes. Sorry for the length of this, I have so little personal time on the internet (have to come in early before work) and I have been looking for other ideas from like minded people for a good while. NOW we are getting ready to do this work and I’m still looking for ideas and thoughts.
Thanks for an interesting site.

Maureen

Simply know and understand why you have or are keeping something – where there is no knowing or understanding it should not be kept.

Barb

I couldn’t agree more. We have a huge amount of stuff to purge from years of semi-nomadic living. It seems that every time we moved to a new place we acquired another huge pile of stuff that we then brought back here when we were done with that town. Now that we have decided to stop moving we are gradually getting rid of the excess. We are being sure not to be overly rash, but we do want to be thorough and not leave ourselves with excess.

Jen

Re: Dori–

We moved into a 50s ranch two years ago and have been slowly updating some of the really dated, dingy stuff. One major project was the kitchen. The stove died and couldn’t be repaired for less than the cost of a new one, so a new one it was; the salespeople really wanted to sell me a glasstop (no gas here) electric as that’s all the rage, but because I can, I held out for coils (glass can crack under the weight of the canning pot). We have a small granite island from the unfinished furniture store that is perfect for hot pots and jars of jam. Our counters are laminate. New laminate comes in great options–ours is a streaky gray, a bit like soapstone, and was far less pricy and perfectly durable. I hired local carpenters to build them, as it was beyond our do-it-yourself capabilities–so they’re custom without the usual custom kitchen price tag. We took down the ancient wallpaper, painted, and tiled a white subway tile laminate–nothing that will itself look terribly dated anytime soon. Our cabinets are the same knotty pine the house initially came with, just repainted. If you live near a ReUse/Habitat for Humanity store, you can get real wood cabs for far less than new ones.

Our stove is stainless, as is the hood/light I got using points on Amazon, but until the other appliances die we’ll keep them, regardless of the color inconsistency.

I too didn’t love the showplace kitchens, and our budget was nowhere near showplace cost. I love our kitchen now.