Reflections on a Purge

spring cleaning purge

This winter I have focused on purging my house of excess stuff. I’ve never thought of myself as having a lot of stuff (and compared to some I don’t), but a real dig in to the deepest recesses of my closet, attic, and drawers revealed some things I’d been holding on to that needed to go. As I purged, I learned it’s often not as much about the stuff as it is about reconciling who you were with who you are now.

The first week of the purge, I found some shirts from college in my closet. We don’t need to point out how long ago college was for me, but let’s just say it wasn’t yesterday. Worn and faded, those shirts were reminders of a different time. Some were from my sorority days and other were from spring breaks or football games. None of them were in good enough condition to be worn in public and, I asked myself, even if they were, would I (at my current age) want to be seen in a shirt with sorority letters on it, or advertising spring break foolishness? Um, no.

So the shirts got marked for the rag-bag (they are still god for cleaning up paint spills and cleaning off dip sticks). I decided to keep two favorites, to be used for painting and other messy chores. The others I was sad to see go but before I cut them into strips, I took a second and snapped some photos of them, just to have the memories. The shirts took up space; pictures don’t.

After settling the shirt issue, it was on to my tape collection. Holy cow, I had a lot of tapes. I hated to get rid of them but, again, they were taking up space that I needed for other things. I didn’t know how long it had been since I’d listened to them so by that reckoning, they must not be that important to me anymore.

Regardless, I took a weekend and went through every one of those tapes. What I realized was that, in most cases, I’d bought those tapes for one or two “good” songs and I really didn’t care about the rest. (This was in the days long before iTunes let you buy a single song.) So I made notes of which songs were the important ones and then downloaded those to my iPod. I gave the tapes to the thrift store. The digital files don’t take up the space in my home that the tapes did. I salvaged the important reminders from days gone by and let the rest of it go.

There were many other things like this that I found. Remnants of hobbies I found fun long ago but no longer enjoy. Collections of things that used to be important to me but for which now I can only muster a slight, “That’s kind of neat.” A few toys from childhood that have fond memories attached, but no practical use since I’ll never have kids to pass them on to. As much as this purge was about freeing up some space in my house, it was also about letting go of the person I used to be and making room for the person that I am now.

I can’t deny that I was sad to see those old things go because it not only meant the things were gone, it also meant letting go of that younger person I used to be. I let go of the girl who listened to tapes on her “boom box” every night until she fell asleep. The sorority girl without a care in the world is now in the rag-bag. The kid who played for hours with Fisher Price toys is now in the thrift store. The kid who read Goodnight Moon and Trixie Belden is awaiting the library’s annual book sale.

But the woman who loves board games is alive and well, as is the one who loves science fiction and fantasy novels. The woman who collects shells is still here and she still has her iPod filled with everything from classical to reggae. The marathon runner is well represented because now I can display my medals instead of having them crammed into boxes. The person I used to be is gone, but the person I am now has plenty of room in her house to showcase her interests. Old loves no longer crowd out new ones.

There’s something to be said for sentiment (which is why I took pictures of almost everything I discarded). But I learned that I don’t need the stuff to remember the person I used to be and the fun I used to have. The stuff only hampered me from enjoying the person I am now to the fullest. I hope I can do better at keeping my stuff more current as I go through life and I won’t have to do this on this scale again. But if I do, it will help to remember that life marches on and that old stuff only interferes with the new phases of life.

(Photo courtesy of mamamusings)

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2 Responses to Reflections on a Purge

  1. We plan on purging quite a bit this summer. We’ve been waiting to have a garage sale for a few years now, and I think it’s time. Definitely looking forward to clearing stuff out and making some cash while we’re at it.

  2. What an eloquently written reminder that just because we want to hold on to memories of good times past doesn’t mean we have to hold on to stuff from the past too!! I’ve been struggling lately to downsize/ purge and this is just the reminder I needed to help me power through the junk and make some space for the me I am today!

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