The following is a guest post by Catherine Burket. Catherine is a teacher and new mama from South Carolina.
Do you have a story or tips to share with So Damn Domestic readers?
We both felt it.
My husband, Tim, and I were happy with our life we’d built together, but we just felt like we were stagnating.
It was time for a big change. We just weren’t sure WHAT needed to change.
It boiled down to two options:
- Move overseas with a job opportunity, or
- Have a baby.
(Spoiler alert- we picked baby.)
A job presented itself to us where we would live in Europe (in a teeny apartment). We loved the idea, but there was one problem. We would only have about 2 weeks after finding out we got the job to pack up and move to Europe.
We knew we couldn’t fit our three-bedroom house into a studio or one bedroom apartment, much less afford to ship everything over there.
But we also didn’t want to get rid of everything in case we decided to stay and go with option two.
Enter: The Great Purge.
We decided to keep the essentials and get rid of everything extraneous. That way if we chose the job route, we’d have two weeks to pack up our stuff and sell our big furniture, and if we didn’t, our house would just be neater.
Every night after work for about two weeks (a huge purge doesn’t have to take ages), we tackled one room at a time and literally evaluated every object in it. We had accumulated plenty of nice things that were neat, organized, and “had a home” but they were still unused and unnecessary.
This is how our purge went:
Immediate DQ for something in a size I would hopefully get back to one day (Which, let’s be honest, just made me feel bad every time I walked in my closet), shoes that only went with one outfit (and that outfit), trendy pieces no longer in style, and things that needed some maintenance (like a hem that fell out or missing buttons that I was going to fix one day).
Other things required more thought, but it was worth it. I find myself getting to work earlier and in a better mood because my mornings are so much smoother.
We were fortunate enough to get most of the items on our wedding registry full of things people told us were “must-haves” that actually went untouched for the four-and-a-half years we’d been married. These were, in many cases, brand-new things. But they were unused and taking up space. So out they went.
We kept the things we actually use and organized them better. Cooking became a quicker process because there is less clutter to dig through.
I’m a big bibliophile, so books were difficult. I kept some sentimental favorites that I actually reread all the time, and sold the rest. If I really missed a book after I got rid of it, I could just buy it on my e-reader for a few bucks.
Our true favorites had a place of honor on our shelves, instead of being buried and inaccessible in boxes.
I’m a teacher, so I receive lots of sweet and special gifts from kids. It took me some time to realize that I can still have the memory of a sweet child without having the coffee mug or scented lotion he gave me for Christmas.
After purging this area, I was left with one file folder of pictures, special drawings, and notes.
This is a special secret. We decluttered until we could fit our entire “Office” is in one of the sections of our entertainment unit! This made sense since we mostly work on our laptops on the couch, and it freed up the former office to become the baby room.
The Dining Room
To most people’s surprise, this was the hardest room for me. I am one of those quintessential southern women who actually uses her wedding china and grandmother’s silver and crystal that’s been handed down through the family.
I couldn’t face the idea of parting with any of it. But I also couldn’t stomach the idea of my grandmother’s silver tarnishing in a storage container somewhere. This woman lived through The Great Depression. She would NOT approve of something good going to waste.
We decided to keep it all until we made our official decision and made a list of family members we would pass everything on to if it came down to it. Someone needed to love these things–even if it couldn’t be me.
We gave things to friends, made a few trips to Goodwill, and had a GARGANTUAN yard sale.
You already know that we decided to stay and start our family…
So what are my thoughts on The Great Purge a year later?
They’re honestly all positive.
We live differently now. It’s hard to explain, but things are just easier and less stressful.
Cleaning the house is a breeze, we can actually access what we need, display what we love, and we’ve found ourselves spending more time together doing what we love instead of maintaining our possessions.
I never realized how much time was eaten up by finding the right shoes or earrings amidst a cluttered jewelry box, searching for batteries for a flashlight in a drawer chock full of junk, or finding the frying pan buried at the back of a cabinet.
How do we maintain it? We have two strategies.
- We don’t bring superfluous things into our house. On Valentine’s Day when my students load me up with more sweets than I can handle, I head over a few blocks to my favorite locally-owned stores and share the love. I do something similar at Christmas where I let coworkers take things they or someone they know would love.The rest goes to Goodwill on my way home.Of course, we do buy new things, but we’re more focused about what we bring into our home. We ask ourselves whether we really need something, and not whether we have space for it.
- We also try to follow a one-in-one-out rule. When we bought new towels, the old ones got sent to Goodwill. When we bought a new coffee table, the old one went to a friend’s place.That way, we don’t let clutter sneak up on us over time, and our items are getting used by people who need them.
The Great Purge led us to a happy place.
Two weeks’ worth of work has made a vast improvement in our day-to-day lives. It also made the nesting part of my pregnancy a breeze!
And now that we have our baby girl, staying on top of housework is a challenge. We couldn’t imagine keeping up with the house the way things were before!
These days, Tim and I keep looking at each other and saying we’re so glad we did it.
So, so glad.
Are you ready to change your life?
Ready to get rid of the things that don’t matter, so that you can focus on the things and people who do?
Ready to have more time for everything you want to do?
Start now. Start with just 15 minutes of focused time, in one room, one closet, or one shelf. Ask yourself like Catherine did, “Am I just keeping this because I can, or because I truly need it?”
Pretend you’re about to move overseas, or imagine a world in which you don’t have to clean all day every day just to stay on top of things. A simpler life can be yours, and it’s possible within just 2 weeks.
But it all starts with 15 minutes.
Make it happen.
For daily 15-minute tasks, exclusive weekly mindset-changing podcasts, and an awesomely supportive group of other real homemakers making real changes (that stick), join Hardcore Homemaking, the So Damn Domestic community.
Wow so much great useful info!! Love the photos too!
I totally agree. Catherine is so kind to share with us!
Love the article…really great job with the blog and you have a beautiful daughter. Thank you for the birth announcement. You inspire me to purge…I really don’t need most of the stuff I have.
Great article. This makes me wanna clean out everything.
Catherine is so inspiring, I agree! What an amazing thing she and her husband did!
I love this and so want to do something similar. It is HARD though, and every year that I don’t do this, it gets worse! Agh! Anyway, I’m just curious why you didn’t decide to have a baby AND live overseas?
Andrea, that’s a good question. We both had very strong relationships with our grandparents and wanted our daughter to have that same opportunity. Plus, this is the first grandchild on Tim’s side, so his mother would have killed us if we took her first and only grand baby that far away. 😉