For about the past week and a half, we have been decluttering and purging to the extreme. I so badly want to reflect on how good this has been for my soul, how the process can be simultaneously liberating and joyful although overwhelming and painful, too. I haven’t much time, however, as I’m on a schedule and have a purging deadline.
I must start by saying that I’m thankful a dear friend, who also happened to read Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess with me last year, has launched a family decluttering competition this week to see which member of her family can get rid of the most. Going through this alongside friends inspires and motivates me. I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t be doing it at all, regardless of how inspired I was by 7 and how much the topic of purging has been on my mind, but we are moving into an RV in a month. Desperate times call for desperate — and ruthless — measures.
As I sift through boxes and bins and closets and attic spaces full of memorabilia, mementos, and memories, I could find it so easy to allow myself to cling to items that have sentimental value, emotional association, usefulness, or obligatory possession tied to them. My parents bought it. My grandmother made it. My friend wrote it. My husband chose it. My children gave it to me. As I mentally pile up the items that could go in just those five categories, they create such large mounds that I realize, “I can keep the ones that still inspire me, remind me of something beautiful that brings me joy, but I don’t have to keep them all.”
I’ve been a pack rat all of my life. (Just ask my parents!) Even I have been shocked at what I decided I must keep 20 years ago and haven’t seen again in as many years until I opened a box in the attic this week. My inspirational decluttering friend has reminded me that if it no longer brings joy, I should let it go. A leading success coach in my company has reminded me through a recording training that if it doesn’t inspire me, I should let it go. Jen Hatmaker has reminded me that if it could help someone else, I should let it go. Jesus has reminded me that I’m better off free from material things … that this world is not my home … that I have all I truly need in Him.
I can’t take it with me, but there are things I can pass down or can use again one day, so I am keeping plenty of boxes in a storage unit. As we have carted loads to storage and to Goodwill and had the Veterans of America pick up loads at our house, I have been delighted to realize that we are giving away at least twice as much as we are keeping.
We moved into this house almost 9 years ago with one 6-month-old baby. The 1,500 square feet seemed like more than enough when we had so little. We filled it with love and welcomed two more babies into the world right in my own bathtub. We also crammed it with all manner of stuff until there was hardly a square inch to spare. When all is said and done, we will hang onto about 1/4 of what used to fill our home.
Alas, all is far from said and done, and it is time for me to return to the purging trenches. I see how much remains to be done, but I also feel the freedom of how much has been accomplished already. While I fill boxes of things that have served their purpose in my life and let them go, I dream of the space and time that will be freed to write, to make music, to reconnect with loved ones, and, of course, to travel the country with my family. Truly a decluttered life purges the mind as well as the material attachments. I can almost hear my childhood bosom friend, Anne of Green Gables, saying, “There’s so much more scope for the imagination here.”