Purge Day and an unexpected benefit


I doubt that I am the only one who is wanting to shed the extra and the superfluous right about now.  The new year invites us to take stock of what is working for us and what isn't, what we would like to keep and what we would like to change.  I actually find the idea of spring cleaning much more appealing in January than in March because at the start of each new year, I am in a reflective mood.  What do I want more of in my life?  And what do I want less of?


I talk often about how our environments shape our mood and behavior, and I will repeat the idea here.  It may sound shallow to think that reshaping one's life begins with cleaning out the closet, but it almost always seems to be the small changes that lead to larger ones.  Reducing the physical clutter cuts our mental clutter.


So, I've been purging in every area I can think of: Those items that I hoped to do maybe-possibly-someday on my to-do list but in the meantime make me feel guilty every time I look at them?  Gone.  The shirts in my closet that still technically fit but don't make me feel particularly attractive or confident?  Off to Goodwill.  The decorative accessories and knick-knacks that can always find a place on a shelf or side table but do not speak to me or hold meaning?  Give away pile.  Books that I read once but am unlikely to pick up again?  Okay, here I have some trouble.


I typically have a "little bit at a time" attitude, but in this case, I have found it extremely rewarding to power through the sorting and trashing.  The span of a day does not allow me to think too hard about reasons why I might need something later or to second guess decisions.  The deadline helps, and it feels motivating to look at the piles and progress made in a short amount of time.  My "Purge Day" (however unfortunate that name is) left me feeling lighter, more energetic, and not simply because I had fewer items to wash, dust, or cross off a list.


This day happened to align with December 31, the day that Dan and I do our end of year giving, and I do not think that it is a coincidence that it was easier to let go of both our stuff and our money when done together.  We experienced a domino effect: the more we gave, the less we wanted to hold on.  The nice items we bought that no longer have a purpose in our house I am less concerned with selling on consignment or trying to score top dollar on Craigslist.  We would rather them find good homes and perhaps make someone's day (who doesn't like finding a great deal).  


I knew the organizing and sorting and paring down would make me less stressed, but I did not expect the financial side effect.  It feels good to let go of some of the nickel-and-diming; to write bigger donation checks; to find new homes for things which we do not need, regardless of their label or designer; and to continue to question our understanding of what we need.  

Emily Rowell Brown