The Great Purge

by Laura Bedingfield Herakovich on September 11, 2012

We’ve sorta, kinda, maybe decided we are about to try to maybe sell our house in the next few months. And you know what that means?

Time for The Great Purge (which is as tedious as that opening sentence). To say I’m not looking forward to this exercise is a massive understatement.

We’ve lived in our current house for almost 9 years. We’ve brought home 3 babies to this house, hosted tons of parties here, celebrated all kinds of holidays here and nursed broken bones here. And we’ve accumulated a whole bunch of stuff.

I refuse to call it junk. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, you know. For instance, you never know when the rubber Bill Clinton mask, the stack of sombreros or the Easter bunny shaped string of lights will come in handy. You might be invited to a Disco party, so that velvet shirt would be perfect. That Corningware dish with the missing handle was your grandmother’s. Even though we’ve never, ever camped out, the boys used to love playing in that tent.

See? You can’t just toss that stuff.

There are some things that can go, however. We vow to do a better job managing what comes along with us to the next house. Imagine our dismay when we discovered we’d paid for our last movers to box up ($14 for the box) and relocate close to 10 years’ worth of Consumer Reports (you never know when you might need to get the scoop on antique top-loading VCR’s; that’s the only reason I can figure as to why my husband would be keeping them).

It’s a painful process, so let me help you out. Thus, I present my 4 steps for a solid clutter purge:

1. Get rid of the kids. No, you can’t donate them to Good Will, but you also can’t donate that broken Little People set or the fire truck with the big dent in it when they are around because suddenly that old, broken toy that’s missing pieces is your kids’ all-time favorite toy. And you are the meanest mom on the planet for trying to trash it. Kids are the main reason you have so much junk anyway. Send them to Grandma’s and purge that playroom. They’ll never miss that Hungry, Hungry Hippos game as long as they don’t see it go out the door.

2. Stay off Memory Lane. When moving on to your own items to purge, you have to be able to disassociate yourself. I am far too sentimental to have the backbone to toss out things that mean something to me. I have a bath robe (which I’ve never worn) from my grandmother. I have broken plaster of Paris disks of my babies’ handprints. I have decade old Lonely Planet travel guides. Going through all that stuff tends to bog me down as I sit criss-cross-applesauce on the floor. Instead of bagging the stuff, I daydream about sitting in Santorini in my pale blue terrycloth bathrobe, where I’ll be painstakingly gluing a tchotchke back together again while I eat feta on the beach. Memory Lane is where all the hoarders live.

3. Pour the wine and pump the tunes. I find my will power to stay off Memory Lane is pretty weak. So out comes the wine and a great iTunes mix. You have to distract yourself from the task at hand. It’s way easier to put that fraternity t-shirt you stole from your college crush into the Good Will pile when you’re bopping along to “Come On, Eileen.” Sip that Cabernet, and you’ll find it’s way easier to cull through 1,532 finger-paintings; the true masterpieces will just rise to the top. Trust me.

4. Bag it up and move on. This is a tough one. You have to resist the urge to revisit your no-longer-needed stuff. After a good night’s sleep, that rubber chicken might be calling out to you, “Save me! You do need me!”. It’s OK; we’re all weaker in the morning. For instance, every mom knows that packing up baby clothes–even stained onesies–is torture. Be strong. Once you’ve bagged stuff up, put it in your trunk and slam it shut. Head quickly to your local Good Will or church or donation center and then drive away. Fast.

So there you go: just 4 simple steps can help you de-clutter your house and get it ready to put on the market. Get rid of all that extra baggage, and your house will sell in no time. And the added benefit–in addition to having a neater, cleaner house, of course–is that you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay the movers to haul all that junk with you to your next house.

If you can follow these steps and methodically clear out each room in your house…if you can put up all those framed family pictures and weed out those pre-pregnancy clothes from your closet…if you can donate the Baby Papasan and all those cute embroidered jon-jons…well, then you are a stronger woman than I.



{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

When I Blink September 11, 2012 at 7:06 am

It is so hard not to end up crying on the floor while doing this task. Or laughing on the floor. Or basically just sitting on the floor, not doing at all the thing you set out to do when you opened the storage room door… Good luck!


SH September 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

A good rule with the artwork is that you save it for a year (the better ones at least). At the end of the year, we choose our favorite to frame. It goes up on the wall in our kids’ art gallery in the playroom. The rest? The garbage fairy comes in the dead of night to dispose of them…


Kiki Larue September 11, 2012 at 8:15 am

A day late. I did this last night in my kids playroom and man did I waste a lot of time on memory lane.

Not sure I will keep up with it but I lay as much of Naya’s artwork (scribble) on the floor that I can get in my camera frame. Take a picture (print 8×10). Save to dedicated artwork album and file. I do this so I can trash the artwork without feeling guilty but I have yet to trash any of it. Hopefully one day I will have the strength.


Sarah September 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

Top loading VCR!! Ah ha ha ha ha. You better not trash that! Or the picture of our class behind the “do not stand behind this tv stand” sign. You know where the Jon-Jon’s go! 🙂


Tracy September 14, 2012 at 11:03 am

I have major ADD so when I start to purge it ends up looking like the apocolypse has begun in my house. I start in one room on a mission, pick something up that doesn’t belong there, take it to where it belongs. Then I notice that I haven’t folded the laundry yet. So I begin to put the towels away. Oh, we’re almost out of TP! Need to start my grocery list. Go to the kitchen and think “Banana bread with chocolate chips!” My husband comes home and is like “Tracy, WTF have you been doing all day?” And, I’m like “Cleaning, duh…”


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