How We Purge

posted by Andrea | 02/27/2017
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Last week, I talked a bit about why I’ve never been one to participate in “purging challenges” — not because I think they are bad, but simply because I feel that the point of purging is not to hoard items for extended periods of time just to “win” a challenge; but rather, to remove unneeded and unwanted items from our homes and lives.

Plus, I feel that in order to successfully maintain a relatively clutter-free lifestyle, purging must be a regular activity — not a once-a-year challenge.

So after publishing that post (and after receiving a fair amount of questions) I decided that if I explained how I DON’T purge, I should also share exactly how I DO purge the things we no longer need or want in our home!

As I hope you’ve come to expect, our system is VERY simple, basic, normal — not glamorous at all.

Our Purging System:

I keep a medium-size cardboard box (about 24″ x 15″ x 15″) in our laundry room and ANY TIME I feel like we should donate something, I toss it into that box immediately.

I don’t worry about folding anything or keeping it neat — I just toss anything and everything we want to purge in the box and sort/organize it later (see below).

Clothing and shoes that are too small for Nora — in the box

Clothing I don’t think fits me well or I don’t feel great in anymore — in the box.

Clothing or shoes Dave says he won’t wear anymore — in the box.

Books or toys we no longer use — in the box.

Kitchen gadgets I don’t need — in the box.

Gifts we have no use for — in the box (yes, even if they are brand new).

Baby things we’ve outgrown or don’t love — in the box.

Anything James outgrows that I don’t like enough to save or give to future family members — in the box.

Home decor items I’m tired of — in the box.

Anything I replace with a newer or more updated version — in the box.

If we have larger items, we just set them on the counter next to the box and if it’s a REALLY big item (like furniture) we’ll usually try to sell it or post it for free on Craigslist so we don’t need to physically haul it away ourselves.

When the box is full, I separate the contents into “like categories” (all clothing together, all toys together, all home items together) and put them into paper grocery bags. Then I load up my car and drop off the contents at our local donation center which we pass every time we bring Nora to school.

I keep the original box in my laundry room and start the whole process all over again.

On average, I easily fill our box every 2 months (sometimes much faster depending on the time of year!) I’ve noticed there are 3 times a year when I do more “major” purging

1. Mid October 

This is the time of year when we purge SOOOOOOO many outdoor toys, sand toys, kiddie pools, etc. I also go through all our summer clothing, sandals, swimwear, etc. and purge anything I know will be too small next year or anything that won’t fit another child at the appropriate time of year.

I think I subconsciously do this in preparation for the massive influx of holiday gifts… but also because we’re inside more, and after a long spring and summer of being outside, I want to declutter our home.

2. Mid January

After Nora’s birthday in late November and then unending Christmas parties from mid-December through early January, our house always seems to be bursting at the seams by mid-January!

I take this time to purge holiday decorations and anything seasonal (before I pack it away for another year!) I also use the kid’s excitement of their new toys to encourage them to purge several of their old toys, books, games, clothing, etc.

And over the month of January, I try to do a once-over of every space in the house (really quick, nothing crazy) just to weed out any stray things we’re not using or don’t need anymore. It’s always amazing what things I find in the back of drawers or in the corner of the closets 🙂

3. Early April

Since Dave and I rarely travel over his school’s Spring Break, I often use that week to do some serious “spring purging” around our house.

I’ve never really been big on “spring cleaning” but when it comes to purging, I definitely feel a strong desire to declutter once the weather starts to warm up and we head outside again. I think it’s because the kids are inside less, so I feel like it’s easier to get rid of things without them “helping” me the entire time 🙂

We also end up moving many of their “inside toys” outside for the spring and summer (things like balls, trucks, shopping carts, etc.) and then when October comes around, we often end up trashing or donating them instead of bringing them back inside.

I told Dave it’s like we just “phase out” their toys — they are inside toys for the first winter, then they become outside toys in the spring/summer/fall, and then they magically disappear the following winter when the kids are inside, too busy with their new Christmas toys to remember the old ones that used to be outside!

For me, the one-box system works really well right now.

In previous years, I kept a single paper bag in every closet. I loved the convenience of this system, but the kids started getting into the bags and pulling things out. So since the box is up on the laundry room counter, the kids can’t reach (or see) into the box, so it’s easier for everyone this way 🙂

Oh, and I should also mention that our laundry room is right off the kitchen and mudroom, so it’s a very handy location for our donations — easy to toss items in as we decide to donate, and easy to bring the donated goods out to my car when I want to drop them off!

How do YOU handle purging?

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23 comments

  1. ShellyL

    02/28/2017

    Love the box system. I am going to implement that right away. I always say “I need to donate this” but leave it where it is, so it eventually does not get donated. We are bursting at the seams in our house right now and need to do some major decluttering. One problem I do have is that some of our items are pretty worn and i feel guilty donating them in poor condition. I also feel guilty trashing them. What do you do if an item seems worn? How do you determine what’s trash and what is actually good enough to donate?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! You need to have a spot to put those “I need to donate this” items otherwise they never actually move out of your house!
    As for the trash — I really do throw away anything that is in bad condition. I figure I don’t want to burden the thrift store by requiring them to throw it away — and I doubt anyone will want to sell something with rips, holes, or stains. I talk more about that in this post.

    [Reply]

    Heart and Haven Reply:

    I used to work for Goodwill in Portland, and they would try to find uses for every donation.
    -Clothing that couldn’t be sold in that store could oftentimes be sold in bulk to MX, etc.
    -We even had a department “wipers” where clothing would be cut up and sold as bulk rags (many businesses would buy, auto repair, etc.). This was a good paying job for many with various disabilities that couldn’t work traditional jobs.

    If in doubt, ask the donation center as you wouldn’t want to burden them with extra trash charges for items they couldn’t use

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  2. denise

    02/27/2017

    Andrea, where do you get those handled paper bags? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    They were/are what I get my grocery deliveries in. I had a TON of them from doing the curbside pickup all last year — now I don’t have as many but they are SO nice!

    [Reply]

  3. Heart and Haven

    02/27/2017

    – Toys & household: I keep a large rubbermaid in the garage for toys and household items. I will donate when it gets full (usually a few times a year),
    – Furniture: I either try to consign or craigslist, if it doesn’t sell, then Goodwill
    – For kids clothes: for my daughter, i have a cardboard box on top shelf of her closet. When items get too small they go in the box. Once I have an entire “set” (size/season), I will try to sell on craigslist for 2 weeks, whatever doesn’t sell goes to Goodwill. For the boys (I have 3 little ones) they are stored in rubbermaid bins, by size, in our storage closet. Once my youngest outgrows, same as above.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like a good system!

    [Reply]

  4. Natalia

    02/27/2017

    I like the idea of phasing out the toys :). With 2 (foster) kids in the house, it feels like my house is going to explode any minute! Our family doubled over-night, but our house got smaller (or so it feels). I can hardly wait to move some of the toys outside!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    phasing out the toys has been wonderful for our home. The kids never miss their toys and we have A LOT less stuff!!

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  5. Hana

    02/27/2017

    We do the same thing, with a box that’s right at the top of our entry stairs :). It’s basically the center of the house, so it’s convenient for us to drop things in as we pass by. Plus, it always feels SO great to get it out of that space when it’s full!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! I love emptying out the box and bringing the donations away!!

    [Reply]

  6. Jo

    02/27/2017

    You are such a motivation and encouraging writer! Just found 3 boxes in various rooms of my house full of stuff that I’ve been meaning to donate. It sure builds up fast lol.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s great! And that’s one reason why I like keeping everything in one location, so I don’t forget about random bags and boxes in different areas of the house. Happy purging!

    [Reply]

  7. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    02/27/2017

    My system is shockingly similar 🙂 I keep a tub in one of our closets to throw everything in. Sometimes we decide to try to sell a few things, but most of it just gets donated.

    I always end up purging and organizing a lot in the Spring (so we can get rid of anything we didn’t need or use throughout the colder months) and Fall (when I get rid of warm weather things we didn’t use). I can’t stand our house feeling cramped once the weather gets cold and we’re stuck inside a lot more.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — not sure it’s so shocking to me 🙂 I have a feeling we have lots of “similar systems” around our houses!

    [Reply]

  8. Trudy

    02/27/2017

    We’re empty nesters so I have a hamper in my guest room closet to put clothes and shoes for donation throughout the year. Lucky for me, our church has a clothing donation box for a known charity on the property…when the hamper bag is full….it goes to the box.

    I purge by months…In November, I pull out Christmas things…anything not needed is donated to so they can sell it for the upcoming holiday. In January, February, might do a bigger project in the house (update floors or painting or home repair that might be more costly). During that time, do some random purging and put in a box or bag for Vietnam Vets to pick up. Lay somewhat low till March….March I start “Spring” cleaning inside and give myself the month to finish, will hard core purge at this time. In April, I start my outside yard cleanup and garage. Will either bring it to a donation center or call Vietnam Vets, depends on the volume.

    I’m on a five year plan. At the very soonest, I could retire in five years from work. I am trying in the next five years to update my home so that if we decided to downsize, we could sell the house with a minimum of work.

    This will sound harsh, but over the years, have had to help clear out a house due to a loved one’s passing and realize what a time consuming, awful task it can be for a loved one….don’t want my kids to have tons of stuff to go through when our time comes.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is a great plan — way to think ahead! I’m sure your retirement days will be more enjoyable with your home and things in order! Also, I know SO many people who finally decided they needed to get their own homes in order after dealing with a loved one passing away and seeing how much stress it causes for the living relatives. You are smart!

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  9. Brooke Shindler

    02/27/2017

    I have a small bookcase that I put purged items on. Top shelf is when I decide they need to leave, middle is after I put them on Buy Nothing, and bottom is to donate. It sounds like a lot, but I promise it’s not. Nothing sits very long.

    [Reply]

    Brooke Shindler Reply:

    I should note that while I also purge regularly, I also do challenges. I find that they force me to reconsider what I really need in my life. I don’t always finish them, and that’s ok. The point for me is to stetch my thinking about “stuff.” For example, I decided for the last 3 months of last year, I would remove 500 items form my house (net, so anything brought into the house counted again my out count). More so then purging, it really made me consider what I brought into the house. It also got me to start using those nice toiletry samples instead of saving them for something special, and let go of some items that I’d been waffling on letting go of (spoiler: I don’t miss them). Well worth it for me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this is a great challenge (especially since the things you bring in counted against your total) Way to go purging that many things over the holidays!

    [Reply]

  10. Ruth

    02/27/2017

    I do the same thing. My box is in the garage though…I like the feeling of it being that much closer to the outside of my house! Lol!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, my kids would totally get into it if it were in the garage 🙂 Plus, our garage is used regularly (the doors are open a lot), so I’d worry about clothing and other things getting dusty and dirty if I kept it in the garage since our box doesn’t have a lid!

    [Reply]