January 14, 2014

I was over having tea with a friend today when the conversation turned to purging - the good kind of purging.  Getting rid of stuff for a clean, clutter-free home.  I felt a bit restless when I got home.  I think I'm feeling the urge…the Urge to Purge.  Perhaps because it's January and some of our Christmas gifts have rendered some possessions redundant.  Or perhaps it's because the weather is so cloudy and grey in northern Ontario this time of year I'm desperate to Change. Something. Quick.  Whatever the motivation, the Urge to Purge is bubbling not-so-quietly under the surface.  I'm glad for it.

I've talked about stuff purging before…how stuff gums up the works as well as my own experience with my things, but I still struggle.  I mean, we moved into a new house this past July (that's, ahem, over 6 months ago), amalgamated all our stored possessions and it is only just now that I am getting into the leftover boxes.  I'm finding tons of stuff - handfuls of prayer cards, jars of all sizes, old decor that I like, but that have no place in our small house.  It's completely overwhelming to open a box with four hundred strange and small items in it.  We have all of this good stuff, some of which I haven't seen in years and most of which I didn't miss or forgot I had.  What do I do with it all?

I don't think my problem is that I can't throw things away, I think my problem is that I still struggle with feeling irresponsible for getting rid of something that we *may* use down the road, even if "down the road" means 5 or 8 years.  I'm finding things I packed away over 4 years ago that don't really work anymore - sticky notes that don't stick, pens that don't write, prayerbooks I never prayed with, etc.  But I diligently kept them and moved them from house to house to house.   Because it's irresponsible of me to buy new pens when I have had, at some point in my life, possession of six hundred of them, right?

Nope.  I've bought new pens.  Lots of them.  Because I don't like old pens - the way they write or the fading ink.  (I'm fanatical about pens sometimes.  It's one of my many gifts.) And yet, I still hold onto the old ones.  I feel as if I could be a good candidate for one of those redecorating shows, not so much hoarders, but that show that has people go into a room in a house that's usually busting out at the seams with stuff and they give the owner 6 "keep" boxes to fill, and ask them to donate and/or sell and/or trash the rest.  They ask the owner penetrating questions about each item that is kept - do you like this?  What does it mean to you?  Would you take this with you if you were about to lose your home? - and other such questions.  None of the things I have in my basement would make my "losing your home to a tornado, what do you grab" list.  In fact, there is precious little that would.  It's an interesting thing to think about - the prospect of losing everything you own.

And don't get me started on holy things.  What's with having to keep every last broken rosary, statue or prayer card that has ever come into my grubby little hands?  Does anyone else have trouble with this?  I have prayer cards from funerals for people I can't remember, or never knew.  I can't throw them away - they have a picture of Jesus or Mary or St. Joseph on them.  It must be sacrilegious to throw out holy pictures, right?  But just where does one put things one won't ever use or look at?

Maybe that's the million dollar question I'm missing?  Ok, maybe it's one of the million dollar questions.  Where do I put things?  Shouldn't I have a place for everything - and then I can put everything in it's place?   If I don't have a space for my things, then should I really keep them, or buy them in the first place?

And not only that, but why?  That's another million dollar question.  Why am I keeping a load of pens, long-hair accoutrements when I've had short hair for years, dental floss/toothpaste/deodorant we don't like, and so much else, that I have to pile it all up into boxes marked "miscellaneous" and store them in my dark basement for another 5 years?  Guilt?  Fear?  Not good reasons to carry loads of things around with me, in my estimation.

So after all this rumination, I don't have any answers.  I know that I have lots of work to do, not only in my house, but in my heart as well.  I've often thought that real purging begins in the heart - if I don't work on why I keep things, I'll just replace whatever I throw away, or worse, bring more stuff I don't need into the house.  I feel that my attitude towards my things is slowly changing, but not as fast as I would like it to be. There's not much I can do about it, except go through every single last box, one silly item after another.  Maybe then, after I've wasted too much of my precious time doing that, I will learn that things really aren't worth the box they're packed in.  Here's hoping.


  1. 'really aren't worth the box they're packed in.' Bingo. That's the sort of thought (when I turn it into a question) that frees me more than anything else from the tyranny of stuff. I ask myself if I'd rather have a wonderfully empty drawer in my file cabinet that I CAN FILL WITH ANYTHING I WANT.... OR this batch of old junk I'd forgotten I even had? Like you, I have trouble with the holy things. My parish has a box where we can toss old rosaries and medals, etc, for them to give away. But a hundred billion prayer cards? It can be tough. Good luck!

  2. I remember your next door neighbour telling me that the holy junk (my term) can be thrown in graves. I had a mental picture of Paul throwing in broken rosaries and prayer cards before he threw in the last shovelfuls of dirt. Check with Louie.

    1. Ha! Good call. I will check with him and give him bags of stuff. Although, I wonder if you can bury them yourself, in the garden or something when you're planting? St. Joseph becomes part of the landscape.

  3. Flylady (Flylady.com) provides an awesome and encouraging plan for people with clutter/disorganization/perfectionism issues. It can work for nearly anyone, even if you work, have kids, and/or are ill. It's helped me a lot.

  4. I also have an obsession with having enough pens...and never know what to do about old holy cards and prayer books, what to do??? A few years ago I got into fly lady. Need to try her again.



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