Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Purge

I've spent the first half of my life acquiring all this stuff and 
now I'll spend the second half getting rid of it! 
~Olivia Evans (played by Patricia Arquette)

I love the above quote from the movie Boyhood. The character Olivia, a divorced mother of two, utters this when she is in her mid-to-late forties and I can relate fully. After my last move of 1001 boxes, I realized there were projects I am never going to complete (or even begin for that matter). For example, I am probably, at his point, never going to sew my own dresses or paint a portrait or even make a lamp out of that cool piece of driftwood, so why I am I  hanging on to boxes of vintage sewing patterns and cloth, painting supplies and driftwood? In the past couple of years, I have been feeling weighed down by all these good intentions surrounding me.

Soon after the divorce, I started to purge my belongings-some voluntarily, some by my ex. Clothing that no longer fit my middle-aged body (both in fashion and form) were some of the first to go. It hurt to see all my lovely vintage dresses lined up in a closet and never worn. I decided it was time to send them back to the Land o' Thrift for a new generation. I also sent back all the items I said I would sell on eBay or whatnot. I have already too much to do and my work travels make it hard to actually schedule the sales. And, anything bought specifically for the marital home had to go. Afterwards, I felt much lighter in spirit.

Eventually, I started to purge coffee mugs, dishes, extras of things I rarely used and registered a zero on the joy scale. I realized, as an introvert, I probably would unlikely be hosting cocktail soirees, backyard BBQs or dinner parties and so I whittled down my large collection of vintage dinnerware. I gave away boxes of knick knacks to friends, charity and (unfortunately) the landfill. I took care of maybe 10% of the clutter I had moved in to the Shotgun house.

Right before I left for work in Puerto Rico (April 2015), I read the Konmari book and I found it to be an easy read. I started slowly purging and it was very freeing to let go of things no longer serving their intended purpose to bring me joy. I told myself that when I returned in a few weeks, I would follow the steps precisely and rid myself of more baggage.

However, 3 weeks in PR turned into 6 and, by the time I returned, my life became messy and busy and I lost the Konmari spirit. I also started thrifting again and I never caught back up with my plan.

So, currently, the state of my goal to rid myself of joyless weights has stalled somewhat, but yesterday I did manage to recycle pounds and pounds of old work paperwork. I also threw old magazines into the recycle box. And, I have a large box of items ready to go to the thrift stores.

Next up on my purge list are the books. They fill every nook and cranny of this old house. I think, even if I live another 50 years, I could never read all of this material. For some reason books are the hardest thing for me to give up and I find myself pining for stories I shall never read. However, my hope is by freeing myself from all these material goods will give me a sense of calm and lightness of mind and spirit and maybe I'll find time to read again.

I will never be a minimalist, but I hope to find a happy medium between my love of stuff, love of thrifting and actual need. And this brings me to another great quote from Boyhood that I have been finding to be spot on:

"At some point you're no longer growing up, you're aging. But no one can pinpoint that exact moment." ~Richard Linklater

I have no idea if I am at that point yet (my body seems to think I am past it some days, other days I barely feel my age), but my guess is that after that precise moment, it becomes much easier to purge things.

(Photo taken at an antique store in Pittsburgh, PA)


  1. 55 seemed to be the turning point for me and I spent the next 5 years purging. I've never regretted a thing. Books were my hardest thing too. I donated over 200 to the local library and thrifted the rest. I only kept reference books and first editions. After the books, everything else was a piece of cake.

    So glad to hear from you again! Glad you came through it all with your sense of humor in tact. :)


  2. Hi Vonne! It's wonderful to hear from you! How are things going?

    Yes, the books...I have boxes to go to Half-Price, the Little Libraries, the thrift store, my sister's nursing home and, yet, I still have stacks over my head. Ridiculous! This weekend I really made head-way and the house, I think, is sighing a big relief for the weight I've lifted off of her. ;)

  3. I remember the first time my husband's granny came to our house for a visit, the first thing she noticed were are the books. I told her I'd hauled those books from the east coast to the west and half way back across the country again. She ask me if I'd heard the story about their house burning down when my FIL was a baby, I told her I had, she sad that fire broke her from collecting. She said she never formed any attachments to things after that. It took me another 30 years, ha! but one day I finally ask myself, what would I go back into a burning house for? That's when I finally started purging.

    Hubs and I are doing well, btw. Still working on our old farmhouse, looking forward to retirement. Getting older, slowing down just a bit, but staying healthy, so far!

    I meant to say last time, love your bathroom redo!

  4. Thanks! I still have some details to finish up. We'll see how long it takes me! ;)

    Glad to hear you all are doing well. I love the slowing down part. I am so looking forward to that one day.

    And, the story from granny is a perfect example of why it's silly to collect so many things. I really need to let go of more. Thanks for that story!