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We Purged 80% of Our Stuff in One Week


Guest post from Caroline of Cow Country Housewife

I want to tell you about my lastest all-over organizing, closet clearing, drawer dumping, box emptying purge. This very purge helped me to clear out ALL of the needless clutter and junk that took up so much space in my house.

I’m calling my purging the “all of the dressers in my house got recalled then my basement got 6 inches of water” purge.

Why the weird name? It’s inspired by true events.

In the span of a week, all of the dressers in my house got recalled by IKEA in their huge recall, and then we had a flash flood and got 6 inches of water in our basement. For real.

During this week, we got to see all of the articles of clothing that we owned. All 5 of the people in my house had their drawers emptied and their contents dumped on the floors.

We saw everything. All of the clothes that we never wear. All of the jeans that fit before the babies came along. And all of the impulsive purchases. All of the hand-me-downs that were kept despite the stains or holes.

We got to see how much junk we were holding onto for the sake of keeping it.

We became painfully aware of how many times we looked into drawers bursting with clothes and wondered what we were going to wear. And all of the times that we went clothes shopping and added more clothes to the over-filled drawers.

It was painful… It was embarrassing… It was ridiculous.

We went through and filled 8 garbage bags FULL of clothes to go to the Salvation Army. And we were still filling bags 2 weeks later as we decide whether or not to keep the remaining clothes before putting them into the new dressers.

The cherry on the cake was the basement flood.

The basement flood was a shock. We’d already had a flood the year before, so we were prepared for the most part. Even with the sump pump and shop vac at the ready, there’s still not much that can keep you calm when you walk into your basement to see water gushing out of the storm drains.

When the flood waters went down and we removed all the standing water, it was then time to throw out everything that was damaged.

We threw out the infant carrier I was keeping for sentimental reasons. We threw out all of the old paint cans and other renovation equipment that had been untouched for years. We threw out or donated many toys we were keeping, even though the children never even missed them.

It was messy… It was frustrating… It was cleansing!

The “all of the dressers in my house got recalled then my basement got 6 inches of water” purge changed from a horribly stressful situation into the motivation that we needed to get rid of all of the junk that was bogging us down.

My husband and I had always talked about how we needed to get rid of all of the junk in the house that had accumulated over the years, but we always found excuses not to do it. It’s too nice outside to spend all day cleaning, I’m exhausted, the kids are grumpy… we had every excuse in the book to avoid purging our stuff.

It took 2 huge setbacks in the span of a week to force us to see that there’s no better time than the present to start.

The purge forced us to take sentimentality out of our decisions. We got smaller dressers so we couldn’t fit more stuff in them — everything needed to be practical, fit well on us, and fit inside the drawers.

The basement flood forced us to take anything that wasn’t stored neatly in a closed plastic container, and throw it out. We got plastic shelving, but anything that didn’t fit in a box or on a shelf has been thrown out. Nothing can be put downstairs without a plastic box, just in case. Everything needs to be contained, organized, and intentionally placed downstairs.

Now, a few weeks later, we’re still finding things to throw out and donate. We were motivated to start, and we’ve been on a roll ever since. We continue to donate bags and boxes to the Salvation Army (which they always accept with open arms.)

We got rid of at least 80% of everything in our home, and we’re not even done yet!

Our house feels lighter, happier, more full of love and less full of stuff — and we decided we will do this kind of purge every year to get rid of all of the clutter and junk that accumulates.

Our forced purge showed us how comfortable we had become with clutter and adding more things into our lives without taking anything away. We learned that we needed to be content with what we have and not always looking for the next thing to buy.

When you’re faced with piles of clothes on the floor and soggy cardboard boxes, it’s easy to decide to get rid of things. If you’re overwhelmed by what you have in your house, try the “all of the dressers in my house got recalled then my basement got 6 inches of water” purge and see how much stuff you’ve been holding onto!

Caroline is a wife, mom of three boys, Christian, penny pincher extraordinaire, frugalista, cloth-diapering-essential-oil-loving-home-birthing hippie, and lover of life. She lives in beautiful Cow Country, PA where she shares her love of saving money on her blog: Cow Country Housewife!

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  • Jenny says:

    Thanks for your encouraging story! It sounds like it was a blessing in disguise.

    I wanted to note something I learned recently. When you donate to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, they will take it all from you and sort it. Anything they won’t sell on their shelves (think stained, worn items), they press into large bundles and ship to Africa and Haiti for people to take for free or very cheap. Unfortunately, these items then stunt the growth of the local economy (local seamstresses can’t compete with freebies) continuing to make poor nations reliant on us.

    I’ve found that, in our area, the local no-kill shelter takes a lot of the stained, worn items in order to make fresh bedding for the animals.

    It was definitely a shift for me, but I am trying to be much more cognizant of the quality of what I put into my Salvation Army/Goodwill donation bags (I’ll fully admit it used to be “Oh, we don’t want this anymore, put it in the donation bag.”)

    Just some food for thought…thanks again for such an encouraging story!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great, great post! It always feels so freeing when I let go of “stuff.” It can be so hard as a frugal-gal to let it out the door!

    • I agree! I LOVE this story!

      It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking things are more important than freeing up storage space (and the time it takes to maintain all that stuff!).

      But our time and space are so much more valuable than hanging on to a box of extra clothing “just in case.”

  • I have a husband that HATES clutter and is constantly on me about throwing things out. I don’t even carry a lot of stuff, it can be annoying LOL. With that said, having less things around you is very liberating and cuts down on what you have to clean.

  • Laura says:

    Wow! I am glad you and your family made it through this disaster with your sense of humor intact and with the blessing of a purged home. I really need that kind of kick in the behind. I need to attack my huge clutter problem NOW. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Kris says:

    1/3 of the state of Louisiana have you beat! They lost everything in their homes including their cars in less than 48 hours.

    Also, I always suggest donating to homeless shelters, halfway houses, and any kind of rehabilitation programs for both humans and animals over goodwill and Salvation Army.

    • Lara says:

      Kind of funny, but most of The Salvation Army’s are homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers. It does depend on what the community in your area needs.

    • You’re 100% right, Kris! Donating is the way to go, for sure. The problem with anything that has water damage is the potential for mold growth, so there’s no way to donate it. But rest assured that anything that was able to get donated WAS donated. 🙂

  • Adrienne says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It has inspired me to think differently about the extra stuff in my house! I have gotten rid of a lot this summer, but more needs to go!

  • WOW!!! You inspired me so much with this post, Caroline! I used to be burdened by clutter too, and I decluttered my entire house, literally touching every single possession we own, about 6 years ago. I’ve decluttered my house every single year since then, and I am always amazed at how much we’re able to get rid of even when I don’t think we’ll find much!

    Stay on the ball with your annual declutter – you will never regret it! Amazing job and thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

  • Meagan says:

    Good for you for making the best of a bad situation! Our family will be relocating over 2,000 miles in 3 months so I will be going thru each room in the house and purging relentlessly. There is no need to pay to move something you don’t need. I used to be really good at doing this, but got a little lax over the past few years.

  • Leisa says:

    Happy to see this as we are trying to do the same thing at this very time. Not because of disaster but for sanity. We have a medium size home that seems to have gotten smaller. No the house didn’t drink the kids got bigger plus one of our older children moved back in for a year and a half, with my grandson, and 3 dogs, as she went through a divorce. She recently moved back out kinda. And by that I mean she,y grandson, and one of the dogs now live in another home but half their stuff is still here. Plus for the last 6 yrs I have been living with cronic pain that makes house keeping a difficult chore that doesn’t always get done.

    So what are we doing? Take a tv horder approach and taking everything thing outside (room by room) spreading it out in the back yard so we can really see what is there (but the neighbors cant.) And sorting it keep, give away , and trash. Hopefully having the keep being the smallest. We started with the boy room first. ( they are 11,12, and 13) girls will be tomorrow and parents being next week end. When you can’t walk in the room with out stepping on stuff it way over due for change. Noni would be so happy. ( from a slob comes clean. Com)
    Anyway thanks for sharing some of us are so ashamed to admit how bad it is because we feel like the only one that has this problem or challenge.

  • I actually had a basement get filled with 6 inches of water when the water main broke for the neighborhood and filled my room. Ruined most of my stuff and had to pretty much start over, but it was pretty freeing at the same time

  • Stacy says:

    Crystal, thanks for taking all of these guest posts on downsizing. They are so wonderful to read.

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