If you’re someone who has jumped on the minimalist bandwagon, this might sound familiar…
You’re on fire, and you’re doing this. You head into one of the over-cluttered rooms in your house and get started. You make decisions, placing things into piles: keep, trash, and donate. You work through the entire room - everything - and you’re feeling super proud of yourself. You look at the donate pile, you look at the trash pile, and you know you totally nailed this purge sesh.
You’re exhausted. You walk into the kitchen and brew yourself a fresh batch of well-deserved coffee. The baby wakes up from his nap, the kids run in the door from school, and you’re back in your normal rhythm for the afternoon.
That night you walk by the room you purged earlier that day and you see the terrifying image of those three perfect piles, torn apart. Stuff is strewn everywhere. All the hard work you did to make decisions was undone. The kids have no idea what they’ve done. You’re so disappointed, so annoyed, your purging fire has been snuffed completely out. Fail.
This happens all the time. It happened to me when I first started my decluttering journey, and I see it happening in my Facebook group and in my students every week. There are a few common purging hurdles just like this one that really suck, but can be totally avoided if you stick to a few basic rules. I’m gonna lay them out for you today because I like you, and I want you to succeed. A simpler life is so worth it!
3 Keys to a Successful Purge Session
Follow all the way through
Listen to me, mama… you are not done with a decluttering session until you have followed all. the. way. through. Got it?
This means everything in your “keep” pile has been double checked, and is something you absolutely love or need, and has been put in its new home. This means everything in your “trash” pile has been bagged up and carried out to the outside garbage cans. This means everything in your “donate” pile has been bagged up and put in the back of your car for a trip to Goodwill. This also means you have set an alarm in your phone to go off in three days’ time - this is your time limit for dropping off any and all donations.
I don’t implement a lot of rules in my philosophy of minimalism because I believe it should work for you and your life, but here you need rules. I see too many failures and too many overwhelmed mamas throwing in the towel because they didn’t follow all the way through and things got undone by their kids, their husband, or the fact that they left the piles sitting for weeks.
Again, YOU ARE NOT FINISHED WITH A PURGE SESSION UNTIL YOU HAVE FOLLOWED ALL THE WAY THROUGH!
Handle the hard stuff like a pro
You’re on a roll in your daughter’s room. You’re purging, you’re making good decisions about her clothes, her toys, you’ve got this. Then you see it - the tiny white dress she was dedicated in - the one your late grandmother handed down to you for her right before she passed away. Heart twists, indecision pours over you.
You sit there going over memories for ten minutes, unable to make a decision. You know you don’t need this little dress, and it’s not something you really feel you want to keep since you have tons of photos of her wearing it, yet you can’t put it in the donate pile. You just can’t do it. You get overwhelmed and decide to take a break.
While you’re sipping coffee and checking Facebook, thirty minutes fly by and it’s time to go pick up the kids from school. Your decluttering session was derailed by a sentimental item you didn’t know what to do with, and now it’s over.
You know that whenever you decide to get back to it, a hard decision about that tiny white dress is waiting for you, so you avoid the task like the plague. Eventually your decluttering progress just turns into a giant mess in your daughter’s room, and you feel like “minimalism just doesn’t work” for you. You miss out on all the freedom because of one hard choice.
This happens all the time! Friend, it’s okay. There’s a better way to handle this kind of thing.
When you find yourself held up on something difficult or sentimental, just set it aside. I’m not saying to put it in a box and hide it in the closet or decide never to deal with it - we need to deal with what tugs on our heart strings - it’s good for us. But you don’t need to deal with it in the middle of a productive purge session if it’s stumping you. Set it aside, and go through that pile later.
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My favorite way to handle this would be to set aside sentimental things or things I felt were too hard to make an instant decision about, finish my decluttering in the room I was working on (and follow all the way through, right??), and then later that evening, after I’d put the kids to bed and had some quiet time, I could focus. I would turn on Netflix and pour myself a glass of wine, and make sound decisions about as many hard things as I could.
Why am I feeling like I can’t get rid of this? Is it because of guilt or obligation? Do I feel like I haven’t honored this memory by taking a photo of it? Is this one of the few special things I should actually keep? For more on dealing with sentimental items, read this.
Treat it like an important appointment
I think a lot of the time, we keep ourselves from succeeding in this journey before it even really starts. We decide this minimalism thing sounds cool and we’ll give it a try, but life is crazy and we’re already overwhelmed, so it doesn’t ever really happen.
Mama listen, do you want this or don’t you? If you really want to be able to have company drop by and not be embarrassed about your house, if you really want to be set free from the constant cycle of cleaning up all day, if you want to have weekends that are spent having fun with your family over having to catch up on the laundry, then make it happen!
If this was any other important appointment, you’d probably write it on your fridge calendar, put it in your phone, wake up, get dressed, and show up for it. Why are you not treating this the same way when it’s so much more important than so many things we do for ourselves? This is the key to a simpler, more intentional life for you and your family - treat it like that!
Choose a day and time block that works for your schedule - however big or small works for your life - and show up. Just walk in a room and get started until your time is up, follow all the way through and be done for the day.
When you show up for yourself and do this, you’re putting yourself on the road to living a better life instead of just cleaning up after it. This matters! Treat purging sessions like the most important appointment on your calendar, and you will succeed.
Other posts that can help you overcome common hurdles in decluttering: