Ten Things I Learned from Purging My House


Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.Who doesn’t like a tidy, clutter free, organized house?

My hand is in the air. And I bet yours is too.

Well I’ve been organizing and purging stuff from my house and it feels wonderful.

It also is looking better. Not always in the open and living spaces, but behind cupboard and closet doors. Book shelves.

And that is a good feeling. To open a closet door and see more of the white shelves. To pull open a bathroom drawer and see everything in one quick glance.

I started in my bathroom. That place where shampoo, body products, hair accessories, and beauty stuff accumulate. One large garbage sack later, all items left were just necessary products and nothing had an expired date.

Ironic how we think one day I may just wear that shade of lipstick. Years pass, and that day never comes.

Sorting, processing, throwing out and reorganizing our house is a lot like doing the same to our life. Not everything you come across is all bad and needs to go, nor is everything all good and needs to stay.

Somethings have served their purpose and now can be passed onto someone else (baby things). Somethings are expired (that jar of bright blue polish I never got around to wearing). Somethings you still need, and may always need (kitchen dishes), and somethings were only for a season (card making supplies).

10 things I learned from decluttering my house, plus decluttering tips:


1. We like to collect stuff. Get a few people living under the same roof and pretty soon that stuff is tasking up all available spaces, drawers, and horizontal surfaces. It is easier to bring stuff in than toss stuff out. So, don’t delay to long.  The longer we wait to organize and purge, the more stuff we will have to go through.

2. Life is about stages. And it seems each stage needs new and different equipment. What a baby needs are far different from what a teen needs. What a runner needs are not the same as a swimmer. Every stage and interest needs different stuff. When we have lots of stages and ages we need more stuff. But as time goes on, we can get rid of stuff from stages that have been outgrown or moved past.

3. Memories get attached to and tied up in our stuff. It is hard to see a box of baby clothes the kids wore and not walk down memory lane. I was surprised about how many good memories I came across as I was purging. Even silly stuff, like a can of sunscreen from a few years ago that we had taken on a trip conjured up some snapshot moments of that trip.

Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.4. A little bit of purging here and there makes a big dent. Occasionally I spent most of the day organizing and sorting and tossing, like the day I tackled my office. But even that day had interruptions and pauses, including a trip to drop a kid off, running errands, and visiting for an hour or two with a friend. Other days I had ten minutes and sorted through one drawer. An hour and a half turned into a bathroom purge. Half an hour translated into organizing a book-case. Over time, all add up to a lighter and more organized house.

5. Tastes change over time. That octagonal set of dishes I bought before I was married, the ones I haven’t used in years, well my tastes have changed. And that is alright. Get rid of things you no longer use, that no longer speak to you, or compliment your current tastes.

6. Hobbies and interests fall by the side. I have lots of card making supplies. Stamps, embossing powders, stickers, fancy paper, edging scissors, and pens of every color. But the last time I pulled all the stuff out to make cards in the last ten years was to make cards with some friends. I no longer have that desire anymore and am spending my crafting time doing other things. And that is all right. For years my daughter and I used those supplies. I had stamping birthday parties for her, and craft nights for her friends. But that stage is gone. Now someone else can use them. Don’t keep things you are no longer interested in or will do only every ten years. Pass the blessing along to others.

7. There is a reason we hold onto things. Maybe we were poor growing up. Maybe things represent security. Maybe we want to be prepared for anything or every possible situation. Maybe our stuff holds memories and we are holding onto those memories. Maybe we think we may become poor again and won’t be able to buy another, so we keep one and a spare. Maybe we are to overwhelmed to even tackle a small project. Maybe we hear our mother’s voice, or someone else’s and believe a lie about us or our stuff.

As I was cleaning, I thought about my reasons for keeping things. Like most things, it was a complicated reason of several things. First, I was poor growing up. I needed to keep and take of what I had because I wasn’t getting more. (I still have mechanical pencils that still work from my college days.) Back in my twenties, there was not a Walmart on nearly ever corner where you could buy things at a reasonable price. My first set of dishes and silverware were expensive. Now I can go to Walmart and buy a set of dishes for 4 for $20.00. I sometimes forget this and keep things I don’t really like or want, forgetting I can buy a new one at a reasonable price and in many more options than years ago. I grew up not wasting or getting rid of the one item, so I do better donating things to a charity, rather than tossing them.

As I am purging and sorting, I remind myself that I am no longer poor. That I can afford to replace items I don’t like or want. And that I don’t need to keep items I don’t like or want anymore. These truths help me be more ruthless. The truth is that most things are replaceable if I accidentally throw away something I may want in the future. (That unused punch bowl.)

As for things with memories, like that prom dress you wore in high school and still have and will never wear again, take a picture and toss the item. Now you can revisit those memories anytime you want.

Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.8. Things wear out and need to be replaced. Those sheets that are twenty years old and worn to 10-thread count need to be tossed. In fact, most linens have a life of less than 10 years. One lady, whose kids I used to babysit as a teen, had a wonderful idea. “Every ten years everyone needs a new wedding shower because all their items from their first one are now worn out and need replacing.” Nine years after my wedding the truth of her comment was reality. As you toss items, make a list of the items you need to replace. (You just may need to throw yourself your own shower!)

9. We need to toss out the old to make room for the new. To keep our houses from bulging, toss out something old so the new fits in. This works in our closet, drawers, and bookshelves. It also works in our lives. Get rid of the old lies and believe the truth. Get rid of those t-shirts from 15 years ago and get some that fit and look better. It is better to have fewer things that work, that we enjoy, that bring us happiness, and that we use, than a houseful of things we don’t.

Ask yourself: Does it serve a purpose? Does it remind me of memories? (Maybe you can take a picture and toss the item.) Is it something I use regularly enough to keep? If not, can I buy a new one or rent one if I latter need it? Does this create peace for me (like artwork) and make my place prettier? Do I really need this? Why am I holding onto this?

10. You will find surprises. Things you thought were lost will resurface. Things you didn’t even know you had, will be discovered. And things you had hidden and forgot about will be found. In a coffee table drawer, I found an unopened bar of chocolate that I had hidden about 6 years ago. Along with the novel I was reading at the time. Keep a sense of humor and wonder.

Purging and sorting our accumulated stuff within our spaces can be a happy walk down memory lane. It can also be hard and sad. It can be confronting the past and our beliefs in our self and life. It can be a surprise and a laugh.

Like in every other area of life, give yourself grace.

This is not a competition.

Our stuff does not determine our worth or our day.

No shame or guilt allowed. We are learning more about our self and our past through our accumulated stuff. And in the process, we are changing and becoming new people.

Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.



PS. Want to see your clutter in a new light? And get a chuckle? Read Kathi Lipp’s post, Why Clutter is Like Every Bad Boyfriend You Ever Had

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Join the discussion: What have you learned through de-cluttering?

Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory);  Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Decluttering our house can teach us lessons about ourselves. Here's what I learned through purging my house.

24 Replies to “Ten Things I Learned from Purging My House”

  1. Decluttering is so satisfying but can be tricky! I got rid of our nice punch bowls and have needed them at least three times since! One point I would add is to remember the needs and preferences of other family members when decluttering. I prefer appliances put away but my husband likes some of the readily available, so they stay. Lovely photos and great tips, Theresa.

    • There always seems to be something we get rid of that we later want. Ugg. Yes, remembering the preference of other family members is s great point. The house needs to suit and serve all those living there. Thanks for the great tips, Robynne.

  2. Good points Theresa. I like how you said that there is a reason why we don’t toss. Although it’s not obvious, it could be a hidden subconscious reason too. I am getting rid of a lot of stuff too. It has changed my perspective on buying. Now I don’t buy everything I see, rather, I ask a lot of questions before making a choice. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I am doing a little of that. Have you seen those hoarder shows? It’s not that bad, I don’t collect garbage. But my recycling needs to be taken away, I go through closets but they seem to multiply, I gave up scrap booking. I like blogging. Oh, Theresa, my desk is a mess, isn’t that the sign of genius?

    • I think blogging is more fun than scrap booking. I had a hard time cutting my pictures and coming up with ways to decorate my pages. Yes, Rebecca, I have read that a messy desk is the sign of a genius. ☺

  4. We have recently moved and that process did a major dent and decluttering in our ‘stuff’. Even so, since moving, we are unpacking and doing even more because we are actually answering some of your great questions! Thanks.

    • You are welcome, Linda. We have moved many times in the past and it was always a good opportunity to sort through and purge the house and our stuff. It was one of things I loved about moving. We haven’t moved for so long now, I am having to sort and purge now without the reason of the move forcing the issue.

  5. Hey, Theresa, this is fabulous! Since our adult son moved out nearly 2 years ago, i’very been trying to purge. My husband? Not so much. Your encouragement may be the jumpstart I’ve been needing to get going again. Thanks and blessings for sharing your insights!

  6. This is such a great post, Theresa! Like you suggested, I’ve started taking pictures of things I want to remember but really don’t need to keep. As far as seasons go, the other day I piled all my girls’ old dress-up stuff into a bag and gave it to a friend who has three young daughters. It was a bit sad to let go of all those things that used to bring such delight to my girls, but they no longer play like that, and it was time. I can’t help but wonder … did you eat the chocolate bar and/or finish reading the book? 🙂

    • Lois you got me laughing with your question. Yes, I hate to say it, but I did eat the chocolate bar! Who can pass up a perfectly good chocolate bar? I never did finish the book. Oh well. But I did return it to its rightful owner, my daughter.

      I love the idea of taking a picture of things. My daughter (oh these techy kids we have) came up with that idea.

      It can be sad to let go of things when so many happy memories are attached to them. Like the dress up clothes from your daughters. Just remember, you may be giving away the clothes, but you get to keep the memories. 🙂

  7. Great post! I declutter every year now… If I haven’t used, worn or no longer like it in the last 12 months then I either pass it on, donate it to charity or recycle it!

    You’re welcome to drop by for a cup of inspiration anytime.

    • Thanks for the invite, Jennifer. Yes, a year is a good time frame. There have been times I have been hesitant to get rid of something. So I put it away (like in a storage place). And then if I don’t use it for a few months or a year, then I get rid of it for good.

  8. Thanks for the reminders, Theresa. I have been back at working on the decluttering and reducing around here. Funny about the sheets, I just threw away my favorite set from when we first got married – almost 10 years ago! 🙂

    Here’s a quote I wrote down from a YouTube video I was watching on decluttering:
    “You don’t get a prize at the end of you die with a whole bunch of useful items still in your house.” Gayle Goddard That makes me laugh, but is also kind of uncomfortable to consider, hopefully in a motivating way! Because, it’s true – having “useful stuff” isn’t one of the things I expect to be rewarded for in heaven!

    • Great quote, Mary. It made me laugh. No. There are no rewards for “useful stuff” after we die.

      After my dad died, my husband, pre-teen son, and I spent a week cleaning out his apartment. At one point, as we were sorting through and boxing all the useful stuff, my son just looked at my husband and me and joked, “When you get old you are only allowed a sleeping bag and a spork. That way it won’t take me long to sort through all your stuff.” That gave us all a good laugh. But it did make me think about not wanting to die with to much useful stuff others have to take care of.

  9. Theresa, you’re speaking my language. I LOVE purging and decluttering my home (although you wouldn’t know that at the moment!!). There is such a sense of freedom that comes with getting rid of stuff. When clutter takes over it drives me, literally, to distraction.

    I’ve learned that clutter in my home creates clutter in my spirit. I try to keep up with the amount of stuff because I don’t like feeling unsettled internally. I love the idea of throwing myself a shower every ten years. 😉 So fun!

    Great post today!

    • You said it well. “When clutter takes over it drives me, literally, to distraction.” I know that feeling so well. I remember someone saying, “The more stuff we have the more stuff we have to care for, remember where it is, and then upkeep it, which can be a big drain on our time and energy. Want more energy and time, get rid of stuff.” It does clutter our spirit. Blessings, Jeanne. Let me know when your shower is and I’ll come. 🙂

  10. There is a lot of truth here! I know I tend to hang on to stuff, especially when it comes to my kids and things in the kitchen (I just know that someday I’m going to need that dish…).
    The questions you share at the end are very helpful! I’ll be using them as I do some more cleaning and decluttering in the coming weeks.

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