The urge to purge

The start of my 30-day purge was a zero-sum day. To be sure, I got rid of one item, as per the rules of the challenge—a Paul Bowles novel that I kept intending to read but just couldn’t get into. The tattered paperback wasn’t in good enough condition to donate. Into the single-stream recycle bin it went.

But later in the day I made the mistake of going past the thrift store, one of my favorite haunts. There, on the 50-cent table, was a Looney Tunes drinking glass issued by Pepsi in 1973, adorned with a picture of Foghorn Leghorn. My husband and I have a small collection of these glasses, having nabbed Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and a couple of others (alas, we broke the Elmer Fudd). But we didn’t have Foghorn. I had to buy it.

And therein lies the dilemma at the heart of this cleanout. It’s good to discard things and bring order to my overstuffed closets, drawers and shelves. But my husband and I are collectors, and the inclination to acquire seems antithetical to the urge to purge.

The instigator was my friend Stephanie in California. The idea is to throw out or give away one item on Day 1, two on Day 2, three on Day 3 and so on for 30 days, at which point you will have jettisoned 465 items. Steph was on Day 20 of her own purge when she invited me to join her, propelled by reasons both philosophical and practical: She foresees downsizing one day, plus she’s drawn to the Minimalist movement, which is all about simplicity and decluttering.

“It’s the detritus I’m after,” she said. “The stuff that’s lurking in the spice cabinet, back of fridge, back of underwear drawer. Socks you never wear, photos you don’t care to ever see again, half-burned candles… How many vases do we need? Drinking glasses? Cups and mugs that don’t match?”

Oops. I wish she hadn’t mentioned drinking glasses. The Foghorn Leghorn was a necessity. Really.

My husband and I can’t help it. We just seem to accumulate things, and there’s pleasure in it when it involves interesting objects, art and antiques. Yet, after almost 20 years the house is pretty full, no matter how many yard sales we have to offload the overflow. Indeed, I wonder if deep-sixing 465 items will be enough. Will it even show?

Five days into the purge and counting, I’ve put four blouses, five books, a box of fancy pencils and a day planner that I bought as a present but never gave into a box earmarked for the thrift store. Two packages of chai mix are set aside for the food pantry. The eliminations will get more difficult later, I’m sure, as the daily dump quota moves into the double digits.

Meanwhile, I’m expecting a package from California. Stephanie is sending a pair of Uggs she never wears and that are just my size. The Uggs will be part of her purge. But on my end, what will I have to deep-six to accommodate them?

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