Project #Purge365: A Month of Daily Tasks

This post is part of the #Purge365 series about a midlife journey through a year of purging a house – and a life – of unnecessary things. Click here to see all previous posts.

I’m so sorry, everyone. Spring Break has thrown me for a loop – yet another First World Problem, right?

If before I have felt like I lost half a year of my life every time we moved overseas, then I now feel about vacations the same way. You lose an entire week prior to leaving with planning and packing, especially if you are taking eight high school girls with you. Then you are gone for a week. And after you come back, you need another two weeks to catch up on all the stuff that didn’t get done.

Poof, a month gone! This is poison for a writer. Not writing regularly makes you lose that urgency, that joy, that constant thinking about what you’re going to write next. Before you know it, you’ve lost the plot.

Luckily, I am prepared. I pull out my notes app and scan through the bullets I’ve jotted down when there was no time for blog posts. They give a really good glimpse into the day-by-day of this project, so I’ve decided to share them here without much ado.

February 1

Peripherals Box. No doubt you have one in your house too – a carton or drawer full of cords for devices you no longer own. Big heavy printer cables that are antiquated. Ethernet plugs that our kids would group with turntables as quaint relics of the past. Audio and video cords when you still had to connect all the electronics with each other.

box full of old charging cords
If you haven’t used it in 10 years, it’s safe to say you won’t need it anytime soon.

I dump all the contents on the floor and begin sorting, but then I think: Why? I haven’t needed these in years. I won’t need them again. I take the entire box and dump it. Done for the day in about 15 seconds!

February 2

Spice Cupboard. This is always gratifying and not gratifying at the same time. Every time I do this, I think: Now I will finally find the dill when I need it. But no matter how I sort the herbs and spices, I never am able to find anything beyond the first row. We once lived in a house with a pullout spice rack, and it was divine. I would gladly choose my next house based solely on the presence of such a spice rack in its kitchen.

Today I find: Two large containers of cinnamon, both 3/4 full, four (!) boxes of toothpicks, and two jars of cream of tartar. At the rate one uses cream of tartar, I’ll be all set for the next 20 years. Something nags at my mind. Oh yeah, I remember! I go and cross cinnamon off the shopping list.

February 3

Under Jabulani’s Sink. It’s a treasure trove! First I discard bags upon bags of rubber bands for his braces, which came off 5 years ago. Then 17 rolls of dental floss. Then I go downstairs for more bags to hold all the empty deodorants and mouthwash bottles arranged on the vanity. My sons are incapable of using the trash bin right next to the sink. If I didn’t occasionally intervene like I’m doing today, every shampoo bottle they’ve ever owned since the age of two would still be standing in the shower. Next comes a wad of bracelets, the kind you earn when you’ve swum your first lap at summer camp. There might be sentimental value to these, but I can’t stop myself now.

I am on such a roll that I decide to tackle under Zax’s sink next. Guess what greets me there? Seven more dental flosses. I think I’m the only one in this house ever using it. I take them all and put them under my sink and vow to floss three times going forward.

February 4

Kids’ Desk Drawers. This one needs no words. Just look at the before and after pictures.

Kids' desk drawer: before picture
Before…
Kids' desk drawer: after picture
…and After.

February 5

My Desk Drawer. As a bonus of the above, I collect so many nice sets of pens and markers and fancy paper clips that I have enough to supply my own desk drawer, which also needs tidying. I discard all my old dilapidated pens and add a colored pen collection you’d all be jealous of!

February 6

Kids’ Desk, Round Two. Back to the upstairs kids’ desk, this time the left and right cupboards above it. I keep just a few nice, empty binders, the blank colored paper, and SAT prep books. My suspicion is that no one will ever use the colored paper, but it makes for a veritable rainbow of sparkly joy:

colored paper sorted in rainbow colors
I cannot tell you how much joy I get from this stack. It’s mesmerizing!

Bonus: I also clear out the shelf in the girls’ closets where those hand-me-down AP books are scattered. Now there is one SAT/AP central above the desk (and we’re counting the days until we can get rid of all of it).

February 7

Kids’ Desk, Round Three. The same cupboard has a middle part containing board and card games. Among these I make an unexpected discovery. Remember how I cleaned up the apps on my phone in January and found bliss (or addiction, whichever way you want to look at it) in Wordscapes? Well, here is what I find among the games:

bananagrams word game
A perfect matchup with Decluttering the Mind but Cluttering the House.

And guess what’s in the book? Lists upon lists of uncommon 2-letter words, then 3-letter words, and then 4- and 5-letter words, words made out of mainly consonants, other words with mainly vowels. It is pure Wordscapes gold. Definitely keeping this one! 

In another cupboard I find old jars of acrylic paint.

jars of acrylic paint made in South Africa
Do you notice anything unusual about this paint?

Does anything strike you as unusual about this paint?

Check out where it is made. Which is the same country where we purchased it. Which was circa 2011, or eight years ago. You think it can be purged? I say, absolutely!

kids desk after tidying the cupboards
The entire cupboard over the kids’ desk when all is said and done.

February 8-12

I wake up facing a dilemma: I’m flying to visit my brother for a few days. Who will do my daily purging? I am a bit surprised how strongly I care about this. At first I think I’ll just create a new rule on the fly: “Vacations are exempt.” But I find myself strangely resistant to the easy cop-out. I want to keep the streak going. So I decide to delegate.

I take out all the water bottles and travel coffee mugs and arrange them on the counter. I direct the girls to decide which ones to keep while I’m gone. It is a surprising number of water bottles. I mean, you could use a different bottle every day and not return to the same one for a month! What is our family’s fetish with water bottles? Perhaps this explains it: I recently read a review for a self-cleaning water bottle for $95. It uses ion emissions from a battery built into the lid. The fact that I even clicked on the article and read it in its entirety proves that I am not thinking clearly when it comes to water bottles.

water bottle collection
Clearly we don’t need quite so many water bottles.

Next, I go into Jabulani’s room again (he of the 17 dental flosses under his sink), spread out the pile of old notebooks, binders, and exam papers, take a picture, and text it to him with instructions to circle everything he wants to keep – done!

I need a few more, so I roam the house for more easy prey. I find it in the form of another lumpy pillow that has previously escaped my scrutiny. It’s on our sofa and has the double bonus of containing lumps and holes. Sofa pillows are almost never useful to begin with, and no one is going to miss this one. Except that the now bare sofa sparks the realization that it itself must go. You know how you swore in your youth that you’d never let your house fall into decay like your parents once did? That you would attack every piece of gunk and dust and grime until everything sparkled? Well, I have now turned into my parents. Our sofa covers are plain worn through, the wood creaks with every slightest move, and the kids have dropped remarks about how badly we need a new one. Mental note to eventually purge sofa.

Fourth, I tackle a junk drawer. We have a total of four of these in the so-called Butler’s Pantry, a place that is really not very useful for anything, given that our house did not come with a butler. I suppose this is why it attracts all the stuff that has no other home. Today I decide the lip balm from 1995 can go. So can a contraption I once thought I absolutely needed to have with which one can hang one’s purse on a table at a restaurant. A great idea in theory but quite useless in practice. Last, I find a huge box of lens cleaning wipes that we once bought in bulk at Costco (our Costco membership having expired in 2009).

For my last day vacation pre-purge, I sacrifice an assortment of rugby balls. I know, totally random. But deflated rugby balls no one has used in years, I decide, are just the thing to be done with this already.

When I come back, I am quite pleased to have kept the streak alive. Alas, what greets me on the kitchen counter is almost the same size collection of water bottles I left behind. The girls tell me that they tried valiantly to purge, but that Noisette hindered their progress by swooping in and saving their rejects “because they are still nice.” I should mention here that it is he who always chastises the girls for their many water bottles.

February 13

Seashells. Remember how I worried initially that I might run out of purging material before the year is over? Well, Jabulani’s room is my insurance policy against that event. There is simply nothing that kid has not thought worthy of collecting. Today, I attack a bin full of seashells in his closet. I take a picture, thank them for their service, and out they go.

February 14

T-Shirts. I don’t quite dare doing the same to all his T-shirts. Instead, I arrange them all in a big rectangle on the floor, take a picture, and ask him to once again to circle what needs to be kept. Purging-by-text is not such a bad method at all!

t-shirt collection
Seems like Jabulani spent his first year at the University of Tennessee hunting down free t-shirts!

I didn’t think just half a month would yield so many words, but now that I’ve started, I must bring February to a close. Stay tuned for Part 2 with the other 14 days.

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