This Is It

If there’s one subject on which I have written a good many words over the years, it’s the topic of Getting Rid of Stuff. Way back in July 2014 – nearly ten years ago! – I was Feeling the Urge to Purge. Then in September I was wondering how much distillation it would take to get Drunk on Life.

By late February 2015 an alert reader was commenting that “The number of times you talk about purging, your house must be completely empty by now,” – and that was just before I’d posted about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.

I regularly listed things I was getting rid of as 2015 continued, pausing in July to toy – for the first time – with the idea of Zero Based Budgeting: starting from zero and adding in what I was sure I wanted to keep, instead of starting from Dear Me What A Lot and subtracting only what I was sure I didn’t want to keep.

Black and white. An empty room with a fireplace, an open door, and a busy floral pattern in panels on the walls.

In early 2016 there was a Grand Purge in the hope of moving house ere long, which was followed by another round of purging when I realized how much stuff we still had, and then by a Fling-Along series in August when a move actually appeared on our horizon. Then in June 2017 I wrote a knitter’s guide to decluttering – the most extreme decrease of which is Dropping a Stitch, an act which feels a lot like letting go of control.

Come February 2018, I was again looking – from a safe distance – at the idea of subtracting all and then adding back, instead of subtracting by degrees. How far would my Sproing Cleaning take me? Did I have the courage to bounce over the edge?

No, as it turns out. By July 2019 I was still in possession of thirteen hats (soon to be fourteen), but at least I was starting to wise up to more of the depths involved in the process of getting rid of stuff. And in October 2019 I was once more asking what would happen if I got rid of everything that I (or the Caped Gooseberry) didn’t actively want to keep?

A Shaker room containing a bed, a bedside table with candlestick, a table with a drawer topped by a threadholder, and a large rag rug on the floor.

Then in August last year, I had another useful realization: a significant part of what I wanted was visual peace – not just less stuff, but not having to constantly see what was left.

Side note: the rant about throw pillows contained in that post would have been even more virulent had I been aware that even as I wrote, a new trend of “monastic bedmaking” was emerging. Hot tips include avoiding an overwhelm of pillows by sticking to 2-4 main pillows and just a few throw pillows. No, I am not making this up.

But, having been getting rid of stuff and writing about it for the best part of ten years, did I have a much less full house? Not much, no (though I do live in a significantly smaller house now than I did in 2014).

As Erma Bombeck wrote, “In two decades, I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.” Or in my case, “maybe one desk and two chairs remaining, perhaps a bed” as the alert reader of February 2015 suggested.

A Shaker room with two rocking chairs by a window. Between them is a small table with a candlestick and sewing materials. On the floor is a rag rug.

But I have toyed with the idea for long enough. The time has come, and I am going to take the plunge. Call it what you will – Zero Based Budgeting, Extreme Decluttering, Sproing Cleaning – I am going, area by area, to take everything out and only put back what I really genuinely want to keep.

There will of course be exceptions. (As Marie Kondo observes, tax paperwork rarely sparks joy, but still needs to be kept for a certain period.) I am not going to go through the Caped Gooseberry’s things, and no shared property will actually depart the shores of this narrow haven without passing beneath his review.

Whether you hear about this again, I leave to you: if remarks indicating interest appear in the comment section, then yes; if not, then probably not. If, however, you were hoping I would leave you this that or the other thing in my will, better put your provisional dibs on it now.

Because who knows what will still be there to be seen, when the dust finally settles from this Sproing?

silhouette of girl bouncing on space hopper, showing line of bounces like half-hoops across the page

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