We’ve lived in our house for more than twenty years. And in that time we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. We have a daughter who has grown from an infant to an adult, with relics from every stage of her childhood. We have stuff we’ve received as gifts, stuff our families have passed along that we felt too guilty to discard, and stuff we really intend to do something with, some day, probably.
The result is a house that has too much stuff. We have busy lives, and we prioritize just about everything over housework. But the task of picking up after ourselves up had become more difficult, because it was harder to find good places to put the stuff away. Clutter is stressful and irritating. It makes other tasks take longer, because stuff is in the way. We needed to purge, but it was a big job, and getting bigger, and not one we were making the time to do.
After reading a lot of advice I hadn’t taken, I started to think about what I was willing to do. How could I approach minimizing the clutter in a way that I would stick with? The answer, for me, is micropurging. Every single morning, I deal with 10 things. That’s it. Day in and day out, I throw away, recycle, or find new homes for 10 things.
How is it going? Quite simply, it’s going great.
Because the task is small, I can squeeze it into each morning without squeezing out anything else. Because the task is small, I haven’t encountered any large barriers to be overcome before the small task can be done.
In no time at all, I had my ten.
Early on, there’s been a lot of low-hanging fruit. It’s been fun to ponder where to put my focus next, but so far, it’s usually enough to look around, spot a drawer or cabinet or shelf, and start finding my 10 things to remove. Case in point, last Saturday I was in a hurry to head out to my parents’ house for the day. I was afraid I’d need to postpone the day’s micropurge if I wanted to get going on time. I opened the medicine cabinet to get the toothpaste, and saw a few bottles of expired meds, a few empty bottles (sigh), and some tubes of hand lotion that were at least five years old. In no time at all, I had my 10.
Sometimes there’s a bit of a multiplier effect, when the micropurging motivates me to do a little something more. In this case, I wiped down the cabinet shelves, which was easy to do once they were nearly empty. Later that day, I took the bag of expired meds to the drugstore for proper disposal, something I’d been meaning to do for a while. And then I gave the extra space to my daughter, so she’d have a place to put away the cosmetics she’d been leaving out on the bathroom counter. Another day I found 10 books we no longer needed and donated them to my neighbor’s Little Free Library. Today, when I cleaned off my desk, I was happy to have that space to put away the pile of books that had stacked up.
Totally sustainable. And totally worth it.
I gave away 10 vases (actually 11!) that we had accumulated through the years and that we will never miss. Old coffee mugs and glassware. Sparkly headbands and scrunchies. Magazines that went to the library’s swap shelf for someone else to read. Old toys. Old clothes. Even more magazines.
It turns out that 10 items a day is a very small thing to do, but it’s big enough to notice. It’s enough to make a positive difference in our house, a spot of clean, or a new space for putting things away. It adds up to 70 things in a week, and 280 in a month. But it only takes a few minutes each morning. Eventually I hope that I’ll run out of things to get rid of. In the meantime, I’m micropurging. Not much discipline. Not much effort. Not much time. Totally sustainable. And totally worth it.