10 ideas to jumpstart your purging {day 4 of 31}

Well, blow me down. You guys knocked it OUT OF THE PARK yesterday with all your purging. WAY TO GO!!! I’m so stinking proud of you!! I’m going to extend yesterday’s e-book offer through today. (Purge 5 items from your home, and I’ll send you a free copy of this.)

I know from experience that it’s so easy to look around at all your stuff and feel completely paralyzed. Where do I even start? Are my meager efforts even going to make a dent? I’m so overwhelmed! And then you raid your cupboard for candy and curl up on your bed and read a book instead.

Here are 10 ideas to get you started on your purging adventures. Pick one, pick three, just do something! (Disclaimer: I am NOT an organizing expert. These ideas are based more on feelings than any solid research. Feel free to adapt–or ignore–accordingly.)

1. Take all the books off one shelf, any shelf. Put them back one by one but ONLY the ones you LOVED and/or plan to reference or read again in the next two years.

2. Empty your big kitchen utensil drawer (or crock or whatever). How many wooden spoons do you need? How many plastic slotted ones? How many spatulas? Any gadgets that seem awesome but you never, ever use? Try to get rid of one for every two you keep (or something like that).

3. Go through your socks/underwear/bras. Throw out everything that has a hole in it. And everything that fits under the Frumpy category. And everything that’s too big, too small, too scratchy, too wedgie-inducing. (I do have a pair of lounge pants that I wear around the house and they have a big hole in the rear. If your favorite undies have a hole in them and you can’t bear to throw them away, I won’t judge.)

4. Look through your CD and/or DVD collection. Choose 5 that you never watch/listen to. Give them a new home.

5. Do you collect something? (giraffes, globes, vintage aprons, old books) Evaluate your collection objectively (sort of). Do you really LOVE every pig you own, or are there several that don’t do a thing for you, you just keep them around because they’re part of your collection? Lose them.

6. Open your medicine cabinet or a bathroom drawer or peek under the sink. If you’re feeling extra brave, empty the whole thing and toss whatever is outdated or you’ll never use. Otherwise, try to get rid of 5 things.

7. Tell your children you’ll pay them 25 cents (or 50 cents/1 dollar/20 dollars) for each stuffed animal they’re willing to get rid of. (I’ve done this a couple of times. Pure genius. And totally worth whatever I had to pay.)

8. Go through your desk and throw out 25 things. Counting is a really big thing with me. When I’m tired and don’t feel like picking up around the house, I tell myself to just pick up 50 things. I know this is a game you play with children. It works on me too.

9. Skim through the clothes in your closet. What haven’t you worn in the past year? Are you really going to want to wear it anytime soon? Get rid of it.

10. Look around your house at all the knickknacks on various surfaces. REALLY look at them. Is there one (or two or seventeen) that you’ve had forever and dust around it and never think about it because it’s always just been there? Is it meaningless, ugly, outdated, not who you are anymore? Get rid of it (them).

So, tell me:

1. Which one are you going to tackle today?


2. What brilliant purging tip do you have for the rest of us?

45 thoughts on “10 ideas to jumpstart your purging {day 4 of 31}

  1. Linda

    Be careful! I recently purged a couple of kitchen drawers. I found a beater (just one) long agp, ThIinking it was for a hand mixer I pitched long ago I threw away the beater. Cleaning out another drawer a couple of days later I found another beater and threw it away. About a month later I found an old 1950’s mixer that belonged to my mother in law and it had no beaters. Now I need to pay $25 for replacements. *sigh* I don’t use the mixer a lot but I would rather have it available if I decide I need one. They don’t make them like they used to!

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  4. Beth

    My tip is, when you are on the fence about getting rid of something, put it in the donation pile, and load all the donation stuff in the trunk of your car. If after a few days of being out of your sight, you’ve forgotten what’s in the donation pile, and it’s not still bugging you that you’re getting rid of whatever it is, then it’s probably safe to say you’re not going to miss it. Swing by Goodwill and empty your trunk knowing that someone else will probably enjoy that stuff way more than you would have. Same principle applies to buying stuff. Go home and sleep on it, and if you still NEED it the next day or in a few days, think about buying it. Most of the time, I forget about it by the time I get home, which means I didn’t really need it.

    My second tip is to picture the person who’s going to get what you give away/sell. In sixth grade, my dad went to Russia to help design a new church building and help out at an orphanage. He was collecting stuffed animals and dolls. I did not want to part with a single one, even the ones I never played with. But my parents reminded me that I have dozens of them, and the orphans in Russia might not even have one stuffed animal of their own. Picturing another kid getting one of my furry friends as their first and possibly only stuffed animal helped a lot and I made much deeper cuts in my collection than I would have otherwise. I still do that when I purge. I recently sold a pair of shoes on Craigslist, and I was kind of sad about selling them, but it turned out the girl that bought them was going to wear them in her wedding. It was way more fun to know that those shoes would be part of her special day, than it would have been to keep them, gathering dust in the back of my closet.

  5. Wendy

    My brother and dad have been at my house the last 2 weekends doing bathroom renovations, so while I wasn’t running errands for them, I purged 8 boxes of stuff and put it out for Easter Seals to pick up Monday. (They send a postcard a week or so ahead of time with a date they will be in the neighborhood.) Knowing that I wouldn’t have to cart my stuff somewhere to donate it really helped light a fire under me to reduce the clutter. I have a long way to go, but it was a great beginning. From now on I think I will keep a “donate” box in the closet where I can drop anything I come across that needs to exit my home!

  6. katie

    Great tips Marla! My mother-in-law loves the “counting thing” as well. She does the whole Fly Lady 27-Fling Boogie thing. I don’t get it. I guess I’m just too lazy to actually count what I get rid of. But I do love taking before/after pics of de-cluttered spaces. 🙂

  7. Darlene

    I just stumbled across your blog. I really needed inspiration, and I think this is it!!

    I have purged a tall kitchen bag full of clothes from my closet… yeah !!!

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  9. Jenny

    Here’s my five:
    1) a dresser we inherited when we got married
    2) a stack of magazines
    3) Pumpkin muffins (I would’ve eaten otherwise…)
    4) two maternity shirts that won’t cover this 8 month pg belly anymore
    5) 3 jars of mini playdo

  10. Bethany Peters

    So far I’ve given away 4 harvest placemats, and put 3 pairs of girls nylon tights and 2 Love Comes Softly DVDs in the yard sale pile. Can I have the kindle version of your e-book?

  11. Gaylene

    Before you toss towels and dish towels (and how many do you really need.. same with pot holders) check with the local humane society.. they can almost always use rags.

    I have been going through my books… next to hit are socks.. haven’t worn white ones in years, so really do I need a 1/2 a drawer of them?!

  12. Brooke

    i’m having a yard sale this month – planning on going thru all my books, cds, and movies. hopefully jay won’t be stingy with the ones he lets me purge. 🙂

  13. jennifer

    I did it yesterday, too!! I was very proud of all my organizing. I have yet to bring my pile out to the garage to add to our garage sale pile, but the closets look great!!

    My tip, in regards to #10 especially: if you are soclose to getting rid of something, but hanging on for sentimental reasons, take a picture. A folder on your computer of special memories takes up way less room than all the items on your shelf or being stored in a box. 🙂

  14. Georgia

    Great starting point. I have way too much junk in my house! 🙂 I guess my only tip is have a yard sale with all the stuff you purge! I feel better getting rid of things if I get a little something back. 🙂

  15. Emily Kay

    I had to giggle a little as I was reading through this post. I guess it comes from only being married 4 years and being a bit of a minimalist anyway, but I have no real clutter or excess! I wish I could bold the word “I” there because my husband’s clutter is another story. Seriously, you need to write a post on how to get husbands on board…mine loves his childhood knick-knacks and can’t bear to throw a single piece of paper away. *Sigh* So purging gets a little depressing because I’m the only one giving stuff up. We only have one bookcase in our house so I have to give away books regularly to keep it from overflowing…but never his books, only mine. 😛 Still, this is timely because we have another charity pick-up on Thursday so I’m going to do another sweep of the house and see what I have to donate. I know I have at least one skillet in my cabinet I don’t like using. That’s another funny thing though…I never have excess in my kitchen! If anything I’m always discovering kitchen tools I don’t have…but I guess that’s because I’m still a young wife. 🙂

  16. beth lehman

    OK – Marla – here we go – IN THE VAN and ready to take to the goodwill:

    1. 3 old bikes
    2. an old cardtable
    3. bag of my clothes

    AND throwing away:
    4. duplicates in the bathroom – contact lense carriers… and icky little bottles of lots of stuff.
    5. medicines from the hall closet that are expired.

    It does help to have inspiration and a little prize!

  17. Danielle

    I went to bed last night thinking “oh no! I didn’t post the things I’ve purged, now J won’t get the e-book he really wanted!” So, thanks for a second chance.

    One thing that has help me with purging and house cleaning is http://flylady.net/. She has different missions every day, and part of the day is “declutter for 15 minutes.” Sometimes i’m WAY on board, and sometimes I’m not, but if motivational ideas is what you need, she’s the lady.

    As far as purging goes, we have had a year long purge-a-thon, so I’m going to list categories:
    1. Gave away 75% of my wardrobe, and J gave away 50% of his. Now instead of being spread over 2 closets and 3 dressers, we share 1 smaller closet and 2 smaller dressers.
    2. Sold 200-300 DVDs and used the money to buy books for Christmas for every kid we know.
    3. Sold or gave away 7 game systems that J had before marriage that just weren’t important to him anymore
    4. Gave away (or PaperBackSwapped) almost half of our books.
    5. Emptied our garage of all things we didn’t need and can now park a car in there.

    After all that, our 1300 sqft feels twice as big, our minds feel more at peace, and our hearts are happy from all of the opportunities to share with others we had as a result of purging.

  18. Candice

    I need to get rid of some clothes! So many of them have snags and loose hems anyway. I will get rid of 5 clothing items today.

    Moving/ downsizing is a good way to get rid of a lot of stuff. My husband and I got rid of so much stuff when we got married and moved to a one bedroom apartment just because we had to.

  19. Angela

    Right after my baby was born (4 months ago) I went through all of our closets and got rid of anything we weren’t using or didn’t need.
    Today, thanks to your inspiration, I did a quickie look through and found 5 more things to purge:
    1) skirt I never wear but was saving for “just in case”
    2) favorite old tshirt that is full of holes
    3) necklace I made once and never use
    4) gift of a bell that I don’t like that’s just gathering dust
    5) sweats my husband never wears ’cause they’re too big

  20. vikki

    I gave away an office chair that was just taking up room in my garage. Also I went through my Halloween decorations and have gotten rid of a few witches, ghosts, bats, and pumpkins I will never put out. I hope that counts as five! I actually am a person who loves to purge so this is fun for me. Unfortunately I also love to shop and bring back in too much stuff. My goal this year has been to dump two items for every item brought in. I did well for awhile, but have fallen off track so this is very helpful for me. Thanks.

  21. Valerie

    I’ve tackled the utensil drawer and the wooden box on the counter containing everyday utensils. Also tackled the storage container area….I got rid of some random mismatched items. Getting ready to attempt attacking our dresser drawers, and Sean’s to see what else is no longer necessary, mismatched, holey, etc. If I manage to have a cooperative toddler I may also try to go through my book storage area…bins under our bed. I know there are some books that I just need to part with. Some college books I will need to study when I eventually sit for my RHIA exam after this stint in college. Oh I did manage to purge some more random purses, bags, and wallets…I think I had about 10 different ones…

  22. Eliza

    I love this idea even though I’m a few days late on it… I think I’ll work on the cd’s and my desk and have the kids work on their toys (thanks for the incentives idea). I actually tried to go through all my books lately… that one is going to be the toughest for me! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Hannah

    Yesterday I purged: an electric can opener I haven’t used in years, a yogurt maker, a gaget for making heart shaped pancakes, and my 2 extra strainers! And very happy about it!

    Today I plan on trying to acomplish #2, #4 and #9.

    One tip that I have is…
    When you get a few things that you want to give away, go ahead and go put them n your trunk. The next time you are out, run by goodwill (or whoever you are giving them to). I always end up with piles and piles of stuff I’m planning on giving away, but they just sit there for months and nothing really gets purged. It just looks even more cluttered than before cause its in a big pile by the door. So go ahead and get it out of the house! I feel much better when I do that.

  24. Cheryl Pickett

    I go through spurts of purging, but also spurts of keeping things “just in case”. That’s my upbringing, my Dad keeps every little piece of whatever just in case you can use it to fix something else. It has to be seriously broken to get thrown away. I do that to a point along with saving because it was a gift, or memorabilia. Some of which is fine, but I know much can go.

    Big tip-support. Just reading your ideas and the others here, has occasionally pushed me past the thoughts that are counter productive. Get rid of 5 things? If I add a zero to that number, it will only be a dent in some spaces 🙂

    Keep it up everyone!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Speaking of dads who save everything, I spent the day with mine yesterday, and guess what he told me?? When he retires (in 2-3 years), he’s going to let me go through their entire old farmhouse and PURGE to my heart’s content!! After going to Cambodia, there are few things I’d love more. 🙂

  25. Jeanine

    These are great ideas – I’m loving this series! My purging tip is to get your husband involved with the promise of payback that night:) Recently, my husband helped me go through the cleaning supplies, utensil drawers, and junk drawers, and we got rid of a ton of stuff! It was great to have the moral support, he didn’t complain at all, and we had a lot of fun that night:)

    Also, I have another idea for your book title – Joining Hearts and Hands Around the World.

    Thanks again for all of your wonderful purging tips!

  26. Sharon W

    Great idea on purging the book shelf!!! I haven’t gone through it for a couple of years. And while I tend to only buy books that I really love, am I really ever gonna read them again??? Ever? Okay, here goes. So far I’ve gotten rid of a dolphin globe thing, a bracelet, two books, and a bottle of Ibuprofen that expired in Feb 2010.

    I think a good way to clean anything is to empty it first (desk, drawers, closet maybe???) and to go through each item and make yourself find a home for every item you want to keep. And get rid of the rest.

  27. Angela

    I recently cleaned out my kitchen drawer and got rid of a ton of stuff. My husband was sad that it was mostly the stuff he brought to the marriage. 🙂 But it still counts, right?

  28. cyndee

    Re #2: Best idea I’ve ever tried – dump ALL your kitchen utensils into a box and stick it in a cabinet. Work from there for one year, placing them back in the drawer after you’ve used (and washed!) them. At the end of the year, get rid of everything that is still in the box. If you haven’t used it in a year, you don’t need it!
    Re #4 : Sold ALL my CDs and my CD player at my yard sale on Saturday. I have a computer and iphone. What do I need CDs for?
    Re #5 & 10: Sold a dozen of my Precious Moments figurines at the yard sale. They weren’t favorites or sentimental, so they’re outta here!
    I love purging!! 🙂

  29. Kim

    I am loving this purging blog!! Been following it since day one. 🙂

    I cannot sleep for some reason and realized that I did not leave a commet for yesterday’s post before attempting the sleep, so here it goes.

    I tend to hoard things, unconsciously! I’ll get some stuff out of the house, but put them in the garage with intent of doing something with them, then the crap gets so deep I just don’t feel like messing with it. That being said, my husband and I cleaned, threw away and put aside for a garage sale (I try to do this once a year by November for christmas presents). Man o man did we get rid of some stuff! The hardest things I got rid of were an old chair I loved, a baby jumping toy I wanted to keep incase we have another, an extra carseat, a pretty vase for a house plant and some CDs!

  30. Ruth Chowdhury

    So, if I went through a shelf in my bathroom closet tonight & got rid of all the expired items, and the stuff I never used & don’t care to, and it was after midnight, does that count as today’s (Tuesday) challenge? 🙂 Cuz that’s what I did. Lol. I’ll try to go through a kitchen drawer or 2 tomorrow too. Yay! So fun!

  31. Laura

    We moved to a smaller kitchen last year and I hate getting rid of my awesome cooking supplies. I have found the best way to break the ties is to put the items I just can’t bear to part with into a box and put them in the garage. In a few months, if I haven’t gotten them out to use them I just donate them. They are already boxed and ready to go. I did actually pull several items out of the box within a month the last time I did this. I was so grateful I hadn’t just tossed them! The other items, I don’t even miss.

    1. Jen Hanson

      I do something similar with my clothing at the end of each season. Example: As I pack my summer clothes and pull out my fall/winter outfits, I scrutinize each summer item and think, “Did I even wear this in the past few months?” If not (or if I didn’t wear it hardly at all) it gets donated! Same thing happens again when I go to put away the fall/winter items.

  32. MainlineMom aka Sarah

    Hm. I purge regularly so I really don’t feel overwhelmed with stuff. Toys maybe, but I tend to wait till big seasonal consignment sales comes along so I can get the most money for them. Books are something we definitely need to purge. I wish someone could use our college textbooks, I can’t stand the thought of trashing them but no library wants them.

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