I took two days off of work in an attempt to do some intense work on the house. My husband took off Monday as well so that we could tackle some of our shared areas together.

I knew we wouldn’t get as much done as I wanted–between dropping our daughter off around 9am and picking our son up around 1pm, there just weren’t many actual hours to be productive. Luckily I had anticipated this and spent some time over the weekend going through some of my stuff so that I wouldn’t be wasting our together time doing that. My husband did the same, so on Monday morning we were able to tackle our papers and other general junk stuff together.

I spent the last two weeks reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In early December I had never heard of it and by the New Year I had seen the title fives times, so I took it as a sign, used a Christmas gift card and got the eBook. I plowed through it in less than two weeks and it was partly the author’s suggestion of doing your house all in one fell swoop–or as quickly as possible–that I took the two days off.

One part of the author’s method is to purge not by room but by category. Instead of going through your closet or bedroom you’re supposed to go through ALL the clothes in your house. So on Friday, while my son took his nap, I went through the house and collected all my clothes. I got the sweatshirts from my son’s room, the outwear from the entryway closet, my dresses from my daughter’s closet and of course everything from my wardrobe and dresser. I had so many clothes I couldn’t fit them on my bed at once, so I went through things in categories. First I went through all my outerwear: sweatshirts, sweaters, jackets, etc. I had almost 30 articles of outwear. In San Francisco it’s always cold and we are skilled in the art of layering, so I wear some kind of sweater almost every day of the year. Still, seeing the pile made me realize just how much I had, which is the whole point of purging by category and not by room.

In the end I got rid of two huge IKEA bags of clothes. Later I went through my books–again moving them from their various shelves around the house and amassing them in the living room. After going through my books I had three big bags to donate and one bag to bring to my free-reading library at school. I also had a small bag to return to my parents.

In the book I read, there is only one standard by which things are judged–do they spark joy. I had a hard time determining that in the beginning, but the more I sorted, the easier it became to determine if something made me truly happy. When I wasn’t sure I would create a pile and return to it later–almost everything from that pile ended up being discarded, though a few things remained.

Touching each object is also important, and I definitely did that. I tried on a few things, to see if I still liked how they looked. What was interesting was that some pieces that I used to love just didn’t do anything for me anymore, and other pieces that I thought I didn’t like very much actually made me really happy. It was definitely hard to get rid of somethings that held sentimental value–T-shirts from various trips, books from family and friends–but when I recognized that they no longer sparked joy, it was much easier to part with them.

My husband and I spent Monday going through papers and other small shit that has accumulated around our room over the years. We also finally unpacked three boxes that had never been opened since we moved. There was an entire box of picture frames that I didn’t even remember we had! It took me an hour just to get all the pictures out so I could donate the frames to Goodwill.

In the end our room was in much better shape, but it didn’t look like I had imagined it would. Ultimately I want every surface almost empty, with only a few select pictures on the mantel and chest of drawers. We have a lot to do to get there, but the bulk of the purging is done.

I spent Tuesday in my garage, which has been causing me increasing anxiety. Again, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted but the trouble spots are a thousand times better and walking to the laundry machine no longer inspires a panic attack.

I’ve already donated seven garbage bags of clothes (mine and my husband’s) and one bag of shoes to Goodwill, taken four huge bags to the technology drop off, and given five big bags of books to the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. There are still eight bags of trash we need to get picked up, and two bags of recycling, plus a smaller bag for the shredder.

We got rid or so many books and other junk that we were able to get rid of the bookshelf in our hallway. Today I put a ton of stuff from the garage on free Craigs.list and by noon all of it had been picked up. We really have gotten rid of a TON of stuff–stuff I can’t believe ever made it over here in the move 2.5 years ago.

We did get a lot done, but there is still so much to do. That was always my response when my husband commented on how much we accomplished. If it weren’t so hard to schedule the time to work on this stuff, I don’t think I’d be so disappointed that we didn’t do more, but I’m also exploring why I have such a hard time appreciating what I did get finished.

I do think I’m going to get there, to a place where it feels like we have the right amount of stuff for our family, but I’m realizing that my life won’t be perfect when I do. It’s not that I thought all my difficulties would disappear with my superfluous stuff, but I do think I have expectations for how easy it will be to keep my house in order once it’s all gone, or how good I’ll feel once my house is in order.

I’m exploring those feelings too, all while I sort through all the cleaning supplies under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.


  1. Wow- I am so proud of you- and so inspired. I hope that despite still having work to do and acknowledging it won’t ever be perfect, you can truly realize what you’ve accomplished and what major positive steps you are taking for your family.

    I love the ideas of tackling clutter by category and only keeping stuff that brings you joy. Wonderful concepts.

  2. Progress, not perfection. That’s what my Mom always says. 🙂 I think it’s awesome that you’re tackling all of this head on. It’s time for me to do the same!

  3. You inspired me to go through my books and donate as well. I quickly went through my bookshelf and made a pile of 20 books we haven’t opened in like 10 years. I just need to dedicate more time to gathering all the books in our home and sorting them like you mentioned, but I was proud of my start.

  4. Your posts have really been inspirational. I’m making steps to purge things my kids have outgrown – clothes, toys, gear – and it felt really good to pass off three big bags to my husband’s cousin who is expecting next month, and four boxes to our local veteran’s thrift store. Please keep your posts coming, it will help me stay motivated!

  5. I’m impatient like you, once I start something I want it to be complete in short order. Partly its because I know myself, and that I am likely to lose momentum, so whatever doesn’t happen in the first big push is likely to languish. Part of it is perfectionism, or impatience. In any case, you are doing awesome, from an outside perspective. I love reading these posts, very inspiring.

  6. Wow. Sounds like you are plowing through it. Congratulations! Funny, the book that you mention was just brought to my attention by another blog that I enjoy (I don’t think you would be interested in the blog but they have a series of posts that you might check out about this: At least it sounds like the same book.

    I wonder if your disappointment in the fact that you haven’t yet finished this job isn’t partly because the process itself is not at all fun. This is projection on my part because I completely dislike this work. Despite my firm belief in the need to minimize our stuff and my efforts to avoid bringing it in, it does creep in (thanks holidays!).

  7. Good for you!!! It is so hard to make time for this when you have such a busy schedule. I’m like you, I want it all to be done and perfect and I have a hard time when I don’t see the results I think I should. I like Josey’s comment above! You are doing great, keep it up!

  8. Doesn’t it feel good to get rid of it? I am just loving my purging project. I do this every January and I love it!

    I tackle things just like the author advises, I can’t believe it! Hottie did not like my approach of tracking all of the clothes instead of a room, but it worked great and he ended up loving it! I won’t rich the baby gear until all the clothes are dealt with. I judge each thing based on how I feel when holding it, and with the “keep” items, I go through them again just to be sure. I want to get rid of everything I can.

    You sound like hottie – I say we’re doing great and he focuses on what’s left. Gah, you two!!!

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