Nurturing My Nest Blog

Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
Intentional Homebuilding & Custom Built Education
 Based in Tennessee. Available for travel.

WHAT to Purge

Are you feeling crowded in your space?
Do you have to move?
Has stuff been coming into your house while stuff is not going out?

It might be time to ruthlessly purge.

Although we are deep in the cold of winter, many are thinking about purging. Some have already started. Here are some ideas on WHAT to purge. Whether you are taking a day to clean out an area or you are working through your home methodically, these ideas work.

Take a deep breath

Work this process in steps.

Anticipate a mess as you work toward your dream.

Establish three areas for sorting.

Trash. Keep. Donate

Categories To Purge

Consider purging in the order of these categories.

Start with CLOTHING

Gather all your clothes from around your home into one large room. Empty your closets and drawers so all the clothing is in view.

Don’t forget any clothing that is stored in extra closets. For most people this is overwhelming, but just trust me that this will bring you much contentment or mental peace.

Sort into these groups to speed up your efficiency:

  • socks, hosiery, undergarments,

  • shoes (dress shoes, summer shoes, boots, sandals, sneakers)

  • bags (purses, totes, evening bags, suitcases, garment bags)

  • accessories (scarves, belts, hats)

  • jewelry

  • tops (shirts, sweaters, jackets, cardigans)

  • bottoms (pants, skirts, shorts)

  • jackets, suits, coats, outerwearTake a deep breath.

Many items fail to be useful or to bring us happy memories. Some items are kept because we do not want to be wasteful. This would be one of my problems. Some items are kept out of obligation. Perhaps your mother or a special friend gave you a piece of clothing that you feel obligated to keep. Ask if you love this selection and whether you want it to be part of your future wardrobe. Some items have finished their lives with me, so it is time for them to live in a new home.

Start by going through each category and applying the above divisions. For example, once all of the shoes are sorted in the above groups, put all shoes destined for “trash” in a black bag. Grab up all “donate” items and put them in the back of your vehicle. All items marked “keep,” “hang,” and “fold.”

Here are questions to ask yourself when facing each item of clothing:

Does it fit?

Is it good quality?

Is it in usable condition?

Is it one of my favorites? When did you wear this last? Has it lived its life with you? Is it ready for a new life elsewhere or is it time to put this item in the trash. Remember, trash, donate, keep is the first set of decisions when purging.

Once all items have been sorted into trash, donate and keep, move any seasonal items into boxes that should be kept out of sight until needed. Don’t forget to label the box! While some items are definitely fit for the extremes of each season, most clothing can be multi seasonal. Knowing this, don’t spend a great deal of time taking the seasonal items out of your closet and resetting it twice a year. If space allows just grab the items that are not in season and set them toward the back of your closet. Pull forward season appropriate items. If you dress in layers, most clothing should be multi-purpose. I find that in the summer it is freezing inside buildings dictating that I keep a coat or sweater handy. In the colder season, the opposite is true asking me to shed my layers indoors. Well selected clothing that layers is key to a better look as well as lighter bags when traveling.

An entire chapter could be written about knowing your style and selecting items that concur with your personal selection. If you are unsure of your style, consider your lifestyle and fit clothes accordingly. I aim to be classy and comfortable. Some of my friends love sporty clothes best while others need a closet of dress clothes. While I need a variety of clothing for the diverse situations of my life, these overarching standards always apply.

Identify your clothing needs and then simplify.

As a rule, you will have more storage space if you will fold your items. When you handle all of your clothing, you may notice a fray or stain or tear that you previously missed. Touching each piece of clothing that you save allows you to remember what you own. Fold each item separately. Line up items in the drawers so the edge is facing up. Think of how you see clothing in a retail setting. By facing the edges up, you can see everything in the drawer at one glance.

For many people, opening the closet doors feels stressful. This could be because the closet is too small or because there are simply too many items inside. If you live is a small space, consider storing only the things you use weekly and monthly near by. Move all other items farther away. Regardless of your storage, folding as much as possible will free up more closet space. When hanging items, face the hanger where it curves to the left. All clothes should be facing the same direction. Hangers are placed facing into the closet allowing the owner to easily flip through them with their right hand. Outerwear should be hung on a hook or in a closet closest to the entryway.

Once you have purged your clothes, you are ready for the next step.

Second category is BOOKS

As with your clothes, all books should be gathered into one area. Believe it or not, I have done this involuntary recently when my school room flooded. Fortunately, my bookcases were sitting up off the floor about six inches, so none of my books were damaged. However, when resolving the situation, I sorted literally hundreds of books into the listed categories.

Questions to ask when sorting books:

Have I read this book? If so, it is likely that I will not read it again. This might be a time to donate. You have already gained the intended knowledge from the book. It is time to share it with someone else.

Unread books? Most books are read when they are acquired. If they are waiting for a time when you might read them, it might be time to let them go to a new home.

People with large book collections are almost always learners.

If you have never worked through your books, it might be a sizable collection. Once you have worked through this process, you may repeat it a few times until only the most coveted books are left.

Third category is PAPERS

The goal here is to throw away or shred as much as possible. Really. Think of the classes you have taken which are represented by a notebook of notes. Have you taken the notes back out to read them? Likely, the answer is no. The benefit or value occurred when you took in the information.

Live free. Throw away all of your notes.

Keep all papers, mail and catalogs in one spot. Go through everything and toss and shred as much as possible. In an office setting, sort papers into “respond,” “file,” and “shred.”

Save the warranty, but not the manual, which can be found online.

Cards. I save cards for a few weeks. Then I select my favorites and  toss the rest. Christmas cards with photos or stunning art are saved on a ring so that we can pray for them over and over throughout the year. The value of the card was completed when it was received and read. 


Other categories are much smaller and varied from household to household. Some relate to hobbies or crafts. Identify other categories for your home and tackle them in the same way as those listed previously. Some other groupings might be:

  • tools

  • kitchen items

  • small appliances

  • office items

  • workout equipment

  • electrical

  • musical

  • medicine

  • toys

  • collections

  • knickknacks

  • linens

  • floral

  • bathroom items such as makeup and toiletry supplies

  • different craft categories

  • sewing

  • photos

I leave photos for last in the list. As an avid scrapbooker, I hesitate to try to explain what to do with photos. Check out the blog Photo Books – 10 Steps to Legacy Building. Due to numerous requests, I will post a blog on organizing photos soon. Please do not leave them in magnetic albums. Mark them with post it notes so that the history associated with the photo will not be lost. Set aside time to sort them into large categories. Then sort those further. Consider scrapbooking in real paper albums or digital albums or at least scanning them all into the computer for safe keeping. Perhaps the favorite ones could be made into large scale photos for sharing. One Christmas I ordered, for my mom, vinyl letters with my maiden family name and a quote that read, “Grandchildren complete the circle of love.” Then I placed handsome black frames for her four- teen grandchildren on the wall. We replace those photos as the children grow. No doubt, most visitors are invited to view the “brag wall” in the hallway. What a simple way to experience happy endorphins!

Organizing photos is really a sizable project in itself. Treat it as such. Remember that busyness can sometime rob you of leaving the history of your life in a book or video. Many people wait until they are facing a terminal situation to attempt to put their history together for their family.

Currently, I am working to create a digital history of sixty years of my mother’s life and our family history. My parents lived over fifty years as missionaries. They celebrated marriage, family, four children, fourteen grandchildren and a lifetime of adventures. Check back with me. It is a dream that I am working on.

As you imagine how you want to live in your home, use these ideas to purge.

Live the life you imagine.

comments +

  1. Pat Graham says:

    Great recommendations! Thank you. I’ve got work to do.

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