Nurturing My Nest Blog

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


Living well in the space you own or rent is really freeing. Living with space is really a win. Living with only what you really need will always be a challenge. Stuff keeps coming in so you and I just have to work to keep taking it out. A purge can be a one time event or regularly in your cleaning schedule. Before you begin on the deep purge, consider whether you have daily housekeeping habits. If you do, the purge may not be that complicated. If you know that your daily and weekly habits need improvement, work on them first using the ideas listed earlier in this section. Work on the purging ideas on Fridays or when you have a couple hours of free time. Once you have worked through your home, you will find that maintenance will become so much easier. The goal is a clean and orderly home.

One of the most important concepts to living in an orderly home is to consider the space that is available to you and how you use that space. If it is too crowded, consider what you are using the space for currently. Reclaim your living space. Live in the space you own. My season of life involves a daughter moving to college, another daughter moving to a new home with her husband while a son is heading off to Air Force boot camp. As each change occurs, I aim to clean through the abandoned spaces thoughtfully. Two summers ago, I cleaned through two bedrooms, moved furniture, bought new bedding, painted walls, donated and refreshed our home. Instead of unused space full of stuff, these areas are cleaned out with just what we want to use.

The truth is that many of us have too much stuff. This is an ongoing challenge. Consider the time you spend on cleaning. Just imagine how it would feel to just restart how you interact in your home. I don’t want to be a storage hoarder. At any stage of life this is easy to do. The ultimate goal is to have empty space, not tightly organized space. Often the challenge is to realize how much stuff we have so we are inspired to lighten our load. When you are organizing, put all of one category into one area. Gather all items related to that category from around the house. When all things from one group are in one place, you can determine when you have too much. Decide what will be donated and what will be kept.

The truth is when it comes to tidying or straightening many people stay crippled from the fear of being overwhelmed with the project. Some may say that they don’t clean because they are too busy or too lazy. However, I believe most are stalled with fear. Fear comes from not feeling adequate to do it well and not understanding the order of cleaning. Some are gifted in sorting and cleaning while for others it takes more courage.

The basics of purging are easy.

Trash, Donate, Organize

To declutter you must first throw away, donate, and then put away.

Imagine you are moving to a new home. You are forced to go through all parts of your home. All closets and cabinets have to be emptied. Decisions on what to keep and what will be useful in the future living space force donations and repurposing. When you do your seasonal cleaning or, if necessary, a purge, consider that you want to live in the space that you own. Envision that you are moving. Keep only what you would keep if you were moving. This visual helps me to be more ruthless in what I keep.

To be successful, one must make tidying an event. Do not try to combine it into the daily and weekly maintenance of a home. This means that this effort must be viewed as a project like remodeling a room or building on a deck. Fasten your seatbelt. The daily cleaning is more like putting things away. The seasonal cleaning is necessary to make the regular tidying feasible. When it comes to seasonal cleaning, anyone can do it. You just have to start with a plan and set your mind to it. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. Just yourself. You only have to be the best you, not someone else.

Don’t think of trying to put things away until you have thrown things away. The first step is to begin. Select a small project that can be completed easily. Perhaps a drawer in the kitchen would be an easy place to start. Once the task is completed, build on that success. Feel energetic and confident as you tackle more sizable projects.

Zero in on your problem areas. Look for places where clutter ac- cumulates. Begin by taking a notebook around your home, assess each room/space, and take some notes.

Identify the room. Note what you see in each room. Be honest.

Be thorough.

Here is an example of what you might write:

Living Room Assessment

  • book bags by the door rug full of leaves clutter on the couch shoes by the stairs pillows on floor laundry on the couch
  • Continue by listing clutter in each area of your home including your garage and vehicles.
  • Identify any large areas where you have piles of clutter. Once you have a written overview of the clutter and messes in your home, study it.

What can I learn? What patterns emerge?

What might be contributing to my clutter?

  • large bulky items left out after grocery shopping unfinished projects
  • coats not hung up
  • school bags or purses left on floor
  • items that need to be put in a cabinet or closet
  • cleaning products left out instead of underneath sinks or in laundry room
  • piles at the bottom of the stairs ready to go up or down trash
  • empty packaging
  • clothes that need to be washed or put away
  • wires in messes near outlets or floor or visible near a desk

Once you identify the “what” and “where” of your clutter, pause. Imagine what you want your house to look like once you have purged all unnecessary items. Envision and write down what you would like to experience in your new clean and orderly home. Maybe you would like more space for people or a favorite activity. Perhaps you would like to enjoy a bath in an uncluttered bathroom. Consider that you would have a relaxing bedroom space with an efficient closet. Would you like to have guests over for meals? Identify your goals. Write out your intentions. Spell out your dreams. Visualize the new and improved space. Post them on your bathroom mirror. When the work is overwhelming, take a deep breath and imagine the end result.

My middle child has recently transformed her living spaces from an overwhelming amount of stuff to a space with just what she needs now. It’s no surprise that her largest category was clothes followed by books earning a close second. As she entered the halfway point in college, she asked for help. I am very proud for all the hard decisions that she made as she threw things away, donated and then re-organized. Her space is so relaxing and inviting.

Purging is not something that is accomplished in a short period of time. It is a sort of resetting. It is much like moving. There is such a feeling of things being new. Drastic results require lots of work. When possible, set aside a group of days, or a day or half a day to complete a portion of the purging. Keep at it as time allows until you have exhausted all that needs to be purged. The finish line will bring you much joy!

Getting Ready To Purge – What To Gather

Before you begin, gather these items:

  • step ladder tape measure
  • black garbage bags (Black bags will keep you from seeing items once you have decided to throw them away. Once discarded, don’t reopen the bag to reevaluate.)
  • Sharpies (black) 4×6 cards
  • 2 medium sized boxes, plastic bins or large shopping bags (for donations)

Note: To simplify the sorting, use the cards to write “trash,” “donate,” and “keep.” Place these cards in front of boxes or baskets designated to hold these groups. Sharpies are handy when marking boxes or organizing containers

Prepare the back of your vehicle for donations. Clean out your trunk or back seat. Before you finish your sorting for the day, take all of your trash to the trash, your donations to donation. By selecting trash and donation first, you will know how to organize what you love most.

Setting your house in order is so rewarding. Great satisfaction occurs when you access the items you own and develop an awareness of the things that have fulfilled their life with you. When you find a new home for them through donation or throwing away, the sensation is so freeing. Imagine relaxing or enjoying in the space you own.

More podcasts on cleaning:

Expect and Inspect: Teaching Your Children to Clean

Speedy Kitchen Cleanup in 5 Easy Steps

Cleaning Your Home With Weekly Contributions

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