The “stuff purge” is often one of the first “baby steps” that you might take in your journey to letting go of consumerism and finding the satisfaction of enough for today.  However, it can also be an emotionally and mentally significant challenge to overcome, especially if you’ve associated “stuff” with the value of memories. While we, and hundreds of other postconsumers, can assure you that you’ll feel free as a bird and significantly lightened of stress after your stuff purge, it’s often hard to believe that when you’re just getting started. If you’re about to undertake your first stuff purge, here are some ways to walk yourself through the process.

Consider Starting Small

If you feel like you’re just not ready to begin purging stuff from all over, begin small. How small? Sometimes, one drawer is all you need to start the ball rolling down the hill. Pick one drawer and clean it out. Then, the next day, move on to a second drawer. Work your way all the way up to a closet! If you handle things in small batches, not only will the process be less overwhelming, it will also be less time consuming. Think of it like training – start with the “light weights” and then work your way up.

Use Post It Notes to Tag Items for Later

Many times, there’s a disconnect between being able to identify an item that you should purge and actually being able to do it. One way to manage this is to take a sweep through your house (or whatever area you’re going to purge) and tag items with Post-It Notes. One color note can denote an item that you want to get rid of, and another can denote items that you’re not sure about. Then, you can take time to let your decision sink in before going back and purging. Just remember, don’t let too much time pass. Purging “stuff” can be a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid. If you delay too long, it will only be harder. Use the Post-It notes to get yourself started, but don’t let them be an excuse to not follow-through with the actual purge.

Follow the One (or More) Year Rule

It’s typical when purging stuff to use the “one year rule.” That means that if you haven’t used an item in a year or more, that item can go. “Using” really can be defined as “pulled it out of storage and looked at it.” But this is also one of the most important points to talk yourself through. Why are you holding on to an item if you haven’t physically seen it in many years (unless you’re going to hand it down to your children or something like that)? Yes, there may be an emotional attachment to the item, but what does that emotional attachment mean if the item is just sitting in a storage box, never to be seen? Pick a time frame that you’re comfortable with (it can be more than a year). Then accept the fact that items that fall outside of that time frame really aren’t serving any purpose.

Take Pictures

If getting rid of an item that you’ve got an emotional attachment to is just too sad for you, embrace the magic of photos. You may actually find that you look at the item and relive the memory more often when it’s a photo in an easy-to-grab photo album instead of an item in a hard-to-get-to storage box.

Think of the Good You Can Be Doing Others

While you’re purging, think of the potential good that unloading your items may do for others. Clothing, toys, and usable appliances can be donated to Goodwill or thrift stores where people less fortunate than you can take advantage of them to improve their lives. Is everything that you’re storing in your house benefiting society as a whole, or is it just sitting there? If the answer is the latter, there’s a great opportunity to put things back into the world to help others.

Remember to Be Responsible!

No matter how you talk yourself through your stuff purge, be sure that your “stuff” doesn’t just end up in a landfill. Sort out recyclables (most importantly old electronics that need to be properly disposed of) and items that you can donate. You collected the stuff – now make sure you help it find a planet-friendly home.

Have other tips for people beginning a stuff purge? Tell us about it. Comment below or tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

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Photo Credit: florriebassingbourn via Flickr