In my imagination, I am a minimalist.  In reality, I am a hoarder. Or at least a collector, with mild anxiety over throwing things away. After all, you never know when you are going to need that one piece of paper again.  Never mind that I’m not sure what it’s about.

When we were preparing to move to Prague I hired a babysitter to come over a few hours a week to watch Luca while I attempted to declutter.  It barely worked and I’m not sure I got rid of more than a few boxes worth of stuff.  Even a large portion of my work clothes—which didn’t fit my post-partum body and were entirely inappropriate for my new life as a stay-at-home mom—went in to storage or (gasp) were shipped to Prague.

I remember how astonished and dismayed I felt when our shipment from Seattle arrived.  We’d put almost all of our furniture into storage, but there was still a lot of stuff.  And while some of it we needed (or at least thought we should have access to) there was plenty that we didn’t.

In this way, I saw our move to Norway as a second chance to be that minimalist I liked to imagine myself to be.  I set to work sorting out the things we didn’t want or need, holding items in my hands and asking myself if they brought me joy.

And yet…

Despite my efforts (and full-time childcare) I really didn’t get rid of that much.  I started out okay with getting rid of baby clothes that Luca had outgrown, but then I got fed up with the craziness of Prague BST groups, and specifically the people who wanted me to travel for over an hour so they could see something that they might want to buy. (And yes, I had specified that pick up was in my neighborhood, but too many people didn’t care.) And after that, I was too annoyed to post anything else for sale, so I had to be willing to throw or give things away.

For about two months, I slowly worked my way through our belongings, throwing out some stuff, taking bags of worn out clothes to the recycling bin, and stacking up things to send to a charity shop.  There was a decent amount of stuff stacked up by moving day—the same day I realized I had no idea where to find a charity shop.  Fortunately, my friend Claire did know of one and was even willing to drop off all my stuff in exchange for one almost-new pot I’d decided to get rid of.

Fast forward six weeks to when all the boxes of things I didn’t get rid of arrived in Oslo. The movers had been unloading boxes and furniture for a few hours when I heard those dreaded words: “We need to go back and pick up another load.”

I knew there was a lot, but more than one truck? I felt defeated. And like a fraud. I had a tendency to lecture my husband on throwing away his things (he still owned a crazy amount of clothes from high school when we met 10+ years later) but it was becoming impossible not to admit that I was just as bad.

So here I sit, staring at some IKEA cabinets that I neither need nor want but haven’t bothered to post for sale yet, and I’m doubling down on my commitment. When our time in this house ends, I don’t want the movers to doubt that they can pack everything up in two days. I also don’t want to spend the last three months before our move agonizing over all the things I have to get rid of. So beginning today I commit to being more conscious of what I bring into our home, while steadily releasing those things that no longer serve us.

Anyone out there who was able to actually change their ways and seriously declutter?                

If so, got any tips?

2 comments on “The (Not-So-) Big Purge”

  1. Totes. This sort of thing is also really hard for me. I’m not just reluctant to get rid of things, but I actually have anxiety about it,……like with physical symptoms. There have been times when it’s made me cry. I think I avoid it because it makes me uncomfortable on multiple levels. That "does it bring you joy" thing has never been successful for me.

    Weird thing – I find that sometimes it helps to have a friend, (a very trusted, very supportive, non-judgmental friend), sit there with you while you go through a box of crap. This is very unpleasant, but it WILL work. You actually have to schedule a time and not let yourself get sidetracked by reminiscences or other "important" things. When you have to say out loud why you just HAVE to keep something it’s easy to see why you absolutely DON’T need it. Or maybe its just having explained to someone else why it’s so significant to you means it’s ok to let it go. I dunno.

    It’s difficult to ask for this kind of help for a lot of reasons (pride, desire to be self-sufficient, insert self-judging noun of your choice). And it will be hard because you’re probably far away from those friends. Maybe just narrating to yourself out loud would be sufficient. (Or Skype, a Go-Pro, and a sister maybe?)

    I know it sounds silly, but a person has a right to be silly every now and then.

    • This idea makes me a little queasy, but I can see why it would work. I’m going to start up the decluttering in a couple weeks after L starts barnehage so you might be hearing from me soon…

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