P is for Purge

I feel the need to reiterate our timeline of getting ourselves to Switzerland so you can get an idea of how chaotic it all was.

June 30 - Find out they're offering John a job.
July 4 - Both quit our jobs
July 15 - Last day of work for both of us (also our 5th wedding anniversary)
July 18 - My mom arrives to help us pack up our life
July 29 - Board a plane to Switzerland
July 30 - Land in Switzerland

We had 4 weeks to turn 5 years and 900 square feet worth of stuff into this.

Scary right? Terrifying actually. Especially when you consider we were both working full time for two of those four weeks. Having moved once with John in the past I knew this was going to be a bit of an uphill battle. We had 4 weeks to pack up not just our stuff but our whole life.

Years previous, when we moved to Winnipeg from Brandon he had two weeks off before our moving date in which he promised me he would pack. He packed 2 boxes in those two weeks. His experience with moving and my experience with moving are very different. He was use to just throwing everything in the back of a pick up and going to the new apartment. Usually the boxes weren't sealed. I know this because I helped him move whilst we were dating. My experience is moving is planned with military precision and boxes are packed, sealed, labeled and are untouched until they get to their intended destination. So needless to say we approached the great purge of 2011 with a mix of excitement and extreme anxiety.

With spring and spring cleaning just around the corner in most places I thought this would be a good time to share how we got rid of most of worldly possessions in a helpful little list. Please keep in mind, this is what worked for us. It is by no means the be all and end all of getting rid of stuff. Also remember this is an extreme example. Not all spring cleaning and purging will take on this grand scale.

1. Moms know best. My mom flew in and got more done in 2 hours than we had done in 2 weeks. She was the unbiased third party in our hyper emotional situation. She's also probably the only person in the world that can tell us to stop procrastinating and focus without us getting persnickety. She has been my mom for 28 years she knows how my brain works, she knows how I operate and she knows how to deal with me in a way that is completely foreign to Johnathan. She's also the only person that can say, "eat this" and thrust food at me because she can spot low blood sugar induced anger at 50 paces without me getting whiney. She's the only person that could actually say, "no that's ugly you're not keeping it." Get that unbiased third party. In our case it was my mom. In your case it might be your best friend, your cousin, your cat lady neighbour. Just get someone. You need someone who isn't emotionally attached to the vast majority of your stuff. They will be the clear voice in the fog of "but what if I need it?!" John and I thought we could do it, just the two of us. Turns out nope, we couldn't. If I wasn't attached to something, he was therefore it was just a vicious circle. In the end my mom solved that problem.

A reminder on our fridge from my mom
2. Categorize!! Everything had to fit into one of three categories. What is easily replaced, what do we want to come back to in three years and, what can we live without. Because of these categories very little was put into storage at my in-laws farm. We found the vast majority of our belongings fell into the "what can we live without" category. It's amazing the things you can live without. The stuff we put in storage are things we want to come back to like our wedding quilt, our custom made bed, framed photographs and our boxes of books. Yeah...most of what we have in storage is books. We have a problem.

3. Have a deadline. We gave ourselves a deadline of June 28th. Everything had to be gone and/or packed by the 28th. We needed to be on that plane on the 29th regardless if we got rid of everything or not. This was a deadline that was completely inflexible. There was NO wiggle room. I couldn't just listen at the whoooosh noise it made as it flew by us as I do with most deadlines. Our deadline was set in stone. Oh and on top of that we had to find someone to sublet our place because two days before we heard about Switzerland we renewed our lease. Ouch.

4. Sticker charts aren't just for kids. The husband and I have the attention span of 5 year olds with ADD in a room full of glitter. So packing and purging is hard for us due to the attention it requires. We resolved very quickly we weren't going to get it all done in one day. Not going to happen. So we did what any self respecting adult would do. We developed a reward system. Not quite a sticker chart but close to it. We would set a timer and pack and purge for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes was up we would reward ourselves with silly youtube videos, living room dance parties or sitting down and emotionally eating an entire bag of oreos. We needed that or we would have procrastinated like nobodies business.

5. People like free stuff. We literally let people into our apartment and let them take anything they wanted that we weren't keeping. Friends and family took out TV, couch, kitchen table, desks, TV trays, DVDs, books, pantry items, Scrapbooking stuff, my sewing machine, our microwave, our roomba. We put a list on facebook of the stuff we were getting rid of and had friends call dibs on things. I called my best friend and read off a list of all the books we were getting rid of just to see what she wanted for her classroom library. My sister-in-law and Mother-in-law both basically went grocery shopping in our fridge, freeze and pantry. We gave a good friend my pots and pans. Another friend was having a garage sale so we gave her boxes of stuff and told her just to keep the money. Friends want to help and by helping they get free stuff so everyone wins. Sure we made some cash where we could but we weren't looking to make a profit. More like cover our costs really.

6. Remember its just stuff. It took me a long long long time to really believe that. But really it's stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Or you'll just learn to be comfortable living with less. You have to remember though that by getting rid of something you're not automatically deleting any memory that contains that stuff from your memory. As John and I went through all our stuff we have fabulous sojourns down memory lane. I still have and wear the tshirt John was wearing the day we met. But heres the thing, I actually wear it. It gets used. I also had 4 candy dishes that belonged to my Oma. Those weren't getting used. They were still sitting in the box that they came to me in. So I donated them. I still think fondly of looking at them through the glass of her china cabinet but I don't need them sitting in box unused. Home is not your stuff. Home is the people you share your space with and the memories created.

7. Whilst purging and packing have your really ridiculously adorable niece stop by. It helps. No really it does. That is a picture of the last time we saw our niece in person. It was mere days before we left the country. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law came in and plunked her down on one of our remaining quilts and rummaged through the kitchen. What did we do? Played with her and basked in her cuteness. I guess what I'm trying to say is to take a moment to stop an appreciate. To feel blessed. Take a breath. Getting rid of stuff is hard and emotional and sometimes you just need to stop and play with your niece. It's similar to stopping and smelling the roses. This rose just happens to be a bit more giggly and squirmy.


  1. Wow. What an inspiration you are!! I can not imagine doing what you did although in October I went through quite a purge as well. It continues to feel good all these months later.

    Plus what an adorable niece you have!

    I am grateful to have found you today via the A to Z Challenge!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    Fellow A to Z Challenge Writer
    twitter: @juliejordanscot

    P is for Phillis Wheatley

    On a Mission to Spread Word-Love Throughout the World

  2. This is the best advice ever! I am printing this off and hanging it up while I pack up the RV!


Post a Comment