Once upon a time, the most popular word in the New Year’s resolution lexicon was “diet” and according to some surveys it still is. But whoever conducts these surveys is clearly not talking to the people I know, for whom the 2019 New Year’s buzzword is “purge.”
“What did you do over New Year’s?” you ask someone.
“I purged!” they say.
I’ve engaged in conversations like that at least a dozen times in the past few days and the purgers sound as excited as lottery winners.
Remember when purging was called “de-cluttering” or “getting organized?” Those were kinder terms for gentler times.
Sure, sure, Marie Kondo has made a fortune with her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and its recent Netflix spinoff, but I have yet to hear anyone say, “I’ve been tidying up” when they mean they’ve been attacking their closets and junk drawers like a junkyard dog on a garbage heap.
Tidying up is for the faint of heart. Purging is for athletes, soldiers, conquerors, and despite its association with political persecutions and other troubling behaviors, it evokes the just-do-it energy many of us need for the New Year’s attack on our excess stuff.
“Boy, I love to purge!” testified a colleague who recently got rid of a lot of stuff related to having babies.
I purged last weekend, too, and as I did I came up with a few purging principles, which I’d like to share here:
- Your stuff is never just your stuff. But your stuff is not you.
Your stuff is a reflection of your habits, needs, preoccupations and relationships during the period in which you acquired aforementioned stuff, which means purging is like time travel.
As you sift and sort, you encounter the part of yourself that once thought a fuchsia top was a good idea and wonder: Who was I then?
It doesn’t matter. The fuchsia top has got to go.
- If you don’t remember you own it, then you may as well not.
“Oh, my God, I’d forgotten I had this!” is the purger’s common cry. Remember: Nine times out of 10, if you’ve forgotten it, it’s time to let it go.
- Sometimes less really is more.
It’s better to have less tattered underwear even if it means having less underwear. The same principle applies to paper grocery bags with broken handles and old sponges that will never lose their evil smell.
- More than two of anything is more than you need.
OK, this doesn’t apply to underwear, batteries, fresh garbage bags and dishware. It does apply to phone chargers if you own only one phone.
Speaking of batteries, why do you own so many? Why don’t you know if they’re new or used?
- Just because you loved it once doesn’t mean you still do.
This truth applies to old books and CDs as surely as it does to certain old relationships. It definitely applies to that fuchsia top you kept because you wore it so often during a time you look back on fondly.
- A sock with holes in the heels is as useless as a spoon without a handle.
So what if, according to family legend, your Aunt Mary Louise darned the holes in her brothers’ socks? You have never darned in your life and you’re not going to start now. Any sock you can’t wear is a sock you shouldn’t keep.
By the way, you’re never going to find the mate to that single glove.
- Your idea of tasteful has changed.
You realize this as you purge, proof that you have improved with age, even if your fuchsia top has not.
- Cleaner is better.
Sometimes what you’re eliminating in a purge is dirt, the kind you may sense without seeing. How long has it been since you washed the covers on your guest futon or your living room pillows? Never? Me too, but I’m here to tell you: Doing it will make you at least 2 percent happier.
- There are too many rubber bands in the world.
Purging reveals many mysteries of life, like where do all those rubber bands come from? Why are they cluttering your junk drawer?
Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.
Books can be clutter too.
Don’t let the book romanticists tell you otherwise. I dropped several dozen of mine in an Open Books collection box on Sunday and my heart felt 100 pounds lighter. Open Books, a great nonprofit bookstore, also picks up: www.open-books.org/donate-books/.
- Wear sunscreen. But not if it has expired.
Why do you own so much expired sunscreen anyway?