By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
I have way too much stuff. You probably do too. Stuck in Purge-atory is a weekly chronicle of the quest by my roommate Emily and I to get rid of extraneous excess in our lives by giving away or throwing out one thing everyday until the end of time.
The end of time has come. By the end of time I mean the end of the semester (and the beginning of a new one) and the end of mine and Emily’s time in Purge-atory. I fear if we carry on any longer that we will be purging simply for the sake of purging, which makes for poor journalism. Also, it leads to an empty apartment.
And with that, here’s a recap of this mission Emily and I embarked on in November 2011.
As the subhead says up there, I have way too much stuff. When I started working for The Other Press, I thought it would be interesting to write about some sort of ongoing personal experience. After some banter around the apartment, I decided that getting rid of things on a regular basis would be the way forward. What better way to fill Life & Style than to document throwing things out and how easy or hard it was?
Plus, I felt like my clutter was out of control. After moving several times over the past few years, my totes labelled “misc” (aka junk that I haven’t sorted through) kept getting heavier and greater in number. Furthermore, as I age, I place more value on relationships; why do I need seven pairs of jeans to define my Borrowmanity? I don’t! So then why do I need seven pairs of jeans? I don’t!
The point Emily and I wanted to make and put into practice, is that Tyler Durden is right. Place value on people and experiences. Stuff is just stuff. You are you.[/quote]
It’s freeing to be unencumbered by material crap. The thought of being able to fit my entire life into a backpack and take off on a whim is something I daydream of often. Why not try to get as close to that as possible? Or at least realize that if I haven’t looked at that book in five years, it’s not serving a purpose other than to collect dust and dupe houseguests into thinking I’m smarter than I am.
I wasn’t about to do this solo, so I roped Emily into it with me; not that any roping was needed or that she really had a choice. She was just as excited to begin to pare down.
“It’s like Gonzo journalism! Except with less acid!” Well put, Emily.
When we started, the concept was simple: get rid of one thing each, every day, keep an inventory, and at the end of the week to recap what was purged. Looking back through my files, we started mostly with clothes (I cut my clothing collection in half). If the other didn’t want it, we’d just lay it out in the alley for someone to take or throw it out if it was in poor condition. For example, here’s an excerpt from the first week in Purge-atory:
Me: “Mix-patterned, oddly-cut tankish-topish thing from Plenty, acquired three years ago on shopping trip with ex-boyfriend. Initial draw? The store. The newness (I shop primarily in thrift stores and Em’s closet). Times worn? Twice. And twice too many. One of those, “Oh, it’s so cuuute!” pieces that rot in the closet.
Emily: “Flappy drawstring linen pants. In theory, perfect for travelling. Never worn by actual travellers. The pants you think you need in India that end up rotting in the bottom of your backpack.”
Items were set across alley on concrete ledge on Friday. Endured rain. Questioned whether or not discards were even back-alley worthy. Gone on Wednesday. Success!”
Neither of us even remember those things now.
We purged phone numbers, physical music, digital music, Facebook friends, real friends, kitchen utensils, science experiments in the fridge, dusty things in the spice cupboard, and shoes. We purged intentionally and we purged accidentally. We had non-purge weeks (December break) and we had binge-purge weeks (50-plus things). In total, we got rid of well over 300 things, and that’s not itemizing individual songs in iTunes (I got rid of about 500) or individual cans and bottles from our experiment in recycling to get rich.
Although we didn’t continue purging one thing every day, we averaged more than one thing a day. Along the quest, I was introduced to a woman in Calgary named Mary (via email) who meets with her mother once per week to purge. Her mom has a huge house full of keepsakes, antiques, and physical nostalgia, an accumulation of stuff to be expected from an octogenarian who has been living in the same home her whole life. Sure enough, they get together to purge these “meaningful” things week in, week out, and never look back. They agree that it’s only stuff; it’s not going with you when you die.
The point Emily and I wanted to make and put into practice, is that Tyler Durden is right. Place value on people and experiences. Stuff is just stuff. You are you.
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.” You aren’t crap though. You’re whatever you want to be. So be it and purge on.