The Purge

Carli McKinney essays

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When you put 800 square feet into perspective, it becomes stifling small. It also makes me laugh when I used to complain about the size of our current house, all 2,200 square feet of it (1,200 of which I never really use, so at least there’s that!)

So here’s some perspective making for those of you who can’t imagine what living in a small box will be like:

First you look at a standard two-car garage. Then you maybe add half the depth to it. That is roughly 800 square feet. That is what we are moving into. With three kids. Under four years of age. And a large, 70 pound dog. Can you say, awesome!?!

Needless to say, we’ll be purging most everything. Wait, no. I take that back. Everything. I’m approaching this little exercise as one in mindfulness and with an appreciation for the things we have and that actually bring us joy. The items that don’t immediately bring us joy aren’t going with us. It’s pretty much that simple. For example, the TV only really brings us joy once the kids are in bed but then we don’t end up talking to each other as much and I definitely spend less time writing and reading. In the end, it really doesn’t bring us true joy; it’s just a distraction.

I’ll tell you another thing that doesn’t bring me joy—all the kids’ toys. Over the past year there was a continuous overflow of toys. So much so, that I had to buy a bigger bin to keep them in. Then Christmas happened and even though we didn’t buy a thing for the boys and my parents did a great job keeping the presents to the minimum, there was still an overwhelming presence of toys in our house (meaning they were oozing out of the corner I like to keep them in).

I asked a friend—a mom of two boys—how she kept her house so uncluttered and she said that toys that really don’t fit with the rest of them quickly make their way out of her house. For example, take a little dinosaur from a party. If they didn’t already have a dinosaur collection then it was quickly gone. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if she gave me the permission to simply donate the excess toys that the boys didn’t really need because all they would do was dump the buckets out and make a mess anyway. I began taking loads to Goodwill and you wouldn’t believe what happened. I no longer had to clean up a giant pile of dumped toys five times a day. I don’t even have to do it once a day now. It’s amazing.

When I started to apply these concepts of what brings me joy (keep it) and what clearly doesn’t (dump it), the list of what to part with became so much easier to create. Right now it includes:

  • TVs: we have two, but only use one. We’ll be donating one and selling the other (any takers?? It’s huge!)
  • Books: we’ll only keep the ones that we want to read again and the ones that are in solid shape for the boys. Kai has been known to eat them, so that’s always fun
  • Clothes: this is a project that will take the next month or so (for me, at least). I’ve always been a bit of a clotheshorse, so every couple of days I find a new project to tackle and go through what I have and move things to the side to pass on. Before we move I hope to go through everything 2-3 times to really narrow it down.
  • Kitchen: similar to the clothes project, but different. I love cooking and have to do a few passes with various utensils and kitchen items. We are also getting rid of some big-ticket items like our juicer and slow cooker and possibly even our mixer. We might also considering storing some glasses in the garage (yes, we’ll have one of those!)
  • Linens: I’ll eliminate old ratty ones and ones we won’t use
  • Nick-knacks: We really don’t have too many, but I’ve already begun taking things out of the house to pass on. One of the items that we do have in this list are picture frames. A few years ago I felt the need to add some photos around the house and now they’re just there. We’ll be keeping some and donating the rest more than likely.
  • Furniture: Some has been promised to various family and friends already (like our desks and chairs, buffet), but we’ll be parting with bookcases, coffee tables (we have two) and even a couch. We’ll also be parting with a bed frame, our dining room set, and a living room chair. So holler if anyone wants a good deal!
  • Extra dishes
  • Bikes: we’re selling the ones that don’t make sense for SF (and I’m glad my cruiser has already found a wonderful home in Sonoma!)
  • Surfboards: we’re selling the ones we don’t really use and donated an old longboard to a neighbor friend (because we really don’t need 6 surfboards between the two of us… I’ll probably give him my short board too. Lucky guy.)
  • Keepsakes: I’ve already dumped about three boxes of pictures (turns out I had 2 and 3 copies of pictures… what a waste of space!) and need to go through them one more time, but I’ve been able to dwindle down 9 boxes of keepsakes to three, so I’m feeling pretty good about that one!

We’ve already donated a lot to our local Goodwill and I’ve even passed on a few things to our nanny. I’ve found some shoes and old handbags that I know she would fully appreciate and love. While it was hard to part with some of it (Marc Jacobs, for crying out loud!), it made me happier knowing that she would enjoy it and god knows she deserves it. I think the thing that brings us the most joy in this whole process is giving our stuff away to people who will really use it and enjoy it.

Finally, Mr. M had a great idea: we’ll stash two small piles in the garage. The first one will be for stuff that we know we want to keep but don’t have room for it in the house (extra wine glasses, etc). The second pile will be for stuff that we aren’t certain if we want to keep or get rid of. After a year (or by the time we start remodeling, whichever comes first), if we haven’t had the urge to pull it out and enjoy it, then it’s gone. If I had my bets on this one, chances are we’ll have forgotten about whatever is in those boxes and they’ll be gone.

We’ll see how this all ends up, but it is definitely a project, and a large one at that! Stay tuned for more and hopefully some pictures of our cute little cottage in the City. Oh, and all the stuff we are parting with. Those pictures will be amazing, I’m sure of it.

P.S. Wanna buy a couch?

This was originally posted on Carli's blog RaisingMayhem


About the Author

Carli McKinney

Carli is a recovering real-world job worker who decided to follow her dreams. She’s part- writer, part- marketing consultant, part- stay-at-home mom, part- wife, part- dog mom, part- gardener, part- fitness fanatic, and mostly vegetarian. She is currently working on a novel set in the 1950’s and subsequently is also part- researcher. In her spare time she blogs at about bringing up her three young boys (and one large dog) in San Francisco.

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March 2015 – Simplify
We are partnering this month with the marvelous minimalists:
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