Unpacking the Power Purge

Unpacking the Power Purge

When people begin a decluttering project, they go in with the best of intentions. They imagine that just a little motivation and some bins and labels will surely solve almost any organizational problem. But all too often, aspiring organizers skip the most important step of all: The Power Purge! Reorganizing the objects without getting to the heart of the problem—that we all have Too Much Stuff—is just a temporary fix. It’s more like a Band-Aid than true healing for your cluttered home. If you don’t go through the process of saying goodbye to your excess clutter, you’re just moving stuff around, which still takes time and effort but gets you no closer to having a peaceful, clutter-free home.

Unless you’ve recently fully organized a space and therefore are just maintaining your good work, any decluttering effort will benefit greatly from careful consideration about which items should stay in the space, and which items should be removed. But how do you choose which items should remain and which items to set free? Thankfully, as professional organizers, we’ve developed a tried-and-true process that can help bring clarity to this series of overwhelming decisions. As you touch each object that currently lives in the space you are organizing, ask yourself the three key questions of the Power Purge. Don’t think about this process as getting rid of things that are important to you; instead, think about it as an opportunity to make room for the people, activities, and things that you love!

1 Does This Item Make Me Happy?

If the item you are focusing on makes you smile or brings back a wonderful memory of someone you love or an adventure that you had, keep it! Don’t feel pressured to throw away things that are meaningful to you. As you go through this process, some items will have obvious happy emotions tied to them: family photos, precious gifts from a loved one, that perfect sweater. Other items will bring you joy for reasons that you can’t put into words and that is fine too! To be able to keep an item, you don’t have to justify why it makes you happy—just feel the positive emotions and keep it!

But not everything that you think should make you happy actually does make you happy. The magic of the first key question of the Power Purge is that it gives you permission to let go of items that you or others think should make you happy, but don’t. You have the permission to let go of memorabilia, or old collections, or things you purchased that you regret. You don’t need to hold on to things just because you feel like you should. This is your home and you get to choose what is lifting you up and what is holding you down.

Just because something doesn’t make you happy doesn’t mean you should necessarily get rid of it! Also, never forget that there is sometimes a middle ground in these decisions. For example, instead of keeping the entire 64-piece set of your grandmother’s china, keep a special tea cup that you will use or put on display as a reminder of her. We keep most items in our homes not because they make us happy, but because they serve a function. That brings us to the second key question of the Power Purge.

2 Is This Item Useful Now or in the Near Future?

Just like in the first question, if you answer YES to this question, it’s a no-brainer that you should keep it. It’s up to you to decide what “regularly” means for you, but our Bees advise that if you are using it every year, that’s likely enough to warrant keeping. So if you have been holding on to that fondue pot for that “someday fondue party” for the past five years, either plan the party or ditch the fondue pot and borrow one when you get around to planning that party. Keep in mind the 80/20 Rule as you’re simplifying: We only use 20% of our items 80% of the time.

Things get more complicated when you answer NO to the question “is this item useful.” If you are performing the Power Purge on your closet, there’s a very good chance you will run across clothing that you haven’t worn in years…or even decades. If the item doesn’t make you happy (and especially if it makes you feel a negative emotion like guilt or regret), and you aren’t using it regularly, now is the right time to let it go and move on.

Letting go of items that you don’t use regularly (and that you don’t love) can sometimes be extremely challenging. Getting rid of the item means admitting to yourself that it was a wasteful purchase in the first place—or that you bought it for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, it means facing the fact that you did not stick with that hobby you bought the equipment for or that the one dress you are waiting for a chance to wear may have already gone out of style. It’s natural to feel the occasional strong emotion as you sort through items. Don’t let the emotions surprise you—and BEE sure to give yourself the gift of self-compassion and a judgment-free zone as you feel your feelings. This work of purging what is no longer useful or meaningful to you will give you more room in your life for clarity and joy!

3 Is This Item Valuable or Irreplaceable?

You’ve made it to the third key question! As you consider the item you are focusing on, you’ve already determined that it does not make you happy and you do not use it regularly. The answer to the third key question will help you figure out how to best deal with this item.

If the item is valuable, you will likely need to take more care in figuring out how to part with it. In this context, valuable items are those that either cost a significant amount of money when you originally purchased it—or are likely worth a significant amount of money now. (You get to decide what a “significant amount of money” means to you!) Sometimes, people hold on to an item for no other reason than because it is valuable. The third key question in the Power Purge is your reminder that just because something is valuable doesn’t automatically mean that it deserves to take up space in your home. If the item is not useful to you and it doesn’t bring happiness to you, now may be a great time to sell the item, give it to someone who would love it, or donate it to a cause that is meaningful to you. Check out your local Facebook “Buy Nothing” groups, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and other websites to find a variety of options for giving your items new life.

The second part of this question asks you to consider whether the item is irreplaceable. If the answer to this question is YES, but the item does not make you happy and is not useful to you, all this means is that you may need to take more care in deciding where it goes after you’ve decided to part with it. There’s a chance that one-of-a-kind items mean more to someone else than they do to you, and it might make sense for you to check with them before disposing of the items.

For example, perhaps you have a crate of Kindergarten art from your grown child taking up space in your guest room. It’s completely reasonable to sort through it and keep the ones that make you happy and then decide that you no longer need the rest. But since the items are irreplaceable, it might make sense for you to share the contents of the crate with your adult child so that they can decide if they too want to keep any of the crayon masterpieces. The same reasoning holds true with all those photos you’ve collected over the years. Give yourself permission to dispose of pictures that don’t bring you joy, are of poor quality, or you cannot name the people or places. For large framed photos, take a picture and let it go! Digitizing photos and photo albums is a great way to eliminate the actual items.

Remember that just because something is irreplaceable, it doesn’t automatically mean that it gets to take up space in your home!

You’ve done it! You’ve thoughtfully considered each item in the space you are decluttering, and you’ve (hopefully) given yourself permission to part with so many of the things that were weighing you down. The great thing about the Power Purge is that you can’t find a loophole in the line of questioning. These three questions were designed to press you and make you be honest with yourself. The more you do it, the better you’ll BEEcome.

Removing all of the extra items will make organizing what’s left go so much more smoothly. As you work to transform your space, let happiness and usefulness BEE your guide, and savor the sweet nectar of a decluttered life!

If you need a helping hand to get started, reach out to the Bee Organized location nearest you—our Bees are ready to give you the compassionate, confidential, and judgment-free service you deserve!