Whole-House Purge and Organization Project

You may have seen pictures like this on Pinterest of perfectly organized, beautifully styled closets and pantries.  Inspirational?  Very.  Real life?  Not for me unfortunately. 

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While the end results of my recent whole-house purge and organization project don’t come close to the stylish and magazine-worthy storage spaces of Pinterest, I couldn’t be happier. It feels good to know exactly what I have, where it is, and that it’s organized in a way that works for me.  I have empty cabinets and shelves and drawers all over the place now.  Most of the closets in my house–except for the one that holds my clothes–are 50% full at most. 

A lot of stuff has left the premises at Jilly’s house in the last two weeks. To be specific…

*15 giant bags of junk made their way to the curb

*7 huge storage tubs are filled with items for a future garage sale

*4 storage tubs of my kids’ memorabilia are ready for them to take to their own homes

*3 big bags of shoes and clothing have been dropped off at Goodwill

I began this enormous task by starting with one room and focusing only on that room until I was completely finished with it.  I emptied one cabinet/drawer/shelf at a time, tossing what I knew I didn’t want or need into either the trash, the sell pile, or the donate pile.  

I was ruthless.  If it was left here by my ex, in the trash it went.  If it had no value to me or anyone else, I trashed it.  If it was broken or expired…in the trash.  If I had to spend more than two seconds deciding if it was really trash…trash.  

Here are some lessons I learned along the way:

1.Hard-to-reach, bottom corner cabinets are for the birds. Unless you’re a contortionist, you won’t often reach for anything you have stored in these black holes of disorganization, assuming you even remember what you’ve put there. Once I cleared out everything from my kitchen corner cabinets (and I almost got stuck in there twice), I put back only a very few items and only on the top shelf near the front.  In my master bath corner cabinet I also avoided the space in the corner, storing towels only where I could easily reach them. 

2.You don’t need an excessive number of multiples of items. A few old, ratty t-shirts to wear when doing yard work or painting?  Sure, you need a few.  Forty-seven is not a few. 

3.Items stored so high that you need a step ladder to get to them will rarely, if ever, actually be used. 

4.Not all trash bags and not all plastic storage tubs are created equal.  If you spend a little more on the good ones, you won’t regret it. 

5.You will question your sanity at some point during a major clean out and organization process and wonder if you’re just creating a bigger mess. 

6.It’s tempting to get sidetracked when returning items to another room where they really belong.  Stay focused on one section of one room at a time.  

7.Re-evaluate where items should be stored.  What worked in the past may not work now.  

8.Junk drawers are a fact of life, and it’s okay to have more than one. 

9.You will uncover filth you didn’t know existed. Clean as you go, saving the floors for last.

I purged and organized and cleaned like a woman possessed for a solid ten days until every part of each room was addressed.  I’m blessed to be retired and have a flexible schedule, so I just hit it hard and stayed with it.  If you’ve only got three hours on a Saturday here and there, start with one room as I did and don’t drag out more than you think you can sort through and re-organize in that time frame.  When you have another block of time to devote to the room, pick up where you left off.

If you’re planning on cleaning out and simplifying in 2018, I hope you’ll be inspired by this post.  If you’ve completed your own scorched earth purging project recently, I’d love to hear about it.  






6 thoughts on “Whole-House Purge and Organization Project

  1. Wow, Jilly, I am impressed with your fortitude in purging and reorganizing your home! You do know you make the rest of us look bad…ha! I like your bathroom cabinets. We are in the market for a new vacuum and I noticed yours, wondered what brand it is and if you are pleased with it. Vacs can be super expensive and I certainly don’t want to buy something that is a dud. I will add that it is easier to purge and clean if you don’t have a certain someone wanting to hang on to stuff we didn’t need in the first place.

    1. Thank you! The bathroom cabinets are painted with Annie Sloan’s French Linen. I love the color but wish I had sealed them with something other than wax because it isn’t holding up like I thought it would. My vacuum is a Shark and I highly recommend it.
      You’re right that it’s much easier to purge and clean if all the decisions are up to just you. That’s one of the many reasons I am so glad it’s just me here now. My ex bought so much stuff that he never used and refused to get rid of.

  2. If I had those fabulous leopard heels, I’d want to know exactly where they were, too! (And you’ve inspired me! I just semi-retired from my public teaching career, and now is the time to start my own purge!)

    1. Pamm, I retired from teaching in 2012. Congratulations! Those leopard heels hurt my feet, but I couldn’t part with them. They’re “sitting shoes” for sure.

  3. Love this post! It’s amazing how we are conditioned to buy more then spend more to organize and maintain our excess. Living in our rv for a year, there is no room for extra anything. It has drastically changed my spending habits and I am amazed at the marketing attitudes of stores. “But it’s buy 2, get 1 free.” Some folks come unglued that I’m missing out on “free”, not realizing that every item costs time and energy to organize, store, and maintain.

    1. This is really profound, Kathleen. I should have interviewed you before I wrote this post! In the end, it’s all just stuff and we can’t take any of it with us.

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