Minimalism: The Urge to Purge


Minimalism: The Urge to Purge

Hello folks! Thanks for stopping by The Green Swan. One of the reasons I have enjoyed and continue to follow so many personal finance blogs (now over 115 blogs…there are so many good ones out there!) is because of all the ideas they give me. For example, not long ago the Physician on Fire and then later Mr. Slowly Sipping Coffee went through a de-cluttering exercise to purge all the extra stuff that builds up over time. And I knew I was due for a deep cleaning myself. Their examples helped motivate my wife and I to pick up the challenge and we’ve made some solid progress to report!

Mr. SSC called it his 70 in 7 challenge which means picking up 10 things a day to sell, donate or trash for 7 straight days. Knowing how much build-up I’ve had in the last 4+ years since my wife and I moved into our house, I figured that challenge would be too easy for me (shamefully so…) and not sufficient. So I stepped it up a notch…I went for the 140 in 14 challenge!

A Timely Purge…For Baby #2

I know I’ve needed to declutter massively and I’m actually ecstatic to finally have mustered up the motivation to do so. This purge comes at a very timely point…if you’ve been following The Green Swan for a little while now you know that Lucy and I are expecting our second kiddo. We are waiting to find out the sex, but the babe is due in early April. So time to clean out some extra space!

We have started to setup our ~2.5 year old’s next bedroom and will hopefully begin the process of moving him out of the nursery in the coming months. As we’ve done so we have started to clean out the closets. It’s just amazing how quickly they fill up though and we need to find some more space. The problem with homes in Charlotte is that they don’t commonly have basements (I think because of the clay dirt and it holding too much moisture in the ground). So our storage is pretty limited to begin with. We are forcing ourselves to realize that holding onto too many things “just in case” we need them down the road is not the most efficient solution. So expecting another child has served as an extra kick to begin the purge!

A Timely Purge…For a Potential Move

As Lucy briefly mentioned in her October Swan Life update post, we continue to narrow in on our next move. As a quick refresher, the opportunity for me to move for work originally came up in September and we began the debate of moving to Europe, and if so it would ultimately be in either Dublin or London.

As it turns out, it seems the most likely business need is for me to be in London. We are somewhat indifferent between the two cities and were sort of hoping for the choice to be taken out of our hands and that’s been the case.

The timeliness of the move is still up in the air though. Lucy and I are both okay with a slow process given we’d prefer to have the baby in the US. Lucy will then go on maternity leave and that would provide her more time (~12 weeks with some degree of ongoing pay from her employer) to find a new job in London (albeit with the same employer). She has a few contacts through her Company in London already which will likely provide a helping hand in the transition.

But back to the topic at hand, the potential move to London is yet another timely reason to purge. So if we do end up moving it’ll certainly be nice to move less junk! As we’ve gone through our 140 in 14 challenge, we’ve tried to bucket our junk into four categories.

  • Things we’d move with us (just a mental category at this point…we aren’t actually packing yet…)
  • Things we’d move to storage and keep in the US
  • Things to donate
  • Not worthy of donation…so trash it goes

We also recognize that if/when the day comes we pack for London, other things that aren’t cost efficient to store will either be sold or donated as well. We’ll likely sell the house, cars, and sell or donate much of our furniture (a Craigslist buyer’s dream…maybe…we don’t have too nice of stuff really).

The 140 in 14 Challenge

So how did we do with our challenge? I’d say it was a marvelous success. I thought going in with a target of 140 items to clear out was an ambitious goal…turns out we crushed it. I’m proud, but at the same time it is a bit of a shame how much junk we’ve just held onto. In total, we donated or trashed 150+ clothing items. Plus we trashed tons of other small items that weren’t worth tabulating including countless pens and old desk drawer items, old electronics including cables and chargers, etc, and other miscellaneous things such as old picnic supplies, paperwork and forms and on and on.

Left side of our closet…pre-purge


Right side of the close (wife’s side)…pre purge


Hallway closet…pre purge


Hallway closet…post purge

I wouldn’t consider us hoarders by any means, but I do personally recognize that I loathe throwing things away or donating old items, even gifts that I receive and don’t really ever expect to use. This is definitely a personal weakness of mine and an area I’m trying to improve as I focus on a slightly more minimalistic lifestyle.

The 150+ list…

I can confirm that I’m not a big shopper. A lot of the things being donated or trashed is not a result of over-shopping for myself and then later realizing a lack of need for them. Lucy and I both maintain a pretty reasonable shopping budget every year and don’t really have the urge to splurge at the mall, online, etc.

The Pathfinder loaded up and ready to go to Goodwill!

So the vast majority of all these items have simply been accumulated over many years. Like I said at the beginning, it was certainly time for an urge to purge. But how about this gem…I can’t get rid of this yet…unless, of course, Mr. 1500 is willing to place a bid to add to his fun shirt collection.

I’ll have to save these for Mr. 1500…

I must say, it does feel good. It’s nice having a cleaner closet for sure. And it is also a bit of a relief knowing that a move to London will be manageable (moving “stuff” can always be a daunting experience).

So all in all, it’s been a great success! And going forward, my goal is to maintain a more simplified household and purge more frequently. Heck, if we move to London, it is guaranteed our housing s.f. will be much smaller which will be a forced mechanism for minimalism.

Anyone else ready to take up the 70 in 7 challenge?

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan








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  1. That’s a great challenge! We do a pretty good job of going through our closets at least once a year and donating. It’s usually precipitated by the kids needing new clothes for school and that gets us all on the bandwagon. A few years ago we tackled cleaning out the garage which was strangely satisfying. I told my wife it’s a clear sign that I’m over 40 that I was so happy when it was done. Next on the list is the storage room in our basement. I’m putting that one off for as long as possible…

    So, we are not taking as disciplined an approach as you, but agree that getting rid of stuff is awesome!

    1. Yeah that helps having a routine and the kids to necessitate the clean-out. We’ve had to clean out and rotate the wardrobe for our little one but we haven’t gotten rid of any of that yet so we can use them with the next one.

      Good work on the garage! We haven’t talked that one yet.

      Thanks for sharing, Jon.

  2. Lol, I love the pre-purge pics Green Swan. We have a similar look here in the Get FIRE’d household and guess what, most of it ain’t mine cos I’m fairly minimalist and don’t need a ton of clothes due to the climate and because I don’t work in an office.

    Good luck with the clear out especially with an impending baby and also a big move to London.

  3. We did a challenge a little while back and purged a ton of unused items. The main target was the kitchen – do 2 people need 20 coffee cups?

    I am sure having kids spikes the need ton occasionally purge and with the potential move coming it works out nice for you all.

  4. This is awesome! It might take some prodding, but I’ll see if Mr. Picky Pincher wants to take on the 70 in 7 challenge! We just moved into our home, but it always feels like we have too much crap in here. 🙂

    1. That’s the best time to do it I think. While you pack and unpack you can easily organize and get rid of unused things! You’ll have to let me know if you try the challenge.

      Thanks for the comment, Ms Picky Pincher!

  5. A smart move ahead of potential move to old London. It is absolutley likely you will have a much smaller footprint over there. Like a thumbprint!!? Hey, who needs stuff anyway?

    The daiper box in the trunk takes me back to those crazy days when the boys were small. What fun, crazy times. Too mnay stories of traveling with kids especially on planes and disasters with kiddie bowel movements…..too much detail for you I am sure!!

    1. Haha thumbprint, that’s a good one!

      Never too much detail for a fellow parent… Having experiences like that is the initiation test we all go through! Fun memories for you to look back on I’m sure.

  6. Good for you! I would love to do this (not sure Jon and Little Bit would agree.) And smart to do it now, rather than later. We moved into our current house right 3 weeks after I had Little Bit, and so we didn’t do the weeding out process when we moved. It shows…we still have tons of stuff in boxes 6 years later.

    1. Yeah we didn’t do much prior to our initial move into the house…a lot of the things we were getting rid of hadn’t been seen in five years…

      You’ll have to let me know if you do the challenge! Thanks, Emily.

  7. I love to purge! Great job on your recent purging. A move is great motivation to reduce and remove – I think everyone should “pretend” they’re moving every year or so to really clear out unnecessary stuff.

    I have a large stack of bags and boxes to donate. This year, I’m tracking my donations so I can more accurately deduct them on my taxes. It does take a bit more time, so we’ll see if it pays off.

    1. Thank you! Doing a purge every year is a great goal.

      Yeah the list we made will serve us well for taxes (not just for the blog 🙂 ) when we look to deduct all this! It wasn’t too much work…as one of us was cleaning out the other was tracking. I’m glad we did it!

      Thanks for the comment, Amanda.

  8. Thanks for the mention and the link, and whoa! You did crush that challenge! Nice one! Sadly, like you, when we first started them, it was way too easy to find stuff to donate/trash or sell. Lately, it’s gotten a lot harder when we do these, yet I still manage to find 70 or more items. Like you, I think, this is going to be tough, and then I realize sadly, its not as tough as I thought. Even now, when I’ve tried to be conscientious of things. As priorities shift so does the relative importance of things and I find it easier and easer to Iet things go now.

    Good luck with the upcoming move. When a friend of mine relocated over there and was back for a visit he lamented their whole “master” bedroom could fit in our walk in closet (granted it’s Texas size so ~8’x8′ ugh…) and we lamented how we didn’t want that big of a walk in closet, lol.

    1. Interesting point about your priorities changing. I noticed that a little with this purge, going through things I used to want to keep but now am ok with getting rid of.

      Ha that’s funny about your friend. And from what I’m seeing with quick online searches for rentals he’s totally right. I’m afraid we’ll all be living on top of each other, but we’ll adjust and make it work.

      Thanks for the great comment, Mr SSC and thanks again for the motivation!

  9. That’s an awesome purge! I had done a pretty good purge of my closet when I decided not to go back to full-time work – but now I’m back at work full-time! I had to even go buy a few things (which was fine because I would’ve needed to update a few things anyway). My husband purged our garage this week and is getting ready to take a load of scrap metal back. Now to get the teenagers busy…

    1. Nice work with the purge! And sound like you have one heck of a garage if your husband is hauling scrap metal out afterward! 🙂

      Good luck with those teenagers! Thanks for sharing, Vicki.

  10. We just went through a big purge at our house and still have so much we can get rid of. Our basement is full of wedding gifts from 10 years ago that we never use. It’s amazing how stuff piles up over time. I just got rid of a ton of old clothes and it feels so much better having a tidy closet with less in it. It’s a process but definitely worth it!

  11. No basement and dang, wiry, stupid closet system in the master bedroom. Yep, that’s a sure sign you’re in Charlotte. Our garage has become our storage closet . Today we begin with a drive to the county dump where we can get rid of crappy (literally, from birds) cheap patio chairs and droves of cardboard cartons.

    I’m glad to see you got so inspired for the challenge. I hope some of your enthusiasm rubs off on us. Great before and after photos!

    1. I’ve seen many people around Charlotte who use their garage as storage… That’s definitely a thing here! You’ll have to let me know if you take up the challenge!

      Thanks for stopping by, Mrs Groovy!

  12. Does anyone Not like quality chicks?

    I’ve done step one, but have such a long way to go. Decluttering is somehow more work than accumulation, which really makes no sense. Once you get over the emotional aspect of parting with things you might miss, it gets easier. Having donated a lot already, and missing none of it, makes the next go-round less painful.

    Thanks for the mention and more importantly, congrats on the next baby! And what a great time to be in London. Gotta love the strength of the dollar right now.


    1. Wr definitely have a way to go to, but we’re happy with our start. It does take quite a long time though!

      Thanks, PoF! And yes, the strength of the dollar does help, but hopefully it won’t weaken while we’re there and erode the savings we’ll accumulate!

  13. We normally go through a spring/fall cleaning each year since our neighborhood holds two yard sales a year. My wife LOVES to purge our house. Even with a one in one out policy we still seem to accumulate too much. I think as time goes on that we are valuing quality over quantity which really helps simplify our lives. I’m not familiar with the 70 in 7 challenge but definitely will check it out. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Our neighborhood actually holds yard sales regularly too… Maybe it’s about time to participate in one :).

      I want familiar with the challenge either until Mr SSC posted about it. Good idea, huh?

      Thanks for stopping by, MSM!

  14. I have a nomadic mindset, so I like to give away if things are in good condition or trash if i ain’t good. About 2.5 years back, work to us from Texas (big home) to New Jersey (small home) – at that time, as you have experienced, we spent so much time giving things away or trashing things. The longer you stay at the same place, it just builds up.

    I had some big furniture that wasn’t going to fit in our NJ rental home. I did a quick cost analysis of storage. It made no sense for me to put anything in storage. The cost of storage was going to be higher than the value of goods over a 2 year period. Luckily for me, Sarah’s sister just purchased a home and we moved all the big furniture to her sisters for their family to use. We were about to buy a home and settle down in NJ and workplace transferred us back to Texas and we got our furniture back. I am glad didn’t spend a penny on storage.

    My suggestion would be for you see if you can park what you care about with your family than put it in storage. It may be economical for you to sell your stuff and buy all new when you return to the US than spending a lot of money on storage.

    1. Good point, Michael. We’ve started to look preliminarily at storage and I don’t think it’ll be economical to keep anything in it. My parents have room for some stuff, but they live almost 20 hours away so we’d have to rent a Uhaul or something if they were willing to store it for us.

      If that doesn’t work then we’ll probably sell or donate rather than expensive storing for a few years. We aren’t horribly attached to many belongings so that option wouldn’t be too bad.

      Thanks, Michael, I appreciate the great comment!

  15. Congratulations on the new baby and on the successful purge.

    I purged my closet a couple of months ago, but there is so much more for us to tackle! I am ashamed to admit that our house has a room called the “rubbish room”. Anything we don’t want to deal with, don’t know what to do with, or have no immediate use for, we shove in there and shut the door. I have a love/hate relationship with that room. I love how easily it hides our myriad sins, but I hate the fact that it exists. We’re going to have to deal with it soon. Maybe over the holidays……

    1. Sounds like that will be a tough job to purge that room! I think many people are similar. Maybe not with a rubbish room but I know a number of people who regularly maintain a storage unit for their rubbish. Think of the cost of that!

      Thanks for the comment, Mrs BITA!

    1. That’s great! Sounds like you have quite a good system in place. My guess is that with five kids a monthly purge is almost a necessity. Thanks for sharing, Patient Wealth.

  16. We go through everything twice each year, and it always amazes me just how much we accumulate. We go room by room and categorize everything into trash, donate, and move into a different room. The last time we did this was over labor day weekend, and we managed to get through every single room (except the garage & basement-saving those for the winter vacation). In the past we’ve had a bad habit of saving things “just in case” that really should have been tossed or donated, and doing this helps keep the three-kids worth of clutter to a minimum.

    1. Great work, Liz! Keeping the kids clutter down I’m sure is vital with three of them. With our second on the way we’ll have to get into the groove of a regular purge!

      Thanks so much for sharing, Liz.

  17. That seems like a great challenge! I tried the Minsgame challenge… it involves getting rid of 465 items in a month. It seemed crazy at first, but I was surprised by how many things I was able to get rid of!

  18. I have literally just started this myself. We’re moving next week and there was no way I was carting around boxes and boxes of crap I didn’t need for what must be the 10th time. I was surprised to find out that I have CDs worth £150 and all my DVDs and book have gone to charity (got to do your bit). There is also a ton of clothes that my partner isn’t aware we’re getting rid of yet, but they’re definitely going. The whole experience has made me realise what a hoarder I am! Minimalism coming right up!

    1. Yeah it’s pretty shocking going through old boxes and closets that haven’t been touched for years. Definitely eye opening for us, about time we clean out.

      Good luck with your move!

  19. Great job! I am about to start some serious purging myself. We just found out we’re expecting TWINS at the end of May, so we desperately need to make some more room in the house. I always worry about trying to find a way to make some money back on stuff (to keep paying down debt) but we really need to just start getting rid of stuff.

    1. Oh wow congrats! I have twin younger brothers so I definitely have had an inside look on what twins are like. You’ll have your hands full but it’ll be a blast and it’s definitely a blessing. Twins are great!

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