Decluttering: The Power of Purging Inclusively

Let go of books that no longer serve you.
These books served me well when I needed them. It’s time for me to let them serve someone else.

In my last post I proclaimed the commencement of operation Purge & Pack due to an upcoming move.

Though I haven’t started packing yet, I’m happy to report that the past few weeks have seen an unprecedented success in purging. I owe it in part to the magical process of purging inclusively.

Purging inclusively means decluttering through the lens of what you want to keep, vs. what you want to get rid of.

Let me illustrate using my biggest decluttering nemesis: books.

In previous decluttering attempts I would go through my bookshelves and ask myself, “Which books do I want to get rid of?” Being a complete book nerd, the answer would almost invariably be, “None.”

This year I tried something new. As I scanned each shelf in my library I asked myself, “Which books do I want to keep?”

The difference seems subtle, but it resulted in nearly a full box and two canvas shopping bags full of books to my local goodwill store.

With each book, I asked myself:

  • Did I like it enough to read it again?
  • Did I read it at all? If not, will I and in what context?
  • Will I reference it?
  • Does it hold special meaning?
  • Am I through with the phase or process that was served by that particular book? (Divorce-related books begone!)
  • Does it serve me, or do I foresee it serving me in the future? (Caution: This is a tricky one that’s easy to rationalize. It requires strong will and a good dose of self-honesty.)

For most books the answer was clear and came quickly, making it easy for me to be ruthless without feeling like I was losing out.

Purging inclusively is about keeping what serves you.

Whether you’re going through your garage, your closet, or your spice cupboard, it works.

I’ve got five boxes of stuff donated, three garbage bags tossed, and another box ready for consignment to prove it.

11 thoughts on “Decluttering: The Power of Purging Inclusively

  1. Great post. I’m not moving but I have been purging on a regular basis. For years I have collected this or that now it’s all going on etsy or ebay. I have come to the conclusion that excess “things” can be quite the mental burden.

  2. So effective, and funnily enough, I just did the same thing with my books! I created an initial stack of books to give away/sell, but they sat in that pile for weeks before I could bring myself to get rid of them. Then I looked at what was left. Even a lot of the books that were left didn’t hold special meaning to me, or I’d already read them and knew I wouldn’t again. I quickly added another half dozen to the pile and finally gave them to my mom to bring to her school. I love books, but I also love making room for more books. Very refreshing feeling!

    1. It *does* feel refreshing! And I like the two-round approach too: get rid of the obvious first, then go back when you’re on a roll and see if anything else fails to make the “keep'” cut.

  3. I’ve been purging as well in preparation for a tag sale we are going to have in June. Sorting books is hard, but I’m determined to cut down since half are still at my parents house and half are in our apartment. I know most of the ones that didn’t move with me will probably not get read again, so why not tag sale ’em? :)

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. Over the years I have accumulated too much stuff… and it is slowly becoming easier and easier to let things go – either to make room for things that serve me better or to simply make space. The book issue… oh man… I loooove me some books… especially a used book… because then I feel it has been useful for at least 2 different people (if not more)… getting rid of books though is a tough one for me, but I am determined to cut down my personal library and take advantage of the public library :) This post came at just the right timing and I look forward to donating/selling the books that no longer serve me. Using “keep” instead of “get rid of” is just the push I needed.

  5. I totally get it! I too need to de-clutter before a move next year and will keep your idea in mind as I go about my chores!
    Good luck with your move.

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