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People speak of spring cleaning, but there is no better time to go on a house-wide purge than just before winter holidays come along. With Christmas, Hanukkah, and…oh, I don’t know…Kwanza? Winter Solstice? Whatever it is that makes you merry, there’s bound to be an influx of gifts. If you have kids, (or maybe even dogs), that goes exponentially.

I’ve been going through room-by-room and divesting myself of all sorts of things. Here are just some of the places I’ve purged and organized and some of the umm…treasures…that I’ve moved along:

Kitchen Cabinet: spices that I can’t remember ever using – Turmeric? Why did I buy that? I think it was when I thought I was going to make Indian food until I discovered I’d have to do that hung yogurt thing, which was way too much work.

Bathroom Drawers: lipstick I never wear; hair heat-sheild that does nothing but make my floor sticky; Sedona Sunset hair dye (I haven’t done red in two years); various travel-sized lotions and potions without enough left to make it through a weekend away; Ear Wax removal kit (ummm…yeah); and most questionable of all, the bags that prescriptions came in, due to my irrational fear that I might have to call the pharmacy and won’t be able to find the number. (See? None of us is immune.)

Nightstand Drawers: Digital address book (who needs that nowadays?); old charts from NFP, back when I was trying to get pregnant (my youngest child turns 7 today); that horrible MOTH schedule book that makes me feel like a home-management failure; some odd notes that make no sense now; a library schedule of events from 2008 and…the journals. Well, I didn’t throw out the journals. I don’t really know what I’m going to do about the journals. More about that in a moment.

I went through toys with my boys, got rid of great gobs of baskets – I can’t imagine what I thought was so important about each one. I sent some artificial plants and flower arrangements packing; The kids put aside about 30 DVDs they don’t want; I went through medicines and threw out the old; I dug through the art drawer and chucked tons of hard clay, dried-out markers, ugly pencils and random drawings. I took to Goodwill some wooden puzzles that all my children used. I admit that this was tough. But it’s time to let somebody else enjoy those things.  I don’t want to hoard and hold onto these things that could be a great blessing to other children when my children clearly no longer need them.

Here’s a word about giving things away: always give things away with your whole heart. Even if you are lending something to someone, do not lend it off if you cannot let go of it. You really should only lend things if you would also give them away with no regrets. If you lend or give things to others but you still own the thing in your heart, it will hurt the relationship and be a burden to the recipient.  If that’s the case, you are putting things over people. Let me tell you a story.

Years ago, a friend of mine lent me some nice toys and books that she still owned in her heart. She told me she wanted me to have the use of them, but that she’d like to have them back eventually for her grandchildren. I was too young and inexperienced at the time to realize how bad a position this was for me to be in. I could not really enjoy the items, because in the back of my mind, I feared I would ruin them. In fact, one of the books was in my daughter’s bed when she threw up all over kingdom come and that was when I fully understood that I did not want these items anymore, unless my friend was ready to truly give them to me.

Don’t do what this friend did. Purge. Give away. By all means, go through your things. But give things away with your whole heart. They’re just things. Naked we came and naked we’ll leave, so the stuff in the middle is just stuff.

Now – about the journals. This is really troubling to me. I’m open to suggestions. I have journals going back some twenty years of my life. There’s good stuff in there and there’s a fair amount of trash, too. There are words entombed there that I really think I’d be better off burning. Keeping what I wrote down in bad times ties me to that past at least a little. I don’t think we really release a wrong done to us while we keep record of it written in a journal. I do believe thoughts are things.

However, I don’t want to just throw out all that recordation. I confess: it’s precious to me. I love looking back at what I thought about when I was 23. Most of the time, I roll my eyes at what a dork I was. (When I’m 80, I’ll probably roll my eyes about what I’m writing now.) The thought of transcribing all those journals and sanitizing the parts I’d rather throw out is too daunting. There’s thousands upon thousands of words written there. I don’t really know what to do with my journals. It’s tempting to just leave it and let family members argue with each other after I die.

So – how about you? Are you willing to go on a clean-out? I promise you, there is no self-help program that will yield bigger results for less effort than the simple act of going through your home and divesting yourself of excess. All the stuff that doesn’t describe you anymore. All the stuff that makes you feel like a loser. All the duplicates that are broken, the bottles half-empty you don’t like well enough to finish, the projects you thought you’d take on before you discovered it just isn’t you. Purge it and feel a weight lift off your soul. Just give it away.