Living Simply | May 1, 2015

Time to purge

Photo by HornM201

My husband teases me for losing things by compulsively putting them away. I like to line up items in neat rows, I go nuts for the Container Store, and I hang clothes by color.

But sometimes I line things up in clearly labeled boxes, tuck them away where they “belong,” and completely forget about them.

Years will go by and I’ll stumble upon a box of ribbons, ancient business cards (in alphabetical order), or receipts in files created in high school—things that were at one point deemed important.

Just this week, inspired by a sunny, breezy, almost-warm spring day, I explored the back corners of my desk drawers at home. Along with a sweet card from an old friend and photos of my sister and me, I discovered brittle gum, pens that no longer write, and a checkbook with an address from two moves ago.

I purged the drawers, reorganized, and found all kinds of space for fresh projects and new ideas. The cards and photos went into a keepsake box, and a pile of previously precious garbage moved to the trash.

Now I was ready—ready to work, to write, to build something, learn something, create something. No longer burdened by dust and clutter, I saw my desk with fresh eyes and was energized. It was satisfying to excommunicate the clutter that had wormed its way in, and it was inspiring to wonder what treasures might fill my vacated drawers. Like the day outside, there was light shed in dark corners, fresh air breathed into tired space, and promise of new growth itching to break through the surface of imagination.

In this springtime of new life, may you have eyes to see the burdens you’ve become accustomed to that clutter your home, work, or heart, and may you be inspired to shed those things that no longer serve a purpose. May you experience the joy of finding new space and fresh air, and may you breath deeply of their promise.

Spring is also a great time to purge your pantry to make room for all the new produce that is soon to come. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Remove all items from your pantry.

2. As you go, dispose of dented cans, ripped bags, anything past its expiration date, and old spices (which should be replaced every six months).

3. Place canned goods that you’ve had for more than a year in a box to donate.

4. Once the cupboard is bare, dust off shelves and jars.

5. Then refill by grouping “like” items together (spices, canned goods, pastas, grains, etc.). Storing your core baking ingredients in a shared container, for example, means that when it’s time to whip up a batch of cookies, you only make one trip to the pantry.

6. Consider a small, well-placed lazy Susan—especially on high shelves—so tiny jars and pouches never get lost.

7. Commit to using the food you keep. Consider making fried rice, jambalaya, soup, or potpie to use up canned vegetables and grains.

8. Remember that less is more. Don’t hesitate to let go of the stuff taking up space that might otherwise be occupied by things you will actually use.

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at