How to Purge & Organize Your Home Like a Pro | Part 1: Purging

Ready to purge? Chances are if you’re reading this then one of the following statements describes you.

You…

  • feel overwhelmed about a space in your home and try to avoid it
  • think you have too much stuff in too little of a space
  • spend time digging through kitchen cupboards/drawers to find something
  • find yourself stuffing things in closets
  • tidy and then a day later things are back to where they were
  • or if you just want some fresh eyes and insights into how to live more organized

Well stay tuned because I’ll be sharing purging and organizing tips that will help you purge and organize your home like a pro. Because there is so much good information to share, I’ll be breaking up this content into 2 posts. This one is Part 1 which will be focusing on purging. Part 2 is coming next and will focus on organizing.

Tips for how to purge and organize your home like a pro. Steps for sorting into piles and purging rules to help you eliminate clutter and get rid of stuff.

Anyone who actually knows me knows that I love organizing. In fact, I love organizing so much that I used to work as a professional organizer, until I got too pregnant with my first to continue, and still do a few jobs here and there. (The before/after pictures are bad quality photos from some organizing gigs.) It feels very satisfying turning stressful and chaotic spaces into functional and happy spaces, and I find it even more fulfilling helping other people feel that transformation in their homes.

While working as a professional organizer, I learned many tricks of the trade from my organizing mentor, Kathryn Lewis, who is a purge and organize queen. She’s been in the business for decades and has a great way of connecting with clients, catering to their needs, and making spaces look/feel better. Many thanks to her for training me and helping me hone my skills.

Without further delay, below are my tips so you can purge your home like a pro.

Bedroom and closet before and after purging and organizing

Purge Like a Pro

In order to organize, you first have to disorganize. Essentially, you have to pull everything out so you can put it back in. This disorganization stage is called “purging.” (Make sure you mentally prepare for this purge stage before you dive in and get going on organizing a space.) To begin the purging process, start by sorting.

Purge by Sorting

Take everything out and sort it into piles. Let’s say, for example, that you’re organizing a closet. You want to take everything (you heard me! everything!) out of the closet and put them into different piles. My piles usually consist of: Keep, Toss, Maybe, and Other.

The Keep Pile

Just like the name says, this pile holds everything that you want to keep. When I say keep, I mean keep inside this closet. If you come across a book that doesn’t belong in the closet, but goes in the living room bookcase, then don’t add it to the keep pile, go take it to the bookcase right now. Before adding something to the keep pile, you’ll want to go through the purging questions below to make sure you really should be keeping it.

The Toss Pile

The toss pile is really a few different piles. I usually have a trash pile, a recycle pile, and a donate pile that stuff lands in. A donate pile is great! I find that sometimes people have a hard time giving something up even when it doesn’t make sense to keep it. (Examples might be… giving up a shirt you’ve never worn but spent a bunch of money on, a pair of pants you want to fit back into but haven’t in years, a purse that’s not really your style but was gifted to you, etc.) Having a donate pile can help you feel better about the idea of giving it away because it’s going to someone who will need and use it.

Purging by donating unused and unwanted items

The Maybe Pile

The maybe pile is a helpful place to put anything you’re on the fence about. After you’ve finished sorting everything into piles, then go back through your maybe pile and make a decision. I’ve found that sometimes it just takes giving things another look to decide that you can’t live without it or you really don’t need it anymore.

The Other Pile

This is the worst purge pile only because it means you have homework. Things that land in this pile have to be dealt with. In our closet scenario, in this “other” pile there could be a dress you borrowed from a friend that you have to return, a box of shoes that you want to take back to the store, etc. Even though it’s the worst, please. use. this. pile. and don’t just put all your to-do items in the keep pile to save yourself some homework. The whole point of organizing your closet is to purge and make it feel better, and it won’t if you have unfinished tasks hiding inside.

Purging Questions

As you are going through your purge and sorting process, go through the following questions to consider each item you sort.

  • What can you get rid of?
  • Do you really want to store this? If yes, WHY? Is it sentimental?
  • Can you get it online?
  • Are you going to read it again?
  • When is the last time you used that?
  • Can you take a picture of it and then let it go?
  • Can you donate it? Give to family/friend? Trash or recycle it?

Tips for how to purge and organize your home like a pro. Steps for sorting into piles and purging rules to help you eliminate clutter and get rid of stuff. Toy station

3 Good Purging Rules to Live By

#1- The 1 Year Rule

If you haven’t used or worn it in the past year then let it go. Purge it. That sweater in your closet that you like the idea of but for whatever reason haven’t put on in a year…. Just get rid of the sweater. That pair of pants with the hole that you’ve been meaning to patch for the last year. Run from the pants. The “fancy” plates taking up cupboard space and you just haven’t found the right occasion to use them. Lose the plates. The weird kitchen thing that you have on hand in case you ever decide to make homemade noodles. Ditch the weird kitchen thing. I promise that you will feel freed by getting rid of all of the “some day” things in your home.

Exceptions to this rule include things you feel heavily sentimental about (perhaps your wedding dress, a journal, a photo album, a pair of earrings that belonged to your grandmother, etc.). What about the trophy you won from soccer in middle school? I suggest taking a picture of it and letting it go. But at the end of the day, if you’re going to really regret giving the trophy away then keep it. Purging is meant to give us mental, emotional, and spatial relief. It’s not meant to cause regret.

The one year rule for purging and organizing | books

Another exception to the 1 year rule is with babies and younger children… if they haven’t worn something for a year then chances are it’s 5 sizes too small by now. So in their case, I would narrow the rule to an even smaller timeframe.

#2- The Don’t Keep Paper Rule

We’ve all got that drawer full of the appliance manuals, computer manual, printer manual, etc. In this day and age it is extremely likely that you can find the exact same manual in digital form online. So I advise you recycle all the manuals and take a renewing breath. Purge it.

There’s probably other unnecessary paper floating around your home: old magazines, old mail, kid’s artwork, a phone book, etc. If I may be so bold, I’ll suggest that you recycle the old magazines and phone book. Go through the mail and put anything that still needs attention into an action pile, shred anything that has sensitive information, and recycle the rest. Take pictures of the really cute pieces of your kid’s artwork and then toss them.

Purging and organizing | don't keep paper rule | mail, manuals, etc.

#3 The Less is More Rule

It goes without saying that the more you can purge and get rid of, the more organized and clutter-free a space will be. Seriously though. Clutter can be mentally, emotionally, and spatially overwhelming, so err on the side of minimal and your space will be more stress free.

But that doesn’t explain why less is more. So here goes my attempt… The less you have, the more easily you can get to things and the more able you are to enjoy what you have. For example, in a kid’s room the less stuff they have, the more space they will have to play, the easier it will be for them to find their toys, and the less mess it will make. This means more quality play time and less digging around and cleaning up.

Obviously there is a point where too few becomes a burden instead of a blessing. If you only have one pair of socks then (hopefully?) you’ll be doing laundry much too frequently. But chances are, you’re far from that, so purge your heart away.

Purging clothes closet before and after

I’ve Purged… Now What?

Part 1: Purging is complete! Congrats! You are through the hard part of learning how to purge and organize like a pro. You’ve made the piles and done the sorting, and you are finally ready to start organizing. This is awesome because now you get to turn your post-purging, now-even-messier space into an organized, happy space. To get my tips and secrets for organizing in Part 2: Organizing, CLICK HERE.

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Tips for how to purge and organize your home like a pro. Steps for sorting into piles and purging rules to help you eliminate clutter and get rid of stuff.

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