Cleaning Out and Moving On

by Susannah Baker

The moment I’ve dreaded for so long is finally here, and it actually feels…really good.  Packers show up at my house this morning at 8am, and it feels really good to have sorted through every square inch of my house and put it into one of four categories – temporary housing, storage, give away, or throw away.

For weeks now, I’ve worn a brown apron tied around my waits that has “Susannah’s Kitchen” monogrammed on the front.  This apron is great for the simple reason that it has…pockets.  In my pockets I keep three different colors of electrical tape and a black sharpie marker ready to label and categorize all things at all times.  The OCD in me loves every moment of this.

I had no idea my husband had ten different kinds of hair gel stashed in his bathroom drawers, nor did I know I had a collection of round brushes underneath my bathroom sink that went as far back as the 1980’s.  Gross.

I had no idea my six-year-old, Caroline, was a hoarder, and kept every deer antler, shot gun shell, and sea shell under God’s green earth behind the door in her closet, or that my eight-year-old, Lizzie, is a fiercer cleaner-outer than I am.  She took one look at the note her best friend wrote her and the at the sticker book she just stuck the last sticker on and said, “I don’t need those, mom.  Throw them away.”  Music to my ears.

But in all seriousness, cleaning out with those four categories in mind has helped me tremendously.  It’s a method I want to tuck away in my brain for future cleaning out sessions, even when we are not moving.

#1 – Temporary Housing – will we really need to use/have/own/play with this item in the temporary house we are moving into for the next 8-12 months?  (Because, as my wise and dear friend Kathy McDaniel told me many years ago, “Every house we ever live in, even the brand-new-beautiful-ones, are all temporary housing.  They are all tear-downs in the big scheme of things.”)  And if it isn’t, if I don’t have room or need for it NOW, in the present tense, give serious consideration to giving it or throwing it away.

#2 – Storage – simply put: do I actually want to pay someone to store this item for me for the next 12 months?  Is it really that valuable of an item to me?  If not, it’s time to give it away or throw it away.

#3 – Give Away.  So much in our homes is excess or extraneous.  Find a friend or family member who could use it, or have a good place on hand, like the Faith Center here in Houston, or the C.H.A.R.M. prison ministry half-way house, to take your still-in-good-condition, gently used items.

#4 – Throw Away.  No one wants my daughter’s stretched out leggings or third round hand-me-down Disney princess underwear.  It’s Time.  To Throw Them.  Away.

And living with less, not more, always frees me to focus and live more fully present to the people and in the places where God has me.

So since spring is just around the corner, or, if you live in Houston like me, and winter and spring have completely bypassed you this year and it’s already 86 degree-humid-summer-like-weather, go ahead and put a spring/summer cleaning on your calendar.  Don your deep-pocketed apron with colored tape and sharpies, and start to live more by having less.  There won’t be one ounce of you that regrets the less, even if it means you only have two deer antlers on your shelf instead of ten.  Just ask Caroline.