Sunday, July 15, 2007


July 11 is the anniversary of The Surgery. I didn’t realize until a few days ago that I had unconsciously been planning my House Purge Extravaganza around this anniversary. How is that possible? After my trip to Commonweal, the Woo-Woo Center of the Universe, I ask the question with a smile.

What is the meaning of a purge anyway?

Sanctification. Really. I looked it up after I started using the word to describe my plans.

I’m making my home a sacred space. Removing the fear and sadness of the past year and replacing it with healing and beauty, with room to grow.

Purging is physically and emotionally draining, like peeling away layers of an onion that turns out to have been cast in concrete.

On Day One, I finished Danny's room. It took an entire day. When the dinosaurs were sorted, the cars tossed in their bins, the sharks and sea creatures nestled under the train table, I hauled the boxes of not-used-so-much toys out in the hallway. Turning to look at the room from the doorway, I had to smile. This was a little boy’s room again. When he arrived home from daycamp I wondered what his reaction would be to the way I’d moved the red wooden train table, actually more a play table, from the back of the room to the front. Now he’d be able to stand at one of three sides and draw or play games, not just stack piles of toys and clothes and books on it. A cozy nook in the corner welcomed one or two children to read or discover together. The closet was no longer a fearsome place where haphazard towers of toy boxes threatened to collapse whenever the door opened, but one where a few extra toys were stored, boxed and neatly labeled. Order imposed on chaos. Elimination of excess. Yes, this was good.

Gracie’s room contained a year’s worth of a champion packrat’s best efforts. Every piece of homework, drawing, doodle, note, fuzz, bead, doo-dad, hairclip, ribbon, rock, shell, and paper she had come into contact with over the past 365 days were hidden somewhere in that room. The excavation would take at least two days and, overwhelmed by that thought, I retired to the sofa with a bowl of brownie mix, a book, a cat and music. Purging would wait.

After a decadent and refreshing interlude, I stepped back into my reality and began to wrestle my daughter’s room into submission. Two days drifted into three before the match concluded. Exhausted, I stood at another doorway and grinned.

Art materials in containers, crafts stored on closet shelf, desk clear and ready for story writing; desk chair available for sitting once again, bookshelves holding books, all standing straight and tall; knick knacks arranged in containers, no longer flung willy nilly in every cubby. A rocker beckons the young reader, the daybed sweetly holds the teddies and unicorns. Check, check, check. Twelve grocery bags of papers went to the curb that week for recycling. One long plastic bin went to basement storage. In it resides the best of K-2 art, writing and special works from a creative mind.

Our bedroom was next. The space resembled Ground Zero. It is the sorting room, the boxing room, the bagging and debating room. Bit by bit everything will make its way out the door and down the hallway, on its way to charity, a friend’s house, a sale or with regret, the dump.

With every layer that is chipped off, peeled away, torn off and deposited somewhere else the house feels lighter, cleaner, fresher. It is easier to say no to bringing new things in when the progression of their life in our home is seen. How long will that toy last before it goes to charity? To the dump? Will the enjoyment last as long as it did?

As the house empties out of things I feel joy seeping back in. The gifts I now wish to receive are small ones: time with friends and family, art, green and growing things, healthy food, beauty and love. Always love. My husband and children will thrive with those gifts. I will receive them, I will give them.

My home is sanctified now. I am purged.