purging: the dirty truth


Hello lovelies! We’re back again with our favorite series!

So I kind of had this total freakout session before back to school where it’s like I was expecting. But I wasn’t. Maybe it’s the food baby again, but we were to leave town the week before school started. I looked around the house that was currently in that whole my-children-almost-killed-me-this-summer-and-a-gigantic-typhoon-of-child-hands-about-to-panic vibe. I had school supplies and uniforms to purchase, things to organize, and problem areas to tackle. Blech.


This is only a fraction of MORE bags I cleared out in just a few days. Total number of bags in three days? Eight. EIGHT. So want to know the ugly truth about purging?

Sometimes, you have to do it again.


I know right? Formerly organized drawers needed to be re-organized and closets needed to be cleaned out. In a bustling household with jobs, obligations (need I go on with my wah list?) sometimes, it just happens. It’s just the ugly truth.

I didn’t have to start over completely (See me: Getting defensive about not being a total failure) but it was definitely time to whip a few things into shape.


So I spent a good week re-systemizing our house. Here’s a few things I learned in the process.

1. Trial and error.

If this is a lifestyle change, sometimes you have to try, try again. Trust me, I was whining about it the entire time. But once I was motivated to tackle these problem (mainly high traffic) areas again, it went pretty quickly.

If I had to use percentages, I can easily say we’ve gotten rid of 75 percent of the things in our household. This is huge. Life changing.

But I’m a born stuffer. A surface cleaner. This has been my problem from the beginning. I get into a rush, and I throw things in a drawer. I’m re-training this brain, and getting my family to think differently as well. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t. For example, this little school/homework supply area MUST work because it’s the only thing keeping my sanity in tact in the afternoons when the kids come home and have piles of work to do while it takes me two hours TWO. HOURS. To fill out all their paper work. It’s a process.

drawer_dividers2. Persistence. 

It’s worth it to stay with it until you figure it out. It’s also worth it to take the extra time to put things away where they belong so you can find it later. The phrase different strokes for different folks is true. Personally, I’m working on not being such a freak who’s easily exhausted because of all the clutter. Now that I’ve spied the other side of the coin and how clean and spacious everything can feel, it’s worth staying with.


3. Systems. 

Systems that work, are worth waiting for.

My most pivotal moment for all of this? When Aiden looked at me last night and said “I like knowing where everything is Mommy! This is much better!”

For me, right now, it’s open shelving. Our laundry room. Areas that have been cleared out, that we intend to stay that way. And you know what else?


Legos. That’s right. I whipped the entire house into a better shape, and then, to top it all off in grand torturous celebration, we color coded the legos. It may seem OCD and minor to some, but my oldest doesn’t have them all piled on one end of his bunk bed anymore, collecting dust. He can easily find the pieces he needs. So far, so good. It’s staying that way. (I was totally inspired by i heart organizing.) While it’s not perfection, it’s working. So we’re rolling with it.


Our problem areas still to tackle: A few dresser drawers (I’m this close to nixing their dresser clothes all together and having them join the family closet with stellar shelving) the pantry (aka ugliest part of our home where you could survive the zombie apocalypse on ketchup and ranch for weeks) and the garage {see: still to be re-tackled and needing a serious overhaul/system before giant spiders and creepy clowns take up residence amongst the debris. It’s our holding pattern for big projects, and a solution must be found, before we all die in a cataclysmic cave-in because I’m officially scared to go in there.}

We’re SO close to having reached our original goal!

So have you ever had to eat crow and re-tackle something? Do you do the back to school nesting-foodbaby-freakout-sessions-shuffle like me? Are you re-training your entire family with dog whistles and cheese stick treats?

What are your problem areas that you plan to tackle?

Have an inspired day, y’all!

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Responses to purging: the dirty truth

  1. I am also a born stuffer, this is a hard habit to break. You are totally right, it is a life style change. I am not there yet but know it’s in my future. Good for you for not giving up when it didn’t go perfect the first time around. Someday I’ll get there and your lazy gal posts will be like my own personal instructions. :)

  2. Denise says:

    Totally did the back to school nesting thing!! Also, yes I have had to go back and purge multiple times. The first time through is just a dry run I think ;). And for me – a newly organizing junkie – it’s a learning process on keeping things organized!! Good luck!!

    • That makes me feel better. I felt like such a freak running around the house like a psychopath. But we were able to leave for a week and when we got home (with one day to prep before back to school) my home was clean, organized, uniforms were ready and things were in their place! Now paperwork… that’s a whole different story… ;}

  3. Michelle says:

    It seems like I’m eating crow all the time. Now that the boys are in school I plan on organizing each room(for what seems like the tenth time) and hoping it stays that way. I’m like you and shove stuff in closets and drawers and unfortunately my children have taken on my bad habits. In fact they are boarder line horders1 The room I fear the most is our garage. I’m hoping I don’t find any giant spiders or creepy clowns in there waiting to get me.
    Good luck and I look forward to reading how your purging/organizing goes.

  4. Laura says:

    The laundry! Oh, the laundry! A family of six creates an insane amount of laundry. I honestly think the problem is that my kids have too.many.clothes! We are blessed with a lot of family & friends that hand things down to our kids, which has their closets busting at the seams. My project for today is to go through & take out the things they don’t love or wear & get rid of it!
    I am also a stuffer & a ‘I might use this one day so I don’t want to get rid of it’ kind of girl. Thanks for the extra motivation to de-clutter and simplify :)

  5. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the reminder and reality:) I’m waiting til they go back to school. Too many littles underfoot for me to think about working effectively. I’m motivated to get us back on track next week!

  6. Heidi says:

    My husband actually asked me 2 weeks ago if I was pregnant because I was not only tossing and donating, but I was making freezer meals. LOL. I just have to be organized before school starts. I have 4 kids, in 4 different schools, and the after school homework/shuttle to activities/dinner to bedtime routine stresses me out. But yes-it’s a continuous battle.

  7. Debbie says:

    I was just telling a friend yesterday, that no matter how much I clean and organize, I seem to come across an area each day that needs a 2nd round. It’s a never ending job! Glad to know it’s not just me :)

  8. Darlene says:

    Great post. And it’s true – you really have to stick to it to maintain your organized areas. The hardest part is getting everyone on board – to put things back where they got them from – me included.

  9. Karmen says:

    Great inspiration! Been feeling like having a total house/garage yard sale for weeks: EVERYTHING MUST GO!! More realistically, I’d like to tackle the garage, the pantry, the freezer (gross) and some closets.

  10. Kyla F says:

    I struggle with all of my creative goodies that I like to keep within arm’s reach in my workspace (school supplies, sewing supplies, craft supplies, and the adorable collection of notebooks/stationary that I shamelessly hoard). I am also working on organizing and simplifying my wardrobe (I know ladies, I’m actually getting rid of clothes – gasp!) because the clothes that were oh-so-cute in high school are no longer appealing to me. I started this process in May of 2011 and I’m still going strong now, over a year later. It seems as though the piles are always multiplying, but your series provides the encouragement to stay persistent :)

  11. Jeanne says:

    Great job! It’s wonderful to clear the clutter, isn’t it? You just feel better. The house feels better. The rooms feel better. And it’s catchy. I just started clearing my clutter a couple weeks ago, after a long hiatus of clearing the clutter – bad of me I know. WIth working a more-than-full-time job and lots to do at night (going to college part time as well), there’s not a lot of time to de-clutter, but the energy that is released from breaking up/apart old stuffy, stodgy cluttery areas is immense and keeps me going. Eating crow because you have to re-do something? Not so much, really. It’s ongoing, you either have to keep up with it on a daily basis, or have periodic mega clean outs every few months. As long as it’s done, it’s good. The thing is to stick with it, and there’s a good chance that people do stick with it because it’s just that wonderful to have a clear space. I’ve read Clear You Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. She wrote the book back in 1996 and I read it in ’98; currently listening to it on Audible. Her book is the forerunner of all those reality shows where they clear people’s clutter…but she would rather it not be that way. it’s traumatizing to people to make them go through stuff so quickly. They have to want to, and you just can’t ‘get there’ in a very short show like those are. ANYWAY, the point to mentioning that book is that it’s not full of tips about decorations and crystals and colors, etc. It gets down to the business of *why* we have clutter and *why* it sabbotages our lives. Her information will click with you. It covers all the bases. It really does mess with our lives to have clutter. The book is extremely inspirational, I highly reccomend it to everyone. :)

  12. Becky says:

    I love you girl, and totally look forward to your blog every day. My children are grown and I’m a Nana now, but I giggle at and can so relate to your trials and tribulations! I must tell you though, whenever you use the word “spaz”, I cringe. Please consider how hurtful this word might be to others. xoxo

    • Thanks so much Becky. Just FYI I tried to remove it earlier today and apparently missed one. The word is no longer there, due to someone writing it publicly on our Facebook page. Also, I had absolutely no idea that this is considered hurtful in any way shape or form. I’m afraid that this is a total geographical issue based on cultures. It means “hyper and clumsy” if you google the word, and I felt that this was a clear and clean word to describe me.

      Please feel free to message me privately when it comes to concerns like this. It’s also hurtful when people assume that I meant to do anything intentionally as we strive not only in real life, but also on our site, to be very careful with our language and any connotations they might carry. For what it’s worth, it’s impossible to write something without offending someone somewhere in some way. This is a word that was twisted somewhere to mean something else. This is a cultural issue. I was not trying to be hurtful. Thank you.

      • Becky says:

        It was not my intention for my comment to be hurtful to you, and if I was I apologize. And I know from reading your blog for several years,that you would never intentionally be hurtful.

        Yes, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to write daily and not upset someone about something. And I want you to know is how much I LOVE your self deprecating style of humor and I knew that you were only using the word to describe yourself.

        When I hear the word (I’m from the midwest), I think of it as a shortened form of “spastic”. As a former teacher of children with special needs… I just don’t like to hear it.

        • Mary says:

          I am also from the Midwest…and have also been working with special needs kids for 15 years, and I did not find your use of the word “spaz” derogatory or hurtful at all!
          I adore your writing style, and your amazing ability to connect with us readers by describing your everyday life in a way that makes us laugh, think, and be inspired.
          I wouldn’t change a thing!! :)

  13. Mindy says:

    I am with ya, sister! It seems like we have to completely reorganize our basement every few months. To be fair, we have a basement garage and no attic, so our basement serves as the mud room, attic, craft room, and exercise room, and it’s like 20 square feet. But still- I need to develop better habits of putting things away when I’m done with them.

  14. I noticed your washer and dryer in one of the pictures and was wondering what brand it is and if you like it, why? I hate the new washer my husband got a few months ago (posted awhile back) and am going to find another one in the next year. Any advise??

  15. Chaney says:

    You speak the TRUTH Ashley! I feel like once you organize something, you should be done with it, right?! But nooo, I feel like re-evaluation is almost inevitable. Life changes, you have more kids, you realize a system doesn’t work…and then you have to start again. So thanks for this post and making us all feel normal when we need to reorganize! :)

  16. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you!! I am 30, single, and have no kids but seriously it’s nice to have the validation that I am not alone in this struggle! And even I start to feel the push to purge/reorganize/change when fall comes despite no school in my life. I’ve been in my own place a few years now and I’m feeling like the stuff I was stoked about 3 yrs ago is getting stale style-wise. Only it turns out you have to organize/purge/clean before you can redecorate! LOL Thanks for the pep-talk.

  17. jassully says:

    Ashley, all I can say is “YOU GO GIRL”! I am the mom of 6 and looking back on it I think I did this every year before school started. Now that they are all grown and in homes of their own they are passing along the benefits of being organized in such a way that works for them. :-) the important thing is to keep it fun and the kids will always want to join in.

  18. Cindy says:

    I vividly remember the day that it hit me: most parts of keeping house are never done. Never. It was the day that I thought I had washed, dried, folded, and put away the last pile of clothes, declaring my laundry “DONE!” — only to find a stray sock behind a door. Suddenly, my laundry was not done. Oh, the humanity!

    That one little sock unraveled the whole “done”-theory. Laundry: never done. Dishes: never done. Decorating: never done. Strangely, this was comforting rather than frustrating. When I gave myself over to the *cycle* of my to-do list, I enjoyed the rhythm far more. And I think I’m a more pleasant person, too (because, whoever’s sock that was? They are going DOWN.).

    Don’t you think purging is like that too? It’s not something to be crossed off and done forever. It’s more of a cycle that ebbs and flows with your family and the life they bring into the house.

    Side note: sorting our Legos by color was the best thing I ever did. A lot of up front work, true. But it is years later, and with minimal upkeep every now and then (cycle!), they are still sorted. My boys’ interest increased exponentially, too.

    • Cindy – thanks for this perspective. That is so true! I’m always so focused on things being done… and yet we have an entire room in the back of our house completely disheveled because here we go again on the design roller coaster ;} And yes! People think we’re crazy, but we love our color coded legos! It has brought a level of peace to the toy conundrum that I never thought possible. ;}

  19. Karen K. says:

    OMG. This: “Personally, I’m working on not being such a freak who’s easily exhausted because of all the clutter.” This is me! I am exhausted by everything around me. I have the desire to purge and I used to be really, really good at it, but lately I walk around thinking, “Hmmm, I should get rid of something” and then I just don’t. Toys are the worst but honestly, it’s all pretty overwhelming.

    I did come up with a few systems that are working for us since my daughter started school and we needed to keep track of more things. 1. I spray painted a cookie sheet and screwed it into the wall right near the kitchen. I bought these tiny, adorable magnet clips from OXO and they hold our printable monthly calendar and my daughter’s flashcards for school. 2. Right next to the cookie sheet, I hammered a nail and hung a clipboard. It holds our grocery list and a reading list for school. 3. I finally bit the bullet and put a small shredder on the counter near the family files. I can sort through mail much more quickly and immediately shred it, instead of piling it up in a basket somewhere until we have so much that we have to put it in a cardboard box, and end up moving that cardboard box to our new house without ever having shredded any of it. True story.

  20. Jen says:

    SO SO SO proud of you! This post makes me giddy happy. You have done so much already, and I know it can be exhausting and not easy and sometimes you may feel like you are going crazy {or at least I usually do}, but I adore that you are all feeling benefits from all the hard work. Although I love the actual act of organizing, the hardest part is staying disciplined about using the systems, especially when we are so busy. Having to go through and tackle some areas again a few weeks or months later, is normal and great {and much easier than years later}. Kudos my love!


  21. Christie says:

    I’m just coming to realize this concept. For about a year I’ve had the “routine maintenance” phrase stuck in my head. After being so discouraged when I would see places in my apartment that were recently “organized” (stretching that word a little) in a messy condition again… I gave in to the reality that everything is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Order to disorder. Bummer! Oh well, I keep trying and posts and comments like this are so encouraging! Yay for not being the only one with a family of six and an inordinate amount of hand-me-downs, Laura. = )

  22. Anne says:

    Sigh. I need to do this. It is my hope that I will, once my youngest starts school next week. The hardest thing for me in purging is that I feel someone would be able to use it all. I don’t know how to get rid of it in a way that would feel good to me.

  23. Thank you, thank you for this post!!! I was literally in tears yesterday as I looked over my house, that I have spent the better part of the summer trying to organize and realized it looked no better than when I started in June. But after some sweet words from my daughter, I looked again. The systems are appearing. There are less things. And I think my major problem is simply having the kids gone for a while so I can sort it without being interrupted. It really does help to hear that this is taking someone else a long time to get right, that it’s not jut me and it really is trial and error. Bless you for your openness!

  24. Real Mommy says:

    Great article! It’s so true about it being trial and error, especially when you have kids that you need to get on board! What works for you and makes sense in your eyes wont necessarily hit home with them…and wont last!
    Be open to trying something else if the kids are sticking with the first idea:)

  25. Jennifer says:


    I’m always drawn to discussions about purging. :) My husband and I had been planning for a couple of years to live in an RV full-time and in 2012 (at ages 29 and 32) we did it! We have an 8-year-old daughter that we homeschool.

    We lived in the RV for 15 months and are now in a house again. We sold and gave away almost everything we owned and just put a few things in my parents’ storage shed. It was an interesting, crazy time for us and we learned and grew A LOT. My husband left his job, we traveled and worked across America and back, and we learned even more intimately what it means to live by faith. We felt we needed a BIG change and, of course, we believe God orders our steps even if we think we are doing something only for the reason(s) we can see at the time.

    It was in most ways a very different experience than we expected because we had personal growth to attend to. 😉 That’s something we don’t take into consideration when we fantasize about something being a fun vacation or experience. God’s grace is sufficient and we see how all that has happened has been an integral part of our spiritual growth and are glad overall that we did it.

    My favorite quote from our daughter while living in RV:
    “Mommy, I was wondering something and I was hoping you could help me figure it out. I think I’m learning something but I don’t know what it is. [Me: What do you think it is?] I think it’s about life; like traveling and getting along.”

    Thank God for giving us wisdom; even to our young children.