Midlife Purge Part 2 EclecticEvelyn.com

The 3 P’s of Taming Chaos – Midlife Purge Part 2

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This is part two of a three-part series.  Read part one here.

3P's of Taming Chaos ©EclecticEvelyn.com

I’m about halfway through this month I have given myself to complete a midlife purge and my house is more chaotic than before I started. The boxes are not just limited to that bedroom anymore, now they are all over the house. They are all sorted or in the process of being sorted which takes up a great deal of room. You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you start sorting. I have piles of stuff to donate, stuff to sale, stuff waiting to be picked up by its real owner, and stuff to find a place for in my house. Not to mention the bags of trash I have thrown out.

In order to sort productively, I have a system I call the 3P’s of taming chaos – purge, place, and picture. I am going to go through each one and maybe it will help you with taming your chaos.




This is the hardest and most time consuming of the 3 P’s. It is more of a sort and purge. As part of the process, there will be piles all over the house for a while. For a few days, the house will look like the FBI just raided and your pets will not be happy  (get them a treat) but in the end it is worth it. As they say, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” or as I say quite frequently during this stage “where the hell did all this crap come from”.

Purge and Sort Piles EclecticEvelyn.com

As I go through boxes and drawers and closets, I ask myself a few questions and then sort accordingly.

Who does this belong to? If the answer is anyone not currently living in my house, then I put it in a pile just for that person’s stuff and I give them a week to come and get it.  

I have found that as my children have aged and moved out of the house, I have been left with a bunch of stuff I have no room for and really don’t want. They have this idea that Mom is the historian and will always have all their stuff just waiting for them when they decide they want it.  Nope, downsizing means downsizing.  If they really want it they will come and get it in a week. If not then…. purge.

  • Have I used (worn) this in the last 12 months? 
  • Does this have sentimental value?
  • Do I really like this?
  • Now that I have found this, will I use (wear) it in the next 6 months?

If you answer no to all four of these questions then you need to put it in the purge pile. My purge pile is really a couple of piles – the donation piles, the sale pile, and the trash pile. I will go into more detail about donating and selling items in Part 3.

If you answered yes to any of these four questions then the item goes in the keep pile. 

Now on to the other 2 P’s Place and Picture



Once you have finished your purge, you should be left with items you use, items you love, and items that hold memories or have sentimental value.

Items you use

All items you use should have a home. Dishes go in the cabinet, clothes hang in the closet, craft supplies go in the crafting cabinet, towels go in the bathroom, etc Start by finding a home and putting away all of the items you use every day. These are the utilitarian items you use to manage your home and life. These items do not include decorative items that you love or items that hold memories or have sentimental value unless of course they are utilitarian also. For example, I have casserole dishes that were my great grandmother’s. They hold a sentimental value, but I also use them for cooking, they would go in the kitchen.

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Now you should be left with decorative items, sentimental items, and those things you just can’t get rid of like the picture your son drew in first grade, your basketball jersey from high school or those get well cards from when you broke your leg fifteen years ago.

Decorative Items

All holiday related items should be packed in plastic tubs and labeled before being stored.  This makes it easier to find.  These are items that are only used on specific occasions such as Christmas lights, your punch bowl, etc.

Now look at your other decorative items ( knick-knacks, candles, pictures, sentimental items, etc) and place them in your rooms to accent your decor.  Make sure to give them a place of honor where they can be seen and appreciated instead of a jumbled mess stuck away in a corner curio cabinet.  It’s ok if you can’t find somewhere to place something just leave it in the pile

Place EclecticEvelyn.com

Sentimental Items

The hardest part of the purge is the items that have sentimental value and memories attached to them.  So much of the clutter we hold on to falls into this category.  Everyone needs to hold on to certain things because fo the memories that are associated with them.

Everyone in the house gets one plastic tub/box for keepsakes. You get to decide what goes in this box but remember you only get this one box and everything you keep must fit in this box. I call this my fire box. This is the one thing in my house that I would grab if there was a fire. What you put in your box doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you just make sure it is something that you would grab in a fire. In my box, I have my high school journals, a lighter, a piece of wood, a few cards, some ribbon, a streamer, photos, backup disks, and some other things.

After finding a place for the items you use. some of your decorative and sentimental items. you will have a pile left with some things that you just don’t want to get rid of, but you just have nowhere to put. This is where the last P comes in.



A great deal of the sentimental clutter we keep can be taken care of with a camera and a scanner.  Since the invention of the scanner and digital cameras, it has become easier to hold onto the memories without needing to hold on to the clutter. Most of the things left over from purging and placing can be taken care of with this last P along with many of the things you put in your fire box.

Picture EclecticEvelyn.com

Scan everything you can and free up those boxes. You will keep the memories forever saved in your cloud or on your hard drive.  No need to worry about them getting torn or accidentally thrown away.  Here are a few of the items I scan instead of keeping in a box. Here is the scanner I use and recommend.

  • children’s artwork
  • greeting cards
  • invitations
  • any important papers I may need
  • report cards
  • recipes
  • handwritten notes
  • love letters
  • magazine articles

For the larger items take a photo.

We keep so many items from our children because of the memories attached to them. We think, my child will want this when they grow up.  Guess what? They don’t want all that stuff.  We want all that stuff because of the memories we attach to them.  You child really does not want all six of the skateboards he had in junior high or every single trophy she won in track.  Take a picture.  Save the memories by taking a picture and let go of the clutter.  I am sure there is a young boy who would love to have one of those skateboards your son has left behind.


Come back in a few weeks and read the final installment in the Midlife Purge Series.

Fabulous at 50 living and writing in Appalachia

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9 thoughts on “The 3 P’s of Taming Chaos – Midlife Purge Part 2

  1. I love the idea of the “one box”! Really brilliant, actually. Big enough to save some serious stuff, but small enough to get rid of most everything. Thanks for this tip as well as the others!

    1. Many people when they write about decluttering insist you get rid of everything but being the inheritor​ of my Grandmother’s hoarder​ gene, I just can’t do it. The one box gives me permission to keep mementos but also limits it to the one box.

    1. Giving up my storage building that contained the contents of my large house and moving everything to my much smaller apartment forced me to do it. Downsizing.

  2. This is a great way that you are going about your p’s. I have been through this when I downsized to an apartment. It feels so good to not have so much stuff. I do find that I need to be disciplined not to let it build up again.
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    1. Downsizing is definitely my incentive to purge. I feel overwhelmed by all this stuff now that I live in an apartment that is less then half the size of my former house.

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