Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat

A natural part of moving from one home to another is taking an overall look at all that you have and deciding whether or not it all comes with you. So unless you are a nomad, this is a major undertaking.

What do you do when you have to keep, donate, sell and repeat? Are you the type that can wave off a box of old items as they make their way to Goodwill without so much as a sayonara or a second glance? Or do you hold on, remembering the season in which the item was most useful?

What a crucible moment this can be, amen?


As I go through this process at my own home, the conversation in my wheelhouse goes something like this:

I could do without this _____.

I remember when Jack and Audrey used to (insert random memory about said item here).

Won’t it be great to create more space once it’s not around?

In 20 years, that memory will come to mind and I’ll wonder wear that thing went and I’ll wish I had it.

“Should I sell it on Craigslist? (No, too much work).”

Sheesh, if I keep everything, I will soon be clearing a narrow path through layers of debris just to get to the lavatory and my TV tray.

I’ll never remember this once I’ve donated it.

It’ll be a good tax deduction.


I’m sure with most of us there is an arc of thought that occurs once we endeavor to simplify whether it’s because we want to finally be able to park in the garage or because we are transitioning homes. My siblings have been all different on their arcs; one says no to most things, one considers the future use of the item and then makes an even-handed decision, and one will take absolutely anything that nobody is taking in order to preserve the legacy.

Here are a few little tips I’ve picked up along this Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat journey:

#1 – Snap away. Take pics of things you think are awesome-sauce but just can’t be saved. My childhood dog, Maggie, was the worst juvenile delinquent in dog obedience school so when I came across her graduation certificate, I hooted loudly with laughter, took a quick photo and tossed it

 While looking through old notebooks in a storage box, I also found this:

(Heck if I remember who “Barrett” is, but look at the intensity and specificity of the scorekeeping for some serious 80’s gamers)

#2) Label label label. No matter how many times I thought I would remember what was in that box, I always lost track of it once the boxes started to multiply. This helped us quickly decide if there were any boxes that needed to be re-visited at a later time.

#3) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Knowing there was absolutely no reason in God’s green earth to keep something, it was subversive at times but always appropriate to not spend time discussing and deciding the fate of an item with either parent. Case in point: boxes upon boxes of cassette tapes.

#4) Ask and Tell. Clarify the need, respect the decision and move on. This is something I did well SO RARELY!!


My mom moved 11 times when she was a child because her dad was a geo-physicist for Exxon, requiring him to be wherever there was new oil. This took them to major Exxon hubs like upstate New York and Houston but also to a place like Peru.

So I imagine she did some serious purging along the way. She never was much of a saver and takes true delight in a cleared-off countertop. A room looks better to her with fewer pieces of furniture in it. One of the things that was very difficult about her move to Colorado Springs when my dad joined a pediatrics practice in 1968 was the idea of staying put, never being required to move on.

She finally settled in, though, and this home has become her refuge. There were times in the winter when it snowed, that I didn’t see her tire tracks on the driveway at all – even 4 days after a snow! Settled in, cozy, home-bound and in her sweet spot. She has lovely things, many with a beautiful story. She treasures items because of who she thinks of as she uses them. Relational and sentimental.

Dad grew up in a tiny town in Southeast Arkansas as an only child, albeit with tons of cousins, aunts and uncles. Everybody knew a Blankinship in those parts. Owning quality items is important to him perhaps because of the way he was raised; always some uncertainty looming in the future as to whether his alcoholic father would be reliable.

His mother bought dishes one piece at a time, as finances allowed. Cleo was, from the rendering of her I have received, the picture of consistency in life. She taught piano, she saved her pennies, she prayed to Jesus. She was a lovely and necessary compliment to her husband. And so, my dad is sentimental about things he has earned and things that she worked hard to provide but he’s emotionally tied to little else. He is practical and linear about possessions.


And so imagine blending the practical with the relational, combining a linear process with a sentimental one. This has been our plight since September as we tackle one cabinet and closet after another.


If in the mood, my mom can rationalize well about why she doesn’t need this or that any more. And she has done a might work in letting go. But there are moments in this season where letting go of that treasured item just because it was $5 at TJ Maxx and has no family story was just not enough ammunition to convince her that she could part with it.

And surprisingly, there have been moments when my dad has been in a similar spot. He has more of a “purge everything” mentality, predictably. However, there have been times when he stops to leaf through old notes from medical school lectures or ancient documents from his mother’s bible that he just can’t make a decision. And those are times when we have insisted that he pack the item up, and enjoy looking through those items when he is in a simpler place in his life.

Here are some interesting spots to look if you’re in a similar zone:

Video about Where Our Things Go

The Story of Our Crap, I Mean “Stuff”

In summary, keep – sell – donate – repeat, but don’t lose sight of the person you’re doing it with and the point of your project…a principle we work on all the time with varying degrees of success.

Happy Purging!




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3 Responses to Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat

  1. Amanda Q says:

    awesome-sauce = my new favorite word. love it.
    also love the idea of taking pictures of items that need to be tossed but the memory saved…brilliant idea.
    good work c!

  2. Colette G says:

    Great reminder, leavingmemorylane! Purging is not always so cut and dry. And yes, I am going to work awesome-sauce into my vocabulary this week, and think of you. Colette

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