The Opposite of Nesting

[Disclaimer: I am going to use the word ‘pregnant’ in this post. This in no way means I am pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or wanting to become pregnant. Mom.]

Collyer Brothers brownstone
photo via

You know that instinct that surges in pregnant women called ‘nesting’? Where they wake up one morning and decide to spruce everything up like little happy birds, clean out every nook and cranny, and make sure everything is just so for the impending arrival of new life? Is there an equivalent instinct in non-pregnant women? I suppose we could call it “purging” or “decluttering,” or, following the current trend sweeping across social media, the “KonMari Method,” from the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Growing up, my mom simply called it, “throwing shit away,” and if you need a book to tell you how to do that, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but clutter ain’t one.

Though, recently, I’ve noticed that it kind of is a problem. I woke up one morning with the (admittedly totally-batshit-insane) thought that, “If we had to move to Paris today, we would have too much shit to bring with us, we couldn’t do it, how would it all fit on a shipping crate?” I looked around, and felt smothered. My house suddenly felt like a mix of the Collyer Brothers brownstone and Grey Gardens. Who needs this many DVDs anymore? Why do we have three mostly-empty bottles of shaving cream under the sink next to cough syrup that expired in 2014? Where did all of this stuff come from? How do I get rid of it??

So the past week has found me decluttering and non-nesting like a fiend. On Monday night, I had the totally normal urge to pull the stove out from the wall and vacuum behind it, as well as wipe down the sides. I’ve boxed up a ton of kitchen stuff (tiny coffee maker we bought at Walgreens but have never used? Buh-bye!) to take to a donation center, threw away a handful of old kitchen utensils (gross spatula in the back of the drawer that had partially melted? See ya!), tossed a Vanity Fair from 2003 I’ve been holding on to (I love JFK Jr. and Carolyn as much as the next person, but saving a 12 year old magazine isn’t doing anybody any good) and took a stack of DVDs to sell at FYE. I made a paltry $8, but it isn’t even about the money. I just don’t want it in my house anymore. I took some old purses and nicer clothes to a consignment store, and have another round ready to go next week. All those tiny samples I’ve accumulated from Sephora and Macy’s that I’ve never used? Gone. All those comfortable old underwear we keep even though the elastic is stretched or they’re starting to rip? (Admit it, you have these, too) Trash. Books? Books are proving harder to part with than I expected, but I have a small stack to take to a used bookstore, and my fiend Jess took a few, too. Borrowing books from the library has been an enormous help, too.

Am I alone in this? Is this just spring cleaning a season early? I wonder if there’s not some larger cultural shift, where, because we’re so digital these days (does anyone print photographs anymore? Or are they all stored on your hard drive?), it’s spilling over into other parts of my life, too.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more closets to go purge.

8 thoughts on “The Opposite of Nesting

  1. Oh my God, yes, I’ve been trying to find some time for a major purge again. I really like that book. Have you read it? If you haven’t, the basic mentality is keep everything of the same type in one place and keep only the things you love so everything you own brings you happiness. The parts that were the most helpful to me were about getting rid of gifts I don’t love but feel guilty parting with and other emotional attachments and she gives you an order of which things are easier to purge. I haven’t actually gone through the whole house purging everything, but I would really like to. I wish we were moving soon so I could have a real reason to take away that time from writing. I feel too guilty turning my house inside out to do a thorough purge right now. I’m always on the lookout for things like expired things or clothing with holes, though, and get rid of those as I run into them. I bet it would help, though. Sometimes a little physical declutter can motivate a mental one.

  2. Yes yes and yes. Right before our move, I was getting rid of everything. I took an entire car load to the donation center and believe me, there were so many more items I wanted to get rid of, but for some reason, Steven wanted to keep them. So we brought them with us to Chicago. And when unpacking, I find these items and feel, “Why did we even bother packing this up – wasting precious time, energy, and space!?” Steven has a little bit farther to go, but I am definitely on that purging-train. I do like KonMari’s purging question, “Does this bring me joy?” when keeping an item. Some pointless tchotchkes really do bring me joy just having them around, and so they stay.

  3. must be something in the air… i’ve been on a serious purge these past few days… throwing out, giving away, selling… you name it… still wouldn’t be able to pack my life in a box, but it sure does feel a lot better!

  4. YES!!!
    I am there too! I think it’s not just a Spring thing, but a Fall thing too.
    And just today I was thinking of having a chat with The Mr and telling him I don’t want anything for Christmas (ok, I may just be talking crazy now). I just can’t handle any more ‘stuff’ at the moment. Must. Purge. Now!

    1. Oh my god, YES! I just had the EXACT same conversation with my mom yesterday over a late lunch. I said, “I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, but I really, really don’t want stuff for Christmas/my birthday. I can’t take any more things.” That’s so funny! Clearly you and I are on the same page with that one. I am sweating the thought of coming home from Christmas dinner with family with a box of things I have to find room for in my house. I can’t. No more things! xo

  5. This has been the past year for us in a nutshell. Shawn gets on these kicks of “I need to get rid of everything NOW” and I’ll come home to three trash bags filled with STUFF. You don’t realize how much you have until you decide to move and start packing things… and all of a sudden you’re face to face with all of the things that you own (ahem, that own you).

    Though I’ve gotten much better about transforming my shopping habits, I really do love to shop… so my mantra has been “one in, one out”, and that has helped a ton with the clutter. This year we don’t want anything materialistic for Christmas. I was trying to do the same for my birthday but I got caught up in the thrill of being in Spain and letting my mom buy me ALL THE THINGS. (Let’s just say, my carry-on luggage was filled to the brim.)

  6. Yes completely yes. I helped the bf and his sister move to a new apartment and all I could think of during the entire time was – god I really hope I don’t have this much stuff. I dropped off a bag of clothes at the donation box this morning and am going to go through my winter clothes next. I don’t know what it is but all the stuff gets in my head and makes me a little wild as well

  7. Bonjour Erin, je suis de retour! J’ai lit ton article et tu ma fait rigolé mais tu as raison! Moi aussi j’étouffe parfois dans la maison, j’en l’impression qu’on accumule trop des choses inserviables, trop des échantillons, des cadeaux qu’on aime pas et même trop de poussière ! Il faudra que je trouve le courage comme toi pour me débarrasser et vivre un vie plus simple et zen! xo
    Ps: Peut-être tu ne pourras pas déménager à Paris mais moi je ne pourrais même pas bouger dans la rue plus proche!

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