My oldest daughter, Darynne Delaynie, moved to college in mid-August. People have been asking me how I’m doing. I am fine. Keep in mind she is attending college in state at MSU in Bozeman and that my MSU Extension work takes me from the Teton County campus to Bozeman occasionally. Plus, we can video chat and text and send pictures. It is not like when I went to college, and we wrote letters and called home briefly on Sundays. And it isn’t like others whose children are states away or who went to bootcamp and could have no communication other than letters for the first month.

We miss her, but it is exciting to hear about her new adventures and challenges. Actually, in some ways, I am relieved. It is like completing a big, time-consuming project. Not that I’m done parenting by any stretch, but it was the goal to raise her into a capable young adult and get her to college.

It feels like we have completed a stage and are on to the next one. The day after we got home from moving her to college, we solidified the change by taking everything out of her room, painting it and moving our younger daughter, Bellamy, into it. My oldest, Darynne, was very gracious in recognizing that although our home would still be her home, she wouldn’t be living here much of the time. It made sense for Bellamy to have the larger bedroom closer to the bathroom and farther away from her father’s snoring. We also took everything out of Bellamy’s room and painted it for Darynne, as it will become the place she stays when she isn’t living somewhere else.

We moved into our current home five years ago. It is amazing what can accumulate in that time.

For years when the girls were little, I took a week of annual leave in August, and because we couldn’t afford to go anywhere or do anything, I stayed home and made it my annual clutter-busting, closet-clearing, shelf-wiping, drawer-dumping, vacuum-the-backs-of-the-closets vacation. It seems since our move and having kids in high school that was no longer the routine. Until now! With college tuition, I think we are definitely back to the “staycation” situation.

Before leaving for college, Darynne had done a decent job of paring down her possessions, most of which were clothes. Nothing like moving into a 12 by 16-foot dorm room you will share with another person to steer you toward standards for what you will keep. I wasn’t too concerned about her stuff.

My daughter, Bellamy, well … that was another situation entirely. She was the overwhelmed recipient of much of what Darynne purged. For her, we needed a process for sorting her possessions.

While we were painting, I was listening to “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. Sometime in the last year, I had listened to “Clutter Free” by Kathi Lipp. And, of course, I had listened to books by Marie Kondo and many others. Bellamy even accidentally listened to “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” a few years ago, because I had it playing on speakers instead of my earphones. I didn’t realize how much of it she was absorbing until one day, she came into the living room. Stopped by the piano. Caught my eye. Put her hands all over the top of it and declared to the piano, “You no longer bring me joy. Thank you. You may go.” She grinned at us and bounced off to where she was headed.

The piano aside, decision-making has sometimes been a struggle for Bellamy. Some ideas for determining which items to keep include a series of questions suggested by the authors. Beyond, “Does it bring me joy?” … there are questions, such as: Do I like it? Do I need it? Do I use it? Two that I have added: Have I enjoyed it enough? If I keep it, is it likely to bring me more enjoyment in the future?

I was telling my husband, Darren, about some of what I was listening to and have read, plus own my thoughts. Together we came up with a plan that we presented to Bellamy. She could use a scale, 1-4. We would put numbers on the floor for the spectrum. At the number one end, she would put anything that she knew for sure she wanted to keep. At the number four end, she would put the items she was certain were not staying. The twos were to be considered for keeping, once we evaluated the ones, and the threes were up for consideration for leaving. The system worked beautifully, especially for clothes. If she already had 15 T-shirts in the one’s pile, it was pretty easy to let those in the two’s and three’s categories go. I was going to use words for the scale, but it was Darren who came up with assigning numbers. It is surprising how easy it was to make decisions when all you had to do was assign a rating.

Once we pushed through the planned work of the two girls’ rooms, it felt so good, we kept going. Bellamy and I made it through almost every drawer, bin, cupboard and cabinet in the basement. I still need to do the file cabinet, but I’ll keep that for a winter project.

When we got to the few toys, mostly dolls that we have kept, we had a definite answer to “Will they still bring us enjoyment in the future?” It was clear they would. Sorting those items and reminiscing was the most fun of the whole process.

Last night, I took the 1-4 method to my own clothing. One of my concerns with this method in my closet is that I don’t really love any of my clothes that much. They are more functional than fashionable. I was a bit afraid I’d have nothing to wear when I got done. My clothes were more evenly distributed in the numbers piles than I had imagined.

For accountability, Bellamy reviewed my threes and fours with me. She concurred that everything in those two piles had to leave. She also thought that my oatmeal turtleneck was a four as well as one wool jacket, but I kept both because while they are not pretty, they are practical. They are warm and I am often so cold. They don’t bring me that much joy, but they bring me comfort. If I don’t wear them much this winter, they are gone.

One of my challenges in getting rid of clothing is wondering if I will wish I had it later. I’m trying to remind myself that if it isn’t there to choose, I will make another choice from what is. It is that simple. A nice side effect of purging is that it gives you space. For me, it isn’t even so much the physical space that I appreciate. Somehow it seems to open mental space as well.

Perhaps you’ll want to use the 1-4 method of clearing your clutter and your life. It can be a big project, but you’ll likely feel relieved when it is done. And, it might make you feel ready for whatever the next stage is in your life.