Purging and finding calm: My apartment burn down

One day I looked around my apartment and all the stuff that had made my house feel like a home started to make me feel entombed. All the tchochskies, the books, the toys, the furniture, the art, even the rug under my feet — curated, collected, and displayed just so — all started to feel like “too much stuff.” I felt like I was living in an episode of Hoarders — the overly decorated edition.


I thought about culling. I thought about starting a donation pile. I even got rid two or three bags of clothes. But the moment I would start on the rest of the place, I would promptly get overwhelmed. What good is this tiny dent going to make when this whole two bedroom apartment is full-to-bursting with SHIT!?

I remember thinking, as I edited a post about an apartment fire, “I wish I could just burn it all down and start over.”

A few months later, I kind of did…

The first wave of burn down was when Aaron took all his stuff out of the house — an entire room’s worth of music gear, shelving, cds and records, clothes, and whatever garbage he’d adopted from the side of the road, was suddenly gone. When I came home from Paris, I expected to feel sad at the site of an empty room, and all the empty spots around the house where his stuff used to be. But all I felt was relief.

I realized then that more stuff that left the house, the less anxious I felt.

during painting

The second wave was getting my apartment ready to be repainted. Since everything needed to be removed from the walls, it was time to tackle the bookshelves and ALLLLLL the books that lined the top of my kitchen cabinets.

As an english major and a long-time lover of books, this was quite the undertaking. I used to find the idea of throwing away a book to be sacrilegious. I lovingly saved every book I read throughout my life, including all of college (even the ones I hated, even the anthologies in which I only read one or two pieces). Every book was a memory, was an achievement, was a part of me now. And every book stayed.

You know what I love about reading books now? I have a Kindle. Every book I read can do the same, be the same, stay with me the same way… but virtually. No shelf space needed.

So I made a really hard decision — one that Younger Megan would have been utterly shocked by — I got rid of about 80% of my books. I also ditched the bookshelves they all lived on.

during floors

The third wave of apartment burn down was when the floors were being re-done. Now things didn’t just have to be moved away from the walls, they needed to be out of my apartment completely. Basically everything I owned had to fit within the square footage of two small bathrooms and a galley kitchen. So two Subaru Crosstrek‘s worth of shit left my house, and found their way to Out of the Closet — leaving more open floor and wall space than I’ve seen since I first moved in, and only ONE box full of tchotchkes and decor items. ONE!

And. It. Feels. Awesome.

My apartment went from six different paint colors to just one: Benjamin Moore’s “Calm”

The color is aptly named, as that’s what I feel every time I step into my post-burn down apartment: Calm. Still. Light. Relaxed. Happy. Home.

Dining room before and during burn down.

Right now, like most homes after a fire has swept through, it’s not livable. I don’t have a bed. There’s stuff piled up to chest height in my kitchen. The cable has been unplugged, and I’m not sure how to plug it all back together. And my living room is in my dining room and my dining room is in my living room for some reason.

So the next and final wave of apartment burn down is going to be me putting my place back together. It’s kind of overwhelming, but in a different and good way. I need to clean all the remodel dust that has found it’s way onto every surface of every fucking thing. I need to get a new coffee table, new area rug, hang up all my art, and find out where all the stuff I don’t want to get rid of, but doesn’t really fit, will go…

But I’m excited, guys. I can’t wait to share the results with you!

Here’s to burning it down and starting over fresh, de-cluttered, free, and calm.


Female SHIELD agent cosplay at a Marvel-themed party


Surprise homelessness and last-minute parties: The last days of the apartment reboot


  1. Dude, I did the same thing after my last superbig breakup. I think I got rid of 75% of my books, half my furniture, and, overall, 2/3ds of my shit.

    It felt amazing. I’m never going back.


    • meganfinley

      I love the idea of never going back! That makes me feel good that your still feeling that way. Because I worry about drowning in stuff again. No want.

  2. I was exactly the same as you – a flat full of “stuff” that I loved and books piling everywhere. When I moved in with my (now) husband, I got rid of a lot of it, but we still needed a storage unit for the extra stuff that wouldn’t fit.

    Then we decided to move from Scotland to Canada and, suddenly, I looked at things in a whole different light. Do I really love this “thing” enough to pack it up and ship it across the world (and pay for that privilege!)? And why am I bothering to keep books that I will NEVER read again or that I already have on my Kindle?

    Of course, I still have “stuff” and I’ll never be a full-on minimalist, but, my god, it’s so much easier to keep things clean. And it keeps your head clean too 🙂

  3. soundtek

    Whew – I just started Marie Kondo’s way of cleaning and its been so freeing… I admire you doing it all by yourself – Im kind of a hoarder so I get overwhelmed easy… 🙂

    Good luck – I cant wait to see more of your progress!

  4. Jackie

    That sounds difficult and amazing! I did a huge purge of my stuff after moving cross-country, then having to go through the stuff I left behind with my parents during a holiday break. Yup, that included getting rid of 90% of my books. So heavy, so not worth it when I have access to wonderful libraries and ebooks that weigh nothing.

    I’m a couple chapters into Marie Kondo’s book, and it sounds lovely but I’m already feeling anxious/guilty about some things I know I’ll sort of want to keep but also shouldn’t really. I think the nervousness about really going through everything I own tells me that it’s sorely needed. I’m excited to get through it, and really looking forward to seeing the results of your fresh start!

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