Organize & Clean

The Guilty Art of Stealth Purging

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I have a pair of beloved sweatpants that has a hole in them. I would still continue wear them — in spite of said hole — IF I could find them, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my partner boxed them up and toted them off to Goodwill. She is curiously mum on the subject, feigning perfect innocence in the face of my pointed questioning and unblinking stares, but it’s been months since I saw them last. I am quickly losing all hope of ever seeing, let alone wearing, them again.

If you’re not familiar, stealth purging is when you sneak out of the house all of the extra unnecessary toys/crap that is clogging up your household, while the actual owners of the crap is out of the house. It achieves two purposes: 1) to get rid of crap; and 2) to avoid an argument about crap. It’s like the ghosting of cleaning.

As the victim in the sweatpants story, I’m torn about whether or not to be upset. On one hand, beloved sweatpants. On the other hand, if they are indeed gone from my life, then my partner ripped off the bandaid for me, so I didn’t have to hold a sweatpants funeral in the backyard. It takes time and energy to write a sweatpants eulogy and she saved me a lot of work.

As we all know, it’s not about having stuff, it’s that emotional connection you have to certain things, and the irrational sense that your heart will be ripped from your body if you get rid of said item. Life won’t be worth living without your Fargo-themed snow globe, or you know — just KNOW — that the perfect day will come along when you can wear that blonde curly wig again. Our rational brains know that just isn’t true, and it’s often best to let it all go.

The risks of leading the stealth purging charge are many: your family member/roommate could find out and be outraged at your underhanded household hubris. Or you could throw out something that you didn’t know was actually of value (whether that is sentimental or monetary) and be in the unfortunate position of being wrong. If you anoint yourself The Official Purger of All Things, or an official minion in Marie Kondo’s army, tread carefully, and consider these tips as a way to navigate the land mine of secret decluttering.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Only Get Rid of Ruined or Broken Stuff: That way when their eyes well up with tears, you can say, in all sincerity, that they wouldn’t be able to use it anyway, because it didn’t work, and hadn’t for a long time before you got your hands on it. And it will be somewhat true.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Target Duplicates: Books, vases, pens, mugs — omg the MUGS — are the things that hang out in packs, and the loss of which will go largely unnoticed when numbers are culled. In fact, their absence might also go unnoticed for years. Until faced with the hard evidence, people are more likely to shrug it off, and reach for the next one of the shelf and move on with their day.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Go For the Children’s Toys: They’re kids. They’ll never understand that the Tooth Fairy didn’t in fact make off with their limited edition My Pretty Pony the other night. Your secret is safe until they come of age and realize, which buys you years of time.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Your Own Questionable Purchases: You might want to forget that you once purchased shoes a half size too small and never wear them, but you also might really, really want your partner to forget it too. This is a good time to whisk the expensive, unused item that’s taunting you away from the closet, and give it a quick and covert heave ho.

Are you guilty of stealth purging? And have you ever been caught?