purge or be purged

Introducing the Purge, a Rage-Based Cleaning Method

Photo: Universal Pictures, Getty Images

Three years ago, I took over a charming New York apartment full of other people’s crap: hundreds of old magazines dating back to 1996. A wardrobe full of XXL men’s coats. A cardboard box full of rolls of undeveloped film and mysterious cassettes with labels like “B-roll, Brooklyn Bridge, 2002.” I still get junk mail for six different tenants, some of whom haven’t lived here in a decade (Heidi, if you’re reading this, change your mailing address).

I always thought these inherited items gave the apartment character. Plus, I’m lazy, and had adjusted to the idea that I would forever have to step over a tower of old Vogues in order to reach the bathroom. My roommates had other ideas. Their cries of frustration mounted, becoming louder and louder, forming an unbroken chorus that I could no longer ignore.

“Anna,” they would say, cornering me in the kitchen at night, when my guard was down. “We need to purge the apartment.”

I’m not totally sure why we started calling it the Purge. In part, it was because of the hilariously titled Purge franchise (No. 3 is out this weekend), the horror movies about the one day each year on which citizens are allowed to murder each other. Also, we’d all recently become fascinated by Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant, and yet were skeptical of her premise that you should only keep an item if it “sparks joy.” What if your items didn’t spark joy? What if they sparked rage?

And so, one day, we purged. We emerged from the frenzy as changed people, with a new lease on life and a much-improved apartment. I share our method with you today:

1. Plan a purge day. Purging is an activity best done in one concentrated, adrenaline-fueled burst. You can’t gradually purge, because it’s not healthy to maintain that level of rage over a long period of time. Much like ridding your body of a food-borne toxin, you must evacuate the contents all at once. Don’t stop until you get the poison out.

2. Accept that purging is unpleasant. Marie Kondo really likes tidying up. She believes it possesses “life-changing magic.” But for many of us, cleaning is an unpleasant activity, arising out of frustration and a feeling that one has hit a breaking point, that one’s surroundings are untenable, and that a purge is the only way to restore order in a turbulent world. Embrace these negative feelings. Let them be your guide.

3. Channel your rage. Marie Kondo thinks your belongings deserve respect. As a rule, if you’re in your 20s and living in a New York apartment with more roommates than bedrooms, your belongings are probably crap. Hold up an item. Does it make you feel furious and sick to your stomach? Are you angry at the person who brought it into your home and all memories associated with it? This item must be purged.

4. Peer pressure is key. Purging can be done alone, but it is best done in a group, so as to inspire a mob mentality. That way, your roommates can force you to purge useless items that may spark joy for you— like the tantalizing prospect of one day developing those old B-rolls and cashing in on your own sweet Vivian Maier payday — but that may fill them with blind and inexplicable rage.

5. Air your grievances. Is there a decorative coin dish that has been innocuously sitting on your coffee table for years? Now is the time to tell your roommates that you hate it more than you’ve hated anything in your life and that it must be purged.

6. Demand answers. At many points during the Purge, you will hold up an item and yell, “Whose is this? WHY IS THIS HERE!?” These are not rhetorical questions, but instead part of the necessary truth and reconciliation part of purging that will bring restorative justice to your home.

7. Invariably the purge will go too far. Typically, someone of your group will take things too far, consumed by the mania of purging, and will attempt to purge basic household items, like your couch or all your pots and pans. This person must be stopped at all costs, even if you have to physically restrain them. If not, they, too, must be purged.

8. Drink heavily. See No. 3.

9. Purge or be purged. Inspire your purging with a battle cry or mantra. I suggest “purge or be purged,” which is fun to scream at each other, and also terrifying. Good luck!

The Purge: a Rage-Based Cleaning Method