The Post-Christmas Home and the Epidemic of Domestic Bulimia



Melanie G. Photography


When the holidays are over, we collectively survey the decorations, the wrapping supplies, the gifts, the food – all the things that have cluttered our spaces (physically, emotionally, spiritually) for at least the past month, maybe the past year.  We all ate too much, spent too much, got too much.  We all feel hemmed in, crowded, full.   January will soon dawn, and it’s time to clean it all out.  Time to go on the diet, put away the decorations, clean out the clutter.




After being bombarded by media and social pressure, we have bought all the newest and hottest things.  Come January, all we see are weight loss ads and commercials for organizational items to simplify our lives.   Hmmm.  All the shelter magazines feature article after article about decluttering and organizing our homes.  Hey, I do the exact thing every January on this blog!   And so the pendulum swings from maximizing to minimizing, from excess to editing.  Just so that it can swing back the other way a few months from now . . .




There is a great deal of bingeing and purging going on many American homes, and I’m not referring to eating.  It’s something you might call “domestic bulimia,” a never-ending cycle of bingeing and purging on new things to use in decorating our homes.  Spend a morning at the local HomeGoods if you want to see the bingeing part.  Sometimes I walk in and see the never-ending check-out lines and think, “wow, there must be a huge sale going on!”  But, no, it’s just another typical morning in Nashville, TN.



So what happens when we run out of room in our homes or when we aren’t happy with our decorating purchases?  We purge.  We haul things off the Goodwill or donate them to other charities.  We have a garage sale so that we can make pennies on the dollars we spent on things that didn’t make us happy in the long haul.   This makes us feel better.  By purging, we can get back on our binge – which, afterall, is the fun part of the cycle!  Now we have room to binge again.   And maybe we’ll be happy with our “stuff” this time around!  Or . . .  maybe not.

Maybe it’s time to seriously consider why we are buying what we are buying.  Consider whether or not it has any function or meaning to us.  If it doesn’t, it’s probably going to be purged somewhere down the road.  It makes so much more sense to start with what we have, what we love, what’s important to us – before we start buying for the sake of buying.  And trying to fill up a hole that cannot be filled by material things.  

william morris quote

via Pinterest

This is my version of the famous William Morris quote:   “Have nothing in your home that is not functional or doesn’t bring you joy because of its beauty or meaning to you.  And strive for both, if possible.”  It’s a NEW YEAR. This is not intended as a guilt trip – maybe it’s just time to look at your belongings and your home in a whole new way.  Let’s don’t just buy just to buy – let’s buy only what we need or what we love.  The rest just isn’t worth having anyway.


  1. Mari

    I love this whole sentiment – it’s what I strive for the rest of the year (clean, simple) yet it’s all too easily forgotten Oct through Dec.

  2. Amanda

    Love this. Thank you.

  3. MarySue

    Good thoughts, Kristie. I, for one, would love it if you would make your ‘version’ of the Wm. Morris quote into something we can pin. I like the added elements of your way of saying it!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Would love to do that, MarySue! Just have to figure out how to!

  4. Alyson

    I wish there were more posts like this everywhere! Great reminder that personal style, contentment, and comfort can’t be purchased.

  5. Lisa

    I love that term “domestic bulimia”. It’s so true, at least in my house. I think that as I’ve been focusing on learning interior design I’m much more aware of what I’m buying and why. I’m also more apt to figure out if it’s actually going to fit in the space. Thanks for a good reminder to edit.

  6. carolsmyth@thedesignpages

    You are a very wise woman:)

  7. Kathy

    Thank you Kristie, you are right on target with this. Get rid of plastic and keep glass and stainless steel, they are healthier, look better, and last forever! Since I have purged my home using William Morris” quote in mind, I am happier, more relaxed, my home is much more beautiful and healthy. Thank you for all your great work and insightful posts over the past year!

  8. Barbara

    Well said!
    I have filled many empty hours at Marshall’s or home goods, buying little unnecessaries, because they were cute, Or cheap. My wardrobe became filled with tons of pieces, purchased for $19.99. I would love to have the pile of money that I have spent at the “Discount” stores! Those stores seem to have magnets that draw my car in, when I need nothing! I’m much more selective for the home, where I’m much better at following the “don’t buy it, unless you really need it or love it” rule.
    Cheers to you and yours,

    • Paula Van Hoogen

      Ditto…couldn't have said it better–same for me, Barbara!

  9. Melanie G

    Wonderful! I need to purge a lot from my home, and I need to be more careful about the domestic binging.

  10. Edith


    You are so right and I’m so glad you wrote about this. Well said!!!!

  11. Christine

    I applaud you for this blog post. Also, I want to encourage everyone to read

    I am constantly frustrated by the older generation, with my MIL as a prime example: she shops because she thinks she has nothing else to do. She buys low-quality items, primarily made in China, for seasonal decorations and wall art that she changes with each holiday. Her attic is filled with this junk, and her home is decorated like a hotel. She asks why there isn’t much art on the walls of our new home (a 1914 craftsman) yet. I respond “Because we want to put up items and art from travels or that otherwise have meaning for us!” We like to shop for vintage items on Etsy.

    Please remember that everything you buy has an environmental cost – transportation, waste, chemicals, energy…. the temporary joy the item may provide is dwarfed by that item’s affect on our planet.

  12. Christine

    oops, please correct “affect” to “effect” – thanks! 🙂

  13. Molly

    I couldn’t agree more! I was so happy to get the tree put away in the attic today and purge some clothes out of my closet. It’s just TOO MUCH! But also as I put the house back together I thought, “I am SICK of some of this old decor!” It’s time to update. I feel this about every 3 years. Either gotta move or update.

  14. Paula Van Hoogen

    Dear Kristie, My husband Neil & I just read this post and think that it is one of the most thought provoking pieces we’ve read lately–or for that matter for a very long time. You have nailed it–we
    attempt to fill that hole with things–and we know it’s not “what” but “WHO” is able to fill that hole.
    Thank you for putting these times into a right and balanced perspective.
    Bless you, Paula & Neil.

  15. Mary J.

    Hi Kristie,

    Your comments are so true.  I am making baby steps in the direction of paring down.  I'm looking forward to doing significant purging in the coming months.  I know it will be beneficial in making our home more appealing to potential buyers, to making it more manageable to move across country, to giving me a sense of control over my urges to buy stuff that is not the least bit practical, to giving me a feeling of liberation…..

    Thanks for your words of wisdom.


    • Kristie Barnett

      Hang in there, Mary.  What you are doing is HARD, but you going to be successful in this and it will be easier to move on to the next chapter of your life 🙂

  16. Larry Brewer

    As a realtor, I always appreciate homes that have just the right amount of useful objects. Too much of anything is just more, not better. It's a constant battle in my own home as we find neat things to add to our collection, but we have reached a limit of what our current home can gracefully handle. It's time to purge, or stop buying.

  17. Judy

    Kristie, as you know, this buying, hanging onto, purging things is steeped in an Enormous personal psychology that we often don’t recognize within ourselves. It’s easier for many to fill the feelings of sadness, family loss, no one around, personal failure, missed promotion, cancelled event, diagreements, aging, empty nest syndrome, by buying something to soothe. And consequently, the purging can become quite painful…. especially for those aging who live and relive in the happy memories triggered by their belongings from years gone by. It is a fine line for those precious seniors between helping and throwing out their feelings. For the younger crowd, not so hard.


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