Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Women of America, show us your...

... JUNK!

Not terribly impressive you say? Your pile is bigger than mine? Yeah, well... this isn't the whole load... just what wouldn't fit in the van!!! The boxes are supposed to go to children in Iraq but that means a trip to the post office, so here they still sit...


...that was our third load for this year! Sad isn't it? I am not proud. Well, yes I am. I am proud that we are doing something about it. I could go on and on with excuses and reasons as to how the accumulation occurred - the evils of divorced grandparents and cereal box surprises but for now, let's just focus on the positive!

There have been some awesome posts written by some ladies I truly admire about stuff, stuff management, and detachment from stuff and they have made me think about what we are doing right and what we could do better.

I understand the peacefulness of an uncluttered home as I have been able to achieve it on special occasions, but I also understand that most "fixes" are not one size fits all. For example, it might be easier for someone in a higher financial bracket to part with items knowing that replacing them won't really impact the budget whereas someone in a lower income bracket might hold onto any items that they thought they could "recycle" someday to create a little more breathing room in the bank account.

Sometimes the configuration of a house makes all the difference as opposed to actual square footage. Modern houses are not built for families to live in, I am sure of it. Houses built in the 1950's for example were designed to be lived in with an efficient use of space and built-ins galore. Some houses don't even come with linen closets anymore when you use to find one in every bathroom!

I know that I have to fight the temptation to compare my home with my online friends' without taking into full consideration the circumstances. One family who has just as many children might have just as much stuff, they just also happen to have a bigger house to put it in because let's face it... "clutter" doesn't always mean "too much stuff". It means stuff that is not efficiently organized for the space to contain it. This summer, we are focusing on the "efficiently organized" part of the equation as the spring found us tackling the "too much stuff".

We have tried to stem the tide of toys and (when that fails) have tried to bail the excess through frequent purges which have been met with mixed reactions from my children. The girls are the most sentimental and the boys have the best memories. Every thing has the potential for being a precious treasure or a prized possession. The children have matured with age and the onset of reason. They now delight in the thought that a child whose toys were swept away by a freak flood will enjoy getting to hug the teddy bear that has been hibernating at the bottom of the toy box, but they had to get to this age of understanding before it "kicked in"...kind of.

One thing that works well for us when it comes to "separation anxiety" is to put those items that are not played with much but still beloved in a tub out in the garage. In 6 months time, the truly precious items will be retrieved and what is left is bundled up in black bags to be donated. Mind you, I was skeptical the first time we tried this because I just knew that the whole box would be emptied into the toy basket and we'd be back at square one. To my surprise, I found that 3/4 of the box was still full at the end of the day. They might have enjoyed oooohing and aaaahing over the long lost artifacts, but even they realized that life was still good without them.

Our children clean up better when they know where the stuff goes and that means having a home for everything. We are working on this solution this summer. We have tried big, giant toy boxes thinking "one place to pile it all up will be perfect"! The problem is that our kids don't dig. They play with the same old toys at the top over and over again. A childish solution to this problem would be to dump the whole thing out to get to the Barney at the bottom but my kids don't dump either. The big toy box solution won't work for us unless we can make sure it stays only half full. Maybe someone else can offer a better way to make it work? I would love some helpful hints from any B.O.B.'s (Born Organized Bloggers). My ideas tend to backfire. Like the time I thought I would pare down the dress-up box by putting it all in the washer and tossing whatever didn't survive. One little stretchy wrist band disintegrated and that was it!

Every so often I have to stop and ask myself, why do we indulge these little people running around everywhere? For me... I want to give them the opportunity to be creative and explore every corner of their imagination. We will always have a dress-up box, a puzzle drawer, a game cabinet, lots of book shelves and yes, toys (as long as we are blessed with little ones because children will grow out of them someday, sniff sniff). I also believe that my house is more than just a house. It is a school room, a science lab, a cooking school, and a gymnasium (especially since we live in a climate that makes certain months off limits for too much outdoor play).

We are all in different places with different houses and different families. We have different solutions to the chaos of clutter and varying levels of tolerance. Homeschooling moms have quite a challenge when it comes to living in the world but not of it. We are using the materials around us to live out our vocations in holiness and happiness while defending ourselves and our precious ones from the onslaught of materialism. Sometimes all we can do is duck behind the shield of a grace-filled life to defend ourselves in the battle of the bulging drawers!


  1. What a perfect post, my thoughts exactly. You kit it on the nail, with the kind of home we each have. We currently live in a 930 square foot home and with 4 children 7 and under, it is cluttered!! We are selling now and looking at a home with 3300 square feet. Our clutter is currently in a storage. (yes we took several trips to Goodwill, and like you, we do several times a year) Our clutter is clothes and blankets, for 4 kids up to age 7, who can afford to buy new clothes with each baby? We cannot. I keep telling myself that with that newer bigger home, the "clutter" will have a place and not be clutter, each room will have room and space. Thank you for writing this, it's nice to know others are just like us! God Bless you!

  2. OH, yes, I want to add that my dh thinks we have more bins than anyone else in the world, I tell him he is wrong, everyone has lots of bins. (you know the big plastic tubs with lids to store toys, clothes and blankets) We moved 44 bins to a storage unit and still have the current 4 we are using. (we do not have room for 4 dressers, so the kids' clothes are in bins, which is just as easy as a bin to use)

    Oh, yes, some of our clutter is BOOKS, your professor sounds like my oldest, he is reading all the time and we feed that with lots of books, I do not think anyone can have too many books, they are treasures!

  3. Thank you Jamie for your kind words and tell your husband that if he wants to know our total bin count I will happily oblige as soon as my attic is not 120 degrees. : )

    I forgot to mention one thing that has helped with out "book clutter". My husband instituted a Weekly Library Night. The children have been coming home with new books and returning old ones for quite a while now which has resulted in fewer books taking up permanent residence on our shelves. Right now, it is only the most favorite ones that become a part of our home library.

  4. Once you decide to unclutter, it takes a while to achieve the right balance... mostly from trial and error. Pick one area that you want completely free from clutter and work on it for some time. Much like moving your children's stuff out... take everything off that counter or book case and only put a few things back... see how much you go to find those things you removed. You will soon find the right balance. I, too, am all about bins... in closets, gameroom and even in my pantry to organize my spices. I always try to remind myself that it didn't take just one day (or a few hours) for the clutter to get there, so it will not just be a one afternoon event to get rid of it.

  5. Awesome post. I'm just starting to do a summer purge and reorganization. You are inspiring me.

  6. Matilda, The book thing with me is a "owning" thing. I have a problem, I love books and love to own them, I love to be able to read whatever I want to the kids anytime, it's bad, I know. It's selfish, it's ridiculous. If someone tells me about a book, like say "Fancy Nancy" for example (Margaret mentioned it in January) I had to get it right away!! (it IS one of our favorites though) "Sassy Nassy" as my 2 year old says! I am so bad, if a blogger mentions books they love, I skip over that post, otherwise I will want those books!! Silly isn't it? When we do the library, I have to control myself and limit it to 35 books, which is usually all I can carry...then I am afraid of losing them, amongst our many owned books...I guess it is something I need to pray about, letting go of my "stuff"!
    God Bless you Matilda!

  7. "I also believe that my house is more than just a house. It is a school room, a science lab, a cooking school, and a gymnasium."

    This is exactly why I am trying to lean more toward your direction! I so want my children to have a rich educational and play life.

    This is a great post, Matilda! I'm so glad you shared it with us!

  8. You said it so well when you said that sometimes it's not clutter, it simply doesn't have a home!

    That's our problem here. We live in one of those 1950s homes but, unfortunately, there aren't closets... or built ins... or places for our stuff in general!

    I need everything to have a home, and right now our stuff doesn't have one. I don't think my kids' stuff is excessive by any stretch of the imagination, but due to lack of space it's all visual clutter.

    I look forward to seeing what other moms in the same situation are doing, 'cause I'm at my wits end...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!