Do you ever feel like there is just TOO MUCH STUFF! Kids toys, junk mail, cheerios everywhere, piles of kids craft projects? Laundry, laundry, never ending piles of laundry… A to do list a mile long? I am not an easily stressed person – okay, let me rephrase that – before kids I was not an easily stressed person – but something about the uncontrollable nature of these little
monsters children makes a once calm person want to scream. The constant barrage of questions, the never ending cleaning, the demands of homeschooling and extra curricular activities makes me want to lock myself in the bathroom and not come out for a week!
But, I can’t escape motherhood – well, maybe I could, but I definitely don’t want to. As much as they might drive me crazy at times, my three kids are my joy and they truly are blessings from God and a reward from Him. I believe that the highest calling in my life at this time is to be a present and engaged mama – teaching my kids, encouraging them, disciplining and training them. I am so blessed that I get to be their mama and I get to spend each day with them.
But I hate house work and cleaning and I don’t think that will ever change. I am not a naturally organized person – I clean because I need to, but it is not something that I want to do or that I can’t go to sleep without doing. I’m a mom with three young kids – I would much rather sleep than have a clean kitchen!
A year ago, I had just about had enough – not of being a mom or wife – but I had had enough of the constant work of house cleaning and trying to keep things tidy in the midst of the chaos of homeschooling two kids and nursing a baby. Before I started homeschooling, I would devote a good amount of time each morning to housekeeping while the kids played (and undid what I had just cleaned). After I started homeschooling, those morning hours were instead devoted to teaching my kids reading, writing, and arithmetic. My house cleaning time was pushed to the back of the list.
We have a small house and the chaos of toys and clutter, schooling, cooking, and nursing was more than I could sanely handle. The mess and clutter was causing stress in my life and adding stress to my already-stressed-by-work husband. I knew something needed to change, but I felt like since we lived in such a small space with five people (and therefore did not have enough room to have “a place for everything, and everything in its place”) that there weren’t too many options.
I have decluttered before (in fact, I did it about every 6 months or so) but I had never really purged. I realized that the size of our house was not going to change any time soon, so the amount of stuff in it needed to drastically be reduced for the sake of my sanity.
There are a lot of methods of reducing clutter, even to the point of becoming a minimalist with only the bare essentials for survival. I was inspired by a pin I found on Pinterest January 1st, 2015 and decided to jump in. This Household Organizational Diet by Clean and Scentsible was exactly the motivation I was looking for and only required 15 minutes per day, which I thought was doable with my busy schedule. Although, once I jumped in, I found I would spend hours each day tackling a room or area in our house until it was done. 15 minutes was not enough for me to feel like I got anything done. In some ways, I embraced the popular KonMari Method (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) although I didn’t know it at the time. I dove in and at the end of the month I donated dozens of boxes and bags of stuff. I sold a few things and I recycled whatever I could and threw away things that were too destroyed to be donated. I felt lighter and much more on top of things, but I knew I was not done. In May, at the end of the school year, I donated a medium amount of stuff, although not as much as before, and again I felt lighter. In August, when my husband left for a two week work trip, I tore apart his office, files in the garage, our closet, anything that had been hard to do with him around. I donated the largest amount of stuff and spent hours shredding paper and documents and redoing our filing system (this video by Do It On A Dime was very helpful). I felt ready to tackle the new school year after that and I had used the extra space in his office to make a school room for the kids.
Decluttering toys is something I want to talk extensively about, so I have written an entire post on it. Suffice it to say, kids don’t need as many toys as our consumeristic society says is normal. In fact, my kids play better, and for much longer, with fewer and simpler toys that engage their creativity, don’t make noise or light up, and keep the imagination flowing.
After all that decluttering in 2015, I felt much lighter, but even with all that, I still had a hard time staying on top of all the house work. Most things had a “place” but not everything. So this January I did another large purge. I finally feel like I can keep up with the house while homeschooling and doing all the extracurricular activities we decide to participate in (I actually limit these as well because keeping a simple schedule also brings peace). I have time to cook from scratch (with the food allergies in our house, that is just the way we do things, plus I think it is healthier) and exercise often. I have time to hangout with friends and not spend hours before they come over trying to straighten up the house to be at least slightly presentable. I am less stressed and so is my husband. He comes home to a mostly clean house each night and it really has helped him to feel more loved and less stressed, which is great for our marriage.
For me this was a year long process, but the time was necessary to find the right balance for our family. I find with each purge, I can release things that just months before I was not ready to let go. It takes time to say goodbye to sentimental objects. It also takes time to realize that there are things that I really do not need and that they are adding stress, not joy, to my life. After this most recent purge, I think I may have found the right level of stuff for our small house, although I will continue the process (I want to try the KonMari Method and will post about that after I try it) until we find the perfect balance. We are not minimalists, but we are learning to live with less and find joy and peace in the simplicity. It is also liberating to our budget (I don’t buy it unless we really do NEED it) and helps us to be less focused on stuff and more focused on others. This helps us to live cleaner, and greener, lives and really is bringing peace to our little house.