This is really quite silly. I am not really one to give advice on decluttering. Anyone who knows me knows that we seem to have 40 million things going on at once in this family and we just stop by home, drop some junk, pick up the next load of stuff we need, and go on to the next event. Things pile up. When I do get time to sort, organize, and clean....well, I often feel overwhelmed and lots of times I give up because I just don't know what to do with all the crap!
The past few months, though, I have been really putting forth a conscious effort to declutter, organize, and find a place for everything. (Not quite to the 'everything in its place' part yet!) I am writing this post for two reasons:
1. to share what I've been learning that works and
2. as a written reminder to myself about what works!
Here is what I have learned and have to offer to other overwhelmed, busy mothers...
1) Remember: You are getting rid of the clutter, not the kids! I have a sentimental attachment to EVERYTHING! I kept every single baby sock, rattle, and pacifier my oldest son had as a baby. I kept every little pair of shoes, every outfit, every baby board book, every little block, every stuffed animal, every burp cloth. You get the picture. I felt like getting rid of that stuff was letting go of his baby years. It wasn't until he was 5 years old and I was pregnant with #2 that I finally began to sort through and let go of some of the stuff. Some tears were shed, I admit. But, I still have him. I have the child, I have the photos of those stages of his life, I have the memories. I really truly don't need the STUFF taking up precious space in our home. Keep the child, get rid of the stuff.
2) Shhh!! What they don't know, won't hurt them! I declutter and pack for the second-hand store in secret sometimes (often, actually.) If I throw away little plastic, broken Happy Meal toys when they kids are around to witness it....well, doesn't go over well. But if I do it in secret, they never know. They have never looked for or asked about anything I have thrown out, given away, or sold. So, see! They really didn't need it anyway, huh?!
3) Pretend you are moving. This is my latest discovery. We are not moving but when I tackle a cupboard or closet I have begun to think of it in terms of packing to move away. Do I really want to take all this stuff? Is it going to benefit us in the future? Is it going to be helpful or just be in the way? I've found after 15 years of living in this house that some items seem to have just become permanent parts of the landscape here. For example, a canister on the counter...we may just clean around it and push it back to its previously designated location without really seeing it. When I look at it with the fresh eyes of a mover, I think, "What is that doing there? We don't even ever use that. It just sits there." Look around with fresh eyes and scope out things that have become permanent fixtures but serve no real purpose. If it wouldn't make the cut when moving to a new home then - out it goes!
4) Have a launch/landing pad. I got this idea from FlyLady. Do you know her? If not, check it out HERE: http://flylady.net/ She has tons of good ideas on how to declutter, catch-up, and maintain a clean house. This tip, as simple and obvious as it is, really helped me. We have this...
Click HERE for my post on setting this up. It is our "landing pad" for backpacks, library books, jackets, hats, mittens, lunch bags, etc. The kids know to drop everything in their basket when they get home and to check their basket before they leave each day. My 2 year old, all on his own, puts things away in his basket and knows to find the items there before we head out the door! As you can see each basket is labeled - one for each child and one for mom and dad to share.
5) Think outside your own walls and bless others. This, too, is a rather new revelation for me. We are thoroughly blessed....with STUFF! We truly have everything we need and so much more. As I'm cleaning/decluttering/sorting/organizing/putting away, I have been considering what we do not need and who we know that could use it. For example, recently I pulled every item out of my walk-in closet and sorted out what I didn't wear any more. I almost put back a really cute Aeropostale blue and purple hooded sweatshirt. Then I stopped myself. I hadn't worn it in years but I did like it a lot. Then I remembered a friend of mine has a daughter who doesn't wear pink. When I am shopping with my friend she is always on the look-out for cute clothes in purples and blues for her. I thought the sweatshirt would probably fit her so I asked my friend about it. She thought her daughter would like it. I gave it to her, huge smile on her face, and she immediately put it on! It was so rewarding to have someone I care about so thrilled with an item I did not need any more. It was also easier to get rid of it knowing who was getting it and that it was someone who would love it and could really use it! Another example - my daughter (4) gets such joy out of passing on clothes, shoes, and toys to her younger girl cousins. It is a blessing for her as the giver and for the receiver as well.
6) Return, return, return! This one is huge. If you rent a movie, return it as soon as you're done so it does not get mixed in with your own DVD collection. If you borrowed a jacket on a chilly evening while visiting a friend, put it in your car and give it back ASAP! My mom and mother-in-law both gave us lots of canned goods at the end of last summer. When we open one, eat, and wash the jar, I return them to our moms as soon as I can (with the hopes that they will fill them again this summer!)Pop cans - no sense having pop cans cluttering up your garage! RETURN THEM! Often. Library books? Read. Return as soon as possible. More than once we have had library books mixed in with our own books! We have a bench by our front door and I have been putting these "return" items (except the pop cans) in a basket on the bench so when we are headed out the door, the items are right there as a reminder.
In summary - 6 tips:
- Get rid of the clutter, not the kids!
- What they don't know won't hurt them!
- Pretend you are moving.
- Have a launch/landing pad.
- Bless others.
- Return, return, return!