Clean House 1-2-3!

Here is my revolutionary three-step plan to a mess-proof house:

Step 1: Pick up the Mess.

Step 2: Get rid of It.

Step 3: Repeat until the mess is composed entirely of things you can’t live without, or consists of things that are pleasingly wabi sabi in their strewn glory.

I first got hard core about decluttering when I was pregnant with #2. For my birthday that year I told my husband all I wanted was get rid of 1/3 of our possessions. That meant: one teapot, two dozen cloth napkins, forty books, a garbage bag of clothes, a sleeping bag, and on and on. And on.

That was almost two years ago, and I’m still peeling back layers of stuff and excess.

My children charmingly believe that play is basically imaginative emptying of every possible receptacle in the house: cupboards, drawers, toy chest, sewing box, yarn stash, garbage can. I don’t want to keep them from what is no doubt healthy development but nor do I want to have high blood pressure.

So, I’m just getting rid of it all.

Just curious–does this look like a lot of toys to you, or a little?

A friend of mine is an especially inspiring de-clutterer. She says that she has yet to reach the point where she feels like she’s done enough. I did once get rid of too many spoons, but perhaps it’s a sign that I should pare down on knives and forks.

I de-clutter because it makes my house more beautiful and because it makes my life simpler. The constant picking up and putting away of our detritus takes a tremendous amount of energy from me. Our belongings take mental, physical, and emotional energy to care for. As we get rid of stuff, we are freed in surprising ways.

Where toys go when mama gets tired of picking them up. Visitation is allowed. The bottom floor is kept clear as a hidey hole.

Currently in the Out Box: Anything that annoys me, including, but not limited to

  • Small toys formerly stored in cute baskets. Things that seem to exist for the sole purpose of dumping on the ground and scattering.
  • Play kitchen food and utensils. One or two pots seem sufficient. Food can be found in the real kitchen.
  • Clothing. Out of season clothing, wrong size clothing, excess right size clothing, kid clothing only one or another of the mother-daughter dyad likes, but not both of us. It’s all outta here.
  • Crafting supplies: fabric, yarn, thread, notions. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
  • Books. I have officially reached the point in my Letting Go of Stuff phase where I can part with books. Mostly on the outs are novels and anything I haven’t gotten around to reading despite years of having on the shelf. I’m trying to think of my bookshelves as a curated collection.
  • Children’s books.  We own only a very small collection of special books. The rest come from the library in batches of ten or so at a time. (most of them ones we cycle through repeatedly) ensures that they are all treasured, and enjoyed, not to mention actually read.
Amazing things happen with this bare-bones kitchen.
Wait, there’s more!
  • Animal magnets on the fridge. Under the stove is more like it.
  • Linens–we just don’t need two dozen washcloths, I’ve found. Two sets of flannel sheets per bed keep us cozy year round.
  • Winter clothes. Crafty mamas are in extreme danger of drowning their family in handknits, and we need to help each other be strong against the well meaning onslaught of booties and pilot hats. If you have less of this stuff, you are less likely to lose them in the mountain of gear inside the front closet. Be fearless. And only make it if you really need it.
  • Mama-made toys that don’t get played with. This would be the cardboard barn and hand-knitted menagerie of farm animals, the adorable wee felt folk, the felt balls, the stuffed bunnies, the amigarumi bird family. Perhaps someday when there’s nothing else left, they will be treasured. For now, they are just too hard to dust to keep on the toy shelf.
 I say all this to wish you courage in making your home a place that takes care of you as much as you take care of it. Many blessings on each batch of no longer needed things that moves on to grace another family’s life. Here’s a little chanty for while you work~
Free the heart, let it go.
What we reap is what we sow.
Ps–I noticed Simplemom is in the midst of another Project Simplify. Check it out.

24 Replies to “Clean House 1-2-3!”

  1. Oh, this is inspiring. I did a lot of decluttering last year, but much clutter remains. Time for another round (cloth napkins?? I never thought of getting rid of those, but I suppose if we had fewer, someone might actually fold laundry now and then.

    P.S. That looks like a very small amount of toys.

    1. I find that the “repeat” part has to be repeated multiple times, but that with each new round I feel better than if I’d just been on a big shopping spree. And we had at one time something outrageous, like 4 dozen cloth napkins. I am happier with 14 or so really lovely ones that make my table pretty and are low maintenance.

  2. Wow, I am with you on every account! The toys with small parts, toys in bins or baskets, kids who empty every receptacle, and wondering if our toy collection is “small” or just regular. I’ve almost posted a picture with that same caption! Your collection seems small, unless like us you have a few toy shelves throughout the house.
    But I really believe kids don’t need toys. We have a massive quantity (mostly in boxes) but it’s because I don’t have… Err… Spousal support on the issue. I have gotten better about squirreling them away though! Like you, visitation is allowed. But then back in the box/closet they go. Toys seem more fun when they only see them once in a while anyway.
    Oh you’ve inspired me to get to the Toys: Do Kids Need Them post I’ve been writing in my head for months! Yea!

    1. Yep, i’ve got a “Toys: What do kids really play with?” Post brewing. My girls honestly don’t play with more than a few favorite things. Can’t wait for your post on the subject!

  3. Kyce,
    What can I say? We are soul sisters, I truly believe. I love that this was your birthday present. I wasn’t that nice, lol, just started throwing a lot away! And it does just go on and on, since people keep giving us stuff, we buy some things, etc etc . . . Kids seem to attract clutter like magnets! I’m about to give away all of Ella’s toys, actually, except for some dress up and maybe one or two dolls. She doesn’t play with them, and never has! All those lovely wooden figures? No way. So I’ll keep the dress up, and that’s pretty much it. I’m pretty excited about it 🙂

  4. I am with you when it comes to putting things in outboxes and giving them away. We are a family of 5, and I feel like my house is constantly overrun with things!

    I believe your children has just the right amount of toys that will keep them occupied and interested.

    Thank you so much for sharing…I just found your space and I am truly enjoying your writings. Thanks!


  5. I’m a passionate declutterer. We have two adult boys and two younger kids (8 and 6). I had several huge boxes full of Lego and Playmobile and I kept them all for years until the baby’s were old enough to play with it. Playmobile is fantastic, however the small parts drive me crazy. And I love Duplo, but Lego just has too many small pieces. Every time the children received Lego as a birthday gift, it took my husband a whole weekend to put the set together! Once it is assembled, it looks beautiful, but it is absolutely not meant for kids to play with. One day, when I was picking up all the small parts from the floor for the 999th time, I decided to get rid of almost everything. I sold/gave away 90% of Playmobile and I kept one small box of Lego, just the basic parts. I did keep Duplo, but we will sell that too next summer at the 2nd hand toy market. I felt SO relieved once everything was gone! And guess what….the kids did’nt even miss the stuff!

    Natacha (blogging from Luxembourg)

  6. “clothing only one or another of the mother-daughter dyad likes, but not both of us”

    I have this realization regularly- about getting rid of clothes that I despise. Why keep them around? We have plenty more. This week it was also about my kids’ books. There are certain groan-inducing books that I hate to read to them. Why keep them? So I donated two bags of books and it felt AWESOME. Now I enjoy every book the kids bring to me to read.

    1. Oh, I love the play food, too. We have a whole pantry of wooden and cloth vegetables etc, and they are charming. I think that like many of our toys, they are not quite “in season” and so are being saved for a time when they are really played with.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I am in the middle of a decluttering – simplifying chapter in my life. I felt so controlled by my stuff! Loved the hidey-hole in the closet, what a great idea!

  8. Wonderful post. For the toy question: In that picture, I’d personally say a little too many toys. My children would disagree. LOL However, it does look like when they are not being played with, it would look like an “adequate” amount – neither too few nor too many. But I’m the sort who can walk into a child’s room and see one bag of blocks all over the floor and feel like we have WAY.TOO.MUCH.STUFF. and go on a decluttering binge. 😉
    I have to say, I love the instruments on the wall!
    Glad to have found your blog via Northwest Edible Life – looking forward to reading more!

    1. I was shy to say this, but I think that’s too many toys, too. I’ve since moved a good amount into storgae as they simply didn’t seem to get played with aside from the dumping on the floor game. Aside from the classic favorites–dolls and their crucial accessories,the kitchen, blocks, books, and the cash register, we don’t really need much out. Glad you said hello!

  9. Hopping over from FIMBY. Great post, thanks for a little motivating kick to get back on the decluttering train.

  10. Kyce, I just have to say that my kids went through a phase where playing meant dragging every tiny and large toy (*all* the play animals, *all* the matchbox cars, *all* the play food) out into our livingroom. Sometimes they were playing garbage trucks (that dumped more than picked up), other times I don’t know what the hell they were doing. But, the blood pressure. I know. I also want to say those days have passed. They are over. There are still messes, but of less chaotic variety. So purge till it hurts so good, but know, it’s likely a passing phase.

  11. So funny–I’ve spent the last week cleaning out closets and getting rid of bags full of clothing and broken toys and maternity clothes that don’t fit and excess diapers etc. etc.. My form of nesting. What a breath of fresh air! ~Robin

  12. Oh haha post after my own heart! I know I know I’m two years down the track but I just found you 😉
    We have 3 babes with #4 joining us in a couple of weeks. I’ve always been a mad declutterer but I’m discovering a new issue with the toys now – what my 6yo and 4yo love are slowly but clearly taking on individual forms while miss 2 is a whole new ball game with her play-food, her babies and the like, and of course the new babe will add a whole new dimension again. They still all overlap to a large extent which keeps the block basket, car basket, books, dress ups and train table in use but sir 6 is loving on his Lego (so DH built him a big box/tray on castors to fit nicely in under our daddy-crafted train table and hold everything nicely – no more teeny tiny bits sprayed across the living room!) and science experiments, sir 4 is o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d with bugs, beetles, worms, butterflies, etc which require nets, bug houses, worm farms, and a basket full of animals, and my baby girl has brought the concept of play food into the mix lol I find that giving everything it’s own space helps a lot with the mess though.
    We have 2 plate sets and 3 cutlery sets per person, 2 towels plus 2 extra sets for guests, 2 sets of sheets each, though blankets overrun my cupboard! The babes wardrobes consist of no more than 4 of everything except underwear and socks – seriously, what a phenomenal impact that decision made on the washing pile!!!
    As a homeschooling, SAHM who makes most things from scratch I often get ‘how do you do it all, it’s amazing’ but honestly, we choose less to gain more. It’s that simple. Less out of the home activities, less clutter, less stress… When we have less stuff we spend less time tidying or folding washing or doing dishes and more time playing, when we spend less time running around we create more time to make food from scratch and work in our garden and create, when we actively choose to prioritise the things that make our home meaningful and meet our value system, we have more joy.
    K getting off my pregnancy soapbox now hahaha… Love your blog!

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