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.
- 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.