Now, given, I’ve got a lot of people living at my house. We’re now at eight inhabitants, down from our prime time of ten, when my two oldest kids were still living at home.
But, even still.
So much stuff.
Our modern lives require stuff. Textbooks, science lab resources, shoes for this dance class, cleats for that sport. Baby dolls and doll accessories. Movies, video games, video game systems. Sleeping bags, favorite blankets.
There must be a covert stuffed animal breeding farm going on clandestinely somewhere in my house because the population issues with our stuffed animal collection are epic.
Books. Board books. Pop-up books. Coloring books. Ridiculously expensive college textbooks (we gotta talk about the college textbook racket sometime, mamas with college kids. #amiright?). Philosophy, faith, fiction, non fiction, how-to books.
Hammocks, camping gear, luggage. Holiday decor in twenty different bins. Cast off bedspreads, placemats, yearbooks and yearbooks and yearbooks. Various tools from DIY home projects gone by.
Stuff for ten. Ten people in all variety of seasons of life. Ten people all variety of hobbies, scholastic levels, work resources, and basic stuff of life.
And I love to decorate. My house. Even though it’s already quite accessorized with people and their wardrobes and their basics and their not-so-basics.
So granted. Our super-size life in a not-super-size house has its challenges.
But no matter the number of kids, whether two or twelve, I bet you’ve got your challenges too.
Stuff accumulates. It grows when we’re not watching. It shows up in generous hand-me-down bags. It appears every birthday and holiday. It shows in from purchases well-intentioned and last-minute impulsive. And over time, it can grow completely out of proportion to the time we have to give to managing stuff.
There are those who have a real gift for helping us sort through the stuff, for giving clear directives on managing the amount of objects in our homes and vehicles and offices. I won’t try to proclaim myself yet another expert on topic.
Particularly since it would put several of my friends in danger of splitting their abdominal muscles in hysterical laughter if I were to try to assert any kind of expertise in housekeeping and organizing.
Because they’ve seen my house. Which often mimics a storage barn. A very disorganized storage barn.
But there are some things I’ve learned to ask myself in the never-ending war on stuff, some things that might just help you as well.
Especially if you have some stuffed animal over breeders at your house, too.
- How much stuff am I allowing to live in my house that has to do with an issue from my childhood? We moved a lot in my growing up years. And because we moved a lot, familiar stuff that I got to bring with me to the newest city became the attachment to what had been and a comfort in the now. But over the years, that became quite an archive of things. Getting rid of sentimental items seems to be harder for me than some of my friends, and I suspect my fairly nomadic childhood had something to do with that. But I’ve learned the power of taking a picture of the item and then letting it go. I’m learning to tap into what the emotion is attached to the thing, and then storing that emotion instead of the item. It’s a work in process, but it’s helped me immensely to be clear with myself about what is truly an item worth keeping and what is something that has to do the frequent changes of my childhood and trying to make that item give me a sense of permanence.
- How much stuff can my kids reasonably keep up with? Hoping I’m not the only one to guiltily raise my hand here: I have WAY overestimated what my kids can actually curate when it comes to their collections. I stomp into a trashed bedroom, throw a mama hissy fit, demand that they clean up the room…and then realize…you can’t make a collection of 247 Barbies fit in any reasonable kind of way into a small section of a kid-sized closet. Trying to keep wardrobes for my smaller kids with two months worth of daily outfits is another habit we’re breaking. The law of numbers has really helped: 10 Barbies is more than enough. Two weeks worth of outfits is ample plenty. And then let the rest go.
- How much time am I spending dealing with stuff? When I unpacked from our last move into our current home, I had a startling revelation. All the things I was unwinding out of paper, all the little odds and ends ensconced in bubble wrap, all the towels and sheets and figurines and decor items and widgets and whatsits, all of it had to pass through my hands. And much of it I had purchased and hauled to whichever home we were living in at the time. It took my SO long to unpack from our latest move, trying to find spots for every little thing, thinking that one more organization system would somehow make all the difference. But then a new perspective took hold. How much TIME did each item cost me? For every little oddity I was polishing and putting away had a much more profound cost involved, beyond the purchase price, beyond the cabinets and bins bought to hold it. It costs me time. Time with my kids. Time from writing. Time with my husband. Time from running. So some of those items I decided were too time expensive to keep around. Pretty, ornate, cute, sure. But not worth the time. I don’t need napkin rings for every season. I don’t need place card holders that get pulled out once every five years. Not for the time they cost me.
- What do I want my kids to have to deal with once I’m gone? I had the experience a couple of years ago of needing to go in and clean out an extended family member’s home. Y’all. I came home a changed woman. This person had cleared out a lot over the years. The home was somewhat tidy. But the paperwork and the clothes and the dining room items and the chotchkies…it was overwhelming. And because I already had a maxed-out house back home, there were so many items we ended up donating, even though this extended family member had most likely intended for us to end up with the bulk of it. It was sobering, just thinking through how much stuff we accumulate in the course of a lifetime. It’s made me more intentional about what I really want to leave to my kids…and what is just fluff.
Be sure and check out all those clutter experts, who’ve written scads of awesome advice on how to declutter and how to organize and all the rest. But if you find yourself, like me, in those beginning stages of trying to recover from clutter, keep those three above questions in mind…and maybe, in the doing, you’ll find some motivation to start digging into those piles and let go.