Cleaning the house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. Have you ever heard that phrase? It torments me daily because there is so much truth to it. Just when the house looks good, BOOM, my kids wake up and there it goes again.
But it’s not just the mess of toys, it’s also the never ending clutter of stuff behind closed cabinet drawers and closets. Despite being a pretty organized person, this was still something that was driving me crazy because I knew it could be better.
Then I received the best Christmas gift. No, not a live-in maid. A book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It rocked my world and I am so excited to share my learnings and results with you!
My organizing used to consist of straightening out items. I would fold all the towels in the linen closet, stack the storage bins in the kids rooms, recycle loose paper left creeping behind from art projects…you get the gist. But I wasn’t really de-cluttering. I thought I was. I would recycle something here, give an item to Goodwill there, but ultimately I was left with about the same amount of stuff minus a sweater or a couple of books.
The first thing you need to do if you really want an organized house is you must de-clutter. It is a big task if done right.
Is there a right way to de-clutter? Yup! It is not room by room. It’s category by category. For example, if you are taking on the daunting task of organizing toys, you need to take all the toys and put them together. For me, this meant bringing truck loads of toys downstairs from bedrooms so they could be combined with the toy room toys. I knew it was out of control but bringing them all together was almost embarrassing. I have been working on ensuring my five year old has a giving heart so I recruited him to help. He even agreed things like broken crayons were an un-necessary item. Even though this took a million times longer to do it with my son, it was important that he saw the piles of repeated toys we had and that they would be better off going to kids who didn’t even have one. I then also had a last round once he went to bed to really wipe out the things they no longer played with (let’s hope he doesn’t notice!).
What items bring you joy? Does a pair of shoes from seven years ago that are “still sort of cute and you might wear someday” bring you joy? Or does it bring you more joy to have spaces in your house that are clutter free? Does having 4 sets of extra sheets in a house with no guest room make sense and bring joy? For me, the answer was simple. I got rid of everything that didn’t bring me that immediate joy or that honestly had no purpose in our lives. We don’t need 20 bath towels for a family of four or 57 pens from various work conventions. I now open cabinets and closets and I can see what I own without moving other things to see what’s behind them! Once I saw the result of one closet, I was hooked.
Sentimental items are a tough category but you must forge ahead and do it! Do you have picture prints laying around in drawers and un-finished photo albums? I had approximately one billion. I told myself, “You can’t throw away pictures! That’s like throwing away memories!” I felt like a piece of my heart was with those prints despite them being hidden away under junk for years. I poured a glass of wine one night after the kids went to sleep and spent two hours (did I mention this process is time consuming?) sorting through pictures/albums and baby books. At the end, I had piles of pictures I got rid of.
It. Was. Hard.
But I had to come to the realization that those would simply spend more years in that same spot and never be touched. I took out the unfinished baby books, a pen and some glue and I inserted lots of prints into the books. I also have a memory box for each of my children. I put a few special pictures into each of their boxes. Remind yourself, it’s not the pictures that bring the joy necessarily, it’s the memories you hold in your heart and head. Hang onto the special ones, put them in a baby book or a shutterfly album. But don’t let the dust continue to collect. Because the truth is, you will never get around to it if you keep saying you’re going to.
My organization transformation is not quite complete but already I have given eight garbage bags worth of stuff to Goodwill. Three have gone to recycling and two to trash.
The way to stop the cycle of always organizing is to simply have less to organize!
I guarantee you have too much stuff in your house and once you can rip off the band-aid and get started, it will feel incredible. Ideally, this could be done in a day. But honestly, give yourself some grace and allow it to be a slow process. The trick is to purge and not replace with more stuff.
Are you up to the challenge? I have more tips and results to share if you’re interested! I’d love to hear from you!