I want a tidy house. But life and learning doesn’t happen in a tidy house! I have been trying to find ways to reduce the stress of clutter in our lives. I have found that it comes in many forms. We have drastically reduced our media clutter, but physical clutter is another story. Many of the things we do as a permaculture family are messy! Canning, dehydrating, gardening, creating, learning. I have decided to see these messes through the lens of productivity these activities bring. But beyond these wholesome pursuits, our home is also filled with stuff. With small kids, the stuff is rarely where it should be. Perhaps this is a good sign, as it means the stuff is being used. But at what point does this stuff become a hindrance and distraction to a simple lifestyle. It is hard to tame the clutter beast when we are trying to create no waste.
I try to stay out of commercial environments as much as possible. I do end up in thrift stores an awful lot, looking for clothes, or sheets, or what not. Inevitably we come home with something we didn’t intend to pick up, and it’s usually books! We are gluts for books around here. If you were to drop by unannounced, you would inevitably find books on every available surface. I have been trying really hard to be mindful about what comes into our home, because once it’s here it stays. At this time in our lives, declutter sessions seem like too much work. The children are too young to make effective decisions about their things. Usually a conversation about what we should keep or part with ends up in a giant play session with all the long forgotten toys that were at the bottom of the basket. Our space is already full. Somedays I feel it is over full. So the less we bring in, the less stress it causes.
This is an area for me that feels like a spiral staircase. I struggle with shopping, as I’m the one who does all of it for the family. I know I’m making improvements in my purchasing habits, but it takes a while to see the change. And every so often I will have a relapse of ‘business as usual’ thinking and come home with a bag of socks or something else equally ‘useful!’ I justify things with ‘we’ll need it someday’…and buy 3 sizes worth because they’re on sale. What I know about this strategy is that it leaves me with a house that has closets stuffed and bulging.
Let’s not even talk about the ‘gift cupboard!’ We had a family stop by on the weekend, and learned it was their little boy’s birthday! I popped into the house and came up with what I thought was a pretty good and appropriate gift. I like to be prepared, picking up things that I know will suit certain people when I see them, or just good quality books and toys at a good price. It has come in very handy now that I have 3 children and limited time to get errands done. It also keeps me out of retail environments, as I do batch shopping at times when things are on sale, like after the holidays. I also feel that buying things when they’re on sale helps us maintain our frugality.
I am indulging in commercial pursuits, and buying into the very culture I yearn to leave behind. This is not really simplifying at all. It sometimes feels like it is, and then other times feels like these behaviours weigh me down. Perhaps if I were to break free from commercial gifting all together, I would be able to attain true frugality. But there are many cultural expectations of what is appropriate when gift giving. I am working toward feeling confident enough to know that giving a homemade gift, or a gift of food is actually coming from a deeper place of love; for the receiver and the planet.
My favourite quote is from Ghandi, and is so very simple, yet so very difficult to actualize: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I strive to simplify, and will continue to work on it. As with all transition, it can only happen in slow and small ways. This Christmas, perhaps I’ll pare down that gift cupboard, and let it sit a little bit more barren.