Now that we have decided to sell our home, we are working hard to clean the place up. We have so many things! Being a homeschooling family with a permaculture (make no waste) outlook means that we have a hard time letting ‘useful things’ go sometimes. Like the pile of bricks lovingly brought home in our Honda Civic that have sat stacked against the fence ever since. Or how about the pile of tree intended to become hugelkultur beds? The piles of baskets? Where did they come from? The…list goes on and on.
The items we’re purging are from the life we are slowly leaving behind. As I pick up each item and consider whether or not it brings me joy, I am realizing just how much we are moving away from our days and home being filled with consumer culture. I have been trying hard to pare down our possessions for a very long time. But the idea of leaving this home has given me the gumption to look at these decisions in a new way. I’m tired of living my life from a place of fear and scarcity. Saving things for one day when we ‘might’ need them doesn’t make sense for the majority of the things we have been stockpiling. Could we get by without the excessive stock of egg cartons, should there one day be a shortage in the world? Did people not do without them once upon a time? Although we don’t want to make waste, having all of this stuff is actually wasting the most precious of all things to us…our time. I will not be wanting for vinyl tablecloths in the future, nor will I care about that book I never read. If life comes to a place where we exist in a place of scarcity…and by this I mean real hard times, I have a hard time believing that the luxuries of a consumer driven culture will be of much benefit for survival.
A major time vacuum in our home is laundry. We have been trying to think of ways to reduce this task to it’s minimum. I read a great blog post about converting one room in the home into a shared closet/laundry room, which sounds wonderful! But given our current trajectory, and wanting the problem fixed now, I opted for something different. I have reduced the children’s wardrobes significantly instead. Their drawers now hold 10 pairs of pants, 10 seasonal shirts (long sleeved right now for winter, but we kept 10 short sleeved shirts and 10 shorts for summer), 10 pairs of socks, 10 underpants, and 3 sweaters – since these are easily reused and also very bulky. I have struggled with how many articles of clothing a child really needs, and how few things we can ‘get away with.’ I decided to settle on 10 as a trial run. Although admitting to 10 items per category seems high, it reduced what was in their drawers by about half! This alone was a big step…recognizing just how much excess there was! Why did I choose 10 items per category? I thought it would allow laundry to be done once a week, with a few extra items for good measure…because mess happens a lot around here and sometimes a wardrobe change midday is required! The first week I thought about reducing down to less, but I’m going to give it a while first before pushing ourselves too hard. Our laundry tasks have been drastically simplified, but that hasn’t made up for the fact that I still need to get it washed, folded and put away! Amongst the other (never ending) tasks of the home, laundry still gets left by the wayside sometimes…as we deem it to be less important than other things in our life.
Numerous bags and boxes of stuff have already been moved out. How did we have this much stuff? And how is there still so much left!? There is no shortage of things left to purge! We’re trying to reduce the contents of our home by at least half. Which is no small feat given how much our cupboards contain! I have to keep reminding myself that this upheaval is just a storm, and when it passes the water will look even more beautiful. I have to remind myself of this often, because the mess that is created as our carefully packed possessions explode into the living spaces. What I have learned is that clearing out, while decorating for the holidays, while also experiencing real life with three littles can be very hectic at times! The laundry isn’t getting folded for a reason!
I love my home to look tidy, and I also have some ace packing skills…which together have created a problem. Cupboards are stocked neatly but excessively. Being good at packing means I can always find space in the dishwasher for one more bowl…but it also means I can make room for that ‘thing’ in the cupboard too. Finding that I have stockpiled 10 shower gels at the back of the bathroom closet was a bit of a surprise. I knew I had extras, but could only see one since the rest had been carefully
hidden lined up behind it. In cleaning out the bathroom, I also found upwards of 15 toothbrushes! These ‘useful things’ end up not being all that important for a family who uses one bottle of body wash a year and use an electric toothbrush! We’ve decided to donate our excess to a local charity that helps homeless women get back on their feet.
I don’t want to spend my time tidying and cleaning. It’s not that I dislike these tasks. I actually find immense reward in completing a cleaning project! But these tasks do not define my life. The more things I have, the more they distract from the things I actually want to spend my time doing. Each stolen moment I spend trying to cram too many bibs into the tiny drawer in our kitchen. Each second I spend staring into the overcrowded closet looking for the thing I need. Each minute spent re-configuring and reorganizing spaces to fit all the stuff. This is all wasted time. If I were to add up those moments, seconds and minutes, and I’m sure I’ve spent at least a year of my life shuffling stuff around. It’s time for it to stop…because the less stuff we have the better our life gets.