decluttering

Clearing Space

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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.

 

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Decluttering

We spent the day cleaning our barn out yesterday.  It felt so good to get things moved out of our space that we no longer have use for.  It is always an interesting balance to strike between ‘making no waste’ and becoming hoarders!  We have taken the stance that if we have a project in mind right now for an object, then it can stay, otherwise, it is better served somewhere else…anywhere but in landfill!  I now have a shrinking pile of things on my front lawn for free, that people can pick up to use!  It feels so good to know that the items will be used.  Having things stored in my barn is wasteful.

I keep returning to this idea of decluttering in my life.  I am constantly searching for ways to simplify.  Living with less stuff seems to speak to me.  Perhaps it is because it offers the opportunity to strip away something of the consumerist culture that is ever present, despite efforts to quell its influence on our family.  Moving though my days, it is amazing how often I come in contact with consumer ideologies.  We don’t have television and very rarely listen to the radio.  We don’t read newspapers or subscribe to any magazines.  This reduction of media flow cuts out most advertising.  We still have two bundles of flyers appear in our driveway every week.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was really interested in price matching and couponing to reduce our family’s grocery bills, making the appearance of the flyers at least useful.  I found that I began buying food that I don’t normally purchase to ‘get a deal’ and began to question just what type of ‘deal’ I was in fact getting!  Now when the flyers come in, sometimes I glance through a few (the stores that sell organic products), and the load of them ends up filling our recycling bucket.  I am almost ready to toss the lot without even looking at them, but when organic food is on sale, I will still sometimes stock up.  The truth is that the food that goes on sale is rarely whole food, and when it is, it is generally not organic.  As we move away from shopping in a grocery store, the time I use every week to shop the flyers would be put to better use preserving food I’m buying in bulk from local growers.

It is this cyclical thinking that keeps me spiraling.  I’m working my way toward detaching fully from mainstream life, but I’m just not ready for a full break away yet.   What is feeling more productive is to keep pushing towards it.  Leaning into our edges wherever we can in order to make some progress.  When climbing a mountain, any amount of progress is progress.  And so, I’m always on about clearing out our spaces.  I crave minimalism.  A life where what we’re living with is only what we’re currently using.  It is difficult to let go of some things.  Things that have bits of my identity tied up in them.  As I consider tackling my studio, with the bin of fabric that has sad untouched for years, the pastels, charcoals, and paints that speak the word ‘should’ instead of ‘inspiration.’  So for me, clearing of things is a way of clearing my energy.  Clearing my assumptions.  Clearing my holding patterns.  And so, I keep pushing against it, leaning into it, as uncomfortable as it is, because one day I will be able to release my grip and find the freedom I’m searching for.  My hope is that one day I will find I have declutteedr my inner landscape too.

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I’ve read every decluttering book I’ve been able to get my hands on, and these are by far my two favourite resources:

Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Making the Bed

I read a study once that said that people who make their beds every day are happier.  I have thought of that study often; questioning its validity.  How can you judge happiness, this is not a quantifiable thing?  What significance does making a bed really have in the scope of the events in a day?  I hardly spend any time in my bedroom during the day, why should it matter if the sheets are rumpled?  But in the end, perhaps my questioning of the study is rooted in the sheer fact that my own bed goes unmade most days.

As I made the bed this morning, I again thought of this study.  I was feeling particularly happy this morning.  I had the time and space to spend a moment making the bed.  I rarely get this.  But I didn’t really have extra time.  Rob was downstairs with our three, trying to get ready for work, eagerly awaiting my relief.  So what made this morning different?  My mood.

I spent a lot of time tidying up our house yesterday evening.  My morning always seems better when I wake to a tidy home.  We read once about the broken window theory, how in New York City if there is graffiti on buildings, the incidences of graffiti rise exponentially.  The idea is that maintaining a sense of order creates a culture of order, and likewise with the reciprocal idea.  I often apply the broken window theory to areas of my own life, finding it particularly applicable to the state of my home.  If I have mounds of laundry in the corner (a frequent sight), it seems to give the children license to cover the floor in toys as well.  If no one else is tidying up, then why should I?  In addition, it seems like less work to tidy just one thing that is out of place, rather than tackling the whole mound.  It is amazing, and difficult to admit how much my emotional state is affected by stuff.

Perhaps the bed making study wasn’t about making the bed at all.  Perhaps what it really was measuring was that people who have space in their lives are the happiest.  I have been working hard to simplify our lives, making our lives hold less so that there is room for more.  My thoughts on making the bed this morning encouraged me to clear some more space.  Get rid of more stuff.  Reduce commitments outside the home.  Clear away my unproductive thoughts.  Decluttering life is a slow process, but unquestioningly worth while.