I have been talking about, complaining about, and have even given a half hearted attempt once or twice to do a complete clean out of my house. The joke of wanting to rent a large crane so I could pick my house up and shake it out into a larger dumpster became a secret fantasy of mine. How easy would that be? No decisions to make, no guilt felt? Then I met a woman who had the entire contents of her house stolen, along with the moving van they were traveling in. To loose everything would be devastating, not to mention expensive when some necessities had to be replaced. And what about those irreplaceable things? The baby pictures and those handed down items that have such a rich family history that they invoke whole stories and vivid mental pictures of loved ones lost? No, there is no easy fix to the mess I find myself in. I have the memories and clutter of many years to get through and if you want I'll take you along on my journey.
While raising 4 kids and living under the same roof for over 16 years I have a hit a point when my home has lost breathing space. Sure, from the outside we keep it clean and on most days neat, considering the steady tide of people that come and go. But cleaning has become more of a moving pattern than anything else lately. If there's clutter building up in the kitchen we just move it to the porch, where my desk makes a great catch all for everything from school papers to shoes so the dog can't chew on them. Mind you, we have a shoe box, which is apparently filled with the shoes of other people since no one claims ownership when it comes time to clean that out. You get the gist, we have packed every nook and cranny of our home with things from yesterday and do not have room left to live comfortably or efficiently today. We're in a constant cycle of overflow and tucking away.
I talked about this on Twitter a while ago (yeah, ok, I complained) and was told to get the book It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh (TY to @BillHarper). I recently picked up the audio version and have been listening in the car. It's been a very helpful guide to finally letting go of all of the things we've accumulated. So, I started to put this long time coming project into action...starting with the bedrooms of my younger two kids. Why there? It's always easier getting rid of some one else's stuff, right? Plus, I had done a complete overhaul of my older boys' "man cave/bedrooms" this summer.
First thing Peter Walsh says I need to do is figure out why I keep the things I do. What do they mean to me? Do they have a place in the life I envision for me and my family?
One thing I've come to realize is we have a lot of clothes clutter. The kids' closets and drawers are bursting with them, as well as the extra closets in the house. For a long time it made economic and practical sense to save things that my older children used and grew out of for my younger children. This is not the case any longer. My kids are all so different from each other that even if their sizes were similar, which they are not, their tastes are at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum. A big down fall with me when getting rid of clothes is what to do with them. That's an organization project in itself. Some get put aside to be given to younger nieces or nephews, others donated to Good Will, while the ones that have really been worn to death get tossed. This is where I want that crane to step in. It would be so easy to throw everything away, but I can't. I really can't. I have the words, "Waste no, want not" emblazoned into my head (thanks to my Gram) and I might have been a victim of the Great Depression in a past life, but then again that could have come from Gram too. I grew up hearing things like, "Eat all of your food. There are starving children in China." and, "Yes, you do have to wear that hideous dress. There are kids who have nothing to wear." Another thing I've come to realize is I may have subconsciously feared that my kids would become one of those naked children I had heard about so many times ;)
My grandmother taught me, in her own eccentric ways, to be thankful for what I have and my mother taught me that no matter how bad things get, there is always someone worse off than you in the world. Both of these women saved EVERYTHING, one for the proverbial 'rainy day' and the other with intentions to deliver to someone less fortunate. Considering this, it's not a surprise that every attempt to purge my house of excess has ended with me walking away feeling overwhelmed.
It was at this point that I brought Peter Walsh's CDs out of my car and into the house. I needed another voice in my head, sorry Gram and Mom, but I needed a rational voice to help me. Peter talked about the emotional value that we put on our things. I didn't really care about the clothes my kids outgrew, but still felt overwhelmed with the process of getting rid of them. I think Mr. Walsh would say that I have transferred my mother and grandmother's emotions onto my things. I can sit and look at this puffy, forest green jacket, with the rubbery outer shell and the 5 inches of insulation and think, "Hmm, someone might wear this if we have an extreme winter." (Alaskan children would cringe at this jacket) The rational side of me knows NO ONE WANTS THIS JACKET, but the other side (that's been led to believe that eating a plate of liver and onions will somehow stop children in China from starving) begs to differ.
So, that's where I am. I have made progress and had a few fall backs (the above mentioned jacket is hanging in our cedar closet downstairs, to be dealt with later. If anyone needs it I'll be happy to pass it along ;). I'll keep you updated as often as possible. If you're feeling the need for a complete household purging please let me know about it.
Kristin : )