Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in stuff.
Laundry. Clothes. Shoes. Books. And of course, the toys. Oh, the toys. The toys that seem to multiply during the night. The toys that creep from their bins and closets and somehow end up all over the house and under my feet. The toys that follow us home in Happy Meals, party-favor bags and prize boxes. The toys are taking over.
I spend half my life picking up the stuff, organizing the stuff, taking care of the stuff.
So recently, I have been reading up on the art of being a minimalist. I am far from being an actual minimalist who owns only exactly what they need for day-to-day living but at this point, I'd be happy just not to feel like I'm spending my life taking care of my things.
So I am attacking the stuff, much like one mother I recently read about in a Today article titled "Meet the 'minimalist mom' who gave away (almost) all her kids' toys" did in her home. She pared down her children's toys to one toy bin. One. That's it. And every few months, she has her kids go through the bin and get rid of anything they are not actively playing with at that point in time.
I'm not down to one bin (and probably never will be), but I'm trying. So far, here's how I've tackled the stuff takeover in our home:
For some reason, I often feel like my kids need 10 of something just in case one gets lost or broken. This means instead of one set of gloves, we have five (which really means we have 10 single gloves that are all scattered around the house so my kids wear mismatched gloves. Hey, at least they match their mismatched socks). So I've been going through our stuff and paring down to two of each thing — a regular and a backup. I don't need five black skirts, no matter how hard I try to convince my husband that they are slightly different for slightly different occasions.
During a decluttering session, I often explain to my husband that "so-and-so gave this to us as a gift." Without fail, he always responds, "Don't let their gift be a burden." He's right. People don't want to burden our lives with stuff we don't actually need and have to find space to store. Toss it, along with the guilt.
Since putting a dedicated giveaway box in our garage, I have already taken four loads to the thrift store. That's four loads of stuff we weren't even using and was just taking up space and time in our lives. My kids are catching the vision, too, and even held a garage sale last weekend with the toys they don't actually use anymore.
You know when you go to open a drawer and you can't get it open because it is so jammed with stuff that it won't budge? Well, it's not the drawer's fault. It's yours. The drawer is too full. So I'm deciding what to keep and what to toss, using the natural space constraints as my guide. If only 10 stuffed animals will fit in the toy bin, then all the rest have to go. This also makes sense to my children because it doesn't feel arbitrary, but a natural result of how much space we have. And no, having to sit on the lid of anything to force it to close doesn't count.
This one seems kind of obvious, but it's the hardest rule to follow. The only real way to stop the influx of stuff into my home is to cut off the pipeline. Don't buy items just because they are on sale. Buy what you need, in the quantity you actually need it, when you need it. Don't be a slave to sales, the hassle of returns or the wasted time in checkout lines.
I have a long way to go to truly free myself of the time I give to stuff, but I have to admit that I'm sort of addicted to the feeling of purging. I spend less time sorting and organizing and more time enjoying our home. I spend less time barking orders to clean up and more time being with my children.
The freedom of owning less is addicting because once I clear away all the stuff, I can see the things that really matter.