Here’s the cliché - cluttered home; cluttered mind. I’d love to test this and see if it’s true. There’s just one problem with it – I have too much stuff. It’s not a matter of cleaning; things here are generally clean. The adults are clean. The children are clean. Shoot, even the dogs are clean, as dogs go.
We’re not hoarders, so don’t think in terms like that. And I’m not one of those people who IS a hoarder but is in denial, just a person saying they are “collectors” of things. Nope, don’t do that, either. Except books, which was largely unavoidable, until my Christmas shopping resulted in a much-loved Kindle so that I don’t continue to add to the boxes but I digress.
We are very good, in general, about throwing broken items away and donating outgrown clothes and whatnot. I regularly purge my closet, although I confess that since I despise shopping, I would rather wear clothes something I’ve had for years as opposed to going and buying something new. I’ll save that for another post.
“So, what’s the problem?” you might be thinking. My conclusion, which remains the same, is the house. We’ve been in this house for over 8 years, and almost immediately, I knew we would have problems. We lost a ton of storage (and a great garage) for a house with more space. Problem is, we lost necessary storage space and gained things like living space - in all of the *right* areas, I might add. It’s not a total bust. I love the spaces we DO have; we just need more of the other kind of spaces.
When we left our other house those eight plus years ago, we were minus a cat, a dog, and a child. While the bedrooms are bigger and have better closets, having three children of the female variety in one room – one of whom is a tween - the medium-sized walk-in-closet has not come close to solving the chronic issues with having three girls in one bedroom. I, in my naiveté, thought that having another baby that could be a girl would not be too much of a problem, at least until the time came where we sold the house to solve the problem. So here we are, six plus years after said third girl, and having tried to sell the house for nine months in a failing market, feeling a bit at the end of the rope, and up to my ears in stuff.
If anyone is to blame, I blame myself. Not so much for having another baby; or for having “too many children” for this house (I mean, who does that, right? Live your life based on how many you can fit in a car you like or take a chance that you might not fit back into your clothes post pregnancy, requiring more money spent on a new wardrobe?); or even for the amount of stuff this many people require.
Nope, I blame my lack of inner Martha Stewart.
Back in the olden days, when I had just the one and then just the two kids, I was making all kinds of things. I made things for their walls, for their beds, and things for other people. I made wall hangings with cute little decorated frames that were painstakingly hand-decorated; I made bedding, including sheets, bedskirts, pillowcases and curtains. I even made a crib skirt and matching curtains for the nursery. I made clothes; I sewed clothes and crocheted everything you can imagine – and those things are taking up space, too. I thought of myself as being generally “crafty,” and was well pleased, feeling like my life was progressing as planned.
By the time baby number three arrived, kindergarten for the oldest was underway, and everything changed. I didn’t have so much time anymore for making new stuff, so the projects tended to linger for days at a time, on the dining room table, while we moved it aside or ate in the living room. We talked about adding on to our existing house, but decided a different location would probably be better. It wasn’t long until we decided to find a different house, with more space.
I had been looking off and on for several years, but then I found this house. And I knew it was a home run - less the storage issue. I convinced myself (and probably my better half, too) that we would find a way to get through the loss the of storage and everything would work out just fine.
Eight years later, and I am still trying to find a way to fix, treat or solve the storage issue. (Aren’t you proud of me? I’m trying not to habitually use the Oxford Comma, just to shake things up a bit. ) Yesterday was a day of complete frustration; knowing that not only have I not resolved or adequately treated this issue, but am quickly losing ground.
Yes, this means I - rather, *we* - are trying to put the Christmas things away, including newly added items to the overwhelming stuff problem. And part of this overall problem is that, really, these are things that are needed, like socks and underwear (indeed, I’ll wrap just about anything, so long as it’s not alive). And other clothes. And then the more fun items, like a few toys and books. Did I mention we have a book problem? In our defense, we’ve been homeschooling for the last eight years, so that endeavor has justifiably added substantially to our ongoing dilemma.
Yesterday, in an effort to combat my overwhelming stuff problem, I grumbled and griped heavily at the kids – who, being kids, are generally unwilling to put good effort into helping clean things up, like putting clothes away appropriately, i.e, hanging in the closet, when it’s much easier to pitch everything on the floor. Logically, I know griping backfires, as does giving praise . We’re still working on the concept of children gaining inner satisfaction for things being put away where they belong, which is still a big part of the overall problem.
I got started cleaning the things I can control, like my file boxes, which are organized. If you know me, you know I am anal when it comes to organization. Yep, that’s me, known in my work world as a person who has a gazillion files, but can find anything – unless it doesn’t get filed. I *love* ♥♥♥ being organized. It helps me feel calm, and feel a sense of “all is right with the world and I don’t have to struggle to find what I need,” which let me tell you, is a HUGE thing for me.
My desk is now mostly free of stuff, and contains my Swiffer, so I can dust my electronics as many times a day as I want. This will require me to buy another one, but this is a step I am willing to take. If something small like that can help me not to explode while trying to find the one thing on my desk that has sprouted legs and gone wandering off, that is a little bit of progress I am willing to count as a victory.
I go out of my mind – literally – when I can’t find something, particularly when it was *just* right in front of me. In addition to that “Not Me” person who lives in my house, there is also a gremlin that follows people around, snatching up recently set-down items, just for the point of infuriating them. While I know he visits many of you as well, I think he finds my house to be a particularly comfortable environment in which to thrive.
I have a constant battle with stacks. I’ve tried using the Fly Lady method of spending “x amount of time” every day sorting/purging or taking “x number of items” off the pile every day. I’ve even thought about getting my shoes on first thing in the morning. Do slippers count? If they do, then I’m good.
But shoes “to lace up?” Nope. Not for me. One of the things I do the mornings I’m home during the week is run on my treadmill. The shoes go on pretty early – just not when I first get up with hunny before work. I get dressed twice as it is. I don’t think I need lace-up shoes on my feet by 6 am. Since I’ve now delegated the dish-doing to the kids, the personally shining of the sink every day is off the list, too, although I do try to nag them to shine the sink every day. That’s not going so well, as you can imagine.
But, I do ok with the stacks, even though they tend to pile up. I have come to realize that my nemesis in this category is not the junk mail, which I am faithful about shredding, but the magazines I don’t have time to read. Yes, I read books. Magazines not so much. I used keep the pile so I could take my own magazines to the doctor’s office, or when getting my hair done. I used to have great enthusiasm for the topics in my magazines, mainly Trailer Life and the Good Sam Club’s Highways. I also enjoyed reading gift subscriptions to Better Homes and Gardens and Reader’s Digest for a while. I think the reading in public while waiting is a task that now goes exclusively to my new Kindle.
What I’ve learned, interestingly, is that because they come, I feel obligated to read them. The RV camping magazines were good when we were new at it all, and it was great to get educated about RV/camping and find suggestions for good places to go. What I came to understand, however, is that many of these places often weren’t set up to accommodate busy children or were too far away to get to and back on a week’s vacation. Plus, through the years, I’ve found my own good ways of searching for campgrounds and destinations that will fit our evolving family,which largely involves using the forum accessed by either Woodall’s (linked from the Woodall’s site) or RV Net. I’ll share those in another post that is more pertinent to camping.
Back to stuff. Other magazines have involved crafts; crafts which I don’t seem to have time or space for anymore. As a result, reading my magazines no longer has a top spot on my ”things I like to do” list, which is getting shorter and shorter these days. Clearly, I resolved a long time ago not to renew these magazines, but one comes as part of a membership (which gives discounts that we regularly use), and one I ordered for several years, several years ago, that I keep hoping “this is the year it expires.” As you can see, the magazines coming into the house will continue to come into the house, and will continue to be a topic taking up gray matter.
The kids’ magazines, on the other hand, like Kids Discover and National Geographic Kids, are considered part of our homeschooling curriculum. This qualifies them as a necessary evils. The kids really like them and get knowledge, so who can argue with that?
The one set of magazines became “bathroom reading” once I was done with them, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had moved one pile to another pile, and into a place in the house I desperately try (notice I said “try” ) to keep as “stuff-free” and as ”serene” as I can. Given the stack of books on the dresser, I know I’m not doing so well in that category, either. At least now I have a Kindle, and therefore some hope for that situation. Moving one pile from one room in the house to another room in the house is not what I would call “solving the problem.”
For years, I have tried not give the kids stuff that has a lot of pieces. Hum. At least most of the incoming items relate to camping, education or have a box to contain the pieces (like puzzle pieces). Progress? The jury is still out on that one.
And I have food stuff, too. While I am lucky to have a large kitchen with more-than-the-average-number-of cabinets, I have learned that once you get hooked on canning your own food, you will never have enough space. And I mean that genuinely, with great love. ♥♥♥ There is nothing more satisfying than filling your cupboards with your own food; food that you know how it was processed and food that isn’t loaded with other stuff. I am unabashedly a canning junkie. The problem here again, is space. I don’t have enough space to contain all the stuff I would like to can; therefore, I don’t can as much as I would like to.
Stuff, stuff, stuff and more stuff. It is oozing out of my ears! I used to keep boxes in the garage, so that I could pack away stuff (like clothes that weren’t ready to be used by the next child) and keep the room organized. When we tried to sell the house, I purged - and used - the boxes I had saved. See the problem? I had a span of nearly a year without new boxes to store stuff in, which meant………stuff piling up the room. Since I can’t justify buying plastics (which my attic is full of - containing mostly yarn and miscellaneous other craft stuff) because eventually the stuff will either be used or donated, I’ve had to wait for the cardboard boxes which usually only come during this time of the year.
Now, unfortunately, I find I am terribly overwhelmed with the task set before me. This is primarily why I am sitting here writing instead of trying to sort through all the stuff. My real world consists of a days that are packed full of stuff to do - schooling every day, running every morning I’m home, being someplace where people count on me the morning I’m not home, and least two afternoons a week at the job. This schedule has to work around being chronically ill, which in-of-its-self is a never-ending guessing game of “how much can I get done today?” It is no wonder that, come the weekend, I am not interested in doing much besides kicking back and trying to do something I enjoy and find relaxing. Organizing stuff is not relaxing.
While I know it needs to get done, and probably will get done someday, I am not in a hurry. Logic dictates that the longer the stuff goes unaddressed, the more it’s going to accumulate. This isn’t an untested theory, either. I know this to be true, because the stuff is oozing out of my ears. Next week is back to normal, and if I let myself think about it, I could get worked up into a real panic. I try to remind myself that, as the Fly Lady says, “….your home did not get this way overnight and it is not going to get clean in a day.” I have the clean part down ok; it’s the stuff getting organized in a place that it will stay that is the issue here.
What am I going to do today? I am going to doodle online and then tackle the stack on my dresser, which includes movies I haven’t watched yet. This, I am confident, will help my overall goal of finding a home for more stuff, since we actually do have a place to put the movies. Once I’ve worked my way through the pile of “unseen,” I can move them to the “seen” pile, which can then be put away. See how easy that is?! If I apply this thinking to other things, I will surely end up with more books read, jewelry made, and magazines thrown away.
But in the back of mind, I know I’ll be thinking about how to tackle the storage problem in the one bedroom, and thinking about whether or not perhaps a storage cube can be of help. Will it help the containment issue? Do we need to put another bookshelf in there for the growing collection(s) of books? How much will it cost? How will it wear? Will it be durable and look good in a month (a year, two years – dare I ask – five?)? Will it actually get used, or will things still be scattered from one end of the house to the other?
My desk is clean, so I am feeling lighter, at least in this space right here. I’m going to cut myself some slack, and do something more that does not involve tackling the stuff. All the while, though, I’ll be thinking about the stuff, and what to do with it and how to combat and it and wondering if my efforts will make a difference long-term.
Stuff. I’ve got it. And it needs to be organized. Less thinking; more doing. I guess I’m off - to try to tackle one small pile of movie stuff.