As we prepared to move, my husband and I were rather ruthless when it came to getting rid of stuff. A friend, who is a mom to eight, once shared that when they moved, she threw away seven garbage bags full of stuff. I've always kept that in the back of my mind and aimed to do the same. We not only pitched seven huge trash bags (the big, black kind you use for raking leaves), we exceeded it. I think we ended up with at least nine big black bags, plus lots of smaller ones.
What were in those bags? Lots of odds and ends. Lotion bottles less than half full, partially burned candles and ones I didn't like the scent of, broken toys, toys that we no longer needed (and no one else would want), lots of papers, magazines, mismatched linens, dusty decorations, clothes not suitable for donating (or not worth going to the trouble of donating), books (being a book lover, this was hard for me, but at some point, some of it--in the words of Charlotte Mason--is just twaddle and can go), and on and on.
I realized that I didn't want the clutter that was at home in my home to go with us to our new home. We wanted a clean, fresh slate, surrounded only by the things we love the most. (I've blogged about paring down to what you love the most here).
Now that we are moved in and busy unpacking, the culling continues. Call this the second round of cuts. We're still finding things that we don't want or need. We'd rather have the space and the uncluttered look. Today, we worked on going through toys again. Some will be donated, others discarded.
Here's an organizing tip that's guiding me right now:
You've got to decide, before something ever enters your house, if it's worth it to you. It will take up valuable space and require effort on your part to find a spot for it, use or read it, maintain it, etc. So do you really want to let it get passed the door?
Here's an example:
Your friend asks you if you want a stash of her cooking magazines. Do you really want them to come into your home? Do you have time to go through them? Do you have a spot to put them? Are you really going to use them?
Be ruthless when it comes to acquiring and then letting go of stuff!
Another couple of tips that are helping me immensely come from Raising Olives. Kimberly wrote that when her children are given toys, they assume that the giver did not intend for them to keep them forever and pass them onto their children. Rather, the gift was meant to be used and enjoyed for a season. When it has lost its charm or usefulness for that child or children, it can happily be passed onto some other child who will, in turn, love and appreciate it. (I can't find the exact post, but here is another good one).
In another post about keeping up with keepsakes, Kimberly offers great advice concerning those special things that have been passed down or kept from your own childhood: Use them, and, in her words, "as things wear out we throw them away, happy that our children were able to enjoy something that we loved when we were young."
That even goes for fragile items. Kimberly writes, "I figure that something that belonged to my great grandmother, but is
stored in a box in the attic throughout my kid’s childhood will have
little meaning to my children. The things that we’ve chosen to keep,
we’ve also chosen to display and enjoy. (Yes, with 10 children sometimes
things get broken, but my children have many happy memories of playing
with and listening to the music box that played with and listened to at
my great-grandmother’s home when I was a girl.)"
So, in my zest to pare down, I kept that advice in my head as I went through toys and stuffed animals today. The little yellow bunny I apparently had as a child? It didn't make the cut. I don't remember it; it means nothing to me, and my kids have other stuffed animals they like more that are filling our bin for stuffed animals. The bear the OB/GYN gave one of our children at birth? It didn't make the cut either. They've never played with it, it isn't as cute as others we have, and is it going to be like my yellow bunny when they're grown? They'll take it out of a box, look at it, wonder why Mom kept it for them, and wonder if they should get rid of it, or keep it "just because." We're sparing them that guilt by making the decision now. (A word of caution--we are letting them make decisions about stuff we know is important to them. I know this bear is not one of those things, so I am making the decision).
As the new year approaches and many of us make resolutions to become more organized, I encourage you to go through your stuff as if you're moving, and let it go!
A final thought...isn't it interesting that when we, as believers in Christ, die and go to heaven, we don't take anything with us. What is truly important is already there. We don't need to say, "Hey, can I just grab this one thing real quick to take with me?" We won't miss it. So why is it so hard to let go now?
Look toward heaven, our true home. Keep in this life the things you love the very most. Let go of the rest. You'll experience less stress, more peace, and time to enjoy your husband and children to the full.
The Better Mom