When you’re in a big blended family, clutter feels inevitable and living minimally feels unattainable. I mean, for starters, I collect kids, and they collect all the things: rocks, transformers, slime, unicorns, hair accessories, makeup, books, markers, movies, knickknacks, apps, cookie crumbs, dust, grime, yuck. It’s exponential—like a black hole of swirling stuff that, when piled altogether, looks more like garbage and not like things at all. It’s like living inside of one huge junk drawer.
To be honest, I think I am affected the most by it because I’m the one who cleans the most. So I noticed the buildup the most. While cleaning, I would move things from point A to point B and then back again until I came to terms with the fact that there really wasn’t a spot for whatever it is. But I still wouldn’t get rid of it because I never understood the problem, until now.
Another good reason to purge is we could never find anything. There wasn’t a designated spot for things–now there is. Also the kids’ rooms were always a mess because there was too much. Their disorganization and sloppy living situation wasn’t their fault–they were, in reality, just following my lead :-/. Dealing with the stuff takes alot of time and I want to deal with it less and less–but once and for all.
So to ease the chaos and become more environmentally responsible (end goal in sight), I’m trying something new in the hopes that it makes me, and therefore my family, more aware of how we are a part of this planet.
It starts with education. I’ve read everything I could about living minimally, decluttering and living mindfully—all at once . The reason Marie Kondo’s book is such a hit is because in between adorable Japanese musings of decluttering, we actually are getting a step-by step lesson in how to get rid of stuff that doesn’t spark joy. Indeed, when you start with stuff that has less emotion tied to it (i.e. clothes) it’s easier to rid yourself of things that are emotional to let go of (i.e. that stupid necklace from an ex-boyfriend I’ve had in my jewelry box…seriously…why was it in there and what gave it the right to take up that kind of important space for SO LONG? Yes I cried when I put it in the go-away pile).
The art of tidying up, of decluttering, of minimizing and all the other lingo is really about the art of letting go. When you let go of things that don’t spark joy, you become profoundly aware of what does spark joy. Suddenly you’re surrounded by that stuff, and that stuff only and voila! Life is better.
This is easier to do on your own, than in a family of nine, where the kids have had to face their own things and not necessarily on their own terms. A great point was brought up by one of my teens: paying attention to the difference between joy and guilt when parting with things. For example: This object under your bed that you forgot about was a gift and you don’t exactly love it, but feel ungrateful getting rid of it. Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things addresses this issue several times to a T. If you’re reading Marie Kondo’s books (The Life-Chanaging Magic of Tidying Up & her sequel Spark Joy) , please read Sasaki’s book along side it—it’s great supportive material.
And here’s something new: getting rid of stuff has all of us reconciling: diet & exercise, people & relationships, jobs and tasks–it has cascaded into the realization that we have choices to make and when we’re more present & conscious and far less distracted, we’re at the helm of how our lives go.
I have also learned this is a practice and not an end game, via Regina Wong’s Make Space. There will be mistakes and we will need to edit as time goes on, but this big purge is astounding enough to make us all acutely aware of consumption. Our discard pile is still growing and what’s amazing is that no-one is visiting it, changing their mind about putting something there. At the same time we’re learning about needs versus wants, and when we think we need, we’re prompted to ask ourselves…yeah but, do we really really need it?
Decluttering things that are closer to the heart is so crazy emotional. There is no other way around it, than to just let it be. I have allowed myself to sit with the emotions of letting go of something that might seem materialistic and trivial —but difficult for me. How is it that a material object can become so gummed up with sentimentality that it feels like I’m casting a puppy into a volcano? I have had this awful experience recently while getting rid of Leopold’s wooden firehouse. I made myself post it on Facebook Marketplace and when we let it go, I was overcome with such grief, that it took me the rest of the day to recover. I felt heartless, sick to my stomach and wondered if what I really did was give away something that sparked joy. I was worried that I ignored my gut feeling and mad a mistake.
But After awhile of sitting with the grief, I began to realize why: It wasn’t the object at all, but the meaning it held. I was ultimately coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have babies anymore. After 18 years, we officially have no-one to pass toys and books and clothes down to. There is no need to open up the baby bins and pull out our favorites. Those things have reached the end of the line and it was time for them to move on. Even writing that ties my stomach in knots. Leopold is not a baby, nor is he a toddler anymore—and there is no-one to fill his shoes—literally. 🙁 I have A LOT of letting go to do in that department. For now, I have a favorites bin that my heart-wrenching baby stuff goes into (well, a few bins…it’s a process).
In many ways tidying up and agreeing to live more minimally has helped me do more than reclaim my sanity. Clutter takes time to clean, takes money to purchase and then store and ultimately blocks joy and serenity, preventing personal growth. But cutting it all loose enables the process of letting go, of acceptance and finally, creating space for living a better life. Not just for you, but for your whole family.
Together we’ve set a goal: Can the things we let go of be turned into money and be put into savings? Can every impulse to buy something also get turned over to savings as well? Can that savings amass to the point of buying us all that vacation we’ve been talking about going on for years? The answer is yes. It’s time for a new chapter for our family. We’re learning that being together is all we really need.