Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All in a Day: Conquering Clutter

This week the All in a Day bloggers are talking about Clutter!!  What a timely topic!! 

I've come to the conclusion that large homeschooling families are especially prone to problems with clutter.  In fact, I think the two tend to stick together like peanut butter on bread!

Here are my Top 10 Reasons why Large Families Struggle with Clutter:

1.  Most large families live in houses that are designed for much smaller families.

2.  Because of #1, we often have multiple children squeezed into bedrooms meant for one child, which means there is never enough closet space and rarely enough drawer space for our children and all of their clothes, shoes and treasures.

3.  Lots of clothes equals lots of laundry, which must be sorted, washed, dried, folded, ironed, and put away -- on a daily basis!!!  Laundry -- at any point of the cycle (except for when it is hidden away in the washer and dryer!) can create a lot of Clutter!  See our All in a Day laundry posts for more details about how to conquer this problem! 

4.  Kids have a tendency to Grow.  That means they are always outgrowing clothes and shoes, so we must constantly be weeding outgrown clothes and shoes from their closets and drawers and replacing with clothes that fit.  Because there are other children coming along behind them who will one day wear those clothes, this requires us to come up with a workable storage system for clothes that are waiting to be grown into by another child.  This can be quite complicated -- and requires plenty of accessible storage space to maintain!  See my system for storing clothes by size and gender here. 

5.  Lots of children equals lots of clothes and shoes, no matter how much you try to simplify, and keep it all clean, put away and organized.  Just consider shoes for a moment -- if each child has just three pairs of shoes, which isn't much (think one pair of dress shoes, athletic shoes and sandals), and you have twelve people in the family (as we do), that would equal 36 pairs  -- or 72 individual shoes!!!  I'm not even sure that is a realistic number of shoes, as most families tend to also have specialized shoes, such as snow boots, swim shoes, gardening shoes, cleats, etc.  You can see how quickly just shoes could overtake a house!!!

6.  Children's clothes aren't the only cause of clutter.  Many mothers of large families have enough inventory to open a consignment shop in their own closets!  (Guilty as charged!)  This is from gaining weight throughout the childbearing years (and beyond) and having a closet full of clothes in various sizes, plus maternity and nursing clothes, etc.  Most of us have clothes in our closet that we're hoping to wear again one day . . .

7.  Many large families also choose to homeschool -- and homeschooling brings with it extra books, papers, projects, science experiments, and academic records to be kept -- all of which must be strategically organized, stored, gotten out and put away again on a regular basis.  Plus, bookcases must be squeezed into the decor of any and every room.  (Yes, the rumor is true -- I actually have a bookcase full of books in my bathroom!)  ;)

8.  Most large families are not of the "Jon and Kate plus 8" variety.  (Thank God!!!)  That means they have children of all ages in the home, which makes it impossible to get rid of the baby equipment and toys or the early readers after a couple years.  Instead, we tend to accumulate toys, books, games, etc. that are appropriate for all ages from very young children to teens and young adults.

9.  People love to bless large families with clothing, toys and books that their children have outgrown. 
This can be a mixed blessing!  There are often treasures hidden in those big black bags -- but it also tempts us to keep things we don't need or have room to store.  Also, it requires that we find time to sort through all of those bags of stuff. 

10.  We often hang onto things, such as clothes that don't fit, because we know if we give things away, we won't have the money to replace those items if we need them down the road . . . (a lack of faith, perhaps?)

So, now we are well acquainted with the problem, but what about the solution??

Here are my Top 10 Suggestions for Dealing with Clutter:

1.  Thank God for your clutter!  This is partly because we are commanded to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and partly because the fact we have clutter reveals how abundantly God has blessed us!

2.  Sell all you have and go to the mission field!  (This is a bit extreme, perhaps -- but it would solve the problem!)

3.  Move!!  (It forces you to sort through things!)   ;)

4.  Read my favorite book on clutter -- Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett and he will motivate you to start de-junking! 

5.  Realize that clutter is anything that is unwanted, unused, in the way, stealing your joy, or robbing you of mental, emotional and spiritual energy.

6.  Don't love anything that doesn't love you back.  (Don Aslett)

7.  Make a rule that every time you bring something new into your house, something old has to leave.

8.  Declutter a little bit each day, a la the Fly Lady.  Learn her method here: Declutter in Fifteen Minutes a Day.

9.  Remember that clutter attracts more clutter (The Fly Lady), but order attracts order.  (In other words, you don't mind sitting something down where it doesn't belong if there is already a pile there, but if the area is clean and neat, you don't want to mess it up.)

10.  Learn to distinguish the difference between junk and treasures (from Don Aslett):

It is junk if:
  • it's broken or obsolete
  • you've outgrown it, physically or emotionally
  • you've always hated it
  • it's the wrong size, color, or style
  • using it is more bother than it's worth
  • it wouldn't really affect you if you never saw it again
  • it generates bad feelings
  • you have to clean it, store it, and insure it -- but you don't get much enjoyment out of it
  • it will shock, bore or burden the next generation
It is not junk if it:
  • generates love and good feelings
  • helps you make a living
  • will do something you need done
  • has significant cash value
  • gives you more than it takes from you
  • will enrich or delight the next generation

Decluttering is a lot of work, and it must be done over and over and over again  . . . . but it is amazing how it frees us up when we take the time to eliminate the clutter from our homes and our lives!

" . . .let us strip off and throw aside every encumberance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us."  -- Hebrews 12:1 (Amplified version)

Check out the other All in a Day Bloggers for more help with decluttering your house and your life:

Carrie @  Our Full House

Christi @  Where the Creek Meets the Lake

Elizabeth @  Yes They're All Ours

Kathy @  Kathy Mom of Many

Kristy @  Homemaker's Cottage

Lori @  Happy Busy Mama

Monica @  Natural Mama

Renee @  Bakers Dozen

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Mrs. Stam said...

Love this post, and rule #7 is mine also!!!!

MamaAnt said...

Thanks for sharing! Love it!

Noel said...

I love the "sell all you have and go to the mission field" approach :D

That actually would be a really great thing!

mommyx12 said...

Another awesome post. It is a huge ordeal organizing all that comes with lots of kid. Just today my girls and I spent the whole day in our laundry/pantry room and it was a job.

Heather said...

Usually I love it when people give us things, but over the years have also become frustrated with it. If you(not you personnally, just talking to the masses) are thinking of giving someone clothes, for example, do not give clothes with stains, rips or holes thinking, "These could be play clothes." Believe me, after many hand-me-down uses, we have plenty of play clothes, what we need is nice clothes! Also, don't give a large family toys unless you ask first. I don't know if people think that because we have so many kids we can't afford toys or something. Yikes, we probably have more toys than smaller families BECAUSE we have so many kids! I finally just got the toys under control from Christmas when my husband comes home from work with a huge load of toys someone gave him. "NOOOO!!!" There is nowhere to put all this stuff!! I am starting to rant, but please don't give away junk to a needy family! They don't need your vacuum cleaner that sortof works any more than you do! or a rusty bike that "only needs new tires" if they can't afford a new bike, they probably can't afford to fix the broken one either. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest, I obviously have strong feelings about the topic! :)

Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans said...

Loved this post! Bookcases...ahhh...we have two in our kitchen. ;)

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