Simplify #1

I really don’t know how long I have been talking about simplifying things, downsizing, re-organizing things.  Friends and family would probably laugh and say I sound like a broken record, and there is truth in that.  While to some I may seem very organized, the reality is I am a great starter and a lousy finisher.  I am working hard at changing that.

I read a book by Kim John Payne, called “Simplicity Parenting.”  Do I subscribe to everything he wrote in his book?  No, but an awful lot of it made sense to me.  It isn’t written from a Christian perspective so he has a bit different approach to things than I might, but the nuts and bolts of it I could embrace.  His focus is on how the faster, busier, more cluttered life impacts children negatively and what we can do about it.  I could relate to that, because the more clutter around me the more stressed I become.

Things really began to pile up around here when Joel was dx with brain cancer.  Even when he finished cancer treatment there was a couple of years of therapy, things just did not slow down.  We came to a point where we had to just start digging out.  I would go through the house purging things and reducing what we each had.  I would sell some things online, donate boxes and boxes of stuff and look at Dave and say, “Did you see all that stuff leave here?? Why does it not even look like we put a dent in it?”

Near the end of 2013, I had a new idea.  I have watched a few ‘Hoarder’ type shows on Youtube.  One of the shows had the folks’ belongings removed from their house and the family lived very minimally for a time.  I told Dave, “I love that idea, if I could take everything out, clean, paint if it needs it and then only bring back what we need.  Now that would be perfect.”  Unfortunately, no one offered me a warehouse to store all of our stuff in while we went through the process.

Here is where my idea came in.  We have a spare room, what if I used it as my warehouse?  That is just what we did, we took everything out of our bedroom, we completely emptied our closet, dresser, bedside tables etc.  The rule was we could only bring back into our room things that we needed or loved.  After 2 weeks what was left in the spare room had to be sorted out.  We had a full size bag of garbage, 2 large garbage bags of things to donate, and countless things that had crept into our room from other parts of the house that needed to be re-homed.  Dave and I wanted to go first to show the kids that we weren’t asking them to do anything that we wouldn’t do.Our room1

It was a great experience once we had emptied our bedroom.  We did a thorough clean, and it was so much more relaxing that we both said there is no way we are bringing all of that back in here.  I wish I had taken before and after shots.  The pictures of our room are the after shotsour room2

Our room 4our room 3We have six children who share 2 bedrooms, a girls’ room and a boys’ room.  Now our boys’ room is massive and it houses the 4 boys but the girls share a smaller space.  The girls were next on the list.  Now here is my disclaimer.  If you have little people I would not bother going through this process, I would simply go through and purge without their input.  (Our Samuel will not have any input into what happens with his stuff.)  You already know what is truly precious to them.  If there are some things that you wonder, “would they miss it” put those things in a box, if they do not ask about it then pass them along.  My advice is be ruthless.  If it is broken or missing pieces, to the garbage; if it is loud or annoying, get rid of it.  If the toy is not open-ended then I’d get rid of it too!  Toys that are keepers are things that you know your child loves, ask yourself, ‘does it promote creativity and imagination?’ So many toys today are there simply to entertain children, I’d avoid those.

I can remember a woman from a church we attended before we moved to this part of the province, she was a child in Europe during World War 2.  We were both working in the church nursery.  She was watching the toddlers flit from one thing to the next without really playing with anything.  She observed, “Children today have too much, nothing is precious to them.  I had one doll, and she went everywhere with me and I treasured her.”  Likewise I came across a quote this past month that read, “What is rare is precious.”  Children do not require 100’s of toys, a few treasured things are all they need.

I did not always have that mindset.  I am not sure if it was because Dave was downsized twice in a short amount of time and we went through some really tough financial times, or if there were other reasons, but for a time I would go to garage sale after garage sale  scouring for deals.  More was better in my mind.  If someone asked, “Do you need some hand me downs?”  I’d always say, “Yes.”  Even though the last few years we have been busy downsizing things, it has set the stage for this…  My spare room looks like something out of an episode of Hoarders.  Now in defence of what you are about to see, this is a room with furniture already in it, and then the contents of the girls’ room was added, every toy, book, extra blanket, and every stitch of clothing they own.  Also Hannah’s clothing had been stored in baskets, the girls decided to dump out all the clothing in the baskets, from their dresser, and the closet onto the bed.  (There are extra blankets under the clothing too).  So all the empty baskets are in the pictures too.  Brace yourself it isn’t pretty!  (I blame myself that they had all of this in their room, for the most part I enabled this.  Sure there were gifts from family and the girls do get some spending money from time to time.  Not to mention the parade of stuffed animals that came home from the hospital with Joel.  I am just glad that over the last couple of years I have broken this cycle.)Hoarders 1

Hoarders 2It has been a very interesting activity.  First I had no idea they had managed to fit that much stuff in their room.  Second was the girls’ reaction.  They were bugging Dave and I to know when it would be their turn to downsize.  Once we cleared out their room we again swept, mopped, washed the baseboards, dusted, and touched up the paint.  The girl’s decided they would rearrange their furniture.  Once their furniture was arranged the way they liked it, they each brought a few precious things back into the room.  Taliah told me that before they took things out of the room she felt that there were certain items she would never part with but once they were out of her room, she thought I never use that anymore why am I keeping it.  The experiment is not over for them they are just getting started.  Again I did not think to take a picture of their room before we started.  This is what the girls have brought back into their room.  T bedWe have already thrown out a full bag of garbage from their room.   Their dresser and closet are currently empty, but over the next bit they will work through, with our help, to decide what to keep, what to give away, and what they may wish to put away as a keepsake. bookshelves The girls are over the moon excited about their room.H bed

The plan is to move through each room of the house.  It will be interesting to do the kitchen, we are going to set up a table in the one end of the living room and pile everything in there as we need things we will bring them back into the kitchen after 2 weeks if we have not used it, it will certainly beg the question do we need any of this.  I know I will hang onto extra dishes for when we have others over for dinner, but my guess is I definitely have more wooden spoons than I need.

This may seem like an over the top approach, but it is so worth it.  Our room has been so easy to keep clean and tidy.  The few things that the girls have brought back into their room they quickly tidy back up when they are finished with it.

I hope you will check in with us over the next few weeks as we continue on this journey of less is more!

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