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The Need for Minimalism: Confession of a Hoarding Mom

I’m keeping it short and sweet today because I’m on a mission… in a couple weeks I have a bunch of friends and family coming to stay, and I’ve just realized the house needs turning upside down. I am unable to stop myself walking into every room of the house with the eyes of a visitor, “They’ve been here two years and they still have unpacked boxes?”.

 

What was even in these boxes? Why do I have so much stuff I don’t need?! As someone that has moved house twice in three years, I know very well that we have way too much stuff. And since our last move two years ago we’ve only added to it further. So I’m here for a personal intervention… less stuff is on the immediate agenda; and to help I’m having a brief look at minimalism and what it means. It’s not procrastination, its research (cough, cough).

 

minimalism FB

 

I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but at some point after having children I became a hoarder. The twins closet makeover required sorting of stuff before I could get stuck in, and this sparked a mission to declutter the house. I have made a new friend in the process; the charity clothes bin outside Safeway. Once I sorted a single box of high quality kids clothes to sell, I still had 12 trash bags busting with adult and kids clothes to get rid of. My new friend is a three minute drive away and it took me moments to dump the entire lot into its belly. Why on Earth didn’t I do this last month, last year? Heck… I even had two boxes of kids clothes that were shipped over from the UK over three years ago. 

 

It’s very common for parents to hoard baby clothes, and it not only affects women:

“I was unbelievably frustrated. I didn’t understand his fixation with this giant bag of torn and stained clothes that no one was ever going to wear again.” (B Sanders, Romper.com)

 

Is Minimalism the answer?

 

Beyond the hoarding of adorable socks, I’m getting really fed up with tidying up… anyone else? The twins are a walking/running path of destruction these days. I feel like one of those vehicles that drives along the road on autopilot, picking up trash and cleaning surfaces behind them.

 

minimalism road sweeper

 

In reading the welcome page to The Minimalist Mom blog, I soon realized less stuff would really make my life less complicated. No DVD shelving for the twins to throw to the floor with one arm swoop, no cubbies stuffed with  dozens of shoes that end up deposited in every corner of the house. No cupboards full of plastic plates bought for a picnic 2 years ago that get pulled out onto the floor every.single.day.

 

In dipping my toes into the world of minimalism, I came across the wise words of Joshua Becker, author of ‘The More of Less’ (affiliate link):

 

“Minimalism slows down life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It finds freedom to disengage. It seeks to keep only the essentials. It seeks to remove the frivolous and keep the significant. And in doing so, it values the intentional endeavors that add value to life.” (becomingminimalist.com)

 

minimalism desk

 

That pretty much sums up what I want from life right now… less hysteria; more freedom; intentional endeavors. I’m hoping these words of wisdom may resonate for others, as they did for me; and I’m sure I will come back to this later and consider how all this decluttering affects the design and function of my home. So, without further ado… I’m keeping this post short, because I have some more purging to do. 

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Tips to Declutter and Organize: My Minimalist Progress

My mission for a simpler life continues, and I’ve been looking to the experts for more tips to declutter and organize my home and day to day life. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the past couple of months, but I’ve found decluttering  is more of a challenge than expected. The more stuff I get rid of, the more I find.

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*This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to purchase one of the books I mention. This does not affect the price of the item.*


Following my initial post about the need for minimalism, I’m celebrating my wins, sharing what I’ve learnt, and highlighting tips to declutter and organize from published gurus. I’m working hard, but am certainly not at expert level yet! 

What I have learnt since starting ‘the purge’ 6 weeks ago:

I have spent a lot of time removing ‘stuff’ from the house. Some of it trash, some recyclable, some donatable, and some sellable. Making a decision about which one of these routes each item goes is a task in itself. I’ve learnt a lot during this process, and I’m already feeling unshackled from hoarding unnecessary items. Here are my key mental breakthroughs since the start of my decluttering journey:

Sell valuable items quickly or they will haunt you

If you’re considering whether to sell/donate/recycle/trash, I would highly recommend going for whichever option is ranked below your initial thought. Is it really sellable? I have hung on to so many things because I believe I will get round to selling them on EBay or Craigslist. Unless something is highly desired or highly valuable, consider whether it’s worth the effort. And more importantly… are you actually going to do it, and do it now?

The things I have sold, I have sold cheaply and quickly. I purposefully sold my stroller for half what other people were advertising. I took a box of clothes to sell at a store, even though with some work I may be able to get twice as much on Ebay. I did this because if I didn’t, the items would still be in my house right now. They had been there for a long time already, and the burden of selling them was becoming depressing. “I must do that this weekend!” I would say to myself, every.single.time I looked at the pile in my room. I appreciate you may need the money, but if you really did, you would have sold them a long time ago…

Items I have sold:
  • A box of high quality clothes to a second hand store (made $50);
  • Our original twin stroller ($250);
Items I have donated or given away for free:
  • 14 trash bags of clothes to the charity clothes bin;
  • A mountain of old shelving wood and closet doors picked up for repurposing;
Items I have Recycled:
  • A mountain of cardboard boxes that were taking over the garage;
  • 4 trash bags of paper;
Items I have Thrown Away:
  • 14 trash bags of random ‘stuff’;
  • 5 trash bags of old sheets and fabric;
  • 2 trash bags of broken, incomplete or worn toys (toys are now organized in the toy library!);
  • 1 trash bag of tired old shoes;
  • 2 inflatable mattresses with holes;
  • 1 car expired car seat.

tips to declutter and organize furniture

let go of the Waste Guilt

The most difficult part of this process is the throwing away. I am an avid recycler, and the idea of adding to landfill with stuff I could recycle or find a home for horrifies me. I’ve actually found it quite difficult to admit to you guys what I’ve thrown away, because I feel you judging me… or myself judging me. I have been carrying around bags of old sheets for years, with this obsession of finding a use for them. Maybe I could dye them and make a costume from the fabric at Halloween? I’ll do some fabric printing and make a table cloth… I have had bags of fabric of all varieties that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. It’s the crafter in me… or the hoarder, I’m not sure which.

Discarding things can be wasteful. But the guilt that keeps you from minimizing is the true waste. (Extreme minimalist Fumio Sasaki talkign to the Martha Stewart Blog)

If you’re really struggling with this, pretty much anything you put on Craiglist for free is gone the same day… it’s really quite liberating. Someone will come to your house in a matter of hours and take it off your hands, and you know it’s going to a home where it will be repurposed.

Most importantly though… be realistic. I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. I don’t have time to take photos and package and mail individual items on Ebay. I’m never going to get round to submerging the inflatable matresses in the bath to find holes and patch them with some kind of puncture kit. Know your limits and free yourself from the ‘stuff’ as quickly and easily as possible.

Sentiment is a Hoarder’s Best Friend

Lastly, I have been learning to detach myself from sentimental items. I have finally got rid of two boxes of files, photos and documents relating to my degree, architectural work and teacher training. I don’t know why its taken me so long to let go of this stuff… some of it is 15 years old! And what am I going to do with it? Am I really going to sit down one day with a cuppa and read my Masters dissertation on the social impact of public green spaces? Probably not. Recycled. Done.

I still have a box sat in my closet that I’m finding difficult to get rid of. My Grandfather’s old paintbrushes, an old laptop that crashes before I can copy the photos of my daughter as a baby are transferred, a set of drafting tools. A stack of huge, chunky photo albums from the days I printed a photo of everything I saw. I have some other things that I know will be difficult to get rid of… but I’ll get there. It’s a matter of priority. Those items are not my priority right now while I still have three bags of paper work to tackle and three drawers of cosmetics and bathroom paraphernalia to sort through. Their time will come.

THREE Expert Tips to Declutter and Organize

It’s onwards and upwards in the quest for less stuff. Certain areas of the house are feeling more ordered, others still need a lot of work. But I’m struggling with maintaining the decluttered vibe. ‘Stuff’ keeps creeping in and I find myself resorting to areas I’ve already dealt with. So my next wave of research is to consider behavior. What do the experts suggest for breaking the cycle of clutter and reprogramming to mind to make the right choices? 

Marie Kondo on Designating a Place for Everything:

The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a shelf with nothing on it. What happens if someone leaves an object that has no designated spot on that shelf? That one item will become your downfall. Within no time that space which had maintained a sense of order, will be covered with objects, as if someone had yelled, “Gather round everybody!”

Marie Kondo, Author of: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I totally get it… who else has a ‘crap drawer’? You know, the default place for any crap that is floating around the house. Batteries, coupons, a padlock without a key, hair bands, a pencil sharpener, a pack of cards that have bust out of the box… I know you have a crap drawer… or bowl, or shelf. The reason these cubbies of breeding clutter exist is because they are full of the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere. Find a place for everything and the crap drawer no longer exists.

tips to declutter and organize clothes

Ruth Soukup on establishing limits

When it comes to clothing, set limits on what you have space for. (I recommend a 40-hanger closet.) Every time an item goes in, make a commitment that another item goes out. This mentality will keep you from purchasing items you don’t need (to store in space you don’t really have)!

Ruth Soukup, Author of: Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul

Since I have ruthlessly purged my closet last month, I have purchased a pair of trousers, two tops and a pair of shorts. I could easily purge this many items from the already reduced selection, I still have plenty of pieces I just don’t wear… back to the clothes donation bin it is.

I like limits… it’s very black and white, which I find easier to stick to. I could come up with a limit for a number of categories: toys, kids drawings, ornaments… and don’t forget the fabric! If I have a thing for fabric and crafting supplies, I need a limit. I should probably add DIY stuff to that list… I can’t throw away an old tool or a piece of wood… it might come in handy. But really… will it?

‘The Minimalists’ on just-in-case items and their 20/20 rule:

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Getting rid of these items clears our minds, frees up our space, and takes the weight off our shoulders.

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Authors of: Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

The ‘just-in-case’ and the sentimental items are where Husband starts to get grumpy. He’s terrified I’m going to throw out all his beloved CDs that have not been released from the boxes they were packed in over three years ago. What if he has a sudden urge to indulge in heavy metal and teenage angst? He needs to keep them just-in-case. And I get it, sentimental items are the most difficult.

But what about the two pairs of $15 rain boats that were in the closet that haven’t been worn since 2012? Until recently I thought I’d better keep them just-in-case we go somewhere muddy. We live in Arizona… its full-on desert, I think we’ll be OK. And if we do suddenly need rain boots, we can replace them. This may seem wasteful, and again the waste guilt starts to nibble… But really, what proportion of all your stuff is there just-in-case?

Summing Up

My journey continues, but so far by best tips to declutter and organize are:

  • Make it easy for yourself: Find the easiest way to sell/recycle/throw items;
  • Don’t allow guilt to stop your progress;
  • Sentimental items can become a burden: find another way to hold on to those memories;
  • Find a place for EVERYTHING;
  • Set limits to reduce the invasion of new clutter;
  • Get rid of low value just-in-case items.

Good luck on your decluttering quest… we’ll get there!

 

Montessori Kids Rooms: Why & How

Following the Twins’ closet project, I’m getting ready to overhaul the rest of the room. They’ve made the move from their little nursery close to our room, to their big boy room upstairs next to their sister. But we’ve kept them in their cribs for now so they get used to the space. One change at a time seemed like a good idea. Despite being toddler giants, they will still be very little when they move to beds, and after my last dig into beds for shared rooms, I’ve started to worry about taking the beds too high. This, along with my recent interest in minimalism and creating calm through simplicity, has led me to look further at Montessori kids rooms.

montessori kids rooms why how fb

 

The Theory Behind Montessori Kids Rooms

The legend that is Maria Montessori was all about encouraging learning through independence. In talking of child education she said:

It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind)

The environment in which the child learns is key, because… well kids are small and clumsy; still learning the basics which we take for granted. So Montessori kids rooms need to be accessible for their inhabiter, in my case two toddlers still sussing out their gross and fine motor skills. The same principals that apply to a Montessori classroom can be applied to a Montessori bedroom:

Rooms are child sized with activities set up for success and allow freedom of movement and choice. The environment has to be safe for the child to explore freely. The environment has to be ready and beautiful for the children so it invites them to work. (dailymontessori.com)

I’m not suggesting you fill your kids room with light boxes and toys, the activities should be appropriate to the use of the room. A classroom will have easily accessible education ‘toys’, for a bedroom we want the successful activity to be sleep! But, unlike the crib, which does not allow freedom of choice, beds should be accessible and furniture and decor should be at child height so that they can explore their space freely.

What This Looks Like

Putting these ideas into practice is the important bit, so lets take a look at the key elements of a Montessori kids room:

montessori kids room key elements

 

Floor bed:

The floor bed is probably the first thing people think of when planning Montessori kids rooms. Even babies, after a few weeks in a basinet or co-sleeping, can move to a mattress on the floor. This might seem crazy… what if they fall out? And they will. But they will roll, bounce and flop about like babies do, it’s all part of allowing them to become aware of their surroundings and their freedom to move. You may want to place a rug in the fall zone if you have hard wood floors for a softer landing, but be sure it’s heavy enough not to scrunch up and get caught around baby. 

The classic framed floor bed shown in the picture above is not necessary. The important part is that the bed is low enough for little ones to get in and out independently. The house frame idea came about afterwards, as a response to the floor bed; some believe the bed feels more like a ‘proper’ bed, rather than a mattress thrown on the floor, others feel the framing of the sleep space creates a sense of enclosure and safety. Either way, I love them… I’m just not sure we can pull off two houses in one room for the twins!

If you’re in the market for a framed floor bed, Etsy is full of adorable handmade designs. Here are a few of my faves (the photo’s are links if you want to know more):

 Accessible Clothes & Toys

The Montessori education encourages kids to dress themselves independently. We were caught out with this when Elsie joined the Montessori program in 1st Grade… oops, Mom had failed to teach her to tie her shoe laces, and Montessori kids learn this super early! Allowing kids to choose their own clothes is important in encouraging confidence in their own abilities, although it’s best to make choices easy, so keep the selection sensible. Choose child scale furniture and don’t overcrowd the room with toys and trinkets. Think deliberate and purposeful.

 Accessible Lighting

Some might struggle with this one, but Elsie always had access to her own nightlight from age two and the novelty of fiddling with it soon wore off. Giving kids the chance to control the lighting level in their room via switch extensions or a low level lamp again reinforces the idea of independence and safety in their own space.

 

Neutral Colors

This is where I struggle a little because I love color! The North American Montessori Center says:

“We create a space that both calms the soul and satisfies the innate desire for order.”

The general consensus is that keeping Montessori teaching spaces neutral in color reduces the chance for distraction and encourages a feeling of calm. I’m not going to disagree but I do like a little fun too so I’m torn… maybe just a little pop of color? I’m not the only one… check out this Montessori inspired room by Rachel Larraine:

MONTESSORI NURSERY eclectic-nursery

 

I hope you’re feeling prepared to set up your perfect Montessori kids room, I would love some pictures to share with our decor Facebook page… do send me your creations!

 

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Kids that Won’t Clean Up: The Magic Toy Library

Last year I told you all about my daughter (then six) and her fantastic talent for what we call ‘Poopcrastination‘. Since then, not only her allergy to tidying become worse, her baby brothers have become mobile and impressively destructive. Yep, my name is Mom… and I have three kids that won’t clean up. After a couple of months of swinging between embracing the chaos, and chasing them around like a headless chicken with a sponge and trash bag in tow, I’m done. I’m worn out and have come up with a plan of action.

kids that won't clean up FB

 

I touched on this a few weeks ago… I am in purge mode, in a quest for mild minimalism. But the household is working against me… Between Husband, addicted to buying random junk from Walmart, and my three kids who have gone wild with Arizona-summer-cabin-fever, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.

I continue to work on the ‘tidy up game’ with the twins, they’re totally into it but unfortunately it’s so much fun they insist on throwing everything they’ve just tidied away in order to clean up again… the video explains what I’m talking about:

 

They’re only 20months old so for now we’ll cut them some slack on the tidying. But do they really need to throw everything? I swear I’m bringing up two olympian shot put throwers. However, my real problem is my darling Elsie. She has many talents, but tidying up is not one of them. No exaggeration here – many times we have spent an entire day trying to get her to tidy a few toys off the floor. A five minute job becomes a five hour job. 

Tried, tested and failed remedies for kids that won’t clean up:

  • Share the tidying up – results in Mom tidying and Elsie playing while pretending (badly) to tidy up;
  • “If you tidy up we can go out to crazy golf!” (She loves crazy golf… who doesn’t). Results in tears and no crazy golf;
  • “Tidy up before lunch please,” Ten minutes later… “You’re not having lunch until your play area is tidy.” Results in rolling around on the floor, screaming and crying due to extreme hunger… even though it’s not even lunch time yet. (Don’t mess with Elsie’s food… she’s like her father).
  • The trash bag method… “You have 10minutes to tidy up, then I’m coming up with a trash bag. Anything still on the floor goes in the bag.” This method worked a few times, until she called our bluff. Everything went into trash bags and she had to earn the toys back through the following week. Trouble is, the toys were in such a jumble, Mom had to spend ages sifting through the bags to find out what went with what in order to return ‘the box of Shopkins’. Plus the drama caused by American Girl doll Julie entering the trash was quite traumatic for all, including Julie… ugh, back to the drawing board.

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally the words of my mother-in-law pop into my head. Some time ago, when I was talking about tidying up, she said

“When we were children, we were only allowed to play with one toy at a time.”

In that moment I didn’t think much of it, after all, some of the best games are those involving a Shopkins/Barbie/Toy Kitchen mash-up. I often see Elsie creating a picnic for all her toys, or allowing My Little Ponies to sinfully shack up with Calico Critters. I consider myself a creative, and I hate the idea of dampening my daughter’s imagination… but I’ve reached the end of my tether. 

Kids that Won’t Clean Up… Enter the Toy Library

Elsie loves the library, always has done. So rather than telling her all the toys were going to be separated and shut into a cupboard, I told her we were going to create a toy library.

“What do we do when we go to the library? We take back the books we’ve finished with and check out new ones.”

kids that won't clean up magic toy library

Elsie was instantly sold. No more sea of toys on the floor, no more open boxes for the twins to take handfuls from and throw across the room. 

Two Weeks Later

I’ve tried so many things, I’m going to be honest… I didn’t hold out much hope for the magic toy library. But, it has worked wonders and delivered unexpectedly positive results. The toy library came just in time too, because I managed to trip over the dividing baby gate in our playroom and demolish it in the process; so the twins are now on the loose full-time. They love it; because there’s more stuff to throw, whoop! But, slowly we are removing more and more stuff, to allow one big space for simple games… all three bouncing on Elsie’s bed together has become a favorite.

A slightly unexpected side effect… all three are playing together; a total mom win,  even if some of their activities are questionably dangerous. It may be a coincidence; the twins are just reaching a more playful age. But I would suggest that removing Elsie’s toys from the play room has encouraged inventive, creative play that works for all ages. Perfect for kids that won’t clean up because there is minimal mess to tidy! The dress up box is still out, because all three love dressing up and it’s much easier to tidy up than Shopkins and Barbie’s wardrobe.

So, we may have lost the opportunity for a toy mash up, but we’ve gained the opportunity for siblings to play together, awesome result I’d say. Now when Elsie checks out a box, she tends to bring it to her brothers… they love seeing what she’s going to pull out!

And the checked out toys do make it back to the cupboard… most of the time.

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