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Purging the Clutter

When we were first married, I didn’t know what my home style was. I relied on others to tell me what I “needed” to have. After a while, I found that I had enough in our home that I didn’t use, didn’t like, and was taking away from the sense of peace and calm I craved.

The summer we celebrated our one year anniversary, I decided to make a change. I purged each and every room in our home and had a series of garage sales to eliminate the excess. The sense of relief I experienced led to a change in how I approached our stuff, and I began a constant cycle of purging.

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Why Purging Is Important?

Let’s look at purging from a realistic viewpoint as opposed to a sentimental viewpoint.

  1. Our homes are only so big- When you consider the size of your home, the people living within the walls, your four-legged family members, basic furniture, and necessities, you have already given up a chunk of space within your home. Add to that the years of mementos you have collected from your past, each child, and other family members, and pretty soon, there isn’t any room left for new memories, hobbies, or mementos.
  2. Interests change- I used to be an avid scrapbooker. My kids used to like Elmo. Brian used to scuba dive. “Used to” being the operative words. Since these are all things we have left behind, why would we hold onto the “stuff” that went along with them? By removing these items from our space, we have created more space for our current interests.
  3. Our children outgrow their “stuff”- Have you noticed how quickly children grow? With each new size they grow into, there is a size they grow out of. Keeping all of their clothes because of some sentimental value it may hold will fill your space with unusable items.

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What About the Sentimental Stuff?

Granted, we all have a few items that we hold dear. My mother’s last Christmas, she returned some of the gifts we had given her (she must have sensed she would not be around much longer) and used the money to buy the shoes that my daughter would wear at her baby dedication. Those shoes have been put aside for safe keeping, but the outfits my little one wore as an infant (even the ones my mother gave us for her) have been given away or sold at garage sales and consignment shops.

  1. Be ruthless about what stays and what goes- If your items are serving a useful purpose or have an actual monetary value, consider keeping them long term. If it is a piece of furniture that a family member handmade for you, definitely keep it and be sure to make good use of it. But seriously consider the necessity of holding onto every craft your child made in class.
  2. Take photos- For my baby shower, my mother made a diaper cake using size 4 diapers. It was beautiful, and after she passed away I held onto it as it was the day of the shower. Eventually, however, my daughter reached size 4 diapers, and I had a decision to make- was I going to go out and buy a package of diapers or use the ones my mother had put into the diaper cake? I pulled out my camera, and snapped a few pictures of the cake, and promptly used the diapers. If certain items are sentimental but you do not feel compelled to keep the items, snap a photo and make a choice that works for you and your home.

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How Should I Purge?

Each and everyone of us has a different situation we are working with. You may be a working woman or you could be a stay-at-home mom. You might be a work-from-home gal with some flexibility in your schedule or you may have a tight schedule because in addition to being Mom you are also a taxi service and your car is your second home.

Whatever the case, here are three ways to purge the clutter from your home and hopefully bring some calm to your space and life.

  1. The Cycle Purge- With the Cycle Purge, start at one end of the house and begin the organizing/purging process one room at a time. By the time you make it all the way around the house, it has been about 4-5 months and it is time to begin the process all over again. This method keeps things from having a chance to build up around you. It also makes the next cycle of organizing and cleaning out easier because fewer things have had a chance to accumulate.
  2. The Seasonal Purge- There are certain times of the year when purging specific areas is easier than others. At Christmas time, I use what I am going to use, and the rest of it goes into a tub for a future garage sale. While the items for a particular season are out and available, go through them and decide what has served it’s purpose and is ready for retirement and what is still useful and has some years left in it. Purging our clothes with each season (what doesn’t fit anymore, what has holes, what didn’t we wear) is also a good idea.
  3. The Twice a Year Purge- When I was teaching, I would go through our house twice a year. The first purge happened during Christmas break, and the second purge happened during the summer (my two big breaks). I would go through my closets, drawers, cabinets, and garage, toss what was unusable, give away or sell items that were in good condition but would not be used again, and keep only what I needed. What are the two times a year that make sense in your world?

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When It’s All Said and Done, Then What?

Once you have purged the unnecessary, don’t keep it around. Use one or more of these ways to eliminate the excess.

  1. Donate- Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and your local church can use some of what you have.
  2. Garage Sale- If you are one income, finding ways to make a little extra cash for your family can come through selling what you already own.
  3. Consignment Shops- I love taking items to our local consignment shop. I provide the clothes and toys (must be quality items to be accepted), they provide the store and access to customers. I make a percentage of the sale and use my earnings to purchase clothing for our kids. Another great option for one income families.
  4. Online sales groups- (use at your own risk) There are so many online options for selling items  (especially great for larger items). Always choose to make your purchase exchanges in a public area and not at your home, if at all possible.

Sometimes having a friend over while you purge can be helpful. She can help you look past the sentiment of an item to the actual value (or lack of) it gives to your home. Having a buddy to talk to also makes the process more enjoyable.

As we enter the season of Spring Cleaning and organizing ourselves for the summer, add a little purge into your plans. You will be glad you did.

Bins Are a Mama’s Best Friend: Helping Your Child Get Organized

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s a well known saying that seems to state the obvious regarding organization, but a mama- like me- can really avoid a lot of early gray hairs popping up by heeding this popular phrase.

And while it’s definitely a piece  of advice we as adults do well to obey, we might mutually agree that it isn’t always as easy for a two year old, like my son, to follow through and do…

Or is it? 

I’m the type of person who feels that my job isn’t done unless everything is pretty much back in its place. 

Messes make me restless.

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I’m the kind of person who, if I have a pile of dishes in the sink at night or if it’s bedtime and toys are left everywhere, I just don’t feel like my job is done. I personally don’t feel like I’ve officially earned the right to “flop”(our family’s word for just kicking back and relaxing).

If “what goes up must come down”, what comes out of place must go back in place too… at least before I feel I have the right to relax.  

And since that is just how I’m wired, I find that it’s  also important to teach my son to know where things belong, so that as he grows, he can follow through in being organized as well.

No, I’m not saying that he has to be just like me, but it certainly helps a mama out if I teach my son to do the things that will make life a little easier for everyone…while also teaching him personal responsibility.

Although each person is built differently and we may not all have that inner craving to be super organized (and I’m not saying I always am), if we do happen to be around someone who prefers organization, we do well to be a blessing on our end by arranging the environment to meet that desired expectation…

Which is one reason why… I….Love…..Bins.

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While it didn’t just occur to me overnight, I’m learning that as long as I designate a place for something and continue to follow through in making that place the object’s “home”, it is much easier for my toddler to also identify that location as the designated place.

So what does this look like in my home? Well, upon walking into my son’s room, the first thing you’d probably notice is the large 16-cubby shelving unit that we purchased at IKEA. (Love that place! And I think every teacher I’m friends with does as well.)

It’s on this unit thatyou’ll find an assortment of things that range from blocks to trucks to a couple of stuffed toys…  (And this arrangement may change over time as we reorganize, rearrange, and weed out toys.)

But…..What I love the most about  this organization unit… are the bins that hide and store all of the little toys my son enjoys playing with. No, not everything has to be front and center in the room or have its own special place on the shelf. Some things can simply be categorized and tossed in a container with other similar objects.

If you notice in the picture, there are a total of eight bins on the unit. The four red bins were cheaply picked up at the local Dollar Tree (for $1 each) and the bottom blue bins were purchased at a slightly higher cost from the Container Store (for $14.99 each). This simply goes to show that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot if you’re in the market to purchase a few items to help you organize your child’s room. Our Dollar Tree bins have worked just as well as our Container Store bins.

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In the blue bins, you’ll find one holding books, another two containing Mega Blocks, and a fourth housing play food mixed with toy kitchen items.

In the red bins, you’ll find another kind of assortment, such as: small animals in one bin, cars and small vehicles in another, coloring books and sticker books in a third, and various kinds of sports balls in the fourth (This arrangement has actually changed since I first wrote this post, but my son has definitely come to recognize where certain toys belong. Over time you tweak things to make the organization process fit even more to your lifestyle. For example, I recently decided to have books lining the entire top shelf rather than storing them in bins below.)

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In having this kind of set-up, where everything basically has a categorized “home”, I’ve been finding that my son is more equipped to help me during clean up time…something that will at first take more intention to teach but which definitely gets easier over time.

Yes, it’s usually so much easier for us moms to quickly pick up the mess of toys, and in the past and on occasion at times I still may. But while it’s true that I can quickly get the job done….Always doing this for my son doesn’t serve in helping him learn personal responsibilty for himself, which is something we need to begin teaching our children now while they are young so that it doesn’t become more of a challenge later. 

Now that my son is two and a half, though, I’m pleased to say that he has begun to get much better at cleaning up. Yes, I still have to tell him to clean up, but it’s become more of a game for him. I’ll say, “Show me (how you can clean up)!” and then leave him to it. Shortly after, he’ll come out and say “You got to see this!” As I’m going to his room, he’ll go and hide and then I’ll make a big deal about how amazing it is. He loves that…and making a big deal about it is worth the time and effort because I love the fact that he is learning how to clean up for himself.

When you first start teaching your little one to clean up, they’ll definitely need help. A big mess can be overwhelming to a little person for sure. But I noticed that by asking my son “where” things go or holding a specific object for him to put away that the task became a little more do-able. Providing simple step by step help is  always much better when teaching a toddler than giving general commands. 

For me, being purposeful in having a place for belongings as well as intentionally giving easy directions to help my son learn to participate in the cleaning process is an important key to helping things run a bit more smoothly in my home.

No, a clean and organized child’s room doesn’t happen by accident. But with God’s help, patience, continued effort and practice, I’m expecting my son to learn important skills like this that will help him not only learn personal responsibilty but also foster a well-deserved sense of pride after the task of cleaning up is finished.

Yes, it’s definitely something I need to continue working on if I want it to become a personal habit in my son, but I do look forward to one day seeing it become so much a part of his nature as we continue to work on it, with God’s help, that he won’t need reminders from Mom when he’s a teenager.

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