During our trip to Iowa, we finished reading "On the Shores of Silver Lake" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was struck, as I usually am when reading one of her books, by the simplicity of their lifestyle. A one room home and extremely limited possessions makes for easy maintenance and cleaning, I'm sure ;-) Now granted, I'm sure that the Ingalls family needed more time for other things, such as gardening and preserving meats and churning butter. Yet you usually find them singing by the fire in the evenings, enjoying each other. I don't know about you, but managing the things in my life can tend to suck me away from my family if I'm not careful.
Recently during a quick clean of our house, I realized that the decluttering step was taking far longer than I liked. In fact, by the end of the day, there were still rooms which needed to be decluttered! I realized that part of this was due to lack of discipline and build up, and it was partially due to having TOO MUCH STUFF! Now, I've visited houses which have significantly more "stuff" than we do; however, I believe with all of my heart that "stuff" can so easily distract from the important things in life. Especially those who are easily distracted, like myself.
So, when Nathan directed me to do major decluttering for the upcoming church garage sale, I was naturally delighted, if a bit short on time. But I did what I could and I am happy to report that our house is several boxes lighter - and so is my heart! There is still more to be done, but I feel I've learned a few important lessons:
1. If you don't use it - give it away! The juicer in our cupboard was difficult to part with (it was a gift from my dear sister!), but we just don't use it, and there it sat, taking up space. Now someone else can use it, and if I ever need to start "juicing" I'm sure the Lord will provide us with a marvelous juicer:-)
2. If you have a lot of space, that doesn't mean you have to fill it up. It's ok to have empty cupboards and counters - especially when full ones make you insane! This is a major lesson for me, because I simply don't have a lot of time (echo that a millionfold homeschoolers!). I've realized that something can't be cleaned thoroughly or quickly if it is covered or filled with stuff. It needs to be stored or given away. Period!
3. Always have a box or space designated for giving away (or selling or storing or fixing). For me, this is half the battle. When I have something in my hand, it's important to sort it right then, otherwise it may end up increasing my clutter and this is bad bad bad for me!
4. Allow limited toys in the kids rooms. A child will develop confidence if they can easily pick up their room, but stuff everywhere tends to overwhelm a child. It is not fair of a parent to allow a huge buildup of clutter in a child's room and then give the dreaded command "clean your room!"
As with everything I am sure there is a balance involved. It is a challenge to always do the most important thing. Rarely is the most important thing housework when I need to tie strings with my kids, but after a weekend of festivities, our household has a hard time functioning properly without being cleaned up again. However, there are times when I need to ignore clutter or dirty things in order to focus on schooling or devotions or just spending time with the children or my husband. Perfection should be much strived for, but it's ok if it remains elusive ;-)