The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

Thoughts on decluttering January 11, 2010

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Over the last month or so, I have done a lot of decluttering around our home.  I wish I had a tally of how many boxes and bags of things I have put in the trash or donated to Salvation Army.

It is safe to say that every area of our home has some clutter that needs attention. We have been married for nine years, lived in this house for eight years, and had our first child four years ago. During that time we have accumulated all manner of stuff. There was college stuff (textbooks, lamps, sheets, computer stuff, study abroad souvenirs) and stuff from before college (high school memorabilia, childhood memorabilia) and wedding stuff (photos, invitations, memorabilia such as guestbook and cake knife) and wedding presents (some wonderful, some not) and hand-me-down stuff from parents (furniture of various types, towels, sheets, home decor).

All of this doesn’t take into account various sports and hobbies that we have done over the years, the generations of computer equipment and other techie stuff that accumulate, and all the stuff that comes along with having your first baby.

Take all of the aforementioned clutter, and more — then add into it a small-ish house with just enough storage space to tempt a person to stash stuff away and forget about it–and you end up with a lot of STUFF to deal with. I should mentinon that over the years, I have put good, consistent effort into decluttering. I made a point of regularly going through clothes and books and anything else that seemed to need weeding out.

I have long wondered why I don’t hear my peers talk about decluttering much. Do they just not accumulate (buy, inherit, or otherwise acquire) as much stuff as we do? It seems unlikely to me — hubby and I are not shopaholics by any stretch of the imagination. Neither of us has any unwieldly collections (angels, DVDs, or anything else) or an affinity toward knick-knacks or any of the other usual clutter suspects. We are both quite willing to get rid of things that we don’t use or love, even if they are things that might cause us guilt to get rid of, such as things we’ve received as gifts.

I myself am more willing than a lot of people to simply throw away things that we can do without (and that no one else would likely want). When no one else is around (especially my 4-year-old) I like to go through the house with a trash bag and make things disappear. I try to squelch the voices that say “Oh but if you save that you might be able to use it for XYZ.” Forget it! Just get rid of it and get on with life. Is the world going to be a better place if I hang onto something instead of throwing it away? No, on the contrary, my home and my state of mind will likely be better if I have one less piece of clutter to see, move around, clean around, and otherwise deal with.

I heard a quote recently that has been on my mind a lot: “Less stuff, more living.” This quote guides me in a lot of things around my home (and since I am a SAHM mom, I am home a lot!). My idea — and it’s not an original idea, but important to me just the same– is that the less stuff we have, the nicer our home can look and the better our home can function, and the more we will enjoy being at home.

I spend a good deal of time and energy getting “the toy situation” under control in our home. I hope it’s worth it; I think it’s worth it! I have written about this before as well.  Some people who visit our basement may think that we have a lot of toys, but the key is that 90% of our toys are stored in our basement at any given time. It is sort of like a toy library, and it works well considering the set-up of our house and considering my personal preferences. My older son, Adam (4.5 years old), generally has 2 or maybe 3 toys/toy sets in his room at a time. (He also has a “craft center,” a subset of his books, a CD player, and a few other things.)

Over the last few weeks we have begun to talk seriously about doing an addition on our home. This makes me even more motivated to declutter since the process of adding on to our home will be just a little bit easier if we can pare down on how much stuff there is to move out of the way, and clean dust off of, afterwards


Daily planning for the SAHM December 31, 2009

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The last few weeks have been very active for me in terms of decluttering and re-committing myself to GTD. I have been putting a lot more effort into ubiquitous capture, and one result of that is a very different feel to my days. It is hard to describe but I guess I could say that when I have a thought worth capturing, instead of ruminating on it and worrying about it and so on, I put it on paper (or even on my shower wall) and then move on to have even more thoughts.

A thought I had yesterday was: How useful would it be to me to go over a series of questions every morning?

Questions such as:

  • What’s for dinner? (a la FlyLady)
  • What items are on our schedule (appointments, preschool, etc.)?
  • Which child needs a bath today, and when will this bath fit into our day?
  • What time to the kids need to go to bed?
  • Are there any errands that I can, should, or need to run today?
  • Are there any phone calls or emails that I should take care of today?

I suppose this is sort of a daily planning session for the SAHM. Ideally I could also scan through my Next Actions to catch things that are especially important.

Does anyone else use a checklist to help plan their day?


Thoughts on getting a child to clean his room December 30, 2009

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My oldest child, Adam, is 4 1/2 years old. I want him to learn, however much he can given his age and personality, how to tackle a mess. Fortunately, his room is a great learning tool, especially in the last few weeks since I put in a “craft tower” for him (a stack of drawers for markers, crayons, glue, paper, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and so on).

It is very tempting for me to go in and “help” him (or just do everything while he’s away at preschool) but I feel it’s important for him to 1) learn how to clean up a mess, and 2) experience the effects of his previous choices (e.g., to leave scraps of paper all over the floor).

I find it’s important, and also fair, to be specific when giving him instructions about cleaning his room. This morning I instructed him to clean off his table/desk by way of picking up an item and deciding where it belongs, then putting it away. If he doesn’t know where some things belongs, I instructed him to put them in a specific corner of his room, for us to work on later.

By following this procedure, I hope he will learn to take responsibility for his things; get reinforcement in the idea that most of his belongings do have a specifc place where they, well, belong; and get practice in focusing his attention over a period of time.

It’s not uncommon for Adam to pout, huff, or otherwise throw some sort of little fit when he’s instructed to do a particular task. Being the old-fashioned mom that I am, I generally do not accept that behavior. This morning he has twice been sent to lie down for 20-30 minutes at a time, as a consequence for his fits (during this “time-out” he is not allowed to talk, look at books, etc.).

Without a doubt, it is a lot of work for me to oversee his work and to follow through with discipline. I am not always up to the challenge, and I try to give myself, and Adam, some grace on those days. But all in all, I believe that it is worthwhile to put effort into this. I believe that if he is expected to follow directions without “giving attitude” and to take responsibilty for his belongings, that will help prepare him to be successful student, friend,  adult, husband, and citizen.


I get a failing grade at being the entertainment committee for my kids lately! September 18, 2009

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How do other moms (seem to be able to) do so much stuff with/for their kids, on a daily basis? By this I mean the moms who (in my imagination, at least) have no trouble getting their kids out for walks, to the park, to the local pool, and so on.

Lately in my neck of the woods, we have been blessed with beautiful Fall weather (a bit on the warm side, actually!). I look out the window and the great outdoors seem like the place to be with my two kids… and then my attention returns to the disaster of a kitchen, the piles of laundry, the list of phone calls to make…. and before I know it, it’s time for a meal/snack/bottle for SOMEBODY, and then someone needs a diaper change or assistance in the bathroom…. and then I need to go to the bathroom…. and then that load of laundry needs to go in the dryer…. and before I know it, it’s nap time for the baby, and I really should get dinner started…. and I realize I haven’t played with or read to the kids, and certainly haven’t gotten out for a walk with them….

Does anyone else feel this way??


BabySteps to take care of myself January 23, 2009

My life has been crazy ever since my second child was born in October. In addition to the usual new-baby craziness, I also have chosen to pump breastmilk for about 2 hours per day, since I wasn’t willing to go through the pain of direct nursing. I could never have anticpated how challenging this would be.

Most days, it is nearly impossible to even leave the house (unless we have no choice), because it is so difficult to find a time when my oldest isn’t napping, my baby isn’t napping, or my baby doesn’t need to be soothed into a nap in the next 45 minutes. It is a nasty winter here, and baby Mark takes many short naps each day. If his nap rhythm gets disturbed, there is a high price to pay the rest of the day. If I do manage to dash out to the store with both kids in tow, it is a race to get home and get baby Mark down for his nap before he becomes overtired and difficult to soothe.

Now, at 13 weeks postpartum, I am starting to try to take care of myself again. I joined Weight Watchers a few weeks ago and am slowly working on the 30 lbs I need to lose. As I explained to my husband, we can spend $40 per month on Weight Watchers, or we can start to revamp my entire wardrobe! Fortunately, he is very supportive, which makes it much easier to stay on-plan.

I have pulled out some exercise DVDs and have started with a very easy one: Leslie Sansone Walk the Walk. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have bothered with something so easy, but I have learned the value of starting small and simple — BabySteps, as FlyLady puts it.

Each day I make a good effort at my FlyLady routine (clean kitchen, shine sink, shine bathroom, one load of laundry, swiffer floors), and congratulate myself for what I do manage to get done instead of beating myself up for not having a cleaner house. If I can tackle something further, such as decluttering a drawer or a surface, so much the better.

This is not an easy time in my life, to be sure, but I am thankful to have a wonderful husband, two healthy kids, and the opportunity to be at home with them full-time. As with so many things in life, the most important thing is the attitude that I bring to my daily struggles.

To all the moms and dads who are reading this, what do you do to take care of yourself? What are the attitudes, sayings, etc., that help you get through your day?


Paring down the clutter in my 3-year-old’s room January 16, 2009

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When I have a few minutes to spare, I like to go into my 3-year-old’s room (preferably when he’s not home) and pare things down. Why?

1)  Children play better in an environment that is calm & orderly, and spacious enough to spread out and play. (Both FlyLady and John Rosemond recommend this approach, and I couldn’t agree with it more.)

2) It is easier to keep his room tidy when there are fewer things to deal with. Therefore, I can hold him responsible, to a greater degree, for tidying up his room.

Last week I pared down his collection of markers and crayons from 40 to perhaps 20.  This is a sanity saver for me because he sometimes likes to take out all of his art supplies and play make-believe with them, putting them in boxes, bags, and so on. I don’t want to discourage this make-believe play, of course, but it is good for my mental health when there aren’t as many markers involved.

Like many parents, I also rotate toys in and out of storage. I do expect him to entertain himself most of the time, and I can handle the occasional guilt about this if he can enjoy something “new” now and then. However, I do try to make sure I don’t put him in a mindset where he thinks he can entertain himeself only if there is something new to play with.

As adults, sometimes it’s easy to think that more is better when it comes to toys for our kids. It can be difficult to fight this mindset, but I think it’s worth it. Kids don’t need lots of things; they do need the opportunity to play safely, to explore, and, when they are old enough, and to play creatively and imaginatively.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding kids, toys, and decluttering!