Less Is More

A few months ago, something big happened. I spent a whole weekend doing nothing but cleaning the house. No big deal, right? People do that all the time, right? Except I’d been cleaning the house all weekend, every weekend for years. And I was tired of it.

I wanted my weekends back. I wanted my evenings back. I wanted to do stuff with my kids without the dark cloud of housework hanging over our heads.

I wanted my life back.

Surely there is more to life than running oneself ragged from sun up to sundown every single day. I’ve read entire volumes on the topics of home efficiency, thrift, parenting, and green living. How does the saying go? If you know better, you do better? Except, in the process of “knowing better,” I lost sight of all of those things by trying to do too much at once. I was doing something all right, but it wasn’t doing better.

So I got fed up. I was done with STUFF. Less stuff makes less work and more time to do MEANINGFUL things.

What did I have to lose by getting rid of STUFF? Nothing, except the stuff itself.

Nothing was safe. No room, no closet, no drawer, no basket, NOTHING was safe. I fine-tooth combed through every single possession, asking myself, “Is it useful? Is it beautiful?” And in the case of all those miscellaneous items I was hanging onto just in case, I asked myself if I could replace the item for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes. If I couldn’t say yes, I put it downstairs. The basement looked like a scene from Hoarders. No lie. I let all the stuff gather there until I was ready to sort it en mass.

If I’m being totally truthful, I let everything just sit for awhile to make sure I didn’t need any of it. I pulled out exactly two things to bring back into my life, both items related to the making and eating of popcorn, interestingly.

So what did I get rid of? Perhaps it would be easier to tell what I kept instead.

I kept the everyday dishware. I kept a kettle set from my Grandma Maier. I kept things with multi-purposes. I kept one of everything.

I kept enough kid’s clothes to get through a week without washing, plus a couple of extras. All three kids’ clothes and our cloth diaper stash fit into one dresser.

I kept the nicest, most open-ended toys and, of course, the kids’ favorites.

I kept 2 sets of bedding per bed and a few throw blankets. I kept the towels that matched the bathroom.

I kept a tote full of keepsakes from my childhood and tokens from deceased relatives. Keepsakes took me some time, though. I was able to determine that a couple of well-chosen items could invoke just as much of a memory as a whole box full.

I kept just enough furniture to serve our current needs plus anything I anticipated needing within 2 years. Nothing more.

And of course I kept a whole bunch of other things, but they are useful, beautiful, or irreplaceable.

After all was said and done, I felt like I had my life back. I come home from work now and can play with the kids instead of side lining them to the mountain of housework. I find myself saying YES to their requests more and more because I’m not thinking “What’s next on my list?” I have time to work on hobbies. Yes, I’m a mother of three and I have HOBBIES!

My kids have experienced a change, too. Less toys does not equal less fighting, but the quality of their play is better. They are engaged for longer periods of time. Their make believe is better than ever. And the best part? They pick up toys easily and willingly when asked!!

We do most of our housework within a few hours on the weekend. I haven’t figured out how to stay ahead of laundry, though. Our weekends have taken on a more leisurely pace, though they are busy now because summer comes but once a year.

It’s been less than 2 months since we sold everything at a garage sale, and already it feels like the stuff is creeping back into our house. A couple of yard sales up the block, a few bags of hand-me-down clothing, birthday party favors, and other little gifts and next thing you know you are knee deep in stuff again. It surprised me how quickly it added up. So we tackle it again. And again and again.

But it’s been a journey worth all the effort. And the ongoing effort. Because time is precious, life is short and I’m not slaving it away when I could be building memories with my 3 little humans.

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