Do you feel like you spend so much time cleaning, organizing, decluttering, and sorting that you don’t have time to enjoy your family?
Do you want to have more spontaneity, but can’t because there are still a million chores left?
Do you wonder why some women were blessed with the organization gene while you are still working out a system to rotate toys, clothes, and decorations?
If you answered yes to any of these questions and experience distress because of it*, here’s some tough love: It’s time to put your house on a budget.
A budget?! I thought this was about organizing!
The world provides an unlimited supply of things we never knew we wanted, never knew we needed, never knew we might need in the future, and never knew was useful.
So while it is generally agreed upon that our wallets need budgets, it’s easy to forget that our homes have a fixed amount of space, our days have a fixed amount of time, and our brains have a variable-but-still-limited amount of mental energy.
We can’t do it all.
Types of Clutter
Mental: Intangible, but takes up brain space. That big To-Do list; the pins you are going to get to someday; the quotes saved from church; the 1,000+ e-mails.
Emotional: Relationships, past hurts, and the like (outside the scope of this post).
How Clutter Sneaks Up On Me
I’m no stranger to clutter. Here are several reasons I ended up with far too many belongings in my own home or in my brain. Unfortunately, this list is not all-encompassing.
- The items are still useful. Twelve workout tops is still seven too many.
- The item was expensive. I bought $600 orthotics against my better judgment and stared at them every day for two years. Never used them. Only felt guilty.
- I might need it someday—and can’t afford to replace it. We are a single-income family with no debt—a status we intend to keep. What if I need that mannequin head for a costume or my D.A.R.E. medal to teach my children about drugs?
- I am a Christian. In my quest to be a wise steward, surely someone somewhere needs this whosy-whats-its.
- I want these for a project. Thanks to pinterest, I had enough projects stored away for several lifetimes.
Why It Had to Stop
There were several small moments when I recognized something had to give: I applied the principles of Getting Things Done, only to realize my list was getting longer; dozens of boxes from our move 9 months ago were still unpacked; I couldn’t spare two hours of working to freely watch a movie with my kids.
But the defining moment that forced me to examine my clutter came the day I was so hurt and angry with my husband, I was shaking. After work, he sat down to watch TV without caring about the 100 things left to do around the house. Why doesn’t he help me? Why does he get to have all the fun with our son while I have to spend hours cleaning?
I had a very sharp reprimand from the Lord that day that I won’t forget. Because he makes his family his priority. Ouch. In that moment, I was taught my priority had unwittingly become my things—under the guise of taking care of my family. I had no time left for family because I was busy managing my belongings.
Tips and Resources
You will have your own reasons for reducing physical and mental clutter. Mine arose from stress and dissatisfaction. Whatever the reason, if you’re ready to take the plunge and put your home on a budget, here are a few tips that work in our household:
- Refuse. When you are offered something, don’t take it unless it’s essential. I don’t even accept handouts at church because they become another item on my list to throw away later.
- +2. There are four of us in our home and we owned 16 towels. We now take the number of people in our home and add two. This determines how many common items we need. Six towels, six plates, six bed sheets.
- Cash. Not having enough money in my purse prevents a lot of frivolous purchases.
Resources that will give you far more ideas to fine-tune for your family needs:
- The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James. This woman is a simplicity genius. The Simplicity Reader is a collection of three books that give excellent tips on reducing clutter (physical and mental) in your life.
- Zero Waste Home. Bea invented the refuse rule above and has a lot of tricks to living simply.
- Google. Just kidding. DON’T use a search engine to find more tips—it will only overwhelm you. Just start throwing away, giving away, and liberating yourself.
A Final Note
You are a good person. The amount of your possessions—whether too much, too little, or just right—is not indicative of your self-worth. It does not reflect your success as a mother. It does not determine how Christian you are. It is simply a measure of how many possessions you have. There’s nothing moral or immoral about your stuff.
In an age where so many talents are broadcast for the world on the internet, it can quickly seem like we are not doing enough good in our lives. But the exact opposite is true. Information is abundant and it is hard to choose between good, better, and best. There are only 24 hours in a day. The more good things you do, the less time you have for the best things.
I am still a work-in-progress and most definitely not a simplicity expert. Clutter is insidious and comes back even when I’m vigilant. When I start to feel overwhelmed with my household responsibilities, I remember a very powerful secret to home organization: There is no secret to having an organized home. The secret is not having more stuff than your home (or brain) can handle.
* If your bookshelves are overflowing with doo-dads and you feel no stress about your household responsibilities, then this post is not a call-to-action. This post is not about creating stress; it’s about eliminating it.
How has de-cluttering changed your household responsibilities and stress levels? What family rules help you maintain your home?
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