The Ins and Outs of ‘Stuff’

Stuff, stuff everywhere.

Stuff, stuff in my hair.

On the floor and ‘neath the bed,

Cluttering up inside my head!

It’s very hard to maintain a balanced mind when the environment around you is cluttered and chaotic.  (It is also rather difficult when you have one or more small persons requiring your attention every 0.7 seconds which is why it’s taken me 20 mins to write 75 words!)

This post is for those who, like me, may have experienced serious feelings of shame and embarrassment when unexpected visitors have called round and witnessed the bomb site of their daily lives in all its squalid glory.  Feelings that – for reasons like extreme sleep deprivation, scrambled brain syndrome and a complete imbalance of giving everything they are and have to tiny little tantruming dictators – they are unable to hide in the cupboard or stuff in the garage unless they have 24hrs advanced notice… and on THOSE occasions when they ARE able to present the television ‘home they prepared earlier’ and consequently give the impression that their baseline living conditions are semi-civilised instead of post apocalyptic B grade movie, they casually imply (as they apologise for the mess) that they haven’t just spent the last day, down to the minute, doing that kind of whirlwind cleaning that results in knickers in the pot drawer and boxes of unidentifiable crap shoved into the one room with the door that is always shut… and if said guests insist on viewing said room, they then sheepishly declare that, “we’re still unpacking” – a phrase which although useful, does lose some credibility after three or more years…

Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home) writes,

if you can’t find something, clean up.

I don’t know how many times I have heard these words echo in my head as I’ve scrabbled around through disorganised debris trying to find things like a lost shoe, sellotape dispenser or nail clippers.  In fact, I have heard these words so many times that I have now added this valuable insight of simple logic to my ‘Lessons of Adulthood‘.

Inspiration is a marvellous thing, and it wasn’t until after reading Happier at Home that I truly climbed on board the decluttering bandwagon.   I felt like I’d been drowning in the tsunami of stuff that comes with having babies and children and when every flat surface was piled high with precarious possessions and the floor was a seething mass of miscellaneous belongings, it didn’t take a genius to see how our stuff vs space scales had become seriously skewed (alliteration, oh how I love you )

My efforts, while heroic at the time (multiple times actually), were no match for the constant onslaught of my two small ‘stuff transporters’ (I’m sure that every parent can relate to this – the constant flow of random objects from one place to another) and it is only in the last six weeks (since my daughter has started school) that I feel I have regained the time, space and energy needed to tackle such a monumental task.  So my son and I have been going through the house room by room, shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer doing the serious, deep cleaning and decluttering that takes a long time to do, especially when you have a toddler helping…

My mission for the stuff that survived this process? Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely:

a place for everything, everything in its place.

After several skip bins (ok I exaggerate, but not much) and trips to various opshops, I would say that we are about 75% of the way through.  The biggest difference between our current quest to bring balance to our belongings and all previous attempts, is that this time, whatever spaces we sort out have to be maintained and tidy before we can move onto the next area – so instead of reaching the end, only to begin again (to reference other such behemoth jobs like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge), we might actually accomplish our goal of a fully functional and practical living space where there is a place for everything and where everything, eventually, gets put back in its place!

But how do you maintain such areas you might ask?  As other parents will understand, it only takes a few hours for children to transform a decluttered, tranquil space into Armageddon…  We’ve been trialing a 5-15 minute BEFORE dinner clean up of toys, books and clothes 5-6 nights of the week and we started off slowly, adding to our routine as required.   Our decluttering began in darling son’s room, so initially clean up only involved that one room. Then gradually, as we’ve sorted out more areas we’ve included those in our clean up too – so instead of a wild whirlwind, it has quickly become a breeze to maintain a semi-civilised living environment.  I’ve even started inviting people around again!!

In summary, we’ve got the outflow of stuff well under way – the problem is now the inflow.  Space WANTS to be filled…

It’s a bit like this blog really, so much space – I’m interested (as I hope you are) to see what’s going to fill it next!


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