11 on the 11th

I know this is the 12th, but I wrote this on the 11th, I promise.  Thus yesterday’s title.

~~~~~~~

I’ve been thinking a lot about cleaning out STUFF recently.  Probably because with three, soon to be four, children running around, STUFF is becoming the enemy!  I have always been one who likes to keep counters clear, drawers in order, cabinets only filled to the point that I can see what’s in them, and things at a minimum.  But, that is hard with little ones, life responsibilities, and the endless stream of STUFF that comes into our home and garage.  If it’s not school papers and mail, it’s items people lovingly pass on to our children, or stack in our garage for future rummage sales, etc.  This kind of “clutter” drives me crazy.  The more people we add to our family, the more things we seem to “need”.  And, I don’t want to live in a perpetual state of crazy ~ so I have a few filters for keeping it all under control.

1.) GIFTS:  I do not NEED every item I am offered/gifted by the sweet ladies of my church.  Though I often will accept a hand-me-down, I determine quickly whether it needs to even be put in my cupboards, or if I should add it to my thrift store pile. Keeping something “just in case” means I almost inevitably never will use it.  Better to just not fill space, so I’ve also learned the art of saying no, graciously.

Having the pastor’s children means we receive a lot of kid-oriented gifts that we would never buy ourselves.  Some of them will be sticking around for a long time because of their deep meaning and usefulness to our kids, but others get looked at once and forgotten.  It’s a tricky business getting rid of these kind gifts.  It always seems to be the ones you get rid of that receive the question about how the kids are enjoying it.  And there’s also the drop in visits where items are specifically looked for.  When we first moved here our son was given a monstrous looking, wicked action figure for his birthday by a family in the church.  It was so bad, we didn’t even want to give it away in our thrift store drop.  One night – after some time had passed with it hiding in the laundry room –  it got buried deep in our garbage can,  never to be seen again.

2.) MOVING IT OUT: We keep an ongoing thrift pile by our back door.  I make a thrift store run at least twice a month so nobody gets a hankering to rediscover a “favorite” shirt they’ve never worn.

3.) TOYS: Our kids toys are organized into Rubbermaid buckets in their closet.  If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stay.   We do a toy clean-out several times a year so gifts and newly acquired things don’t overwhelm the established boundaries.  Over the years, we’ve seen that our kids play with certain kinds of toys, such as Lego’s, train sets, paper dolls, blocks and animals.  Other items end up getting stowed away and pulled out very rarely, if ever again.  An everyday task around here is to pick up their room. This helps them – and me – see what gets played with, which in turn helps them let go of the things they know never get touched.  When they are otherwise occupied, I take a minute to sweep through and pick up papers, balloons, broken toys, etc. to toss in the garbage.  It makes life so much easier to avoid the stashes that occur if I don’t do this.  Keeping things to a minimum makes them appreciate the things they do have more.

4.) KNICK-KNACKS: I avoid buying knickknacks and other items to set on counters/shelves.  Somehow, we always have plenty coming and going on them anyway.  I am a jealous counter-space lover. Wide open spaces make me feel happy.  Don’t mess with my free counter-space!  🙂

5.)  CLOTHES: Clothing is cleaned out often…even if it still fits, kinda. I’m an avid thrifter, so I get really, really good deals on very nice clothes.  This also means I buy ahead of the kids current needs because when you thrift instead of buy new, you buy when you find it available.  Thus, sometimes I have clothes for them that are too large today, but will fit in a year.  These get packed into bins at the top of their closet, awaiting the next growth spurt.  If the current set of clothes doesn’t fit hanging in their closet or in one of the two drawers they each have, it’s time to clear out some stuff.  This really helps our laundry pile stay under control.  The more options they have, the more clean clothes get tossed in the laundry basket.  Grr!  Clothes awaiting the next sibling are stored in bins that are labeled and stacked in the garage.

6.) ARTWORK:  I keep a file in my file cabinet for the kid’s art projects each year.  At the end of the year, I look through and pick the best few to add to their memory books.  The rest go bye-bye, secretly of course.  🙂  I recently saw a great idea to take pictures and make a book of their works of art, but really, that’s too many pictures to take.  Besides, they won’t be interested in all the art they ever did when they grow up.  It’s really more for me and I’m content with the memory book method.

7.) BABY STUFF: We learned with our first two children that most baby paraphernalia is never used.  This made it a lot easier with our last one to avoid some space hoggers like a changing table, floor toys, bouncers, and feeding gear. Babies really don’t NEED much.

8.)  COLLECTIBLES/KEEPSAKES: We avoid collections.  I don’t know that we have ever personally bought a DVD.  A couple CD’s, but really not so much. We’d rather rent it, or check it out at the library, than store something for the next however long because we feel invested in it.  And keepsakes….I’m afraid we’re both rather unsentimental when it comes to keeping certain things.  I have a box of letters from my hubby, and a tub of things I want to show my kids someday, but that’s it.  I prefer memories on camera and journals than closets full of keepsakes.

9.) TOILETRIES: I have realized  just how few things I need in my personal toiletry cupboard.  I really don’t need 10 shades of lip-gloss or hair products for every occasion.  And that mousse I used 5 years ago..that can be tossed.  Same with the three brands of deodorant I tried and didn’t like.  I really won’t ever use them even though it seems wasteful to toss them.  Some things just don’t need to take up my space.

10.)  BEDDING: Two sets of sheets is all we need for each bed.  Now there’s more room in my linen closet for all the photos I need to clean out.  🙂

11.) SHOES: We actually have way too many shoes in my opinion. This again is because we buy all our shoes at the thrift store.  Our kids really only use their rain boots, tennis shoes, dress shoes, and flip-flops.  But, some shoes are such good quality and cheap that I’ve bought without regret.  To keep the chaos under control, we have shoe shelves in each closet and a basket in the mudroom to catch the stray extras.

It’s an ongoing evaluation around here to observe our ways and see if there would be a better method of doing things to make our lives and time more efficient.

How do you keep your STUFF manageable?  Are there things you’ve given up to simplify your life? Got any tips for me?

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