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It's been gnawing and nagging at my heart for sometime now.
Mismanagement and disorganization.
In so many ways our family has changed to more sustainable practices over the years, yet the question that has been gnawing at me is, “How can we be truly sustainable if we have so much stuff weighing us down?”
How can we be good stewards of all we have been given, if we merely amass it and stuff it in a drawer waiting for an opportunity to put it to good use?
I feel frustration so much of the time because our house has stuff strewn about, even when I've just finished putting everything away. With three small children, perhaps it's understandable, but I still don't consider that an adequate excuse. But what if the problem is not that I can't manage it all (which is what the voices in my head say over and over), but what if it's merely too much to manage?
Rather than figure out new ways to creatively organize and tuck things out of sight, let's get rid of it so there's less to manage.
Will you help me? Please leave a comment of what you are able to live without. I need all the inspiration I can get – and I'm sure other readers will benefit from your experience and wisdom too. 🙂
And will you join me? What will you do this month to lighten your load?
What can I live without?
There are two categories in simplifying a home: getting rid of general clutter and getting rid of things you previously thought you needed but have now found ways to do without.
Here's the list of things I thought I needed that I plan to oust from our house by the end of the month:
2 large boxes of books – we've got our own reference library with several hundred volumes, which both my husband and I cherish since we are both academic geeks, but since the internet these days makes research easy and we're constantly looking for places to keep all the books, some must go. I plan to donate these to my alma mater so that at least they'll be part of a collection where they're likely to get used rather than collecting dust at the local thrift store.
Hairdryers and other small electrics – we have two hairdryers, neither of which has been used for about 7 years, except to put newborn babies to sleep. And we recently discovered the Cloud B Gentle Giraffe Sound Machine, which works better anyway.
Paper products – we have moved to more reusable items, so this is a good push to finally clear out the extra paper towels, paper plates, and paper napkins that have been taking up space in the cupboard for a number of years. The toilet paper we'll keep – at least for awhile.
2+ totes of children's clothes – It's amazing how fast kids grow. I really struggle to keep the right size and season of clothing in my children's drawers! An overhaul is due for all three children and in the process, I'll sort through the outgrown outfits.
1+ tote of my own clothes – this may be difficult, as my clothing needs have changed rather constantly over the last six years due to multiple pregnancies, breastfeeding, various climates, various careers, and – ahem – a different shape than I used to be. However, I have more clothes than I need, so some must go.
Any kitchenware and kitchen electrics that haven't been used in the last year – heirlooms excluded. (What is your policy with heirlooms? Would you keep an heirloom that hasn't been used for several years?)
Here's the list of general clutter I plan to oust from our house by the end of the month:
All the only-partially-functioning televisions – We currently have 3 partially-working TVs (all stacked on top of each other) that are all at least 25 years old, so I'd like to pare this down to just one fully-functioning set. I sometimes wish we could go TV-free, but it is a wonderful tool at times!
All our partially-functioning DVD, CD, and VCR players – we don't have a single electronic device (except for our computers) that is less than 15 years old, and none of them work properly. The VCR eats every video, the DVD player only reads about 10% of our discs, and even our cordless telephones have packed it in. In light of the question, “What can I live without?” I have to ask whether these are even needed, but at this point in time, they are tools we use both for sanity and for edification – so as long as we can have only 1 fully-functioning unit, I will consider it acceptable. 🙂
Children's stuffed animals / toys / games / dress-up clothes / bicycles – I hope to clean out more than 25% of our children's unused items. Ideally, I'd like for each child to have only 1 doll, 1-2 stuffed animals, and 1 box of “personal” toys, plus a reasonable amount of shared toys like play food, toy cars, games, art supplies, and building blocks. (This does not include homeschooling games and instructional toys.) I don't know if this is actually possible when our children have rather strong emotional attachments to the very generous gifts they've been given over the years, but it's my ideal.
Paper files – this is an excellent time to sort through our old paper files as well. I still have every paper I wrote in high school and university and nearly every card that has been given to us in the last 15 years. Perhaps I'll cherish these as I reread them and then end an era.
Outdated lotions, potions, and other personal products – since I started making our own soap, shampoo, lotions, deodorant, sunscreen, and other similar products, we have dozens of commercial bottles just sitting on the shelves. Yes, we could slowly use them up, but that would take years, so I'd prefer to just give them a new home and have a few shelves back.
Extra cloth diapers and homebirth supplies – Even though we currently have two children in diapers, our cloth diaper stash needs some tweaking, so I'll sell whatever diapers aren't working for us.
Excess office supplies – we have dozens of 3-ring binders, photo albums, scissors, and other supplies that are just sitting around waiting to be used. Time for a new home.
Knick-knacks and various kitsch – I don't how these worked their way in, but it's time for them to go out!
What other items are common ones that we tend to think we need but really we can do without?