Monday, September 12

Secret Project

The house, just after we bought it. 
It wasn't all that long ago that I came across a blog post on a blog that I follow that smacked me between the eyes.  I was so excited by it that I emailed a link to my husband, which I'm not sure he actually read.  It was an email full of talk about throwing out all of our belongings and excessive exclamation points (this often annoys PR professionals) and it was probably a little incoherent.  I know we talked about it briefly in bed that night, but we haven't talked about it since.  

But I haven't been able to get it out of my head.

We live in a small house.  This is mostly due to financial constraints and the fact that when we bought it, we were a family of three and Josh was more interested in the yard than the house.  We have outdoor space aplenty, but the interior of the house needed a lot of work and it's tight quarters for four (soon to be five) people.

After we got some of the work done, I realized that adding a walk-in closet and second bathroom would never add enough space for all the things we had amassed over the years.  The shed was full of boxes of books that we couldn't bring ourselves to get rid of, but never read.  Eventually a leak forced us to throw some of them out.  How wasteful.

So, after I read Megan's blog about making their home an Oasis (seriously, just go read the post, and the related ones) I started to think about how to make that same kind of place- comfortable and welcoming, rather than cluttered.  I wanted to be more mindful of the utility of our home.  I wanted to be someone who was comfortable being hospitable, even though we had so very little room.  I wanted something different than we had.

But like many other things, it was forgotten.  I could list off all the other things I was preoccupied with, but the truth is that what I wanted seemed difficult and out of my reach.  How could I possibly make it a reality when I was often just grateful to have the toys picked up at the end of the day (forget getting the kitchen cleaned or the laundry put away)?

And that's the other thing... How can I fit one more small person and all of their small person equiptment into my house as it currently is?  The changing table (we mostly use for baby supplies) was moved to our room a long time ago, and since we stopped changing Caroline on it it's become a catch-all for whatever book I'm reading, or thing I don't have time to put away.  How can I be hospitable and welcome others into my home if I can't even welcome my own family?

But something happened.  They call it a drought.  It's hard to spend a lot of time in a beautiful yard when it's 108 degrees outside, and we've had 60 some-odd days of that kind of weather this summer.  So we went to the library and Target and Mardel, but we spent most of our time at home this summer.  And it drove me crazy.  The toys were unorganized (despite my efforts), the closets stuffed, and cabinets were a wreck.  I was having to leave the bathroom doors shut so that Caroline wouldn't pull out all of the toiletries and medicine and towels and drag them all over the house.  I can't tell you how many times a door got left open and I would discover her with a bottle of pills or a tampon in each clenched fist.  I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Not long ago, I reread that post.  I read all the connected posts on the subject.  I started scouring other Mom blogs for organizations and simplification ideas.  I was especially interested in blogs by mothers with large families.  When you have six or seven kids, you get organized or you go crazy.

You know what I figured out?  I have way more stuff than I need.  Why on earth do we have so many towels?  Why do we all have so many clothes?  Why do I have all those plastic dishes?  If my pantry shelves aren't working well, why do I just live with it???

I have slowly started to make changes.  We tore out the shelves in the pantry and bought some cheap some from Ikea.  You know what?  I feel better ever time I look in my pantry.  I can see everything, and it's organized.  I also threw out a bunch of stuff when we started the project, so there aren't out-of-date, or unwanted dry goods taking up space.

The other day I cleaned out the underside of my bathroom cabinet, threw out a tons of junk and refolded all the towels.  Josh installed child safety latches.  I haven't finished cleaning out that bathroom, but it's a small part of a big job that needed to be done.  I broke the house down into small 15 or 30 minute cleaning/purging jobs and I am hoping that I can have most of them done before Christmas.

When I first read that blog post, I could envision my house completely simplified.  I could see it as I desperately wanted it to be.   It completely overwhelmed me.  All I could see was the enormous amount of work that would be required, and the challenge of keeping my kids out of the mess until I sorted through everything.

What a defeated way of looking at things!  This house can certainly bless someone, even if it is still my secret little project in progress.  Most of all it can bless me every time I see small accomplishments.  Small things are often the most powerful.

1 comment:

Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux said...

Yes!!!! Good for you!! Getting rid of stuff is so liberating, and I've found once you begin it becomes nearly an addiction.
I went through a few things to give to an 8-month-old neighbor and came across a pair of cute little socks... I could remember who gave them to Ennis, when and where... and I didn't want to part with them! Then I stopped--did I really need too-small socks to remember this person? No. It was liberating to give them away, and to trust that I don't need to hoard things--to think of the lilies of the field, of the way manna only lasted for a day and no extra could be collected.
When I had trouble getting rid of something sentimental, I would take a photo of it. Often, within a month, I would even delete the photo (of that 5-year plaque from my favorite summer camp). It eased the transition.
Good luck--I'm so happy for you and inspired!