Managing a home is a lot of work. And it’s the type of work that is never complete. I pay bills one month and as you can imagine, the next month I pay the same exact bills. The dish washer seems to always be full and even though my kids are little they still expect three meals every single day – and snacks on top of meals!
Its a lot of work. The only thing that makes running this household easier is the help from my minions kids.
I have learned that kids are capable of much more than we give them credit. I once saw a meme that had a picture of a washing machine that read – if your kids know how to work a smartphone, they can learn how to run a washing machine. And although I see those tasks as being completely different (lets be real – most toddlers know how to work a smartphone and I wouldn’t let them near a washing machine!) I understood the underlying meaning. Kids are capable. But it takes consistent and deliberate training which can often seem not worth it. And I’m aware, for many it’s not worth it. I have found peace in having kids do chores that may not be to my standard, but it gets done without me doing it.
Take laundry as an example. I despise laundry. I’m pretty good about getting clothes in the washer. I’m decent at moving the clothes to the dryer. And if I’m being honest, I’m mediocre at getting the clothes put away in a timely fashion. In come the laundry minions. Hallie is old enough she can do her laundry from start to finish. Hunter is almost there as well.
But there’s a lot of laundry on top of that. This is how the task is completed. I do several loads of laundry and the baskets get dumped out on the floor of the living room. Sometimes, a load is specific to one person, like Hallie and it isn’t dumped in the pile.
Everyone starts sorting by making piles for individuals around the room. Once the piles are sorted, they sort their own piles. They also sort for the littles who are still little young, although Cannon is getting there. Once their piles are sorted, they go to their rooms to put it away. This is where control is relinquished. Their shirts are hung in the closet, but everything else goes in drawers, buckets or under bed containers. Pajamas are never folded. They get thrown in a bucket. Shorts are rarely folded. Instead they’re usually laid flat and stacked which means the first time they pull the bottom pair out of their drawer its a mess. And socks are occasionally sorted. And all of this is okay by me, because I didn’t have to do it. I don’t care if their pajamas are wrinkled. I don’t care if they can’t find their matching socks when they need them, and yet they never wear mismatched socks. The only thing I’m concerned with is their shirts and they’re hanging them in their closet (every which way and sometimes only halfway on the hanger).
I explained this process to someone a while back and they thought I was crazy. Here’s a fact: If you are particular about your laundry habits – this would be your nightmare. But when I look at managing a household, I look to see where I can streamline tasks and if I can teach my kids to work at the same time its an added bonus. Don’t get me wrong, this still takes a long time. I’m amazed at how long they can stretch out laundry day. But it’s not my time they’re wasting. It’s their pool time, or friend time or anything else they’d rather be doing.
The best part is when they come to me looking for their clothing and they get the same answer every time, “I don’t know, where did you put it?” 🙂
I want to tell you about a little journey I’ve been on…
Over a year and a half ago, we found out that our last and final baby would be a boy. With great sadness and in an emotional pregnant state, I climbed the ladder to our attic and looked over 12 pink Rubbermaid bins of girls clothing. Clothing that I held on to in hopes of using it again one day – all of which I could now get rid of. Part of me wanted to donate it sight unseen. But the more rational side of me wanted to see it all one last time and pull out a few pieces to save.
I spent hours over several days going through all the bins and in the end I had a few pieces to save, and many garbage bags full to donate. It felt oddly satisfying. Although these weren’t bins that I saw or managed on a daily basis I loved knowing that my attic was free of the extra stuff.
I don’t know about you but as a young family, I have spent the better part of my marriage accumulating “stuff”. Baby/children gear, toys, holiday decor, lawn tools, power tools, kitchen gadgets, clothing and the list could go on and on. Much of the stuff was purchased to serve a purpose…we needed/wanted it. I feel as though I’m a responsible consumer. I’ve never spent more than I had, I always do my research and most of the time I find pretty good deals. All was good. 13 years later we have a good sized home full of…”stuff”.
But when I emptied out the attic of pink bins, a little seed of change started to grow. It was as if a light went off in my head. I’m a fairly clean and organized person and yet it has all become too much.
I am tired of being frustrated that my kids can’t keep the playroom clean.
I am tired of shuffling clothing and yet never finding what my kids need – shoes included.
I am tired of spending time organizing the same items over and over again.
I am tired of dusting books I’ll never read.
I’m tired of games missing pieces.
I am tired of wearing 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time.
And most of all I’m tired of spending time looking for things.
This led me to a couple of great purge days – but yet I kept bringing more stuff into the house voluntarily.
I started following a Facebook account about becoming a minimalist. And I enjoyed reading the encouraging quotes or interesting articles. But I quickly realized I couldn’t ever see myself as a minimalist. I have too many passions and hobbies and love holiday decorations. And although being a minimalist wasn’t in my future – I craved the idea of owning less. Less clothing. Less toys. Less stuff.
Briggs birth became a catalyst for change. For the first time since having kids, when he grew out of clothing – I got rid of it. I had no need to store it any longer – I wasn’t passing it on to a sibling. The same for all his baby gear. The swing. The bouncy chair. The swaddles. The bottles. You know how much stuff I had accumulated over 5 kids?? A lot of stinking stuff and I didn’t have to hang on to it any longer. It was freeing.
Getting rid of baby stuff felt great and the mentality started to bleed to other areas of the house.
We tackled Hallie’s clothing. I made her try on every piece of clothing she owned – most of which I had purchased, some of which had been handed down to her. About half way through, she was tired of me asking the same question – Do you love it? – and was ready to be done. In her frustration she snapped, “You’re the one that bought all this clothing for me.” Ding, ding, ding. She got me. She was absolutely right. And her words cut deep. I am the problem – Steve does not purchase anything – its all me. I had to change my habits and my family would follow.
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which was great to kickstart the process of purging – although some of the ideas were a little crazy to me. But then I read The More of Less and it resonated deep within me. I realized I didn’t need to get rid of everything. I just needed to get rid of enough so I can live the life I’m wanting to live. The life I could live if I didn’t manage so much stuff. I can have my holiday decorations and power tools and yet own much less in many other areas.
The corner of our room and a corner of the storage room became the donation location and every week the piles grew and grew (everything except the bike – not sure why it was in the storage room!). I tried to add 10 items to my pile every day. Most days I far exceeded that. I started to become embarrassed by just how much there was and how easy it was to get rid of it. I started to tackle cupboards I hadn’t touched in years, or better yet drawers that barely opened. I made frequent stops to drop off donations.
I’ve still got a long ways to go – I’m sifting through years of accumulation but I’m making progress and the progress is motivating.
I think what has changed the most is my mentality of purchasing items. Yes, we still need stuff and even want stuff and I have no problem making those purchases. But I’ve become more critical of what comes in the house.
I was at Target last week and they had the cutest skirt for Hallie on clearance. I added it to my cart. As I stood in the checkout line looking over my cart – the skirt caught my eye. Immediately Hallie’s words came to mind, “You’re the one that bought all this clothing for me.” She didn’t need the skirt. In fact she has more dresses/skirts than she needs (but she “loves” them all). I decided to not add to the problem. The skirt wasn’t needed and I removed it from the cart. Something that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind a year ago.
The idea of being critical of items coming in isn’t necessarily a financial decision – although there are plenty of financial benefits. It’s a state of mind that offers peace to me. Do I like updating home and decor items? Absolutely. It just means I need to get rid of the items that are outdated, even though I paid good money for them at some point. Why is it so hard to get rid of items you perceive to be of any value – even though you don’t necessarily like the item??! I’ve found this mentality to be one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. But I’m getting there. And being critical of what comes in has really helped.
I’m on a journey. Sometimes I get down on myself that I’ve been working at this for awhile and I have a long ways to go – but that’s why its a journey. I am having to change habits and work to let go of things, it’s not happening overnight. But it’s happening. And I love the change I’m seeing. The funny part is – it’s a change that nobody outside our home may ever notice. They won’t see the semi-empty entertainment drawers or the space in the attic that was once filled with boxes. Luckily, I’m not doing it for anyone else to notice. I’m doing it so we can live a better life as a family. One day at a time.
Our playroom was once littered with art supplies. I love that my kids like to create but finding broken crayons and glue without tops was driving me crazy. Every couple days, I would have the kids round up all the supplies and put them back in their place in the playroom. Just hours after cleaning, I would walk in and find art supplies everywhere. I realized it wasn’t really the older kids who were creating the mess – its the monster one year old we have running around that seems to make messes wherever goes. The only way to solve the problem was to remove the art supplies but make them very accessible.
Introducing the Ikea art cart that resides in my office closet.
I purchased a cart on wheels from Ikea. This allows the cart to be mobile and can travel to and from the playroom when needed.
Also from Ikea I purchased two sets of white magazine holders. These hold the coloring books, workbooks and clipboards. The clipboards were purchased for another project that I never completed and the kids kept sneaking them to color on. They are a staple on the art cart.
The bottom two layers are filled with quart-sized canning jars. Hallie meticulously sorted out all the supplies and organized them into different jars. Crayons, colored pencils, twistable pencils, twistable crayons, pencils and pens, scissors, markers, glue sticks, glue, whiteboard markers…and more. Everything they need for a art project or school assignment. Sometimes, they don’t need the whole cart and they leave it in the closet and take the jars they need. Hallie will take a jar to her room to color and return it later.
It’s been over 6 months and the supplies have remained relatively organized. There have been a few casualties including when the cart was left in the playroom by accident and a certain toddler dumped out the jars. But the kids have been great about making sure it gets put away since then.
The best part is anytime they’re looking for a supply – they know exactly where to look. It’s also easy to see what we’re running low on – which doesn’t happen to be gluesticks, we’ve got two jars full!
I was cooking chicken the other night, wearing my favorite down vest (because it’s winter and 70 degrees which means it’s down vest weather!) The oil started spraying up from the pan and I quickly grabbed an apron. I was smart enough to grab an apron but not smart enough to remove my vest which ended up in front of the apron in perfect range of all the oil spatter. Lame.
I tried immediately to get it out but once it dried the oil was as visible as ever. I went to the laundry room and pulled out my secret weapon: Lighter fluid. Doesn’t everyone have that in their laundry room?! There was a time that it wasn’t a staple, but years ago, my friend gave me this tip and ever since that we’ve had a bottle or two right next to the detergent. It’s a simple fix and every time I’m shocked when I find no visible stains.
Its just this easy: Pour a little lighter fluid on the stain and let it dry. Wash the garment.
I’ll often find after one washing that there’s a faint ring around the spot where the fluid had dried. I simply spray some Resolve on it and wash it again and it’s as good as new. It’s a miracle worker on oil stains.
Do you want to make a practice of pouring lighter fluid on your clothes…probably not. Especially if you’re wearing them and decide to attend a bonfire. Both are probably big no-nos. But I’m telling you, I have saved so many pieces of clothing from the trash with this little trick.