I have recently been reading about people choosing a word for 2018. Something to focus on throughout the year. I’ve heard everything from “intentional” to present.” And while this year I prefer to focus on a short list of attainable goals, if I were to choose a word this year I think it would be SPACE. I like the idea of building some “white space” into our family’s calendar to allow time to just be. Time to be spontaneous. Time to have that impromptu dance party. Time to sit down and watch a movie together on a Sunday afternoon. Time to be able to say “yes” when someone invites us to do something social. Time to stop what we are doing to read that book without worrying about rushing somewhere.
The other application for this word would be the literal sense. Space to play without tripping over blocks. Space to wrap that present without having to move a million things first. Space to be able to put something away without having to make room first. Clutter is something that has always driven me a bit batty, but I think once we had kids and they brought with them all their “stuff,” my distaste for clutter has risen. Nothing creates more anxiety for me than walking into a room and seeing things laying everywhere. For some reason I just can’t relax when there is clutter around me. And while the idea of taking on the entire house and decluttering sounds amazing to me, it also sounds overwhelming. So Nathan and I have instead come up with 5 things we do on a regular basis to maintain a *somewhat* clutter-free home. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments!
1. If it takes less than a minute or two to put it away, do it!
This has made a huge difference for us. It’s easy to walk by a clean laundry basket and say we’ll put the clothes away later. Walk up the stairs and pass by the things laying there, saying we’re in too big a hurry to bring them upstairs. But in reality, who doesn’t have a minute or two to put something away? When I am done getting ready in the morning, everything I used goes back in the bathroom cabinet or drawer. When I get into cozy clothes at the end of the day, the clothes I wore go into their respective places. Laundry is put away as soon as it’s folded. Coats get hung up upon walking in the house, shoes go into their respective shelf in the garage, an empty shampoo bottle goes right into the recycling bin. The kids (with some prompting and nagging) have started embracing this as well, which makes a HUGE difference.
2. Sort through paperwork on a regular basis.
It’s easy to get bogged down by paperwork, especially once kids are in school. Homework, art projects, magazines, junk mail – I don’t know a household that doesn’t get overrun with these things. The way we deal with paperwork is to constantly go through it. I keep folders in our desk area for each child, and I put things I want to keep in there (I also write their name, grade, and teacher on it too so I can remember). We have a recycling bin in our kitchen, so junk mail and papers we don’t want to keep go right in there. The inevitable pile of papers that accumulates on the kitchen counter gets sorted through almost daily, with only pertinent stuff getting to stay there. And if it’s been there over a week, I find it a new home 🙂
3. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
This is probably an obvious one, and definitely something we are still working on in our new home (we’ve been here 2 years now). But it’s much easier to subscribe to my first point if there is actually a designated PLACE for the item. And it makes it way easier for the kids if they know where things belong. It isn’t always easy, and it’s something you have to work at constantly (especially after Christmas when there is a whole new crop of “stuff” that needs a home).
4. When something comes in, something goes out.
There is only so much space in our house. So if something comes in, we have to remove something else to make room. I don’t want to live in a house where every nook and cranny is full. I want room to breathe. So Nathan and I are constantly looking for items we don’t need/use to get rid of. Kids’ stuff is luckily easy for us, as we have two young nephews who LOVE hand-me-downs. We have a strict policy that if we don’t wear something in a year it gets donated. Every season we look at our gear and see what we used last year and what we didn’t. And around the kids’ birthdays and Christmas we especially search the home for things we no longer need to make room for incoming things.
5. Don’t leave the house messy
Whenever I leave the house, I always make sure it is in “show condition” – or close to it. This habit started when our old house was on the market and we never knew when the next showing would be. Every time we left he house I did a quick scan to make sure clutter was put away. And while today I’m not quite as strict, I still never leave the house with dishes in the sink or toys on the floor. My kids definitely resist this, but walking in the door to a cluttered house makes me crazy (just ask Nathan).
I know nothing above is earth-shattering, but it’s the small things that have added up for us over the years. I can think clearer in a clutter-free house. My kids have room to play. I am free to hang out with my family without the distraction of things that need my attention. We have space to be creative without having to make room first. And while this might not be for everyone, having “space” around me makes me a much happier person.