Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chapter 1: My Story (and Mine too!)

“Clutter can indeed be traced back to Adam, who, when his fig leaves were worn out and should have been discarded, pressed and saved them as a memory of bygone days.”

Some people believe that there are people that are born this way – the ability to be tidy housekeepers. Mrs. Porter and I both believe that we’re born with an innate ability to clean or that there are “neat freak” or “messy” genes. Where does it start then?

Children tend to learn by what they see and not by what they are taught. Mrs. Porter’s parents, and mine as well, taught their children to clean but also showed behaviors that invite clutter. Her parents, and mine, saved LOTS of things. Childhood games also tend to follow us into adulthood and become habits.

Anyone who has kids knows the game “drop it”. The baby or child will drop utensils, food, toys, and other things off their high chair and mommy or daddy will pick it up and hand it back. It’s a repeating cycle until one person, usually the parent, puts a stop to the “game”. Now that we are parents, we don’t like it so much.

Then there is the game “empty it”. Both Dianna and Genevieve play this game FREQUENTLY and to be perfectly honest, it drives me nuts. Literally. I used to have a bunch of their little toys in fabric bins on their shelves. Then the dumping began. I only have so much energy, so everything is now semi-neatly stored in a large cedar chest(family heirloom type) in their bedroom. Then there are all the books! With the girls having a librarian for a grandmother, each and every birthday and Christmas are filled with books. I had to store all of the paper page ones in their closet, so the books with the stories that I grew up with can last until the girls can read them for themselves. Then there is the laundry. It has to ALL be stored in their closet, which is childproofed. It we had the clothes in a dresser out in their bedroom, I am SURE that the drawers would get emptied daily. These games are mastered VERY quickly, but “put it back” takes a while longer.

Mrs. Porter also mentions that preschoolers graduate to a game that she calls “leave it”. Kids this age like to play with their own toys and then leave the mess for someone else to deal with. She talks about how her nieces like to play this game. At first, she dealt with this by telling them that any toys getting left laying out would get thrown out. She also stated that the girls owned enough playthings to fill a Toys-R-Us store. THAT is WAY too many toys! Another time, Mrs. Porter tries a kinder and gentler approach. She taught her nieces that the more toys they had, the more they had to clean up. More toys = more cleaning! Suddenly, they were very eager to find toys they no longer loved and donate them to charity. I hope I can teach my kids this valuable lesson.

Without setting boundaries on the number of toys and expectations to pick them up, preschoolers might even play “leave it” right into their teenage years. Worse yet, it might get so burned into their brain, that this character trait will follow them into adulthood. Combined with the “need” to get more things without getting rid of some of the things they already own, there is a recipe for disaster.

Mrs. Porter and I have a problem in common. We both tend to play “leave it” quite a bit. Dishes pile up in the sink. Laundry may sit in its hamper or on the floor for days. Things will get set down on the table or bar to the kitchen until “I can get to it”.

It used to be hard to get rid of stuff, but then I started getting tired of how much time I was spending cleaning and organizing. I think I still spend too much time cleaning and organizing, and that is an ongoing project in itself.

Like Mrs. Porter, I also lacked a confidence in my cleaning skills. I know how to wash a counter, it was the cleaning all the junk off it part that was and is still hard. I didn’t read every cleaning book I could get my hands on, I just did a little research online about “green cleaning” and try to keep up with some of the posts from FlyLady. Several people contribute to this Facebook page, and followers also share their experiences so they can help others. I have never tried index cards for anything other than notes for school, have never used a timer, had never thought of using incentives, but I have come up with a cleaning chart/schedule that I hope will help me keep up with everything, especially after LO#3 arrives. Unfortunately, everything is only temporary, especially if you have young children.

If cleaning is “that big” of a problem, then any little part of it should be prayed about. Not some little halfhearted prayer, but one as serious as one that you would send up for a friend who has been in a serious accident. Answers or a spick and span house won’t usually happen overnight. And sometimes it won’t always be in a way that you expect.

Sometimes you have to start over as if you were a child. That was what Mrs. Porter did with the help of 2 friends from church. One BIG point mentioned was “You CAN’T keep it all!” Gifts are gifts. Once it is given to you, you can do whatever you want with it. You can keep it, regift it to someone who really NEEDS it, or get rid of it in another manner. You can’t keep it all and keep a clean house!

That brings about A BUNCH of good questions. What can be gotten rid of? How do I decide what to keep? What other things have I been holding onto that I don’t need? Ask your friends about their methods for handling clutter. How do they keep their homes free of so much stuff? What do they do with possessions they used to love but have outgrown? What happens to expensive items they no longer use? Do they keep duplicates? How many bath towels do they own? How many sets of sheet do they own for each bed? What about extra blankets? Are there items they stock up on? What types of keep sakes do they save? ALL excellent questions!

How many pairs of jeans do I really need? What about t-shirts and sweatshirts? Do I need all that I have? What don’t I wear anymore? Are there clothes that don’t fit right or don’t compliment my figure? What do I have that I just don’t like? Am I hanging onto clothes that are torn, faded, or missing buttons? If so, why am I keeping them?

Mrs. Porter lost pounds of emotional weight with every piece of clutter that went out the door. Her soul felt lighter. Whatever feelings of comfort or happiness she derived from having too much stuff was multiplied by letting things go. This gives a new definition to freedom. You might be able to sense God’s presence even more, like Mrs. Porter was. She also found a peace and clarity previously unknown in her life.

I think that the “new philosophy” mentioned is definitely a good idea to write down or print out and keep where you see it every day. Write it. Memorize it. Say it to yourself when you are cleaning. I CAN’T KEEP EVERYTHING AND KEEP A CLEAN HOUSE!


By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24: 3-4

The first step in maintaining a clean house is obtaining the wisdom in how to do it. Nearly anyone can keep a clean house for a day. Every day is a horse of another color. Understanding is needed to comprehend how to permanently transform clutter into neatness and less stress. We need to remember that the most beautiful treasures we can fill our house with are people, not material possessions.

De-Cluttering My Heart:

Lord, forgive me for: being so lazy after taking the girls down to the library and playground.

Lord, thank you for: time with visiting family. It truly is a blessing, even though it is not for long.

Lore, help me with: getting the girls out of the apartment more often while the weather is still decent and not too warm outside.

Decluttering My Home:

Do I still play “drop it” and “leave it”? I know I still play both of them, and they are a constant struggle that I try to work on daily. Working on them can be hard, especially with having kids around. What childhood habits do I need to change? I definitely need to change the “games” I play and definitely work on getting to cleaning sooner rather than later. What behaviors can I replace them with? I don’t really know what kind of positive behaviors I can replace them with. I know I need to work on not setting things down and taking forever and a day to get back to them.

Am I open to pairing down any of my collections? In the past year or so, I have gotten rid of(given back to the original owner) almost 2 whole series of books, some of my knick knacks, and a bunch of little craft clutter junk, what I like to call things that I save to do crafts but are really trash. What items am I willing to consider letting go? I recently got rid of a bunch of unusable clothing scraps that I was saving to make memory quilts/clothes for the girls. I don’t know exactly how much I got rid of, but it was at least a couple of grocery bags worth.

Which do I desire more – to keep everything I own or to keep a clean house? I definitely desire a clean house more. I hate having to watch where I am stepping, just because the girls have so many toys out that haven’t been picked up yet. I also don’t really have the patience to keep picking up the same things several times a day, every day.

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