The Pursuit of Minimalism : Part 2

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

Did you miss Part One of this series? Here it is. 

This is a bit overdue. Homeschooling mom life happened… oh and stomach bugs, and playdates, and fellowship, and meal planning, and you know how it goes. But here I am so let’s talk about this again. Last time I wrote about minimalism, I shared my story of pursuing minimalism and how it has drastically changed my life for the better. I shared the Scripture that inspired me down this path, and a few of the practical ways that I went about that. I’m very much still in the process, I’m not where I want to be but I’m well on my way, and way better than I have ever been before at being in control of our things. I wanted to come back to the topic to share a few other thoughts as well as a few more practical outworkings as to “how” to go about this pursuit. Although I think there are many ways to accomplish it, I will share how I went about it.

 Pursuing Practicals

When I finally caught the vision for minimizing, I began to hear of a book that was gaining popularity at the time and so I bought and read the book. You’ve probably heard of it, ” The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I’ll just speak candidly, I did not care for the book at all. She’s very new age in her philosophies and has some major quirks that actually weren’t endearing (as some reviewers describe them), but rather seemed superstitious and weird.She tells people to talk to their things, set them free, etc…. she talks about how many things to put in your shrine and how long the charms have luck or power. Yeah, not my cup of tea, hopefully it isn’t yours either. However the basic concept of how to sift through things and decide what to keep and what to get rid of resonated with me…. and I began to get an idea of the “how”, eventhough I didn’t fully agree with her philosophies, ideas, or even her methods. The idea of keeping things I actually *really* liked and needed was a good concept to be able to grasp through her descriptions of various clients and the things they had to process through keeping or not. As I said before, I didn’t care for her method much either…. her recommended process (which she believes is the one and only way to really go about it) is definitely more fitting for a single person or maybe a person with 2 kids tops. It is just impractical to pile all your books, clothes, etc in the middle of the floor when you have many little people about. Trust a voice of regretful experience, if you want order in your house, do not put all of your things in the middle of the floor to be sorted, I repeat do not. ;) If your littles are normal kinds of kids who can make toys of anything, your pile will just become the coolest new thing to ransack and your house will be an even bigger mess than when you started. I recommend finding an off limits (to children) room or area to sort things in.

Kondo says don’t do things by area, but instead by category and personally I disagree. I did my sorting by area and it worked great. It was very logical to me. Bathroom closet, under the sink, kitchen, and so on…. I tried to pick some one day projects and then would take a break and pick a week long project. I simply took everything out and put back ONLY what I wanted to have in that space, if it didn’t fit and didn’t belong somewhere else that I could put it away, then I got rid of it. Even if it was useful or neat or whatever our random reasons are for keeping things that don’t fit in our homes. I still got rid of it if I could not find a place for it. I have a small house and a lot of people, I was insanely picky. I have gotten rid of 5 trailer loads full of stuff to donate, more random trips to donate here and there, and even more to a burn pile. I used the method I shared back in November. It worked for me, I feel like it would work for anyone who is ready to let go of the junk.

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

Maintenance:

Here are a few of the ways that I maintain, and do not allow myself to become a minimalist backslider. This is such a wonderful way to live, and I’m determined not to go back to my old ways.

I have changed the way that I shop big time! I don’t buy things just because they are on sale or look neat or fun to have around. I try to be very intentional with all of my purchases. This has a double blessing, it keeps clutter down and we save lots of money. When I buy things for my kids for birthdays or special occassions, I either get them big items that I know they need and will use (like a bike or a new pair of shoes or a camera) or I buy them a crafty type thing that they can use once, keep for a few weeks, and then throw away.

I get rid of a few things each week. I have become hyper sensitive to things that are wasting time and space in my house. A few examples: I wore a shirt a few days ago, and at the end of the day I thought to myself, ” I always dislike wearing this shirt, it doesn’t fit right and it’s uncomfortable.” I washed it and added it to my donate bag. Easy peasy, now that’s one less piece of clothing to clutter my closet, and one less shirt that will bother me when I wear it. Often times if I put on an dress, top, or bottom and decide I don’t want to wear it, then I just put it in the donate bag. If I don’t like it, then there is no sense in keeping it.  I also recently cleared off my deep freezer where some random decor and vases had collected, I couldn’t find a place for them (although I did really like them) but I just donated them. It will bless someone else, and I don’t have the space. For me ultimately it has been about not being greedy and loving my things too much. I only want to keep the things I actually want or need in my life. Keeping a shirt I don’t like just because I bought it for $20 last summer is just silly. I wouldn’t pay $1 for it now, so why keep it? If I don’t like or need an item or have space for an item, not being able to let go of it only indicates a heart problem concerning my things. I just remind myself that we as Christians are not to love the things of the world…. yes that applies to a variety of sinful behaviors, but materialism is definitely one of them, I believe. If you are controlled by your things and can’t “give them up” then I truly believe you should examine your heart to make sure you aren’t loving the things of the world too much, and remember that love for the world is enmity with God. We can not have a whole-hearted pursuit of living for the Lord when our earthly belongings have such a strong hold on us.

 

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.comChristian Minimalism

This brings me to a few quick thoughts. Minimalism is a huge buzz-word right now. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.I talked about this in my last post too, but I’m going to put even more words around it because I think it’s important. I want to distinguish what I am pursuing by adding the word Christian before it, because this is not for some selfish gain like having a perfect home or traveling the world fulfilling the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

Christian Minimalism is getting rid of anything that hinders you from walking in full obedience to Jesus.

Here are some examples how this can play out:

If you are married, then by default you are a keeper of your home and should keep it orderly. That is a part of walking obediently to the Lord in that role.

If you are a mother, then you by default are teaching little ones how to live a life of order because God is a God of order and purpose and He calls His people to walk in this way as well.

That is not to say your house won’t get messy! Please don’t hear that! But it needs to be at a level you can maintain and tidy up each day. My house gets used and messy every day…. we dirty dishes, we fill trash cans, we pull out toys and books and homeschooling materials…. every single day. And that isn’t counting special projects. But every single day (unless there is an extenuating circumstance, such as sickness or a new baby, etc…), we do what is necessary to bring it all to order. My older girls and I have morning, afternoon, and evening chores which keep things pulled together. But to keep things at that maintenance level, I have to make sure everything has a place and can be easily put away and we just can’t have tons of stuff to have to deal with. So you can see how getting rid of things that don’t have a place and that won’t be used or loved has enabled me to more obediently walk in my roles as wife, keeper of the home, and teacher to my children on orderly living.

Another huge blessing is that when I sit down to spend time with the Lord my house is not always beckoning me to clean it as it once did in the past. I am finally able to focus on what matters most. I treasure being able to come to the Lord with the heart of Mary and not Martha, that alone makes this pursuit so worthwhile!

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

Furthermore when I sit down to read to my children or to home school or to have a conversation with my husband, I am not constantly thinking about the endless piles of things that need to be addressed. I know that we have a schedule and I know that we will get to the duties that need to be done at the next chore time. I finally do not have to worry about what I will do with *that* huge pile of things that I just can’t ever seem to get cleaned up. Thankfully, those piles don’t exist anymore, and it is SO freeing!

You can do it too!

This probably sounds too good to be true. I know two to five years ago it would have sounded that way to me as well, and perhaps even a bit insane, if I’m really honest. I know what it’s like to live with clutter and to keep trying to organize it and clean it up to no avail. I know what it’s like to have a pile of things you feel like you have to or need to keep, but having no clue where to put any of those things. I know what it’s like to feel like a failure as a homemaker, and to keep wondering what it is that could fix the problem. But I promise you this is doable. It isn’t a quick fix, and it does take work. And it definitely takes intentionality! Begin to work diligently at de-cluttering various spaces in your home and you will begin to notice almost instantaneous difference in your daily workload. The project mode can be hard because at the time it is extra work, but when you finish that project is when you begin to reap the rewards. And don’t stop with one or two projects, be intent on de-cluttering every part of your home. It didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t be changed overnight, but if you will diligently pursue minimalism you will eventually get there. And I have no doubt that it will revolutionize your homemaking forever.

So there’s part 2. And I’m sure more on this topic will come in the future. Hope it helps!

,Stacey

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The Pursuit of Minimalism : Part 1

 

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.comThis is going to be a series. I sat down to type this out and quickly realized it would not all fit into one blog post. There is just way too much to say about it! Before we dive into a how-to post I have a few stories, clarifications, and persuasions for you. It may be tempting to skip over this part, but I think it will benefit you to read it. Mainly because minimalism is much more a mind-set than it is a method. You really have to have your mind reshaped to pursue minimalism.

I want you to learn how this can really help the home-maker who is struggling to keep her home organized. I want you to pursue it for the right reasons. I want you to know that it *can* work for you in whatever situation you find yourself in. (big house, little house, big family, small family, it can work for anyone!) I want to persuade you to view your belongings in a totally different way. I want you to know why you have to be “all in” committed to minimalism for it to really change your life. Then I want to tell you ‘how to’ pursue it starting now with your spring cleaning efforts. I hope I don’t sound like a sales-woman when I say, this could be the spring clean that will change your life!

I will share how to begin living a minimalist life-style, which I promise is not as hard as you may think! Once you change your mind-set, doing it is actually very easy! And I will tell you how to continue to grow in it and to perfect it, that is the phase I am in now, and it has become so easy and fun. It no longer stresses me out to organize or find places for things like it use to. I will help you get there, if you are willing to change your mind about your things!

Again this is a mind-set, not a method. I can give you steps (and I will eventually give you steps), but you can do the steps and stay in bondage to your things if you don’t build the foundation first.

How I Became a Minimalist:

So let’s kick it off with a testimonial of my personal story. I want to tell you how I went from an unorganized mess to a minimalist. I use to really struggle with keeping an organized home. I don’t any more. Now my house does get messy with toys and our daily things, but they are easily picked up; in about 10-15 minutes my house can be entirely clean. Not just look clean, but have stuff crammed, I mean actually clean! A few years ago this was not so, I really struggled with keeping my home clean and organized! It was bad! There were some areas I kept clean (my living room and kitchen mostly), but there were many areas that no matter what I did I could never keep organized and put together. I’m not talking about dirt and grime and cob-webs, I’m talking about our stuff. The task of organizing was absolutely daunting to me. I’ve never been a good organizer, I’m still not great at it, but minimalism makes it easier because there is way less to organize. Back then I hated it!!! Organizing was the bane of my existence. I wasn’t a hoarder or anything, in fact, I felt like I had the same amount of stuff as all the other people I knew. I just couldn’t manage it. I always had a room where I stored a few boxes of junk that I needed to sort through. I always had a mess of school and craft supplies and miscellaneous papers shoved in the corners in my office floor and piled all around my desk and shelves. I would spend hours picking up my children’s bedrooms, the toy/school room and my own, but in about three hours they would be destroyed again. I would pick up and organize all the time, but it never seemed to help! I constantly had an organization project going. It always flopped in the end! I’m not a lazy person, and I am passionate about my job as a homemaker, so I was perplexed by this whole cycle. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I put SO much work into it and yet the end result was *still* a messy house. I always questioned, “Why can’t I keep my house clean when I work so hard?” My husband would wonder what I had been doing all day, when in fact I had been cleaning and organizing all day. That caused conflict. It hurt him and communicated disrespect. It hurt me because I felt like a failure as a wife, homemaker, and mother. It hurt my children because they were learning my example, and they were witnessing the conflict between my husband and I. It hurt and it was very hard on my heart. I knew there were more important things than a clean house and I pursued those and focused on my areas of strength such as teaching my children diligently, but I believed a clean house was important too. I was suppose to be a keeper of my home. I was suppose to be building it, not tearing it down. A clean house is right, and I knew that. A clean house is a noble desire and we should pursue it! A clean house brings so much peace to the family! God is a God of order, and I knew that it would honor Him for me to run a home of order. I wanted it SO BADLY! But continued to walk in defeat no matter how hard I tried.

I just knew there had to be a way off of the hamster wheel! I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom. I would say, “Lord, you know my heart, you know I want to be a good homemaker and to work as unto you, please show me what I’m doing wrong!” (in tears, begging, pleading, I was desperate)

The Lord did finally answer. Almost a year and a half ago we took a long work trip with my husband to Western Canada (about 3 days of driving for us). We had four children and as anyone knows when packing for a trip with lots of littles, we had to pack JUST the essentials to last us for six weeks. So I put together all that we needed: a week’s worth of clothing for everyone (we would have access to a laundry mat), toiletries, our current home school curriculum, our current read aloud books, 3 small toy sets, a pack n play, booster, diaper bag, blankets and pillows, an ergo, a stroller, my camera, my laptop, our homeschool ipad, and my husband’s work supplies. It seemed a meager amount to me, but still stuffed the 12 passenger rental van pretty tightly. Once we settled into our hotel in Canada, I was AMAZED at how light my work load felt while I was there. Sure, we had room service to come in and make the bed and clean the bathrooms and yes the hotel provided dinner 2 nights a week (amazing!), but I could’ve managed those things easily. The lightened load wasn’t from my relief of chores or dinner preparations; it was from the constant organization and picking up, and from being surrounded by my junk. It made a huge difference in my perspective to not be surrounded by a house that always seemed to be reminding me that there was so much work to do. The truth was, I couldn’t relax in my own home! I loved the simple hotel room with just the things we needed! It was SO much more manageable for me! What amazed me was how peaceful it felt to be surrounded with only the things we needed. The whole place could be picked up and put in order in five minutes flat. I could actually sit and read to my girls and enjoy it without feeling like it was taking away from homemaking. We could take outings without me feeling like I had work left undone. I could have my quiet time undistracted by a lingering pile of junk in the corner. It was wonderful! And it hit me then and there, I don’t need those things we left behind, in fact those things were a hindrance! My stuff was the problem!  As I processed through this life-lesson I was learning, the Lord brought this Scripture to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1

 

I just knew this was the answer!!!! Yes, we lay aside sin, but not only sin, also weight….. to me that means anything (my belongings included) which caused me to not run the race with endurance. It was clinging to me, it was holding me down, it was distracting me from the Lord and my work for him, and it needed to be thrown off! Isn’t it so sweet when the Lord finally answers! It was like a glass of fresh water after being lost in the desert! I was thrilled to say the least.

This was before I had ever even heard of minimalism, I truly feel the Lord revealed this concept to me through His Spirit and by His Word first, then allowed me to learn more about it through other means later. He used my circumstances of the trip to Canada to graciously give me a taste of how wonderful it would be to live that way, which motivated me even more. It still motivates me!


The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

How I got started:

While still on my trip and learning these things,I endeavored to get rid of everything I didn’t need or love as soon as I got back home. I knew it would be a lengthy process because I had accumulated a lot, but I was set on starting as soon as possible! When we returned, I chose an area (my office) which had been messy for years. I used the method I shared in my No Clutter November post. It worked! Four huge trash bags later, and my messy office was cleaned up in a day!!! It was the first time since I had moved into that house four years prior that the office had been clean! And I had organized it and worked on it countless hours in months and years prior with no lasting result of organization. It felt so good to have it really done! A few days later, it remained cleaned. Weeks later, it remained cleaned! I was amazed and relieved! This small victory motivated me to continue…. I started getting rid of more things. Every day I was throwing stuff away like crazy or putting things into a huge donation pile and taking trips to donate trunk loads at a time. “Ruthlessly Purge” was my motto. I showed no mercy for things. If I didn’t love it or need it, out it went. I had a lot of stuff and four children so this was (as I had assumed it would be) a long drawn out process. Becoming a minimalist isn’t something you can do in a week. It took you a long time to get all those things, it will take a little while to get rid of them. That was my thinking, and as far as I can see, that is the truth. I did it by areas; which later I found out wasn’t the best method, but that’s okay, it was still a huge help! In the middle of my homemaking reformation the Lord led us to sell our house and to buy our current farmhouse. I then turned my attention to packing up for the move. We had to do it quickly because the house sold two weeks after being on the market, It was such a rushed thing, and I was pregnant with morning sickness so my pursuit of minimalism was put on halt. We had to put most of our stuff in storage for about 8 months and I didn’t have time to purge as I packed; the farmhouse had to be gutted and reconstructed before we could even move in. We lived with the in-loves, with our basics and even still I felt like we maybe had too much with us for the space we had, my cue was that perpetual messes were becoming a distraction again. That is when I began researching for ideas on living with less, and that is where I stumbled across this wonderful concept of minimalism. It was exactly the life-style I knew the Lord was leading us to! The possibilities were inspiring me. The objective was becoming very clear. I knew where we were heading when we opened that storage building. I would be extremely selective about what I brought into my house, and I was. That storage building is still stacked full of stuff. We took out what we needed and wanted, and stopped there. And we have been living quite well with the things we have in our house for months now, in fact, I purge from this small amount we brought in all the time. I have grown to love the simplicity and order so much that I just keep pursuing it more and more. I plan to tackle the storage building in the spring (it’s just too cold for me right now), but I’m not planning to keep the stuff, but instead to get rid of it properly. There are only a few things I have remembered and wanted out of there that I plan to keep. The rest is going!

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

I can’t tell you how much I love living with less! It seemed hard at first, but the more I got rid of, the easier it became to get rid of even more. My trajectory is definitely to continue in this direction and to teach my children to do the same. Minimalism has made home-making a joy to me again and I no longer feel like a failure.

what is minimalism?

So you may now be asking, “what is minimalism?”  I think some people have a misconception that minimalism is only for singles or for childless people who live in 500 square foot houses. The tiny house movement has made minimalism a bit trendy with the hippy crowd. Most people think of that type when they think of minimalism. It’s totally not like that for everyone! A basic definition of minimalism is:  living with ONLY what you NEED and LOVE. Also, I would add it is a whole new way of viewing your things and your home. You become much more intentional about the things you purchase or receive as gifts . You do not allow yourself to feel obligated to keep anything (either a gift or something you spent hard earned money on) if it hinders you from doing what the Lord has called you to by causing messes that you are continually spending time and energy on. Minimalism looks a little different from person to person and family to family, but it’s premise is pretty much the same for everyone; living with the things you absolutely want to live with and having your space look the way you want it to look. Minimalism is like organizing in reverse: instead of deciding where to put things you have, you look at your space and decide the very things you want to be there. Everything else needs to go somewhere else that you want it to be or out of the house. You also reshape your view of “need”. Our culture has made things into a need that are certainly not necessities. Figuring out those things that your family actually does use and need is a process, but it’s worth it!

The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

Do it for the right Reasons

A quick word of warning: if you begin to research “minimalism” you will sadly find very little Christian perspective on the topic. There are a lot of great “how to” articles out there, but the motivation for most of those authors is not living for the Lord, but instead living for themselves. That is NOT where I would encourage your heart to be in this pursuit. If you want to get rid of your things so that you can do whatever it is that makes you happy, then you are worshiping yourself, and that is very dangerous for your soul! (call me dramatic if you want, but it’s just the truth) You will hear a lot of selfish reasoning in most articles on the topic, and actually it can sound appealing to the flesh….. travel, see the world, focus on climbing the career ladder, sit in silence, read, meditate, sip tea, retire early to a life of leisure.  I just want to gently warn you that is not Biblical! That is not how Christians live or think. If your heart is being drawn towards living a minimalist life then let it be for the glory of God. Let it be to honor your husband and children. Let it be so that you can work less on organizing your stuff, and spend that (undistracted) extra time in prayer, the Word, diligently teaching your children, and in service to God. There is nothing wrong with silence and relaxing with a cup of tea or traveling, those are blessings to refresh us, but those should not be life objectives for the Christian.

Minimalism does work!!! It will get you the freedom from the mess that you’ve always been wanting, but I pray that you pursue that with a pure heart and not out of selfish ambition.

Can a big family live a minimalist life-style?

This is a question I get sometimes when I explain to people that I am a minimalist. It is asked in a variety of ways, “is that house going to be big enough?” “don’t you need…. (fill in the blank item)?” ,but the big question above is at the heart of all the other questions, and so I think it a profitable thing to answer. In a word, yes! A big family absolutely can live a minimalist life-style! And let me explain, In truth, a big family only *really* needs a few more things than a small family with only two children. In fact, I had way more stuff when I just had my first two children than I have now for all of us (with the exception of beds and carseats). Kids don’t need every gadget and toy that comes along! They only need a few toy sets and puzzles. I promise they play in a much more content fashion with less than they do with more. I have seen the fruit of both first hand; I saw clearly that more toys only makes them play less! It doesn’t seem like it would be that way, but it definitely is! They don’t need a closet full of clothes and accessories.  And (this is a big one!) you don’t have to keep everything someone gives them for Christmas and birthdays! Gifts are a great way to see what toys work best for your family. If a toy becomes a nuisance or a constant mess maker, then get rid of it. The person who gave it did not want to give you something that would make your life hard, they wanted to bless you. So feel no guilt and donate it or give it to someone who will actually be blessed by the item. Give thanks to the person who bought it when it is received, give thanks to the Lord for the way you feel so loved by the person giving the gift, teach your children to do this because we give thanks in all circumstances, and then if you don’t love or need it, get rid of it! If people ask what you want, tell them exactly what you want! I recommend crafts (which can be done and then thrown away) or good books that you want in your family library, or experience gifts like season tickets to a local theme park or zoo or art classes. It most certainly can work for a big family, but you can’t have it in your head that you and your children must have whatever people and the world tells you that you need. You really probably don’t need it!

I believe this can work for anyone and any situation if you want it to and that it can be altered to fit various life-styles. If you have a huge house and lots of space to put things, then you can likely have more things than someone like me. And sure, there are things I wish I could buy and find a space for, I’d love to have some work-out equipment, but I don’t have the space for them so I will just workout outside and chasing my kids. If I don’t have a place for it, then I don’t get it. However, if you have space for a work-out room, can afford it, and you want one, go for it! That is still minimalism. It just looks different depending on the space you have to work with.

Now I will say minimalism is not for everyone. If you are a great organizer and you easily keep your house in order….. then keep your things. But I’m not bent that way, and for me to continue down the path I was on was like trying to shove a circle puzzle piece into a square spot. Nothing lined up! If you hear this concept and think it’s not for you, then great, but don’t quickly discount it because you are not ready to get rid of your things. If you are struggling with organization, at least give this a go in a few areas of your life and experience what a difference it makes. Try out my no clutter method, and get rid of everything you don’t need or love.

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This conversation will continue… Here is Part Two of The Pursuit of Minimalism

-S

 

 

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The Pursuit of Minimalism - abidingwoman.com

 

No Clutter November : Everything In Its Place

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How is No Clutter November going for you thus far? (I realize I’m asking this on the last day of November, some hypothyroidism followed by a terrible cold really threw me off my game.) I have been taking it slow anyway with the No Clutter endeavor because with an already full schedule that is just how I have to do things. I have been purging things and putting other things in a keep stack from my three selected areas. The good will pile is huge, but that is a great thing for me! That was all for phase one. Now if you are following along, we are ready for phase two which is the final step: finding a place for the things in our “keep” stacks. If you haven’t done phase one then go back and do that before starting this one, but if you are ready for this, let’s dive in!

Everything in Its Place

In the past this has been the most difficult part of the process for me. I would get rid of the things that I no longer wanted or needed and then I would have this remaining stack of stuff that I had no idea where to put. Inevitably, I would stall out right here and leave my keep stack in a pile in the corner of the room, it would accumulate more junk, and then I would do phase one again…. the whole vicious cycle would repeat every few months. I had a corner of my office in my old house where this happened for years. I finally figured out the secret to breaking through phase two and when I FINALLY cleaned up that corner it felt SO GOOD! Organizing is a weakness for some of us, and for others it comes naturally. I am one of those people who struggle with knowing where to put things, but pushing through this phase is the only way to kick the clutter for good!

{Phase Two}

Evaluate Your Space

Look at the space you are trying to declutter, what SHOULD be there? If it is a pile of stuff on the floor then perhaps you will answer with “nothing” ,and will need to shift to organizing the things which were there onto a shelf or into a closet. You may need to purchase a shelf or something to put the things on. Maybe it’s a counter top and you just want a coffee maker, a cutting board, and dish drying rack to be there; then you will need to think of a good place to put the other things that were once kept there such as in the cabinet or pantry or another room. I know that this seems obvious, but you HAVE to have some sort of game plan for where the things you want to keep will go and what you want the outcome to be. If you aren’t very good at this thing (like me) then ask for ideas from your organized friends or look at organization ideas on pinterest. Pinterest is ultimately what helped me most because I searched for specifics like “organize office” or “organize pantry”, I chose the idea that looked and sounded the best, and then I did it. One thing I have learned over the years is to quit trying to reinvent the wheel…. if a mom has figured out something that works for her big family, then it will probably work for mine too. This is true for organizing as well as many other areas of life. On that note, when I’m gathering ideas for myself, I choose bloggers of big families because their situation is going to be most similar to mine. Reach out to bloggers and other moms who are very similar to your circumstances and ask them how they do things. I recently emailed with a mom blogger of 8 kids inquiring how she did her daily schedule. It was so helpful! This could turn into a whole other blog post, but all of this to say, you don’t have to come up with everything on your own! So save time and do what someone else has come up with.

Putting Things in Their Place

Look in your keep stack and put the things you really want or need in your designated space first. With each putting away you should seek to put like items with like items. All the books together, and if there is a book series keep that together, all the art items together, etc… And remember to put the things used most in the easiest place to access and put away, preferably close to where you use them. For example: My homeschool shelves…. I put in the current curriculum and books we are using in an organized and accessible spot on a shelf close to our table where we do school. This will help the cleanup process which will keep your area uncluttered in the long run. Next, put away the things you really like and plan to use, but maybe you don’t use it every day. Put that stuff in a spot you can access but it will be out of the way of the things you do use every day. Back to my homeschool organizing example: I then put the curriculum, activities, books, and things we use sometimes or things I really love and want us to use in the near future in an organized, but not as accessible spot on a difew rent shelf. Like with like examples: in a kitchen keep all of your baking supplies together and all of your pots and pans together, and all the food together and place them close to the spot where you will use them. For example my baking supplies (mixer attachments, cup measures, baking pans, spices, flour, etc.. are all in different cabinets close together and close to the countertop which I use for baking prep. I also keep my Kitchenaid mixer on that counter. You may have to grab a pen a paper and make notes for your specific area and then put away things. After putting the important things away, evaluate your space again…. is it full? if not then keep putting things from your keep stack neatly in the space. By the way, things do not have to be beautiful to be organized. Remember that Pottery Barn bookshelves are staged to appeal to the senses in order to sell products: most people don’t live in a world where all the book bindings and color coordinated, fancy book ends are displayed, and there is plenty of extra shelf space for adorable little trinkets and potied plants. The reality is for most of us that simply isn’t reality. Don’t get discouraged or defeated trying to make it look like the cover of a magazine.

The Random Leftover Stuff

Now you have come so far, don’t stop here! We all know the random things left at the end of a declutter project, right? Something like… a hairbow, a spatula, curriculum for fourth grade when we are on in second (but it was free so we took it), an extra phone charger, a canvas you plan to use for that pinterest project one day, kid art and completed worksheets, puzzles, a few dimes and pennies…. you know, the really random stuff. These things will now need to go to one of 4 places:
-to a specific spot where that kind of thing belongs in another room or area
-to the purge pile
-into the space being organized (but perhaps the back top shelf or somewhere very out of the way.
-to a “probation area” which is the place for the “I’m going to fix this” or “I’m going to diy this” items.

Let me explain the Probation Area

Place the item that you will fix or diy in a specified area. Give the item a 30 or 90 day probation time, and if you have not done with it what you planned by that time then purge it. This stuff needs to be kept in a logical and organized place that you see often so that you do not forget about it,but out of the way as well. Keep post-it notes on the items with their purge date written in large letters you can read from far away. When you see this it will prompt you to not procrastinate. It’s good to have a project day each week (mine is Saturdays) to work on things of this sort.

The Trash Bag Method:

There is another alternative for the people who struggle with this final step in the declutter process. If the final step seems too difficult (too many random things and you don’t know where to put them and you feel stressed and overwhelmed by it all), get anything very valuable out and put the rest in a black trash bag. Put the whole trash bag in a probation area and label the date; if you haven’t put the things away or needed anything out in 30 days then throw the whole bag away (don’t look inside! Just take it out to the trash can and forget about it.)

A word about sentimental items:

This is an area that can really mess people up when it comes to decluttering. I know some take a more minimalist view and say to toss it all, but I see some value in holding onto a select few things as long as they have a good place to be kept. I have one medium sized rubbermade tote that holds mine and my husband’s childhood sentimentals. Each of my children have a large binder; and I only keep my VERY favorite schoolwork and art in there as well as their tests and reports. (I call this their portfolio). We will likely end up with more than one binder per child: I think one elementary and one for middle and high school might work. Again these are VERY favorite which makes me seriously selective. I also keep some very special cards that some of my closest sisters in Christ have written and some from my family and husband; they are filled with Scriptures and encouragement, I keep them in a drawer by my bed. These mean a lot to me and I reread them from time to time. I keep a basket at the top of a closet which holds embroidered shirts my children wore for their birthdays and special occasions; one day when all my kids are grown out of the embroidery phase, I plan to pay someone to quilt them for me. I also keep photo albums and scrapbooks. Bottom line is, figure out what is very important to you and a find a box or folder to keep that kind of stuff in. Don’t keep too much! Remember that you can’t keep everything; and you should not feel guilty for throwing away birthday cards, kid school work, and other items like these. I have seen some great ideas for these things on pinterest. If you have a major surplus you just can’t part with: take pictures of children’s art and keep online or in a photo album on the computer. Some use scrap books and smash books, but be careful that you actually do the project and don’t just think about it. If you plan to do this, but those sentimental items in the probation stack.

Time to finish!

In the end, all of your things have been placed in their correct spot whether that is the trash can, donation, another room with like items, in the space, or in probation. See each part of this through completely! Finally, to celebrate, consider buying or making something lovely to add to that space. Perhaps a little mason jar with fresh flowers or a small piece of art…. it’s like the icing on the cake.

To keep clutter from recurring you will need to be diligent to put things away daily, to not pile things in your newly cleaned place that do not belong. If your family does this, consider buying each person a basket and gathering the stuff they sit in the area and deliver it to their rooms for them to put away. If they need help finding a place for these things then offer some tips. If it’s the hubby, don’t nag, but do offer ideas if it’s welcomed by him. Stay on top of the clutter zones in your house. And periodically go back through already organized shelves, cabinets, and closets to purge items that have never or rarely been used. Take it from a girl who use to really struggle with this, it does get easier the more you do it! We have to choose to live with intention and not out of habit; make it a point to do things differently and stick to it. You will be so happy that you did, and it will probably bless your husband and children too!

Happy Uncluttered Day!
-S

No Clutter November : Less Stuff, More Peace

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I’m very excited to introduce the very first Abiding Woman homemaking challenge. I plan to periodically do these to encourage myself and other women in our homemaking. Throughout the month of November I be will blogging about the why and how of decluttering.

No Clutter November Phase One

Take a deep breath ladies, no need to grab a glass of wine or a can of gasoline and matches to deal with that mess of stuff that’s been driving you nuts for months now. We’re going to tackle it one phase at a time. We’re going to do this together. And we’re going to be done in time for the holidays. Are you with me? Are you ready? This really won’t be as hard as you think.

Step 1: Choose 3 places in your home that need less clutter and more peace. I want you to choose three different areas: a small high traffic area, a large monumental never ending mess area, and a hidden area.
For example:
My small high traffic area is my counter tops.
My large never ending mess area is my office/homeschool area.
My hidden area is my daughters’ shared closet (4 girls clothing in one closet is bound to get a little cluttered, right?)

Now phase one can be the hardest step for some, but it is the first step in cutting the clutter out. This step is to ruthlessly purge. That’s it… seems simple right? Wrong. My problem and most people’s problem is that we view non valuable items as valuable, and hence we hold on to them…. moving them here and there and everywhere. We spend our valuable time moving around things that we don’t even really want or need. But in the thick of the cleaning and organizing it is often difficult to discern whether an item is worth keeping or not.Now all hope is not lost, I have good news….

It is actually as easy as asking yourself 3 simple questions:

1. Do I need this currently?
Does it have a true purpose, function, and reason for being in your home?
2. Do I love this?
Is it beautiful, inspiring, and/or valuable to you? Would you pay money to keep it?
3. Do I have a place for this?
Is your space limited? If so then you may have to part with an item even if you feel you need or love it. I will try to help you out with ideas on this one later, so if you are running into items you need and love, but don’t have space for them, then put them in a box or basket and be sure you are subscribed by email because No Clutter November Phase Two will offer help for these very things.

As a part of the No Clutter November challenge I want to invite you to Domestically Challenged Divinely Equipped facebook group. There will be a thread starting tomorrow for us to post our goals, our before and after pictures, to ask for decluttering advice, and for general homemaking encouragement and accountability. I look forward to seeing you there!

Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge

This is just one post in the Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge series, brought to you by the bloggers behind the Domestically Challenged; Divinely Equipped Facebook group. Join us there for daily encouragement through this 5-day challenge and become a part of an awesome community of Christian homemakers!

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge

Check out the rest of the posts in the Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge below. 

How to Create a Memorable Christmas on a Small Budget from Jennifer at The Purposeful Mom

Holiday Homemaker's Challenge

No Clutter November: Less Stuff, More Peace from Stacey at Abiding Woman

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.

A Simple Plan for the Holidays from Tauna at Proverbial Homemaker

A Simple Plan for the Holidays Free 20+ page holiday planner PIN

Using Traditions to Draw our Families Close Together from Becky at Purposeful Homemaking

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.

Create a Season of Rest (+ABCs of Thanksgiving Poster) from Clarissa at Counting our Blessings

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.