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putting the house on a diet

Posted on: June 3rd, 2011

Sometimes I read blogs of moms that have 4-6 children, who homeschool, farm, preserve, knit, practice yoga and daily meditation, sew, workout, and blog, among other lovely things. And I wind up feeling just a tad inadequate.

I think we like to show our shiniest sides – and that’s ok. I have many not-so-shiny sides that I like to keep hidden. But, in the spirit of honesty, and just so that you know that I’m more than just a “make-preserves-out-of-roadside-weeds-and-backyard-bubble-tea-and-blog/brag-about-it” kind of girl, I’m about to show you the worst.

Are you ready for it?

kitchen counter (see the Easter baskets still there?)
embarrassing.
bedroom
somewhere there is a desk

I’m embarrassing myself just looking at these. Here’s the thing: sometimes I yell, sometimes I fight with my family members, sometimes I’m grumpy in the mornings, and boy am I ever messy. So messy. And these are not just isolated piles, contained in one room of the house. They’re EVERYWHERE.

I try! I really do. For a couple of days, I can be Miss Neat and Tidy. And you might be saying, “I’ve been to your house. It’s not so bad.”

I will tell you a secret. Unless you have stopped by unexpectedly, there are kind fairies who shove most of the main floor clutter into a storage closet like this:

stuff to be dealt with a couple of years from now

In an effort to simplify, and to de-clutter my mind as well as this house, I’ve decided that the house must go on a diet. It is getting too stuffed. It’s bursting at the seams. Its metabolism is alarmingly low. Lots of stuff comes in, and few things go out. So we’ve got to find some ways to burn off excess fat from our house.

I thought that for the month of June – for 28 more days – I will give myself a “seriously-reduce-the-house’s-input” challenge.

This is my “COME ON IN” list so far: library books, food, 2 new articles of summer clothing (this is a DIET, not a total fast)

And here’s my “GET OUT” list so far: excess paper, books I’ll never read, clothes I’ll never wear, and maybe some other stuff too

And you? Does your house need to go on a diet too? Feel free to join in the fun!

24 Responses

  1. Jeni Poetzsch says:

    Brava, brava, bravissima!

  2. Heather says:

    Hey, those fairies live at my house too!

    I give things away regularly through Freecycle — are you on that list yet? A good way to find good new homes for things quickly, and people will come to your place to pick it up so you aren’t creating another big “get rid of this” pile that will sit until you finally get around to taking it somewhere. Yes, I’ve got those piles too. :-)

  3. We’ve got the attic …
    My eldest keeps all of his school work so he can burn it in a bonfire at the end of the school year–maybe an idea for some of your excess papers? But don’t burn the books!
    A phrase that often pops into my mind when I’m cleaning up (ie. putting things away) is: “A home for everything, and everything in its home.” It sounds like something my grandma would have said. Very very helpful for assessing whether things should stay or go, too.

  4. Heather says:

    Please let me go through the books you’re getting rid of :-)

  5. rachel says:

    I love that you posted this!
    Rebecca, I’m afraid we are the same in this fashion. I’m not quite sure why I can’t keep up with the piles.
    I think the thought that’s always in my mind is: what’s the most necessary thing that needs to get accomplished right now? and cleaning is rarely on the list. The only time I really go to town on the decluttering and scrubbing is when company is coming.
    Paul has the same mantra as Carrie (everything needs to have a home/place). I am slowly coming around to this.
    My problem is school stuff. What if I need this in the future for some random craft?
    I will always choose a bike ride, telephone call, playground visit… over tidying up. Somehow it has to stop!
    Will I ever change? Should I say “no” more?
    These are all questions I ask myself from time to time…..
    (and BTW, Rebecca…. you may not have made rhubarb bubble tea, or taken the time to take these beautiful photos, or picked dandilions for jelly, or spent so much QT with your girls if you were too busy tidying and cleaning. – just sayin’) ;-)

  6. Rebecca says:

    Thanks, Jeni! Your de-cluttering has inspired me!

    Heather – busy little fairies! – and yes, I’ll let you know when I’ve culled some books from our stacks.

    Carrie – I love A’s tradition of the end of the year burning. My kids have surprised me when I’ve asked them to go through school papers and just keep the best ones – they’re way more ruthless than I am. I’m way too sentimental. But if you don’t even know where you keep all of the sentimental stuff, what good is it?

    I’m very much an “everything in its place” kind of person – in theory. In practice – well, you’ve seen the photo evidence of what actually happens here. And Rachel, I totally understand the “keep this crap for some random kid craft” idea – I’ve held onto stuff for YEARS – even saved it, not wanting to use it too quickly and not appreciate it. Oh boy. These habits die hard.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Here’s something I’m struggling with out of eco-guilt: I have this older sister who updated her washer and dryer, and since my washer is older than I am, I was delighted to take her hand-me-down washer and dryer because I was sure they’d be more efficient. Thanks to Dad they made it to our garage. But there they sit. I’m afraid to switch them, lest a leak or malfunction occur, or probably I’m just lazy. And now they’re taking up a crazy amount of room in the garage. So, I guess I’m thinking I should ask her if she would mind if I just got rid of them, giving them to a good cause. I bear the eco-guilt of having a ridiculously old (young as I am) washer.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I think your sister would say “get rid of them,” Jonathan. In fact, I’m positive that’s what she would say.

  9. Shauna says:

    Happy dieting! And thanks for your honesty, Rebecca. I just spent a good part of the weekend going through the basement — stuff to the dump, stuff to the thrift and some stuff reorganized. I get a rush out of thrift shopping, garage saleing, and beach combing. I love the hunt for some type of treasure. I am a recovering pack rat, however, and have found that purging and re-thrifting give me the same type of high as finding. I do need to be in the mood to let go. I also keep a box (or boxes) of my most treasured possessions and periodically go through these too. After some time, some of the ‘treasures’ I can let go of. I guess I just go with my gut. Besides, at the end of our days we can’t take anything with us and really do I want to leave a lot of stuff behind? I clearly remember witnessing my grandma take her last few breaths and after a while thinking that ‘stuff’ doesn’t matter so much. That being said, I cherish the blankets she made and I cuddle up in one of her sweaters when I need a hug. Tricky business this holding on and letting go. Here is too house dieting, Rebecca! I want to see the diet photos when you are done! You might surprise yourself and get addicted to purging!

  10. Rebecca says:

    I love this treasure hunting too, Shauna. And I have been a binge purger in the past – and I like that feeling too – loading up the car and getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff. But somehow it sneaks up on me and it doesn’t seem like I’ve let go of anything. It’s just a whole new batch of stuff that I have to weed through. I wish I could be more disciplined in not bringing so much in in the first place.

  11. Kim says:

    When we moved it took two big trucks to get all of our stuff across the city. Since then I’ve been really trying to keep it down, but what a challenge. Now, with a baby, my goal is to pass on everything that he isn’t using as soon as he outgrows it. Not bad so far. If I can keep this up I’ll be happy. I see many moms at garage sales selling baby gear that they still have, and their child is seven! I will not be that mom. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration to keep going. Diet away Rebecca!

  12. Rebecca says:

    Kim: I am that mom (with kids who are 7 and 4). :) And thanks for YOUR inspiration not to be!

  13. Mush says:

    I feel like I am in a confessional booth. I am reading this blog while procrastinating on my own piles of dreaded paperwork!!! I still have the first thing I ever bought at an auction sale (a wooden cheese box; age 10-ish). In it I house letters dating back to Grade 3-ish from a friend who spent her summers at Fraser Lake Mennonite Camp; my first Art entry into “Story Friends” (Menno children’s publication from 1970s) and probably every wedding invitation and funeral bulletin I’ve ever attended. What will I ever do with that stuff? I’ve moved it a “gazillion” times. However, just yesterday I was gifted with 2 prints for my bathroom wall collection (little girl and bluebirds) and get this … from my Kindergarten teacher no less!!! (I’m almost 50!). I was SO TICKLED at her thoughtfulness AND more so the contact with my childhood teacher. STORIES make up our lives and admittedly, often the OBJECTS from PEOPLE help with the cherished MEMORIES of those stories that have shaped who we are. And for many people, wonderful memories are all they need and I can fully appreciate that. For me, I can hardly wait to hang my 2 new “little girl and bluebird prints!” Maybe I’ll do that next and then tend to my paperwork piles! :-)))

  14. Rebecca says:

    Mush: Confess away! That’s what I’m doing, anyway. Paperwork Piles: I hate them. Collections of meaningful stuff: I love it. I just bought a nice antique–y box last month at a garage sale to put old letters and cards into – the ones that I just can’t give away. Because they are bridges to the past for me. Maybe my memory isn’t the greatest because I need little prompts like this to remember!

    And I love that your kindergarten teacher is helping you with your little girl and bluebird print collection. That’s just fun.

  15. Carol P. says:

    It is hard to get rid of sentimental things. A woman in my church, Julie Stobbe, who has a de-cluttering business http://www.mindoverclutter.ca, suggested once that you can take pictures of your children’s artwork; you don’t have to keep every piece of it! I’ve done that a few times.

    I just went through all sorts of file folders of letters from old friends collected over the past twenty years…honestly it would take me two solid weeks to read through all of them. I can’t see myself doing that! So I am putting them in big envelopes and sending them back to the person. Maybe they want to read through them!

    Your desire to de-clutter is good too because it can help your children think about what they want to keep. There is something comforting about a cluttery house, but there is something clarifying about a house with empty spaces.

  16. Rebecca says:

    Carol, I just put letters into envelopes and organized them in a box. The envelopes are categorized: family, high school friends, travels, grandparents, etc. I wondered about that too – sending some of the letters to their “writers” – I think I’d love to get back some of the letters that I’ve written over the years. It would give me a little window into myself some years ago.

    And I love this line: “There is something comforting about a cluttery house, but there is something clarifying about a house with empty spaces.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    The house that I grew up in originally had no garage. When I was about 5 or 6, I remember my Dad building a garage. In fact, most of the houses on that street were originally built without garages. New houses these days are built with three garages. The problem here being that people still do not have room in their garages for their cars. They are all filled with “stuff”. What happened!! Such things as leaf blowers, power washers. With my Dad, it was a grass roller. The neighbours got together to buy and share it. It was supposed to take the bumps out of the ground. Life just is not “proper” without bumps in your grass. Our house does not have a garage and I will be sure to be hard of hearing if I ever hear talk of one being built in the driveway.

  18. Rebecca says:

    Good to hear this perspective! We don’t have a garage at our house, but sometimes I look longingly at those who do. But you’re right – they can so easily fill up with more stuff. I love the idea of sharing things with neighbours – lawnmowers, other fancy tools – this just makes good sense to me.

  19. Gayle L. says:

    I love this post Rebecca. You are very brave.

    gayle (helloidris from unravelling.)

  20. Rebecca says:

    Thanks, Gayle! Nice to see you here!

  21. Chrissie Walls says:

    I’m so glad that I found your blog! I particularly love this post… I think you stole the pictures from my camera. HA! Are you going to do any work for Gather Round this coming year?

  22. Rebecca says:

    Chrissie! So good to hear from you. And so nice to hear that I don’t have the only messy house around.

    I’m writing the multiage summer quarter for year 7 right now, but I said no to year 8 work. What about you? Are you still editing?

  23. Chrissie Walls says:

    I’m editing my first quarter of PS right now and then have one more quarter of year 7 to edit. I’m going to edit 4 quarters for year 8 as well.

    I would have loved to see you at the year 8 writer’s conference, but I guess it’s not to be. I’m glad I can still hear about your life, though! The blog is fantastic.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Yes – I’d love it if our paths would cross again soon. Blessings to you and your family. And thanks for your encouragement!

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