January was a minimalist month for me. I took on a challenge with a small Facebook group to start a minimalist demolition of our homes. We tackled closets, pantries, and our very souls. I’m only sort of kidding. The idea is behind a movement to only have what you need and donate or throw out the rest. It leads to cleaner spaces and less stress. I can attest to this. Overall my stress level goes down significantly when there’s less clutter-I feel happy and motivated.
I’ve done something similar in previous years. My 40 bags in 40 days challenge petered out, twice. I took this as a ‘neglected’ challenge, by tackling things neglected for a month, year, or more. Yes, some things in my house probably haven’t been de-cluttered since we moved. I will fully admit that. However, we’ve added 3 kids–about the time I’d come up for air we’d have another. I would tackle a few things and then wear out. Let’s face it: NO ONE ELSE CARES. That’s why it gets to be a mess when *I* am the one sick/pregnant/nursing/tiny kid stage. If anyone else did it, it would be MORE clean on a more regular basis. For the first time in a while, I’m not sick and tired, so naturally, I’m sick and tired of what has been making me sick and tired.
Why It’s Needed
It’s not any one member of the family. The kids bring home oodles of plastic goodies-tiny bouncy balls, plastic spiders, vampire teeth and stickers. Their weekly club meeting nets crafts they feel they MUST keep on my COUNTER. They don’t love them but won’t let go. The older kids are starting to get it. I encourage them after they’ve been sitting for a WEEK to make a decision. My husband opens packages and leaves the debris. Whatever is inside the box is SO interesting that he forgets. I leave a pile of bills and to-do items on the very end of the counter. Things we need to discuss– spoiler alert– most of it ends up too late. We can’t even talk, let alone act on most things. I want to spend more time LIVING and having fun, and less time managing a constant mess.
Timing and Procedure
This minimalist month came at a perfect time right after the holidays. While it could be done at any time, the idea is to throw away, recycle, re-use, or put away one thing per day for the number on the calendar. So on day 15, toss 15 items. This is easy when you get to a junk drawer–and most people just started gutting areas of their house to sort things. They didn’t do per day but instead tackled large areas for the same total. It’s like our challenge let them finally give themselves permission to let go. I appreciate the feeling. Here it makes it difficult to cook or do other household tasks (like host birthday parties or friends over.) I’m embarrassed by the clutter and my own part in it.
Getting the Kids Involved
I had already started keeping track of the general household chores to lower the amount of dish and laundry clutter, and that was definitely helping. It got the kids to take responsibility for taking their stuff back out of common areas several times a week. Asking them to pick up the debris on the floors so we can sweep or vacuum has worked pretty well and I would encourage other people with small kids to get them involved in that endeavor. Let them run the vacuum AFTER they pick up all their toys. See if it works for you. Some kid are superheroes and can let go of old toys, others need a parent’s help or it done in secret.
Our minimalist month
I tossed over 50 items from a ‘junk jar’ and tackled ceiling fans. Dust bunnies count as clutter. I went through a massive amount of old stuff in my desk. Home school supplies were discarded if broken. Then I got rid of ratty cloth diaper inserts that I had replaced with new but hadn’t trashed. My husband took recycling in, there was SO much paper. I put the ‘occasional use’ toys like play-doh OFF of my counter and into a plastic bag in the homeschooling cabinet. It was a giant mess. I put CD’s (yes we still use them sometimes) away and off the counter, and got rid of expired coupons, mountains of plastic grocery bags (those went to the local food pantry for re-use), hair accessories, books, expired medicines, and the list goes on.. and you know it looks BETTER. Not great, but better.
I need to organize moving forward. Toys, home school items, and things in the kids’ rooms REALLY need tackled. I need inexpensive or free ways to do so, without compromising what we already have done. The best thing I think has been the freedom that I now feel to just throw things away. Having been a ‘green’ person for the last decade, I feel so guilty throwing out something that isn’t a wrapper or food scrap. Reading the book ‘Coming Clean’ by a woman whose parents have hoarding issues was an eye-opener. While we don’t have THAT issue– why DO we keep what we do? Why don’t we tackle what needs tackled? So I’m going to keep chipping away at things that have been neglected all these years.
So why not tackle a similar challenge in your own house? Challenge yourself to de-clutter and clean with a minimalist month in your own house. What does it mean? Less stress and less mess!