Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Home Organization Week

My post two weeks ago was about the organization urge I was experiencing with the upcoming arrival of spring when I will want to be outdoors with my kids.  Last week's absent post was a casualty of my frenzy to implement my plans.  Two weeks later, I am sitting in a clean and organized home.  I know, right? So what did we do in about one week that we couldn't do in nearly 3 years?  Well, I'll admit that it started with a tax refund!  We allocated a fair amount of this year's refund to this project because our small home has almost no storage. We have four kids and a lot going on in this house, and all my previous attempts at conquering the chaos had only been partially successful.  This time, however, I had a plan and some cash!

We took a week off of formal homeschooling and talked about budgeting, organizing, assembling furniture, cleaning, and other related life skills.  My kids were incredibly hard workers and were rewarded with special little gifts and privileges during the week. My boys are 9 and 7, and my girls are 4 and 1, so their contributions to the effort varied.  The baby spent a lot of time on my back in her carrier.  To help them take ownership of the new system, they got to choose the way their possessions would be stored.  They got to choose which toys would be put into storage in the attics off their rooms for later use.  Most helpfully, they worked with me to sort the toys and discard the broken or no longer useful pieces.

Every evening my husband and I would assemble a few of the more complicated storage systems, and during the day the kids and I would assemble the simpler ones and sort, clean, purge, and organize the clutter away.       We re-arranged bedrooms, cleaned carpets, vacuumed baseboards, installed coat hooks, made our dining room into a multi-purpose playroom and home school storage room, and put an culinary-grade wire shelf into my kitchen.

Every evening my husband would come home to an entirely different home.  Some nights it was mass chaos as we were tearing apart another room.  Some nights I was pulling styrofoam out of the toddler's mouth. Other nights he would walk in and say "wow!", and sometimes that was a good thing! We ate a lot of pizza and soup because those meals were easy.  We listened to a lot of silly music on Pandora and danced while we dusted.  This project gave our family a surprisingly pleasant week!

Rather than being mired in a sense of failure at my inability to get this project done prior to this month, I gave myself a lot of grace and reminded myself that our move to Wheeling has been a big adjustment.  We didn't really have enough money to put in this kind of storage before.  Throughout this project, I kept things light and positive for all of us and took breaks whenever things were getting overwhelming.

The change is dramatic, and the change in our family dynamic has been just as dramatic.  When the kids have places to put their things, they are more helpful when it is time to clean up.  When their environment is less chaotic, their behavior is more peaceful.  Every night we go to bed with a clean home, and everyone feels able to help maintain it.  Rather than beat myself up for not doing this sooner, I remember that I have learned a lot in these last three years, and that has brought me to the place where we could get this project done so efficiently!

Next week: Pictures and descriptions of how we pulled off a room-by-room organization in one week!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Clutter clutter everywhere!

Heading into the season of Lent next week, I am once again faced with an overwhelming desire to remove the clutter from my life.  This urge to do some spring cleaning always hits me early, especially when the store ads post beautiful storage and exercise items, tempting me with an image of health and organization.  We have had so much change in this last year, and we are struggling to get our bearings. In addition, my grandmother passed away recently, leaving a home packed with decades of random items of varying value and usefulness, but mostly stuff that is destined for the dumpster. I don't want the clutter to take over, and it has me thinking about other clutter in my life.

There is clutter in my diet because comfort food is my preference when I'm tired and stressed and my depression and anxiety are getting the upper hand.  There is clutter in my diet because carbohydrates are so immediately available and so immediately satiating. The downside is that I have physical baggage from this mindless noshing.  My body is tired, my joints are sore, and my anxiety was out of control thanks to too much coffee.   My husband recently lost nearly 40 pounds and has set an excellent example for our family that diet and exercise can be life-changing! It's time to clean things up! I have started with cutting the coffee and have found myself better able to manage my anxiety.  It's time to think ahead and have the right food ready when I'm in need of sustenance. I do that for the rest of my family, but I often let myself down.

There is clutter in my spiritual life that I am all the more aware of as I begin preparing for the Lenten season of fasting and self-reflection.  This time set aside for spiritual development always leaves me feeling spiritually recharged and ready for the rest of the gray days of early spring at home with small children.  I want to make the most of this time by setting aside daily time for contemplation and prayer.

There is clutter in my house because I live in a 100 year old 1000 square foot house with little to no usable storage space.  I'm trying to do far too many things with too many people for this space.  I have small people who pick up items and deposit them in the most ridiculous places, and I have bigger people who don't put things away because there just isn't an intuitive place to put them! It's time to take a break from the homeschooling, an early spring break, and make my house look like an IKEA showroom.  I can't think of a better thing to do with our tax refund.  As I am writing this, my 3 year old daughter just dumped 3 bins of organized toys, so adequate storage cannot come soon enough!

All these forms of clutter lead to cluttered thinking (or maybe they're signs of it!).  I long for the day when I will be able to finish a thought and remember everything that I am supposed to.  I'm hoping that successes in my diet and exercise routine, in my home organization, and in my spiritual life will lead to increased clarity of thought...at least until the next major change in our lives!