Clutter & Organization: The History

Friday afternoon, after reading more in The Secret of Childhood by Dr. Maria Montessori, I started to despair that I would ever be able to fully implement a Montessorian education for my son (and future children). Why? Because one of the main tenents to raising a self-reliant child who picks up after themselves is to set the example and do it yourself so that they see what you do and will follow your example. AND you also need to have a 'home' for every single Montessori material you are currently using so that the child learns where to put the 'toy' they are working on/playing with back after using it.

Both my husband and I come from families where our parents save everything. Both of our mothers would do the 'mad dash cleaning' the night before or day company was coming.... you know, where you box up all the clutter and hide it so that no one knows how unorganized or cluttery you really are. So in that sense, we both hold onto items (although I seem to have a harder time letting go of things than Tips does... I'm way too sentimental) - I would say that a fair share of things taking up space in our house are personal journals, notes, pictures, scrapbooks, childhood momentos (school papers, etc) - things that we have an end goal to digitize and make multiple back ups of so that we can toss out the originals. I DO see a huge value in personal history things.

I'm also cheap and don't want to rebuy things that I know I will use in a few more years, like baby and kids clothing.

And as you know, I'm also a huge believer in food storage, emergency preparedness and gardening. We live in a 3 bedroom apartment for cyring out loud.... and I'm storing big bulky items that most people don't get until they have a house (water bath canner, dehydrator, small upright freezer, pressure canner, sun oven and now a rocket stove, a tent, 72 hour kits for Tips, Tips Jr. and I) in addition to LOTS of food. In fact, as I've posted before, our entire linen closet is really our food storage closet/pantry.

Applying Don Aslett's tips to get rid of things that don't have sentimental value isn't going to cut it. Even doing the Four Box Method doesn't help much. I do fill the "Donate" box and usually the "Trash" box... but definitely the "Store" and "Put Away" boxes are full.... and then I'm stuck with two boxes full of stuff (even though my tables are clear). Why? Because I don't have homes for the majority of items in the "Store" and "Put Away" boxes.

The easy answer would be to throw it away if I don't have a home for it.... but that would be going against my principles and values as I've mentioned earlier.

I get rid of things and get rid of things and feel like it doesn't seem to make much of a dent. It becomes very frustrating and it almost feels like debt: are we ever going to get out of it?

But I also don't want to let my 'things' control me like I have seen happen to my parents. 'Things' are meant to be enjoyed by ME, the owner of said things... not to make me feel overwhelmed and incapable of

And it would honestly break my heart to throw out all my momentos, pictures, letters, notes, etc from growing up before I can digitize them... So I truly can't change my personality and become less sentimental than I am... I'm 28 so I know my personality isn't going to change and I need to work with what I've got. Me, my husband, our son, our 'stuff' and the available space we have in our apartment. And now a kind sister-in-law who is going to let us store some of our long-term storage items in the unfinished basement of her new house (since they probably won't be finishing the basement before we buy a house of our own and have more room to work with).

The question becomes: What is there to do?

Some (as in my dad) would say that I would just need to get a larger place to live and then I would have plenty of room for my stuff. But as I've seen in my parents' case... having more room hasn't helped. When my older siblings first went away to college, we would clean and clean and put stuff away before they came home. It was possible to do that 15 years ago when they first went to school. But something 'magical' happened as we all left home.... there was suddenly no room left for us to come home to. Our bedrooms were taken over by more and more stuff. Sure, some of the things in my parents' house came from my grandparents' house after my grandfather died.... but my mother is even more sentimental than I am - so her getting rid of things she no longer uses or can't use but that are still sentimental to her is about as likely to happen as registering Al Franken as a member of the GOP.

Having more space is obviously not the solution. It only enables you to store more stuff that you aren't using and aren't going to use. To borrow a phrase from a food storage specialist: store what you use and use what you store (only the original phrase was store what you eat and eat what you store).

*Case in point: I remember some paint my mom had in a box from when she was a school teacher. I was a snoop growing up and I would get into the box of her paints to use them for my projects. She would always get mad at me because they were expensive paints and she was 'saving' them to use later. For what? I have no idea - I don't remember her ever using those paints as I got older. We came across them a few years back, and guess what? After almost 30 years they were dried up. So she stored something to use at a future date that she ended up NEVER using and she never let us use them when they were still good because they were expensive! So much for that plan - either you use stuff while it is still usable and replace it (*gasp* and have to replace it) or you store it for eons only to have to throw it out in the end.

I have recognized that I was heading down the same fate as my parents on every level of storing things and something has to change and fast. I can't keep 'waiting' until I have more space, money or time to do these things because life happens and I will always be busy with kids and community and church involvement and in the mean time my house will continue to fill up faster than I can send things out the door. If I want to simplify my life and my possessions, the time to act is NOW!


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