I think I might be a little late with getting on spring cleaning around our home — but spring hasn’t really shown up here in Northeast Ohio, so I’m not really late, am I? During the past couple of weeks I have been on a tear, and yet we have so much more to do.
A few weeks ago I watched an episode of House Hunters while working out at the gym. This family of three was looking for a home in Los Angeles and all the houses were under 1,100 square feet. In fact, the 1,100-square-foot one was the only home over 1,000 square feet and the others were both around 900. They kept saying how they were limiting the size based on the cost of homes there (so expensive!) but they also wanted to keep it small because it’s less to take care of and clean.
It really struck me. We are a family of four and I have just really felt bogged down with the sheer amount of stuff that we have in our home. I say sometimes that I feel like I’m living in an episode of the show Hoarders, but my husband says that’s exaggerating a little. It’s not really that bad but we have accumulated a bunch of stuff over the past few years and we haven’t really gotten rid of a bunch of stuff we don’t need because for the past few years our kiddos have been little and we have just been in survival mode.
It’s the mode of “do what needs to get done but no more.” We clean our home regularly but there are things that are in piles or boxes in the basement because we just haven’t taken the time to go through them. Now that my boys are getting a bit bigger and life isn’t so crazy or survival-oriented, I’m ready to clear out the clutter.
But my kids aren’t exactly loving the idea. So I’m working on getting them to buy into the great Spring Cleaning & Organization of 2018. It’s all a work in progress, but here’s what we’ve found to be helpful in getting our 4- and 7-year-old on board with letting go of some things:
1. We make sure they see us getting rid of our stuff. When we are going through our things, we are doing a lot of it with them around so that they see it’s not just us making them get rid of stuff. We are all paring down and trying to live more simply.
2. We talk to them about the idea of stuff needing to have a purpose. As they are trying to hold onto things we try to ask, “When is the last time you played with this?” and “Do you love this?” Often, they will say that they play with something all the time (we all have different ideas of all the time, don’t we?), but many times we are able to get them to see that they don’t really use the item in question and they let it go.
3. We also try to emphasize the concept of passing things on to others. If something just sits in your closet then it would be better off making another child happy. I may or may not bring up the Toy Story movies while working this angle.
4. We try to emphasize the awesome results for us. When we cleaned out the coat closet of old coats that my husband and I no longer wear and coats that no longer fit the kids, then we showed them the closet after it had been cleaned out and organized. We asked them things like “Isn’t it easier to find your coat and gloves?” We try to show them how less stuff can make life easier.
5. We let them keep some things that we really think they should let go. Some things. Not all of them. We are trying to pare down and keep only things that we use or love, but I understand that this is a process. My husband and I will over-rule them on some things and make them get rid of them, but we do let them have a few wins. My goal is that every year we will revisit and pare things down again and after some time they will probably let those things go.
6. We are working to show our kids the value of experiences over stuff. As a family we have been investing in more gifts that are experience-based rather than toys. We are taking more trips and doing more activities because we truly love that time and those experiences spent together. And our kids are buying into this. We try to phrase things like “would you like to go to the waterpark for the day or spend the same money on this toy?” Sometimes they pick the toy, but more and more often our boys are picking experiences.
We hope to make our home less cluttered and more organized but we also hope to help our sons to develop the ability to be organized and to let go of stuff when it no longer serves a purpose in their lives. This is not an easy process for me as I’m sentimental as all get out and I often think “someday I might need this” but it’s good for me and it’s good for them too.