*So this year, I resolved to increase the happiness in my home. I’m using Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier at Home” book as a loose guide. January was all about possessions…*
I went through a phase in my twenties when I thought that if I could just streamline my stuff enough, I would feel less anxiety. This led to some less-than-sensible decisions, like getting rid of all but one of everything in my kitchen (as a chronic non-dishwasher, this just resulted in my eating more take out), or donating my entire CD collection, then realizing I had forgotten to back any of it up. And, of course, simply getting rid of stuff, or trying to lead a so-called minimalist life, will not automatically cure anyone of anxiety. Indeed, if you are the kind of person who takes comfort in being surrounded by memorabilia or trinkets or heaps of books, then reducing could actually cause more anxiety, not less.
As someone who gets anxious when things are cluttered, but who also doesn’t want to reduce her children’s possessions to two books and a puzzle, I needed to find a balance between too much stuff and Spartan living. So that was this month’s challenge: carefully consider what is in our home, highlight the stuff that we love, and donate the things that would be happier living in another person’s home.
How did I do: Pretty well, actually.
1) I finally donated the backup wedding dress that had been sitting in my closet since 2010, and that actually went to Israel and back again (WHY?!). This dress was my In Case I Can’t Fit My Actual Dress dress because it turns out having a baby two months before you get married is stupid. I had tried to consign it, or sell it on Kijiji, and it wasn’t moving. So off it went, hopefully to a happy wedding.
2) I got rid of all of the small appliances that we don’t use or that are broken. I tried finding a small appliance repair person, but nothing that was available was reasonable. Goodbye, broken space stealers!
3) Three (three!) garbage bags of my clothes left this house. If I didn’t love it, if it didn’t make me feel amazing, I reasoned it would make someone else feel good and so off it went. Also gone? All of my high heeled shoes. Because I hate wearing them.
4) I re-arranged some of our house to focus on what is important to the kids now. For example, I brought the desktop computer upstairs because Budsie has taken an interest in research. I moved Pixie’s play kitchen into the kids’ bedroom so she could have more elaborate adventures with her dolls, something that has become increasingly important. I created a puzzles and games area in our tiny living room. And I stocked the craft shelf with kits and supplies I had previously stored in the basement “for when the kids are older,” reasoning that they should just make use of everything. Both kids LOVED the changes, and more stuff is getting used.
5) I purchased things we needed. It may seem counter productive to buy stuff when you are getting rid of stuff, but our lives had become needlessly complicated because we didn’t have certain objects. A good, working vacuum cleaner, for instance. A working food processor. A recycling bin for the kitchen.
1) It turns out, it is better if the kids have a laundry basket in their room. I had removed it because it took up valuable play space, and because the laundry room is next to the bedroom. But all that has happened is their dirty clothes are in front of a washing machine that is forever mid-cycle. Annoying.
What did I learn:
1) Even though our house is tiny, I can make it feel larger by creating centres. The craft area, the lego area, the puzzle and game area, a magic kit shelf for Budsie, a tea party + restaurant space for Pixie – carving out these spaces helps highlight the things that are important to the kids, and creates better flow in the house.
2) I cannot control what other people do (this will be an ongoing lesson). In my decluttering frenzy, I failed to inspire Andrew to tackle his own closet. But why should he? It’s his stuff, and it doesn’t make him anxious. And I don’t get to impose my anxiety on him.
3) Getting ready for the day is way easier when 3/4 of your wardrobe doesn’t make you look gross.
4) Less clutter definitely makes me feel less anxious. I feel mentally lighter. Yay!