Friday, September 12, 2008

Children and minimalism

I am becoming more and more convinced that these just won't go together. Gabe and I both have a tendency toward minimalism - we regularly assess the things we have in our home and throw or give away items that are just taking up space. Still, our house is very, very full, and I often get frustrated at the difficulty of keeping everything clean and organized.

Today we're having our carpets cleaned throughout the house. This is a once-a-year occurrance, so it is a big deal. (Yes, I scheduled it two weeks before my duedate. Yes, I am nesting.) The cleaner will move some things to get under them (our light sofas, for example) but everything else that generally takes up floor space has to be moved off the carpets. Being entirely too pregnant to do this myself, I hired my sister-in-law to come help me for a few hours and she (wonderful girl!) moved everything moveable out to the back patio and vacuumed all the floors. The result was this:

Which is what I wish my home could look like all the time. See all those lovely, spare, clean lines? Oh! Love them! Let's just all stand at the table so we don't have to have chairs! (Kidding, kidding...)

The trouble is that if you turn around you get this picture instead:

Not so beautiful, is it. And that is 90% kid stuff. Changing table, kid's play table/chairs, bin of duplos, baby swing, diaper pail, get the idea. And that is just the stuff taking up normal, living floor space. There is also an entire closet full of child-related stuff that I can't get rid of because Josiah will need it.

Is it just a fact of life that with children comes stuff? We try so hard to keep toys for our kids minimal and creative (like duplo blocks), and not to get sucked into the current culture of "buy buy buy more! If you loved them you would!" and yet still we have so very many things in the house. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I let another person come into my house and make her own assessment of what we *really* needed to keep. It would be an interesting experiment, wouldn't it? Perhaps fresh eyes would see more clearly.


Linds said...

Well, you could always sign up for TLC's Clean Sweep...

Although, I have to say, maybe it's good for you. I know you and you're very neat and clean - and maybe it's God's reminder to you that life isn't always in our control that your boys come with lots of clutter.

See, I'm naturally a slob, and Nate's a neat freak - so he's God's constant reminder to me that order is a good thing. :)

I try to find spiritual meaning in it, because otherwise I'll just go crazy. :)

Amber said...

What you need is a bigger house. :-D

But seriously though - having lots more space with the same amount of stuff all of a sudden makes life so much less stressful and frustrating. I think the hard part once we move into our own house (not so big as this one, but still twice as big as anywhere we've ever lived together - and we'll get to use all of it) will be to keep the level of stuff to approximately what it is now... because if you have more space, it becomes a lot easier to inadvertently collect more stuff. (For example, see my parents' cupboards! lol) But still, with more space at least you can have the essentials and not feel like you are filled up past the brim!

I know, I know, not an easy solution!!

Ma Torg said...

I hate to depress you but lots of that stuff is uneccessary! We found that out with bedbugs. We went from having so much stuff to absolutely nothing...and, well, it was great. It took a little to adjust, but the simplicity in the end was a relief. I realized that the floor functions as a great changing table, kids really can entertain themselves even when they don't have toys, and the kids can get through life with only 5-7 outfits. I don't recommend getting rid of everything, but if you really do want to minimalize more, I suggest putting 1-2 items away for a week and see at the end of the week if you think you really still need them or not.

Amber said...

You know, I'll second what Ma Torg said - we've been doing just fine without a changing table and a seriously reduced number of toys. We had to do it when we were in the trailer and also in the apt, and it has been nice. I've also really reduced the amount of clothes I have for everyone and that's been great too. Even though I'm washing more often, somehow it seems less of a hassle because there's less overall to keep track of, sort, and just deal with overall. When we moved our stuff out of storage (and into S&G's shop) I realized how much stuff I'm going to end up getting rid of - stuff we used to find necessary and that we've lived without quite readily over the past year. I wouldn't recommend what we've done over the last year or so to anyone, but it has had some pluses here and there! *grin*

Still, I'd be loathe to give up the bouncy seat - although we've given up all the rest of the baby clutter. We'll probably get out the high chair again sometime in the next month or two, but that's it.

But all the same, having a bigger place to live is really nice too!! Especially if you can have both less stuff and more space... the breathing room is lovely.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Ma Torg and Amber,
I've seriously considered getting rid of the changing table (you're right, it isn't technically necessary for changing babies!) but ours doubles as a dresser for the boys clothes. So if I got rid of the table, I'd just have to find a place for their clothes, which I think would rather defeat the purpose.

Amber, we found the best alternative to a high chair - a table chair! It attaches to the side of the table, takes up nearly zero space, and is so nice for letting the baby/toddler be right up at the table with everyone else. We were so glad to get rid of that big bulky high chair!

How many changes of clothes do you guys find works out well for you (per kid)?

We're working on it! At least with the addition of this baby the only thing we've actually had to buy is a larger stroller. :)

Amber said...

With the whole dresser/changing table thing we ended up switching to a taller dresser so that we could put Emma's clothes (2 drawers), Gregory's clothes (1 1/2 drawers), doll clothes (1 drawer) and stuff they've outgrown but I haven't moved into the appropriate place yet (1/2 drawer) in it. This has worked out well for us, and it uses less floor space w/ more storage than the previous dresser/changing table combo.

As for clothes, I'm finding that 4-5 short sleeved shirts, a sweatshirt, 4-5 pairs of shorts, two pairs of regular pants, and two nice outfits (for church, mainly) and 4-5 pairs of socks is working well for Gregory. Emma's is a little different - 3 pairs of shorts/shirts are traded for play dresses/skirts - but that's probably not a terribly important detail for you at this point. I end up doing their laundry every 3-4 days this way, but there's so little I can either combine it with ours, towels, or whatever else needs to be washed.

MiCasaLoca said...

I started trying to par down on toys in 2005 when we had our 2nd child & have learned that it is a lifetime task, not a one-time feat. With each new baby that arrives, the bins of stuff seem to grow, not shrink! There's good news ahead! When your children turn into teenagers, you can reclaim your space as it's more about clothes, sports equipment, & computer stuff! There is life after clutter!