You are listening to episode eight of the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide.
Welcome to the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide, where we discuss making the most of your family’s health, time, and money. I’m your host, PJ Jonas, and I am here to help you make the most of each day – despite your busy schedule.
Welcome back to the final episode on clutter. For the past two weeks, I have been talking about the negative effects that too much stuff can have on your life. Today, I am going to answer some listener questions on the “nuts and bolts” – on how to de-clutter some difficult areas – and then I will talk about organizing the stuff that remains. Before I start answering questions, I have to tell you about something that happened this week that strengthened my belief that you should just donate the things that you are removing from your life.
Jim was looking through our local paper and saw that there was a treasure hunter type deal coming to Scottsburg; supposedly, they were buying all your old stuff. So he got the children to gather a bunch of their things and we drove up there. But let’s just say that it was a huge bust. And that is the bad news; the good news was that we took what the children had gathered and added it to the donation pick up that I had scheduled for Monday morning. So the lesson is, do not spend a lot of extra time trying to get money for your things. Just donate them. It is quick and easy, and you can always take the tax deduction.
There is one more thing that I want to take the time to share. If you remember last time, I spoke about the embroidery machine which I had been hanging on to for all those years, then finally gave away. Well the other day, I found out that it was given to a tornado victim. There is a family with four boys that lost everything in the tornado, and it turns out that the mom was a major contributor to her family’s income, with an embroidery business that she had. Her entire business was destroyed by the tornado and she has not been able to afford to replace her machine or any supplies.
So I mentioned last week that I know that the embroidery machine that I gave to them needed repair, and I offered to pay for any repairs that were needed. And I wanted to mention it in case any of you would like to adopt this woman and help get her business back and operational. You can just contact me and I can get you her address so you can send her some money and some supplies too. Also, if anyone of you would like to purchase some embroidery from her, you can contact me and I will give you that information as well. I am not sure if she’s got a website or anything like that, but I will be finding that out in the next few days.
Now that I talked about that, let’s jump right into the questions that I have received over the last few weeks, concerning clutter.
The first one comes from Julie, who wants to know: “How do I deal with my family who wants to keep everything?”
Julie, I have to admit that when it comes to clutter and my children, I am really kind of mean and ruthless. Mostly, because I feel strongly that keeping clutter is bad for the health of our family relationships. It is my job to teach my children, and that includes teaching them that people are important and stuff really is not. I try to teach them that there are people with nothing or very little, and I encourage them from an early age to donate their stuff to help those people. And after that, even with the stuff they choose to keep, I still do not let them keep all that much; and I definitely enforce that if something comes in, something has to go out. I am always purging their things, and it is starting to pay off, because the older children are actually picking up the habit and getting rid of some of their own things without me even having to prompt it. So that’s kind of exciting.
As for husbands, obviously that is going to be a bit trickier. I talked about the fact that I am a no-clutter freak, and Jim has definite, New England frugalities and tends to keep a lot of stuff. But over almost seventeen years of marriage, he has gotten better. But he still has the tendencies, in my opinion, to keep too much stuff. And the best way I found to deal with this is to remove things slowly and gently in the beginning. Talk to your spouse about how much freer you feel and how your stress level is down. And worse case, if he is really adamant about not getting rid of things, try to kind of assign him an area in the house, (hopefully that’s not where you have to go very often) where he can keep all the stuff that he wants to keep and wants to hold on to. You can also just keep de-cluttering everything else—especially the areas that are more in your domain—and just lovingly talk about it and the benefits of it.
But, the biggest thing I want to stress about this is, whatever you do, do not nag your husband over clutter, because that defeats the whole purpose of what we are trying to achieve: and that is a more peaceful house. And if you start nagging him, or making it about stress or contention in your marriage, that is completely opposite of what we are trying to make happen our lives.
Just really be careful about that.
Next we have Erin, who asked: “How do I organize paper? I home school three kids at all different age levels, and have to take care of all household bills and documents. I have thought of starting a small home business too, but I am afraid that if I do, I will be trapped by the paper clutter. Please help!”
First of all Erin, I have to tell you that I agree with you completely. Paper clutter is horrendous and I have two very sad statistics for you that I found. The first is that the average American Household receives—actually not American household, but the average American receives 49,000 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and a third of that is junk mail. And if that is not bad enough, the second fact is that if you took all the paper that is thrown away annually in America, you could build a twelve foot wall from Los Angeles to NYC every single year. And that to me is completely insane. So you are prudent to be concerned about being trapped by the paper clutter. Because with paper, the obvious first thing is just to throw in the garbage what is garbage; don’t bother to open it, just toss it. But the rest of it you really have to resort to the old motto, “a place for everything and everything in its place”. I will share with you what I do, and hopefully you can get some good tips out of that.
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I have a couple of things where I keep my papers. I have a filing cabinet, and then I have some plastic drawer organizers that are just bins. They hold 8 ½ x 11 size papers, so full sheets of paper can go in and fit easily. And then I have a garbage can with a shredder on top. One thing I want to recommend is that you keep this kind of stuff in the areas where your paper clutter now tends to accumulate, because most people have hot spots where things all tend to get jumbled up. If you can keep it near that area, then that’s going to make it a lot easier to stay on top of the paper clutter, than if you have an office at the backend of the house that you never go to. That’s why a lot of people tend to have a so much trouble. Try and keep something central.
So, I have six drawers in my drawer bin. One of them is marked “money”, one of them is marked “in” and one of them is marked “to deal with eventually”. The other three are business drawers, so we’ll not really talk about those. But all papers and mail, and everything that comes into the house, goes into one of the drawers or the filing cabinet immediately. Always. There is no exception. They do not pile up on the dressers or counters or anything like that. They have to go into one of those bins or the filing cabinets. So any bills, receipts, checks, cash, money…all that kind of stuff, they all go into the money drawer.
I deal with this drawer once a week. I try to take care of it during the week, usually on a Wednesday—not the weekend. Because I’ve found, most of the time when I am dealing with this, I have to make phone calls to billing offices or insurance companies that messed something up or things like that. So, it is very helpful to do it on a weekday. One of the reasons why I keep a central money bin, is because I once read a statistic that said that 23% of adults admit that they pay bills late and incur late fees because they lose their bills. You can avoid being part of that 23% if you have a place for your bills and you always put them there.
To deal with the “eventually” drawer – that’s the stuff that I should deal with or at least take care of eventually, but really does not have a deadline and there is no time pressure. I have to tell you that I love this drawer. I check it once a month or sometimes once every other month—or once a quarter even. And I almost always throw away about three quarters of what is in there, because it really just isn’t important and not worth it after a month has gone by. It saves me a lot of time by keeping me from doing things that really are not that important. Again, I love that drawer.
And the “in” drawer is where the stuff goes when papers come; it is nice and simple. If it is labeled “IN” all the children, even if they cannot read, know that that’s what that drawer says, so if mail comes in or papers come in that I cannot deal with if I am in the middle of dinner or on the phone or anything, it immediately goes into that drawer.
My goal is to look through that drawer once a day and deal with the paper once a day. Sometimes there are times when I do not get to it once a day and it is really not a big deal. Most things are not that urgent that they need to be dealt with that day, but that gives it a place where it belongs where it is not going to get knocked off the counter or fall behind a dresser or anything like that; so it really keeps things centered.
You will notice that I do not have a “to-file” drawer. I used to have one, and I can tell you that it was a huge mistake, because that drawer always seemed to overflow. It was a huge stress for me, because I knew it was way behind and I had to deal with it; so now when papers come in everything gets filed immediately.
One of the things I do now, which is really helpful for me, is to keep extra files and folders in my file cabinet. So that way when something new comes up, all I have to do is to grab a pen and write it down on the folder, and I immediately have a place for those papers that I did not have a file for before.
Here is the trick to taming paperwork: Once a week, or once a month, or whatever the time period is depending on how much paper you have coming in, you have to purge your filing cabinet. You take out all your files, depending on what they are. For us we have all our household files and our business files and then each child actually has a folder; but I limit each child to just one folder. Every so often I go through each as they get too fat. And if there are things in there that I want to keep, I take a digital copy of it and then I toss it and everything else—kind of weeding it out. Every paper that you possess has to fit into your filing cabinet, and if your filing cabinet gets too full, stuff has to go.
I homeschool a family of eight, I run a growing business, and I only have a four-drawer file cabinet. Everything fits into that. In fact, it is almost three because the bottom drawer I dedicate solely to warranty and instruction materials and those little cards you get when you buy something. I really never go into that drawer unless it gets too full and I have to toss out some old stuff. I used to file manuals and things, but I don’t even bother anymore because I found that I never, ever, ever looked at them. So I literally open the drawer and toss the new manual in, and shut the drawer; I don’t even think about it, which is why I use the bottom drawer for it. This has saved me a lot of time.
So, like all clutter you have to first get rid of everything that you do not use—and that is especially true with paper. You then have to have a place for everything else; especially with paper, because it is everywhere. I find that you really need to deal with things every day, and once you get a system, it does not take very long. It usually takes me about five minutes to deal with paper, unless it is my bill paying day, which takes an hour or so.
You just put things where they belong. You do not have to follow my system exactly, but you do have to come up with a system. You have to stick with it, and you have to deal with it regularly.
Next, Connie asked, “Where do I start? We seem to have problems with mail. It just piles up, even if we sort through it, we still have a stack. I want to have a place for everything along with dedication to put it there. I am always searching for sunglasses and keys or office ugg, help!!”
Well Connie, you have to take it one step at a time and you have to make it a habit. First, I want you to think about your house and think about the best place in your house to keep your keys. Think about the best place in your house to put your sunglasses. And then I want you to make sure that there is a place there; if you need to, get a basket or bowl or something to hold them. Put them there, but use something where they are not going to get knocked around, fall down, or fall behind things, and get stuck there.
Here’s what I am going to suggest you do—and I know this may sound a little cheesy, but it really does work. Once you have figured out where that location is, you need to put things there. But let’s say you are leaving the house and you go to that spot to grab your keys and your keys are not there. You need to go and find your keys, and what I want you to do is to take your keys and actually put them in the spot where they belong. Now turn around and leave the room; just go to someplace else in the house and in your head (you do not have to say it out loud), in your head just say, “Ok, I am leaving; time to go get my keys.” Just walk to where they are, where they are supposed to be. Grab them and say to yourself, just congratulate yourself and say, “Look, here are my keys, right where they are supposed to be!” and then leave your house and go about your day.
I know that sounds kind of crazy, but the reason it works, is because it is all about training your mind to do it. We are like children in that way. When you are teaching your children something, it is repetition; having them doing it over and over again and showing them the proper way to do it. Just like it takes time to train our children, it actually takes time to train us. But in the long run it is worth it because it is going to save you time down the road. Yes, you have to put some extra time in now, but it will pay off into hours that are saved later on. But you have to actually physically train your hands and your feet to walk to that location and put things there, because that will just make the pattern evident in your brain and it will actually become a habit.
While I was doing some research for this podcast, I actually came upon an interesting statistic which said that the top five items that men look for in their homes are: clean socks, the remote control, wedding album, car keys, and their driver’s license. The top five items that women look for in their homes are: a favorite pair of shoes, a child’s toy, their wallets, lipsticks, and the remote control. I thought all this made sense… except for the wedding album, that was a little strange… but ok. The reason I bring this up is that I want you to figure out what the top five things are for you that you are always searching for and I want you to make a place for them and then spend this week training yourself and training your family to put those things there. Just five things, pick five things in your house and just kind of really focus on it and I think you will be amazed at the difference a week’s worth of training will have on that.
As for mail, I kind of mentioned that as I was talking about the paper; I put it where it goes every day. I do not necessarily deal with it every day. It goes where it is, because it is ok to have a stack of bills to deal with as long as you make a regular time to go through that stack. And as long as you have a place to keep that stack and you have a limitation as to how large that stack can actually grow. The place where you keep it needs to be someplace where papers are not going to get spilled or lost. I use a three bin set of drawers.
I know people who have used a clip board, and they just clip all their bills onto the clip board. But whatever it is, just have a place for all that incoming stuff. Take your office one section at a time. Start with your desk drawer and clean that out, then do the rest of the drawers, then do the desktop. Start by getting rid of everything you do not use—everything, everything that does not belong in your office, because most of us keep all sorts of junk in our office that absolutely has no business being there. So get rid of it, or just get it out of there.
Make sure that the stuff you keep is the stuff that you are actually using. If you never use a stapler, then you do not need it in your office. Just get rid of it, because you will figure something out for the few times of the year that you actually need a staple. Things like pens—most of us have hundreds of pens lying around. Don’t do that, just get rid of them. Keep five; you will be much more likely to know where they are and take care of them if you are not overflowing with broken pens everywhere (at least most of our pens at our house tend to be broken).
I do want to mention one more thing on the topic of paper and offices: I am a big believer in getting rid of magazines and catalogs. I believe that catalogs make us spend money we never would have spent without that catalog. And if you think about it, it is true because that is why the companies spend so much money putting the catalogs together and mailing them out to you—because they know they are going to cause you to spend money.
So, the next time a catalog arrives, tear out the contact page and throw the rest away. Put it in your “eventually to deal with” drawer, or better yet, your money drawer so that when you are dealing with your bills you can contact that company and asked to be removed from the mailing list. Most of them are real nice and it is fairly easy to do.
The same thing goes for magazines. I can think of very few women who keep up with their magazines, and if you are one of them—that is wonderful; keep up the good work! But for the rest of the most of us, magazines are just clutter that we can get rid of and it will free up a lot of our time. And we will not have the stack of magazines we feel we have to go through because we paid for them. They might be full of great ideas or what not’s, but, just get rid of them. If you want to read a magazine, you can do that the next time you go to the doctor’s office or something like that.
The other point with magazines is that most of them really do not cover issues in depth. So, if it something you really would like to learn about, you are better off getting a book to study up on that subject.
Next we have a question from Andrea, who asked, “How do you let go of a family heirloom, love letters and children’s drawings? How do you simplify the kitchen? I try and then I use all of it. What to do with children’s toys and do you save for siblings? And how do you save multiple clothes and sizes for siblings? What about garages?”
Alright Andrea, there is quite a lot there so I will try and take one at a time. In my opinion, family heirlooms are clutter, and unless you use them and they add beauty to your home, in which case you are using them to beautify your house, they do not really belong in your house and you should not feel guilty about it. Take photos of them and donate the item. And I know I sound ruthless about this, I don’t mean to, but I want you to understand that most families or most people in your family love you and they do not want their stuff to be a burden to you. Especially those who have died and passed on, they don’t want that to be a burden. I don’t want to speak for them, but it is not about the stuff it is about the people. So, if you have a family heirloom that you don’t want, and let’s say your mom is going to get upset about you getting rid of it, give it back to her.
I have to tell you a story. I once got a ton of beautiful, white, lace table cloths from my grandmother. She gave them to me for Christmas one year and they were absolutely lovely. But I have eight children—and eight very messy children. When am I ever going to use white, lace tablecloths? The simple fact is, I am not, and they were just sitting in the drawers and making me feel guilty. Because I guess I was thinking that I should have a fancy dinner and I never got around to it. It was just a big stress for me, so I gave them away. They were beautiful, many of them were appliquéd by my great-aunt, but they simply did not belong in my house. They did not fit the lifestyle that we live.
And I have to tell you that before I got rid of them, I offered them to every member of the rest of my family (and I have a very big family) and nobody wanted them, not one person. So, I think for many families, we often make more of the importance of heirlooms than we need to, and we just need to let go of the guilt because it is not necessary. As for love letters that would be of a matter of whether you have read them. If you read them, then put them some where you are going to read them regularly. If you use them to make you happy, then that is not clutter. But if you want to hold onto them because you feel you should not get rid of them, then that is clutter and you will need to take a digital photo and toss them.
I never keep children’s drawings in our house. It can go on the fridge for a day and then I just throw them away without asking the children. I do get them sketch books that they can draw in, and they know not to tear the picture out of the sketchbook, but just to keep them in the sketchbook and show me the pictures if they want to. Every six months or so I go through the sketchbooks and throw them out. I give the children a chance to find if they did any special picture that they can take a digital photo of and can put it in their photo album. And that is how we deal with children’s drawings.
As for the kitchen, if you are really using all of it, then it is not clutter. But I have found that we actually need a lot less equipment than we think we do. I prefer general purpose kitchen gadgets to specialty purpose gadgets; with a great set of knives and some good bowls and stuff, you need a lot less stuff. We do keep some specially kitchen items in our storage area that are really large and only used periodically, like my pressure canner and my meat grinder, things like that. But anything in my kitchen, pretty much gets used weekly, if not on a daily basis, because if it does not get used, it is gone.
I used to have eight wooden spoons, now I have two. If I had three spatulas, now I just have one. There is very little need for duplicate or backup in the kitchen, because really, if you do not use it, just get rid of it. We just went through the junk drawer, with things like the apple slicer which we use regularly. But if you don’t use an apple slicer, just get rid of it, and when you want to cut up an apple, you can just use a knife. I actually got rid of my juicer, my little metal juicer that you use to squeeze lemons on. Because I use it twice a year and I figured, well I am just going to get rid of it and I can juice the lemons by hand. Even though I do not get as much juice, I’ll just buy a couple of extra lemons and juice a couple more and then don’t have to keep that juicer in there.
You know, you can go through every single item in your kitchen and be really hard on it. Be really hard on your stuff. It really has to earn the right to stay in your home, by being useful and making your life easier. It should make your life easier on a consistent basis, not just a once a year kind of thing.
I personally don’t save children’s toys for siblings. We do have some things that the family kind of owns, like Lincoln Logs, Legos, train tracks and pattern blocks. Those are the kind of family items that keep getting added to and everybody all plays together. But as for the individual toys, we do not save that kind of stuff because we are never at a lack for toys. People are always, always willing to give them away if you don’t have any. In fact, with the tornado, some of the first things that started to come in were gently used toys. Just toss them or give them to somebody else, or donate them.
I find the same with clothes. I have found that the more things I give away, the more things different people hand back down to me when I need them. Unless you are really in desperate financial measures and don’t have anybody who you ever get hand-me-downs from. Especially if you let people know you would love to get hand-me-downs; a lot of people are trying to find a place to give their old clothes to. We just get rid of them and trust that we are going to get them when we need them.
I find that if I commit and really have less toys, then that has freed up some room for grandparents and relatives; instead of buying toys for birthdays and holidays, to buy clothes—especially if something is needed. The kids love getting new mud boots, so that has been a fun Christmas present; everybody gets a pair of mud boots in their own color and the children are happy with that.
You know, I’ve found that the fewer toys and fewer clothes my children have, the happier they are and the more I spend time with them. When I used to keep bins for everybody, and I had every size in storage, I would spend hours and days switching over between the different seasons and the clothing was just a nightmare. Now that I can trust that it will all come in, I have so much less time dealing with clothes; and you know, we still have stuff—we still have plenty. You wanna know if we still buy some extra things? Yes, we do buy some extra things. But a lot of times it’s because we enjoy dressing the little girls alike, and so we buy matching dresses for them, and we do that because we have fun with it.
One thing I do keep in our storage area is winter snow boots and snow pants, because they are expensive. So I save those. In our climate we only use them occasionally, so they are usually in good shape. What I did with the scarves, hats and stuff (this was a friend’s idea, and I think it’s brilliant): You know the shoe organizer that you hang over the closet door? It’s like a vinyl thing that you have for each of the pair of shoes. We hung one of those in our laundry room and one in our cleaning closet and in each of those pockets (instead of putting shoes) we put hats, scarves, and the winter stuff. It’s easily divisible, and everyone can get what they want. And that has been a great thing.
As for your garage – you know garages in America suffer the way most homes in America suffer. They are totally over packed; way too much stuff and not used for the purpose they were created for. I don’t remember the statistics but it was a huge number of homes in America that cannot fit their vehicles in their garages. So my advice with that—it’s the same as it’s been for the rest of the house. It’s going to be unusually hard for the garage, because there’s so much stuff. Dedicate a week to it and get rid of everything. You have to get the right mentality. Stop using your garage as a storage locker. Take the stuff in the garage, and if it belongs in your house and you are going to use it in your house, put it back in the house, otherwise get rid of it. Use your storage area to keep stuff like your Christmas supplies and seasonal stuff like that. It should be in a labeled bin that way you can say to your husband, “Go get me the Christmas bin,” and he’ll know exactly where it is.
Another area that you didn’t ask about but that’s a big problem for a lot of people, are photos. (And I don’t want to get anybody mad at me, because a lot of people are big fans of scrapbooking.) But I have to admit that I am not a big fan of scrapbooking—although I’ve seen some absolutely beautiful scrapbooks! For me and my life, I have found that they take a disproportional amount of time and money for the value that they produce, because I used to feel very guilty about not scrapbooking. You know, that I was somehow depriving my children of all these memories. But I’ve really come to terms over past years that I don’t need to scrapbook to capture the memories; I can do that in a lot less time, a lot less money. So what I’ve been doing for a number of years now, is when I take the photos with the digital camera, I put them into the computer. I have a folder for every single person in the family (except Jim and I – we share a folder).
What I do, is when I download the photos, I go through them right there and categorize the photos by folders. I do the same with all the photos. I just divide them up, and photos that are not very good go to a folder, and if there’s an event they go to the event folder as well. So I’ve got all of my photos that I have been dealing with as they come in, and they are all in folders. And then periodically I take a drive down to Sam’s Club and I print up the photos in each folder. The photos go to an album for each child, and if I want to create a photo book, I already have the photos labeled in that event folder. So I don’t have to worry about photos that I don’t want anybody to see, because they are in the archived folder.
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I know it’s nowhere near as fancy as scrapbooking, but it accomplishes the goal for me and it keeps my memories without me spending huge amounts of time or money doing it. And I have to tell you that each child absolutely loves to have their own photo album, where they are the star. And I’ve been letting the older children load their album; that’s the best thing ever because they get to decide what photo goes where, and they get to organize it. So it has been a lot of fun for them as well.
And you know, like anything, you can overdo it and have a million photos in everybody’s album and that’s not necessary. You just need a few of the best ones to remind people of the occasion, and see your children as they are getting older.
And I have to tell you, when I was a kid, my parents took us to the Ringling Brothers Circus, and my mom made a photo album of it. And I’m not exaggerating—there must have been more than five hundred photos in this album! It was the most boring photo album ever to go through, because the truth is, that five or ten photos would’ve been more that sufficient to remember that there were tigers, elephants and trapeze artists. It’s really all we would have needed to remember about that. So you know, just keep the important ones and put the rest in an archived folder.
Next question is from Sarah who asks: “How do you handle stuffed animal overload and children who don’t want to part with them?”
Let me tell you Sarah, in our house the main issue is books. We love books. I could justify keeping a million of them because we homeschool and we use them, and everybody is always reading them. But I don’t. I de-clutter even my books, and I’m actually in the process of doing that right now—getting rid of a whole bunch of books we’ve kind of accumulated that aren’t the best. I’m working on transitioning some of our favorites over to electronic versions.
And you know, for us it’s books, but the same thing applies to movies, music, match box cards, or stuffed animals, because it’s going to be different for different families. But in our family none of my children are allowed to have more than two dolls and two stuffed animals, because anything more than that starts to teach the child collecting, and for me, that’s not what I want my children to learn. I want my children to learn that people are more important than things. They need to spend their time on people not on things. They need to learn how to give and how to share; that’s what I want them to learn.
So, they can still have a tea party with two dolls or two stuffed animals, they don’t need ten. And with children’s toys I firmly believe that the fewer toys they have the happier they are and the happier they play. And I know it sounds like kind of an oxymoron, but it’s really true. You can test it out. There may be some whining at first when you start getting rid of things, because they are so used to being surrounded by so many toys and so many options. But they are going to adjust and they are going to be a lot happier. You don’t have to decide on the number “two”, that number may be higher for you. But I think we can agree that it should be less than fifty.
The trick is, you have to pick a number and be consistent and hold your children to it; don’t be wishy washy on it. If you pick a number and a new one comes in, then an old one has to leave. And you have to accept the fact that this may cause tears, that it may upset your children and get them unhappy with you. But you are the parent and you have to do what is right for them, not what is popular. Teaching them to just collect stuff and hold onto it isn’t very good for them—you wouldn’t let your children eat all the candy they want. It’s the same thing with stuff. You have to teach them to let go of them and do what’s best for them.
And I do want to mention for parents that have children with autism, this may be an issue and something you need to have some leniency on, because I don’t have any autistic children. But I know that that can be kind of a major stumbling block for them so I did want to make that kind of exception.
While we are talking about stuffed animals, I want to take a moment to talk about baby items. Because most people have their first baby and they are completely overwhelmed with all the gadgets and the things that people give them, when they found out they are going to have a baby. And having raised 8 babies, I can tell you that most of this is completely unnecessary. You do not need a diaper genie; we had one for Brett and that was it, we got rid of that. You don’t need a wipes warmer, we got rid of that. All of these things that just take up time and take up so much space in your house, you really don’t need them.
I don’t think that babies need the nonstop entertainment and all the educational toys that are being pushed on babies. Because I am a big believer that even babies can learn to entertain themselves at an early age. And it makes me much happier without all that stimulation all the time. So, keep things basic in your life, and just the things that you really need. Get rid of the rest. You are not going to harm your baby by not having all that stuff. You can get a good baby carrier—we used the Ergo and loved it. A nice, big, colorful quilt on the floor and you can get rid of all the swings, bouncers and jumpers, the walkers and all of this that takes so much space.
The next question is from Wanda, and she asks: “How do I handle all aspects of kitchen organization, how especially not to have junk drawer?”
Alright, let’s assume that it’s really bad. What I’m going to suggest is that you take everything (seriously, everything) out of your kitchen, but the basics. Put all the extra stuff in boxes and stick them in another room for now, then start to use your kitchen. Cook in your kitchen for a week; if you find that you need something, try and make do with the things you have in the kitchen. See if there’s a replacement that you can use to get the job done. If you absolutely can’t, you absolutely need this other thing, go ahead and find it in the box and bring it back to your kitchen. Go ahead and do this for a week and then do it for a month. After the end of that month, take the boxes and get rid of them; because if you have not used all that stuff in the boxes, you don’t need it!
So now that you got rid of that extra stuff, if you want to, buy some organizers for the drawers that you can use to organize what is left. But only keep it there if you are actually using it. And when it comes to junk drawers, what I’ve found is that most people keep stuff in their junk drawers that has no business being in the kitchen. Things like paper clips, rubber bands, you know…batteries, all that stuff that should be in your office area. You need to create an office area in your home for stuff like that is. It doesn’t necessary need to be a whole separate room, but it needs to be in an area where there’s a desk and a cabinet that is dedicated to stuff like that. Because you shouldn’t have all that stuff in there with bowls and spoons, and all your extra stuff that you are using and actually cooking with.
And finally Jodi says: “It just breeds. I’m like a pig pen. Wherever I go, I leave stuff in my wake!”
And Jodi, I absolutely agree with you; clutter does breed. Remember, if you listened to my podcast last week, I talked about entropy, and how things naturally tend to go from order to disorder. Things are going to be constantly coming in because that’s the nature of our lives, and you have to make the decision to live a simple life. You are going to battle this, but once you make that decision and stick with it, then you can finally get on top of things. Things are never going to stop coming into your home.
It’s like I’ve been saying, you have to get rid of everything you can—all of it. Be ruthless and don’t worry, you’ll be getting more stuff to replace it. So much that you will have to get rid of it again! But just get rid of it, then organize what’s left.
Create a space for everything you know you have, to train yourself. I talked before about training yourself physically, to actually put things in the places where they belong. You need to spend time with you family, getting them to put things where they belong as well, and that’s all going to take time and its going to take effort, but you can do it. And you are going to find that it’s worth it, because the less stuff you have to keep track of, the easier it is to put it all away.
So it may seem overwhelming with your house completely full of stuff, but if you start to toss all the stuff that you are not using, it gets easier and easier. If you are really stuck and you are really in bad shape, you may need to pay a friend or a professional organizer to come in and get you started. Often times they can come in and see things that you can’t. They can kind of figure out what the problem is, and help you come up with a workable solution. And if you don’t want to go that route, what I would do is go radical and pick one public area, like either your kitchen or your family room—usually the family room is the best place to start.
Completely empty it of everything except the most necessary stuff and that stuff that belongs there; get rid of everything else. I’m serious, get rid of everything else. All that should be there is a couch, a lamp, if you have a television and remote control – very, very little. Just get rid of all the rest of the stuff. For one whole week, keep your priority to make that room spotless – you and the family. Every night you need to put everything away; put things where they belong, and spend the whole week concentrating and keeping the room the way it’s supposed to be. And if you are doing really well with that at the end of the week, then add on another room.
But if you need more time, if the children still aren’t handling it very well, or you find that you need to add something else like a piece of furniture to hold a certain thing, do that, but keep with that room until you are managing it. Then add another room. And as you add one room at a time you are going to get better and better at it until eventually you have the whole house under control. It’s usually easiest to star with rooms that are more public rooms, that company would see, because that kind of tends to have more motivation to keep us going in case people drop by.
So those are the questions that I have had, and I hope through the answers you found some of that helpful.
You know, it’s so important to me that women get out of being overwhelmed by their homes and all the stuff in it—especially if you work outside of the home and are gone all day, and when you come home this is your time to spend with your family and your husband. You should be at peace there. You shouldn’t come in and just have your stress level rise because things are a mess, and there’s so much work to be done. It should be peaceful when you come home, and you can spend time on your husband on your kids and on those things that are important, because that is what it’s all about.
So we’re just about finished with this podcast series on clutter, and I want to leave you with this week’s survival guide rule, and that is to commit to living a simple life. Life is very complicated, and stuff is everywhere. You have to commit to wanting to live with a simple life and commit to simplifying your home.
For me, I de-clutter every single day; sometimes it’s a drawer, sometimes it’s a closet, sometimes it’s a whole room, but I do it without really thinking of it. For example, last night Jim and I were brushing our teeth and the toothpaste fell on the ground, so I reorganized that section of the bathroom cabinet and just got rid of so much stuff—tossed it right there in the garbage so that it won’t happen again. And it wasn’t something I said, “I’m going to de-clutter this area now.” No, I just did it. I recognized that if things are falling down, it’s because there’s too much stuff in there and I needed to get rid of it. So my point is, the more you do it the easier it becomes, the less time it takes and it just becomes a habit. But you still need to recognize that it needs to be done.
So I hope you enjoyed the series. When I started, I didn’t expect to take three episodes. I thought I was just going to do an episode on clutter! But it just kind of expanded.
And I just have to reiterate the three main principles that I’ve covered.
The first one is that you cannot organize your clutter; you have to get rid of clutter and then organize what’s left.
Second is that de-cluttering needs to become a habit. It needs to be something that you do regularly.
And third is the concept that people in your life are more important than the things in your life.
And if you get rid of the extra things, you are going to have more time to spend with people. It’s going to take time to de-clutter initially and to train yourself and your family to put things away, but that time is going to pay off. They actually did a study and found out that getting rid of clutter will eliminate 40% of the house work in an average home. Think about how much more time you would have for people and for making memories and for things that you enjoy if your housework were decreased by 40%! So keep in mind, yes, you need to put time into it, but the end goal is to free up more of our time so we can spend it with our loved ones.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide. I hope I’ve motivated you to remove some of the clutter from your life so you can focus on more important things. Join me on the next episode where I’ll be discussing the challenges and benefits of a debt free lifestyle.
If you enjoyed this episode please leave me a comment on the blog post or rate this podcast on iTunes. You can also call my feedback line at 240-230-SOAP.
Until next time, I’m PJ Jonas, and I’m praying that you’ll decide that a simple lifestyle is worth the time and effort it takes to achieve it.
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