Sunday, February 15, 2009


I think that if I am to really find my authentic self, I will have to rid myself of the clutter. I mean real clutter, not just the jumbled thoughts in my head. Inside me is a person who is actually a minimalist, although you'd never know it if you saw my house.

We have so much stuff.

I am constantly looking for ways to organize everything. We have at least 15 large Rubbermaid containers of kids' clothes in the spare bedroom in the basement. They are organized by season and by size, from newborn to size 8. Of course, they're all girls' clothes, and we have been so lucky to receive so many high quality hand-me-downs from friends, neighbours and family. It'll be great to start getting rid of the clothes, but until we close the door on adding more children to our family, the clothes stay.

Then there's the 4 plastic-drawer-trolleys that house the girls' art supplies. Altogether, there are 21 drawers and 2 baskets. We have enough paint, paper towel rolls, styrofoam meat trays, felt letters, tissue paper, construction paper, glitter glue, stickers, markers, plasticine, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and crayons to supply a day care for a month. Actually, it's not the amount of art supplies that is a problem, because it really is good for Anna and Holly to let their creative energy flow freely. The real problem is what to do with the sculptures and pictures that they make everyday.

Toys. The numerous assorted toys that do only one thing, have a lot of pieces and don't really go with anything else for significant pretend-play (such as the Mr. Potato Head) are the items I find really annoying. These are the items that get played with only one time per month, but which then take a month to get put away because the pieces end up all over the house somehow. I would LOVE to get rid of all these sundry items, but I feel like the kids might miss them, OR if I give them away I'll feel guilty when I see the people who gave them as gifts.

The toys that get played with all the time are sets of Playmobil (we have the dinosaurs and the treehouse/forest rangers station), the Duplo and the princess dolls. Those three kinds of toys, along with books and crafts are what keep the girls occupied all day long. Everything else should be given away. Would it be ungrateful or disrespectful or just down right greedy to tell friends and family specifically what gifts to buy for our children at birthdays and Christmas? This is something I need to think about and approach very carefully.

As for my personal things, I am pretty good at editing. When I buy new jeans or shoes, an old pair of jeans or shoes leaves the premises. I'm not so good at getting rid of kitchen items that don't get much use (like the indoor grill that my mom gave me 7 or 8 years ago, and which I initially used at least once per week, but which has now moved to three different addresses with me and not been used again).

Sometimes getting rid of personal items is hard because of the sentimental value. Like when Partner-Guy and I were going through a bag of things that his mother gave him after his father died and he didn't want to throw out any of it, and I had to ask "Do you have any other ways of remembering your father besides holding onto his underwear?" I haven't lost a parent, so maybe that was not an appropriate thing to say at the time, but it is kind of a rule of thumb that I like to apply when keeping something of no use to me but that has sentimental value.

What to do with all the books, magazines and personal journals that I kept from when I was a child and adolescent? This causes me some stress, as I try to rationalize keeping all of it. Someday I might want to read them and remember who I was. Or maybe they will help me to understand who I have become. Or maybe my children will amused to learn about what I was into as a very young woman.

Nonetheless, I have committed to ridding our house of 20% of its contents this year. This is entirely do-able. Toys, clothes, kitchen items, relics of my past, old teaching materials. They're all on the list to be edited and disposed of. Even Partner-Guy has committed to the project, and has promised to get rid of some of his running shoes; since he has about 60 pairs, there have got to be at least a dozen that he's done with.

I think this is a valuable project, not just because it will make me feel less chaotic, but also because doing it now is a lot easier than trying to do it in a couple of years when we are ready to sell the house. I'm even going to try to help the girls to give away something old whenever they get something new. And I will try to model the same action.

The authentic me will hopefully start to appear as we clear away one garbage bag at a time.

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