This past week several of our regularly scheduled classes and activities were canceled due to rain and spring break vacations, and I found myself face to face with the depressing reality of our gluttony of stuff stuffed into our two-bedroom apartment.
During the middle of a math lesson I sent one of the kids into their room for a ruler. He came back empty handed.
“We don’t have one.”
Yes we do. We have several.
I pulled apart my desk, the homeschooling box, the junk drawer.
I offered a dollar to whoever found a ruler – metric or standard.
Math was forgotten. We went on a quest.
I had to push piles of things out of the way to slide open the closet door, only to find that the closet was crammed with labeled boxes of disorder.
The bin labeled Lego, was not all Lego, not even majority Lego. There were Barbies, dirty socks, puzzle pieces, Lincoln logs, marbles… etc. And that was just the beginning.
I opened my daughter’s drawers, still in search of the ruler. In one drawer I found every different kind of clothing she had, plus books, games, craft supplies, my long-lost, good scissors and other things that had no business taking up the drawer space and evicting the socks into the toy bins.
I was getting mad. No one got a dollar.
And that was the beginning of the Great-and-Dreadful Day of Judgment on mess at our house. When I got over being mad about the cacophony of clutter we had created through our basic neglect, I decided to make April our clean-it-up-or-clear-it-out month.
For my own sanity I set some personal ground rules.
1. I would do one job at a time. I would not start clearing out one area and start another before one was finished.
2. I would not buy any new organizational infrastructure until I had “earned it” by substantially decluttering.
3. I would bravely give away things we didn’t need anymore – like the little blue wooden table I built for our daughter when she was two and the toys that she no longer cherished but reminded me so tangibly of my little girl so rapidly fading.
4. I would not even try to do it all in one day.
5. If I needed to, I would go to IKEA and buy all the organizational stuff I wanted, after I cleared out what we didn’t need.
I also kept the kids on my side of the battle by promising not to give away anything they were not ready to part with. And they surprised me with their maturity in giving up things they had outgrown.
That first day I cleared out the box of homeschooling books and supplies in our living room. But I didn’t get through it easily.
Luckily a friend called mid afternoon and rescued me from my freefall into despair. So reluctantly I stopped daydreaming about getting a maid, putting the kids in school and getting a job where I would be “loved, appreciated, well dressed and unharassed by messy children.”
And then I found three rulers.
Then the next day the kids and I went through their clothes and bagged up enough grown-out-of things to comfortably fit the rest of their wardrobe back into the drawers. (The games, books and craft supplies were given new, more appropriate homes.)
By mid week I had taken on the kids’ room full throttle and gone through every miscellaneous box, every hiding place under the bed and every corner of the closet. I re-labeled boxes and rearranged things in a better way for my son to reach his toys and put them away.
We excavated two bags of recycling/trash and six bags of give-away stuff out of their room. It felt great. I could see their walls and carpet. They loved it. We were on a roll.
I was so happy I even finished the taxes and filed them on-line.
I still have a long way to go. It’s easy for me to get frustrated when I realize how many more places need to be organized and decluttered, but at least we have started the spring cleaning fever.
Now tomorrow -- the cabinet of forgotten projects and unrequited love – aka – the craft closet.