In 2020, we decluttered and downsized. We minimized our processions and maximized our family time. We encouraged experience gifts and discouraged accumulating items that didn’t add value to our lives. We had this new lifestyle down to a science or so we thought.

Why then did the house look like a disaster zone after all six of us were stuck at home for four days due to an ice storm? Why was every craft item on the kitchen table and every cup on the counter? I thought we gave away half of our dishes – did the glasses secretly multiply in the cabinet when I wasn’t looking? And hadn’t we said no to buying more craft supplies, so how did we have this many paints and markers? Of course, the artwork was beautiful and kept my crew busy. So did the stacks of games and books and Legos all over the house. Four days IS a long time to be home all under one roof. But where did this clutter come from?

The ice melted, and kids went back to school. We headed off to work. It was nice to return to routine. But the piles of stuff that greeted us when we all came home that night were not pleasant. Nothing had magically put itself away or decluttered on its own while we were gone. *Sigh* So on a Thursday afternoon, we got busy cleaning up toys and laundry and dishes. Two bags were filled for donations for church, and two boxes were full of clothes for cousins. As we worked that afternoon (and I listened to my kids comment and complain), I noticed these three things made the task easier:

  1. Start with your own stuff. I began with decluttering my things first. I gathered up the mail and bills, put my shoes away, hung up my coat and bag, and got my laundry into the washing machine. I tried to not point out to each child whose stuff was whose. Instead, I just said, “I’m going to put my shoes away then grab my laundry.” Most of my kids followed suit with hanging up their coats and backpacks then tossing their school papers in the recycling and refilling their water bottles. Then they started in on their Legos and artwork. Most of my kids…some needed encouragement.
  2. Encourage family members to do a little everyday. We really should have cleaned up and decluttered as much as we could each evening during the ice days. There would have been significantly less work to do on that one afternoon. And we typically do when we have our normal routine with school and work. But sometimes even weekends get away from us, and it’s Sunday night before we realize nothing has been put away from Friday (lunch boxes have not been emptied, yuck) nor prepped for Monday morning. Doing a little everyday helps lighten the load overall.
  3. Accept that things are just going to accumulate. It’s impossible to keep everything decluttered and minimized all the time. Stuff finds its way into our house through school, friends, birthdays, and relatives. Someone is always bringing home a treasure or trinket, and I’m not opposed to them keeping them. But having things picked up, put away, and counters cleared off does help with daily tasks and helps my crew focused. Being less distracted and more engaged with family is invaluable. Having great experiences and time together is the entire reason we decluttered in the first place. So it’s worth to continue the process and stay on top of the clutter, one step at a time.

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