I have a lot of young mothers in my life and I’d like to share some ideas that I have discovered as I’ve decluttered my life and well, basically, since I’ve gotten older. I think I might be able to help you a little in this area of decluttering, organizing and keeping your life simple so you can enjoy your family.
Let’s be honest, having kids, raising kids, is all very emotionally charged. Little things they give you, rocks, flowers, a piece of paper they colored means the world to you!!
The clothes they wore when they were infants, that card that great-grandma sent when she found out you were pregnant – all these things are pregnant with meaning and emotion.
If you keep every little thing that touches your heart, you will be drowning in stuff before your kids graduate high school. I know. I did.
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE (OF STUFF)…
Your kids make things. They save things. They give you things. Not long after they make, save or give, that thing is highly important! “Where’s that acorn, Mom?!” And if you threw it out their heart will be broken. From then on out, you save the acorns.
When they get a bit older, you’ll pull out that acorn and you will be all sentimental and tenderhearted about it remembering precious moments and your child will be like, “That’s just an acorn, Mom, OMG, you’re so dumb!” Then your heart will be broken.
Then when they’ve graduated and moved to college and you’re drowning in acorns, you’re ready to throw them out and your child says, “I don’t care, Mom, do what you want, it doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Then you’re at a crisis point, standing in the living room with your hands and house full of acorns not knowing what to do.
WE’RE NOT FULL CIRCLE YET…
Then your child “finds someone.” They fall in love. They want to show them their childhood and the acorns. Lucky you saved them. Their heart is bursting to share their acorns with the one they love. Hearts are happy. You’re glad you saved them.
Then they get married and start a home. “Yay!” you shout. “I can finally get these acorns out of my house.” But your child says, “I don’t want them, they’ll clutter up my house.” You’re angry. “Those stupid acorns have been cluttering up my house for years and now you don’t want them? I’m not your storage service!” There you are in the living room with your hands and house still full of acorns. You still don’t know what to do.
Then, the babies are born. You pull out the acorns and you and your child cry and take pictures of the babies with the acorns. “I’m so glad I kept them!” You sob. “I’m so glad you did, too, Mom!” Your child hugs you. Hearts are happy!
“Now you can take the acorns to your house,” you say to the new mother. “What? No. I don’t have room. Can’t you just keep them here?” SMH. Here we go again.
WHAT TO DO?
I told you a really long story to give you a short and simple solution: Save one acorn.
Actually, you have 2 choices. Save one acorn or get a plastic bin, put it in the closet and every time your kid brings, gives you or colors an acorn, put it in the bin and got through all the acorns when they’re 18.
It would have been easier and quicker if I had made the decisions as I went along. I suggest that way. Yes, you have to make emotionally charged decisions as you go along. You’ll have to choose between the painting of that blue blob or the unidentifiable clay thing. But believe me, it’s easier than drowning in tons of stuff.
Fortunately, technology is here to help you. I wish I had this when my kids were little.
SAVING YOUR KID’S ARTWORK
Thankfully, The Pioneer Woman did a blog post that gives you 4 apps that help you digitally save your kid’s artwork and then you can have them printed and bound in books. The perfect gift to give them when they leave home and/or have kids of their own when they can really appreciate it! I wish I had this! Click HERE to go to PW’s website.
SAVING YOUR KID’S CERTIFICATES AND AWARDS
I haven’t searched (and in fact, you might be able to use the same app) but you could do the same sort of thing with certificates that your child receives. In these days where kids get awards for breathing and being alive, you’ll end up with a lot of them. So, create a digital copy and discreetly dispose of the certificate. As far as actual trophies, let me segway into my next topic…
KEEPSAKES AND PRECIOUS ITEMS
For those trophies and little things that are precious that the kids give you or save or make, here’s what I did. I bought a relatively cheap curio cabinet from Ikea. A china cabinet would work, too. A curio cabinet is a cabinet with glass doors and shelves inside. Then you can put all those items on display! When the cabinet fills up, then you can make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. And by then, the decision may be easier because the cuteness and sweetness may have worn off. I made a rule that all that stuff HAD to fit in the cabinet. That was its place. (and my mantra is, “Everything must have a place!”) So, I made it all fit! You could also TAKE A PHOTO OF IT AND KEEP THE PHOTO!
BABY CLOTHES & TOYS
I will refer back to the acorn story. Save one or two important items. Save the dedication/christening outfit and one or two others. And only save a couple of special toys. Here are some reasons:
- Your daughter may only have boys and your son may only have girls and you’ll end up with a bunch of clothes for nothing but just looking at once or twice.
- Your kids won’t use them for real. It will be fun to pull out and look at take one or two photos with the babies wearing it. But believe me, your grandkids will not wear those old, out of date, dry rotted, yellowed clothes that have been in storage for 20 years to preschool. Seriously.
- The toys will be dangerous and out-of-date. I say that with confidence because, by the year 2039, there will be more and different safety regulations and your kids WILL follow current safety trends no matter how safe you thought their toys were today.
PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
As much as it’s trendy to print out photos or have those cute canvases, tiles or books, I am telling you, listen to one who lived through the years of rolls of film, negatives and prints and VHS tapes and the giant cameras, 8mm and the projectors – DIGITIZE YOUR PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!! I have 30+ years of videos and photos on 2 thumb drives. And I LOVE photos! So much easier and SAFER! We had a pipe burst and I almost lost all of my photos and VHS tapes- and they were the originals with no other copies!
You are probably more familiar with what is available out there. I’ve heard of several apps that might help, so look around.
HEIRLOOMS & MEMORABILIA
Heirlooms are special items that are passed down from generation to generation. Memorabilia are souvenirs, things you saved to remember a special time or event.
Let me give you a general rule of thumb: Your kids don’t want your stuff!
However, heirlooms are important and they will get them whether they want them or not. Then I’ve done my familial duty and they can decide if they want to stop the chain and get haunted by Grandpa Jack, haha!
As far as heirlooms that originate with you, your jewelry or special items that you own, you need to decide exactly who gets it and make sure you state that in your will. (GET A WILL MADE, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO MAKE A WILL!) Store the item carefully, or better yet, use it and have it out so the memories of you using it will go along with the item.
About your memorabilia, your kids won’t have your memories to go along with it so it won’t mean anything to them. They might like to look at the stuff once but don’t pressure them to keep it forever. What a burden! And get rid of it before you kick the bucket so they won’t have the guilt of having to give it to Goodwill or chuck it in the trash. Do them a favor!
COMBINE SOME IDEAS
Since my kids are older, I was able to create some shadow boxes to display important items and photos all at the same time. I have one devoted to my daughter’s ballet years with her shoes, photos, newspaper clippings, etc. That way they’re protected and on display to enjoy all the time. The act of limiting the items and photos to what will fit in the display made me have to choose and eliminate thereby trimming down the number of keepsakes.
WHEN WILL YOU STOP BEING THE STORAGE SERVICE OR FAMILY MUSEUM CURATOR?
I decided that when my kids were settled in their adult lives I would stop storing their stuff. In our case, when they were married and settled in a home. It helped, too, when they had their own kids. That’s when they could see how meaningful the stuff was.
After they were settled, that’s when I said, “Come get your stuff or I’m going to get rid of it.” Then, when they didn’t take stuff that I thought they should have, I realized it meant more to me than to them. I had to decide again and I kept one acorn. So, I still have a cabinet of my favorite things that belonged to my kids. I have some shadow boxes. Of course, it’s up to you!
NOW THAT I PREDICTED YOUR FUTURE…
Let me remind you that decluttering and living that minimalist life is very difficult with kids. Your kids are their own people and it may be important to them to keep stuff. Be patient, you can have their room back in 18 years. And that goes by too quickly! You can let them have their space for now to become the people they’re meant to be.
Also, you are being financially responsible to hang on to toys and clothes that the next child can use. So, don’t get frustrated that you have to have more storage space than that cute childless couple in Simplify magazine.
Unless you spend every waking hour chasing after your child and guaranteeing that they will need counseling when they’re older, just resign yourself to the FACT that your house will be messy, dirty, crazy, CLUTTERED and unorganized most of the time. You can reel it back under control periodically, but this is your life with kids. Don’t worry, when you’re my age, you can have your minimalist dream house. But by then you’ll miss the craziness!
Do the best you can.
I wish you peace and sleep,