I have been on a cleaning and clearing out phase I don’t quite understand. I’m not sure what I’m preparing for…maybe a surprise guest? How exciting! I’ve been on some cleaning benders before, but not like this. I’ve been on some missions to get rid of junk…and not like this. I feel like I put big bags and boxes on the curb every other day. Yet my house still has plenty of stuff! It’s as though my stuff is breeding when I’m not around and making more stuff.
I have found that reducing the clutter on a huge level vastly improves the look of the home and ease of cleaning. I live in a small cottage in town with two boys, two large dogs, and a cat…and husband (he works so much, he’s really not making much mess). As you can imagine, I clean daily. Why? Because I have hairballs flying about and two boys that can make the rooms look like there was a seismic earthquake. I love a clean and tidy home and I find that I can’t even think about writing a blog with a sink full of dishes.
So, how do I keep a nice home and allow everyone to actually live and play in it? After all, as one wise mother said, “our home is not a museum”. I want everyone to have a good time.
I am downsizing to the basics. My home still looks lovely, charming, and cozy, but it is simple now. I have given away everything that doesn’t bring me happiness to look upon. I have gifted others with everything from clothes, toys, cookbooks, and chachka that I don’t use, wear, or the boys don’t play with. It’s hard at times because I am giving of things I spent good money on. I just had to have it at the time and here I am looking at the cookbook or dress and having to be honest about not wearing it or using it once in over a year.
Marie Kondo is famous for her uncluttering advice and assistance. She gets booked months in advance. What I love from her advice and used for myself were two things; make decluttering a “special event” and book a day to do a huge, major job. She believes, and I agree, that if we don’t make big changes fast and see huge results immediately we are likely to lose steam and revert back to old ways. Now, after the major declutter, it can take a few more times until you have done it all. She advises that you keep going until that day comes that it just clicks for you…or just feels perfect and done.
Other tips for uncluttering is asking yourself if something feels good, makes you happy, looks lovely on you or in your home. Ask yourself if you have actually used a thing since you got it. I had some cookbooks that cost a pretty penny and were great books. Never used them once, never even cracked them open. I finally gave them to others that would enjoy them. I set them free and made someone happy too.
When I think about letting go of a thing, I think to myself, “I will let this go and my intention is that someone finds it that would really love it or that it gets in the hands of a person and make their life better”. I gift others and it makes it easy.
Now my home feels good. I arrange and decorate with what I have. I rearrange my rooms to create warmth and breathing room. I then clean like a son of a gun (never understood that saying). I have been washing walls and doors, baseboards, washing out the frig and organizing every cabinet and cupboard. I am not normally this intense. I thank the house for being so lovely and I give thanks that I have a delightful home. I play music, I brew coffee, I pray, sing, and meditate as I wash and fold. I step back at the end of the day and admire what I’ve created.
I don’t know that this is really Zen like, but I remember watching a documentary on Tibetan monks. I loved the rhythm of their days. Their days are all very ritualistic. They pray, meditate, wash floors, eat together, pray, meditate, sweep the steps outside the temple, work in the gardens, everything has its time and place. Ritual and ceremony can be created daily and it is good for the soul, good for the home, and family. Children need schedules and rituals, pets do, we do. It gives a rhythm and peace, it creates a feeling of knowing and being solid when things outside the home and in the world may be chaos. Wars can be looming, but in your home, there is a candle glowing on the stove and tea steeping for your afternoon tea and biscuit time (yes, this is not just for the British).
I rise early and brew coffee (green tea is not for me sorry, that is the unZen like part). I have my kitchen table in front of a large window facing tree lined streets. I light a candle and sit before my laptop and write my blogs and books. When the children rise I make breakfast, change a diaper, dress children. We chat and eat together, usually one or both help me with fixing the morning meal and setting the table. There is music or PBS.
The rest of the day is made up of chores, cooking, cleaning, laundry (the boys play and help). I may pack all kinds of healthy food and snacks and we will venture off to our favorite park that is nestled in the trees and by a duck pond. We play, make new friends, eat, feed the ducks, and then either head to the store for grocery shopping, the library, or straight home.
Once home we all wash-up hands and faces and feet from all the play at the park. There is lot’s of ice water, a lite snack, maybe a small movie and rest on pillows. I will prepare dinner and pack my husband’s lunch for the next day. I usually cook a large meal and it serves as dinner and his lunch, along with lunch for us the next day.
We eat very healthily and I try to cook only two times a day or only one is the goal. Breakfast can be fruit, yogurt, or oatmeal, eggs. Lunch and snacks are veggies, fruit, yogurt, homemade granola bars, dips, nuts, seeds, raisins, crackers, cheese, olives, popcorn, pb and j sandwich. Dinner is a meat or meat substitute, beans, tons of veggies, salads, brown rice, rice pasta, squashes or potatoes. Not all these at once of course, but from this list. I sometimes make a big meal in the early part of the day so it serves as lunch and dinner later. My husband’s lunch comes from this as does leftovers. We have no issue with leftovers and what I cook usually taste even better the next day. Things like stews, soups, beans…they get better with marinating.
I talk about this often in my blogs, but to the new visitors, I have downsized my home and yard to make life easier. We save hundreds now on rent and utilities and we spend very little time on cleaning and yard maintenance. We love our tiny cottage and we spend a lot of time in it. We also moved into town so we can walk everywhere and save on gas, wear, and tear on the car and the environment.
My advice is to make life as easy as possible. Downsize, simplify in every area…this is even important with appointments and scheduling activities. There is no need for all this craziness I see with the kids in 50 million classes and groups. Pick the best, the most favorite, the things that make all of you really happy, get rid of the rest.
Create a daily schedule that flows and gives everyone a sense of the day and how it will go. Be flexible. Cut cost and make a household budget. Live within your means. Get rid of all the stress. Find your happiness.