Purging Lesson

Today was the day. I had had enough of the clutter. Namely, my kids clutter.

(Actually, I had had enough weeks ago, but today was the first time a few free hours coincided with my frustration.)

It was too much STUFF. I’m sure you’ve been there.

Now to be fair, we live in a small space. (A very small space, if you don’t know. A 32 foot travel trailer.)

And we are a fairly big family.
(Two parents, 4 kids, 1 Doberman.)

As a result, my tolerance for “stuff” is pretty low.

It doesn’t take much to weigh our space down and make it feel incredibly cluttered.
And when we aren’t traveling, well meaning relatives like to hand out gifts and trinkets and take my children to the arcade. I’ll keep names anonymous to protect the “innocent.”

On top of the extra toys that find their way into my kids bedroom, they always have a great talent for collecting other items.

Sticks. Rocks. Dried flowers. Bugs in boxes. Bits of paper. Shiny candy wrappers. Popped balloons. Broken crayons. Tags from clothes. Discarded hair accessories from Walmart parking lots.

You know, real valuable items.

Needless to say, with four hoarders in one tiny room, things had gotten out of HAND this summer.

Tonight I had HAD it. I instructed the kids to bring everything they owned out of their bedroom. I warned them about the difficulty we were about to face together, but let them know I believed in them and that in solidarity we would conquer both their mess and their feelings of sadness and betrayal. I then had them each pick 10 items they couldn’t live without and told them I would take care of the rest.

To my utter shock, there was very little issue.

Seeing all of their belongings laid out was kind of fun for them. They selected their favorites, many of which they had forgotten existed in the mess, and went to happily arrange those items in their room. I was still left with probably 80% of their toys, so I sorted through and kept a bin of blocks, a Little People camper, a box of cars, a few stuffed animals, and a box of LEGOs.
The rest was trashed. (Minus a few things in great condition to pass on to friends- not many things made the donation pile, I’m sad to say. My kids play hard and dirty.)
Two big black garbage bags later, we swept the floor and made beds and marveled at the space. As I tucked them in tonight, my oldest commented on how much better he liked his room, while the little ones cuddled with stuffies they haven’t seen in weeks.

As I ate my 3 nightly chocolate bars I hide in the freezer (just kidding – I don’t eat them every night. Just until they’re gone. Sometimes I can’t buy more for a few days) I planned similar purging for the rest of the trailer. This isn’t new to me. To live tiny with so many people, it’s become pretty habitual and I still get behind and overwhelmed at times.

But tonight I considered how content the kids were – going to bed with less. Which makes sense to me, because a clean environment always makes me happier.

But maybe the lesson extends beyond the importance of just having a tidy home.
Maybe when we have less, we are better able to focus on what’s most important.

And I don’t just mean things, although that’s an obvious start.

Maybe it’s less on our to do list. Less expectations on ourselves to be perfect. Sometimes even less friends.

When you subtract the things that aren’t adding value, you have more energy and appreciation for what remains.

If your life feels cluttered, try and take the time to sift through. Pluck out only your favorites, the things that add value, the top priorities for you and your family, and the things that fulfill you the most.

And then just bag up the rest.

Michelle Mattison
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