What Do You Do When Simplifying Isn't So Simple?

What Do You Do When Simplifying Isn’t So Simple?

What Do You Do When Simplifying Isn't So Simple? Has the stuff creeped in to your home, even through your efforts to minimize and simplify? Is it threatening to take over, the way it is at our house? Is it overwhelming you and causing you stress? This is for us!

By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

Too many times over the past year my husband and I have looked at each other in exasperation and exclaimed, “TOO MUCH STUFF!”

It happens when…

…our laundry pile has stopped fitting inside the hamper and has, instead, exploded over the top, down the sides, and all over the floor of our room.

…our kids seem to have dumped out every container of toys that they own and then whine and complain when we tell them it’s time to clean up.

…we open a cupboard door in the kitchen and things spill out on top of us when we’re trying to just remove one item.

Maybe you can relate? Has the stuff creeped in to your home, even through your efforts to minimize and simplify? Is it threatening to take over, the way it is at our house? Is it overwhelming you and causing you stress? It is for us!

I’m pretty sure our family is not alone here. Despite the fact that simplifying and minimalism seem to be popular buzz words around the web these days, I can’t help but think that one of the reasons these ideas are so popular is because simple living is really not so simple for many of us.

And yet, that simplified lifestyle is something that is so very appealing.

Our Story

When our family moved to our current home just over four years ago, we got rid of about half of the stuff that we had at our previous home. We were downsizing and feeling the squeeze of having too much stuff. We said that we wanted to keep our stuff under control and not let it get out of hand the way it had at our previous house.

But that’s definitely easier said than done. Over the past four years we’ve added two more kids to our family, and our little house now feels like it is bursting at the seams.

We do try to be careful about the amount of stuff that we bring into our home, and we also clean out and purge on a regular basis. We have had a garage sale every summer since we moved into this house, and we also regularly sell stuff on Craigslist and Facebook groups, as well as take trips to the thrift store.

Yet, somehow, the stuff just keeps on piling up.

For example, our three kids share a room. Our house is an older home with tiny closets. My husband recently made a really awesome built-in cabinet for our kids’ closet to help store their clothes, but during the change of seasons from spring to summer, and trying to figure out how to fit three kids’ clothing into one small space, things got just a little out of hand.

Let me be real here: this was what our kids’ room looked like for a few weeks.

Kids Room Before

Kids Room Before 2

Yikes! That is not pretty and something I’m definitely not proud of. In fact, it’s totally embarrassing. But yes, plain and simple, we had too much stuff in that room!

One of my personal issues is that I am easily overwhelmed. When things look like this, I don’t even know where to start. I think one of the first rules of organizing is just to get everything out, right? So that’s what I ended up doing – I took everything that wasn’t necessary out of the room. Sure, I still need to go through that box and get rid of at least half of the stuff, but at least my kids can live in peace in their room now.

Kids Room Clean

Kids Room Clean 2

Ahhh! Much better, especially the cute baby! But the kids still have a ton of clothes (especially the baby – that’s her cubby on the top left!). That’s still something we need to work on!

As we have realized that we have too much stuff, we have also realized that the solution isn’t to move into a bigger house, the way that some people might. It’s not an option within our budget right now, and, really, we just need to get rid of our stuff. We have too much stuff!

But honestly, sometimes “simple living” and “simplifying” and “minimalism” seem like grand ideas that don’t really work for real people living real lives with real families.

How much stuff should you keep? What about stuff that you’re saving for the future or “might” need later? What about stuff that I know I don’t really need, but I really want to keep? Do you ever feel this way?

So my husband and I are trying to figure out how to take back control of our stuff, our house, our life, while still maintaining our real life and our real family. Let’s face it: there are some things that are just pretty necessary when you have kids, as much as you might like to get rid of them! (Anyone else ever daydream about throwing all your kids’ toys away?!)

And despite all of the touted benefits of minimalist living, and our true desire to live with less stuff, I still feel like it can be hard to take that initial step and really start getting rid of stuff and making a dent in the amount of stuff that we have.

Cleaned Out Closet

Where to start?

As I mentioned, when you have too much stuff it can easily be overwhelming and you can be unsure of where to even begin getting rid of things. Before we started, my husband and I were discussing in circles where to start getting rid of stuff in our home. We each have different ideas about it.

One of us thinks we need to start in the basement storage room, where we tend to toss stuff that we don’t use on a regular basis, but we don’t really want to get rid of. This person believes that once we have the basement clean and organized we will have a place to move stuff and put stuff away from our regular living space.

So, every once in a while, my hubs will go down there and spend a whole day organizing and putting stuff away, and it will stay nice like that for a while, but then we just add more stuff to the newly-cleared floor!

The other one thinks that we should start with the things that we use and affect us every day – paring down our clothes so that our closet isn’t so stuffed and our laundry doesn’t pile up so high, scaling back the kids toys so they’re not so overwhelming to pick up, clearing out our kitchen cupboards so they’re not bursting and spilling out onto us all the time.

After some healthy debate this past month, my plan won, and we spent some time cleaning out our closet and getting rid of a lot of clothing that we hadn’t worn in a long time! We also removed most of our kids’ toys from their room to an upstairs playroom, but we still need to go through and get rid of more of them.

And we still have lots of areas to work on, like the kids’ clothing, the kitchen cabinets, the hall closet and the bathroom cabinets. Oh, and of course, there’s the basement, too.

But, the progress we have made, even though it may seem small, helps us to see how living with less is really better, and motivates us to keep going on this journey toward simpler living and getting rid of more of our stuff. Now, when I open my closet and see that my clothes have space around them, and I know that I can actually wear everything that’s in there, it makes me want to tackle the hall closet and guest room closet, and every other closet in the house.

When I look at my kids’ room, instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel empowered to get rid of more stuff so their room can stay that way.

And I want the rest of our house, and our lives, to match the peaceful and uncluttered feeling I get when I walk into their room. It’s contagious!

It may be a long journey for us, and it will probably be something we will continually have to work at to keep the stuff from piling up again. But I really think that it will be worth it. And when we look back, we will be so glad that we made the decision and took the steps to live fuller lives with less stuff.

What about you? Do you long to live a simpler life, but have a hard time actually getting rid of your stuff?

Is minimalism appealing to you, but it feels like the steps to get there are overwhelming? How do you get started with digging out from under the stuff that has accumulated around your home? And how do you keep yourself motivated? 

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  1. I could have written this! I did a good job of decluttering our house but most of the clutter just ended up in our garage. And I tried to limit clothes for my 4 kids but it is still too much. And the toys! I feel like I got rid of 90% but, like the clothes, it is still too much. We are moving into a slightly larger home in a month but it has less storage space. So I need to be brutal with the move. Glad to know I am not alone!

  2. Less can certainly be “more” when in balance. What you do not want is to find you actually need something then have to go spend money for something that you once had, but gave it away in an effort to have a spotless, lived in home, a desire to appear to be more minimalist because everyone else is doing it, etc. That is simply not wise. A lived in home is a comfortable home. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of the “minimalist” look – the cold, hard wood-look (few are actually wood) ; the “put everything away and keep your house photo-op ready look”; to me it screams, “people don’t actually live here”. Find the balance. That’s always the trick, isn’t it?! (And, yes, I have children!)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Elizabeth, and I totally agree – you want your home to feel comfortable and lived in! I don’t like the completely bare, minimalist look either. And I definitely don’t feel the need to have a photo-op ready, perfectly clean home all the time. As you can tell from the pictures, my home is far from that! But when the stuff becomes too much so that your family cannot be truly comfortable, and you are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, that’s when you know it’s time to cut back on the amount of stuff you have! That’s just how our family has been feeling recently, and each family needs to figure out the right amount of stuff that works for them.

  3. The biggest challenge is not buying the stuff in the first place. Receiving gifts is also a challenge. We don’t typically do birthday parties so that helps but I’m wondering if we can opt out of Christmas this year.

  4. I think “simplifying” is a very individual concept and what looks “simplified” to one may not to another. I’ve been blessed with having lots of storage space in every home/townhome we’ve lived in, but the challenge has always been in keeping stored items (1) organized and (2) accessible. Regardless of how much or little storage you have, if items are not organized and accessible they might as well not be in your space. I never feel comfortable in cluttered spaces, but I also didn’t want my kids to grow up in a neurotic home. Our simplifying when our children were young came in keeping a handle on extra-curricular activities from usurping our lives, maintaining a strict hold on Sundays as a day of rest, and having a very, very functional mud/laundry room – that was my lifesaver!

    1. You’re so right Mindi – simplifying will look different for each family, and having a simplified calendar is definitely also important! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. Yes! My husband and I are going thru this exact thing right now. The sad thing is that 4 months ago, when moving across country for the military, we doubled our square footage. I thought for sure that in our previous tiny rental houses we had gotten rid of all we could, that our family of 5 just needed more space. I was SO wrong. Not only do I feel like we are drowning in this 3,000 sq foot house, but it just makes me want to get rid of everything we own. This is a beast to clean, so the fewer things we have, the easier it will be, right?!? But you’re right in saying it’s not always that simple. The boxes of baby clothes that take up space, but are a lot cheaper to keep around than buying new clothes every baby. The pared down sentimental stuff, because I am not leaving NOTHING for my kids and grandkids to look at. Yet I eye all of those boxes suspiciously, because simpler just seems better. It is just a never-ending process.

  6. I’d like to offer a suggestion: get rid of those plastic hangers and replace them with those new thinner slim-line hangers.

  7. I tend to start with what is visible every day in the common areas of the house. Then I move to the (closed) cabinets. Next the closets in the smaller bedrooms. As long as I cannot see the clutter, it is a little easier to live with until it can be dealt with.

  8. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been feeling a strong pull toward simplifying and minimalist living lately. I’m so overwhelmed by things and it’s hard for me to feel at peace in my own home. With Baby #2 on the way, I feel like I’ve started nesting 5 months early. I’ve been taking lots of purging baby steps lately and the more I do, the more motivated I am to do more. Sometimes I look around and see all that still needs to be done, though. Your post helps me know that it’s not a 1-2-3-done process, but a continual effort with a huge payoff along the way!

  9. Sigh. The photo of your children’s clothing strewn all over the bedroom floor is reminding me of our younger 2 boys’ clothing. It appears a storage tub exploded all over the floor of their closet. (Which it actually did) Worse yet, there are 2 or 3 more tubs stacked in the hallway with clothing thrown on the top. I’m going to get to that today. Yes. Today.

    1. I think you’ll feel SO much better once you take care of it, Kat, and wonder why you waited so long! I know that’s how I feel when I finally tackle a project that’s been hanging over my head! Blessings to you!

  10. Holy cow – it’s like you’re living my life! And it’s not just kids that somehow bring in more stuff and clutter – sometimes having kids just adds more stuff to what’s already there! I feel like I spend every single weekend organizing something or thinning out a closet or a room. It makes me mad and frustrated. But I also agree with Elizabeth – you can’t throw it all away or your house will no longer be a home!

    1. Hi Jill, I’m definitely not suggesting throwing it all away! For our family, we’ve realized that we don’t actually use most of the stuff that we are keeping out and around our home, that it is just taking up space and cluttering our lives, and making us unhappy. That doesn’t mean we get rid of it all, but it does mean that we are taking a good hard look at what we really do actually need and use on a day to day, and week to week basis. Hopefully we’ll get to the point that we only keep out the things that we actually use, so we don’t have to feel like we’re constantly organizing and cleaning out our stuff.

  11. I went through the house – listed EASY to simplify rooms, Middle easy to simplify and DOWNRIGHT HARD to simplify rooms. Rule was – for every DH2S I got to choose 1 easy – it helped.

    For me – the bathroom was the EASY! What do I NEED in there – and put away ONLY that which was needed. The rest went either into “stores” for when I finally either wore out the stuff in the bathroom (ie, towels, washcloths), or used it up (toilet tissue) or couldn’t stand it anymore (shower curtain!) The Couldn’t stand – out it went! Used it up – self explanatory. If NOT used – EVER – out it went too! (ie, 5 gazillion hair conditioners – I don’t LIKE hair conditioners!) the Wear it out – got packed away – clean and neatly and labeled and put on a high shelf in the pantry (so I wouldn’t raid the box unnecesssarily!)
    At the time I started – MY ROOM was the hardest – with my closet being absolutely impossible. So – washed everything of MINE that I needed. Grouped things by season (4 – yup – FOUR seasons – sweater, long sleeved, short sleeved, no sleeve) – 4 boxes!) – and about 2 weeks supply of clothing ONLY, 1 week at best! Then went through item by item – does it fit? what season? fold and put/hang away (only keeping IN season stuff out). don’t worry about ironing or mending at this point – that will be later – unless you don’t mend (if this is the case then either learn or re-home!) Max number of blouses is 14 per season. If I see something I truly drool over – then something HAS to be re-homed OUT of the closet – and since I’m only keeping those things I truly do like anyway – that has to be unlikely! Slacks – are they winter only? and it’s summer? – well then IF YOU keep them – pack them away. Jeans – wear to work? or for around home? Grunge is no longer allowed (except for ONE pair ONLY – which are the painting ones! and to be kept OUT of the closet and with the home remodeling stuff!). Same goes for tees. and undies, bras, etc. swaggy, hole-y ripped, no longer cuts it. OUT it goes. 1-2 weeks worth undies only – same for bras, etc. You get the idea. Go through EVERYTHING of YOUR clothes. This includes the ironing pile, the mending-someday-I’ll get to it pile – EVERYTHING! including shoes. (you can only wear one pair at a time – think in terms of ONLY 3-4 pairs a season at most! For summer – something open toed and fun, a beige, a white, maybe a blue or brown. And for heaven’s sake – wear something GOOD for your feet!!!!
    AFTER you are finished with YOUR clothes – go through YOUR other stuff you keep in your room. Downsize, re-home and pitch what isn’t useable. I joined a Freecycle group – and LOVE it – have given away TONS of stuff – and gotten back some things I wanted. Stuff that didn’t freecycle – went to Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Goodwill.
    Don’t think of more than one hard and one easy AT MOST a week. The worst (for me that was the study – surprisingly the kitchen wasn’t that difficult – but the study – I have all these books, etc……) Don’t think of going through your dh’s stuff – that’s his job – and as long as you can close the door on his mess – do it! Kids – ummm – maybe post a sign up for requests for room helping and please apply to you. Kids may decide to do it on their own – and their priorities don’t need to be the same as yours! but if they DO ask for help – fine – give it – but only HELP – not take over! Child still has to be present and still has to make the major decisions. but consider that it is also overwhelming to the child as well. Keep in mind there are 4 seasons and stuff CAN be packed away and needs to be divided equally, that there IS freecycle for re-homing.

  12. Wow! Thank you for the very real look into your life. I am also one who gets overwhelmed with the clutter. I just don’t know where to start. I am always so great foul when I get control of our “stuff” back and things are neat and orderly but then ever so slowly the clutter begins again. I feel so much better knowing that I am not alone. Don’t you hate those drawers or closets that get out of hand? I am trying so hard to just let go of stuff, like the 7 year old, pilly, t-shirt that has a stain on the front from frying chicken. You know, I don’t need to save clothes to wear around the house. What is it $15.00 to replace. What am I thinking?

    1. Yes, for me and my family I have realized that for a long time I worked really hard at “getting organized”. I thought if I could just get organized better that things would be better – I would be able to keep the house clean and maintained and I would feel less overwhelmed. But what I’m realizing now is that for our family, at least, it’s not about being “organized”. It’s about simplifying. And when we have less stuff we are more organized and stuff is easier to keep clean and maintained. It’s not about organizing the stuff we already have, it’s about getting rid of stuff we don’t truly need or love, and then the organization will follow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  13. THANK YOU for posting real life before shots!! It’s refreshing and motivating to see how far you have come. I’m heading over to our hall closet right now to get rid of more stuff!!

    1. Good for you Ashlee! And thank you! It’s a bit intimidating to show those kind of pictures, but it helps us all to feel like we’re not alone, right?!

  14. Yes, we are feeling like moving toward a minimalist lifestyle, too! We’ve only been married for three years, but we’ve been blessed to where our cup is literally running over! We’re tired of so much stuff! A yard sale is on the calendar for next Friday, and EVERY DAY I’m adding more and more to the pile!

  15. I know EXACTLY how you feel, story of my life… Seems like an unattainable dream no matter how much I declutter. Sigh.

  16. Instead of looking at what we don’t need, we look at what we DO need, to make life efficient and rich. And then clear out everything else.

    So, we DO need bookcases, filled with books. And we regularly weed through those to see if any are ready to go to the used book exchange to be swapped for new titles.

    We DO need baking pans, but the oven only holds two at a time, so we only have two of each (and three pie plates). We can only use one pancake flipper at a time, so we only own one. We have twelve place settings of dishes, utensils, and cups, so we could have a big company dinner or go two meals without doing dishes, but the kitchen can *never* get overwhelming, which is great!

    We DO need toys, but we streamline to the BEST toys: a few pretty baby dolls, the 18″ child dolls, the dress-ups (real, washable things!), quality art supplies, miniature kitchen things (and we use playmats for kitchen and tea party, rather than big built kitchens), a nice big tote (that a child can easily carry) of Lego bricks, that sort of thing. Having a fairly “minimalist” attitude toward playthings doesn’t mean the kids are bereft of toys. In fact, our little girls have been sorting lately, because THEY want to streamline a bit more (and likely present me with a list of “needed” dress-up additions. 🙂 )

    With baby things, we still stayed minimalist, with each baby getting 14 new onesies and a few held-over things, etc; all the “new baby” gear fits in one storage tote. We donate heavily to other families and thrift stores. We’ve had 17 years of helping extended family understand our family culture, so gifts have become far more useful and fun, and less stuff-burdening.

    Our house is not minimalist; we DO practice a fairly mindful concept of abundance, and enjoy every single thing we own! If it’s not beautiful or useful, why have it?

  17. I truly agree with your ideas, however, I struggle with a husband who won’t let go of stuff. I think he’s technically a hoarder and it makes our marriage difficult. I sometimes sneak stuff out behind his back to the Goodwill or trash without his knowledge to keep the clutter down. Do you happen to have any welcome advise on that? I have been praying fervently for divine intervention and still patiently waiting for God’s response.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      It’s so hard when you have a husband that’s not on board! Here’s some advice I gave to a reader on my blog: Maybe you could put some of your stuff from your main living areas – like kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom, that you don’t think you need or use on a regular basis, into a bin and store it in a lesser used part of the house, like your basement. Then you wouldn’t actually be getting rid of the stuff, but it would help your living areas to be less cluttered, and hopefully help you to feel less overwhelmed. If your husband can see how much better things can be with less stuff around (and maybe that you don’t actually need all the stuff after all), he’ll be more likely to get on board with you. One thing I’m realizing is that just because something is a kitchen gadget, or bathroom item, doesn’t mean it has to be stored there all the time. If it’s just taking up space and creating clutter because I don’t really use it, but I’m not sure I want to get rid of it yet, then it can live in the basement for awhile while I decide. It doesn’t have to make my life more stressful and overwhelming by living in the space where I’m “supposed” to use it. I hope that helps!
      Blessings to you!

    1. me too Carla! plus i am recovering from a long physical illness that leaves me very weak very quickly- in addition my family just follows behind me leaving stuff out etc… i’m soooo overwhelmed… need to start with one cupboard.

  18. Excellent post! When we moved into our current house I was about to pop with our third child. We were moving from a 900 sq ft apartment and thought we hit pay dirt with an 1800 sq ft house! Now with #6 on the way, we feel like we are jamming everyone into crevices just to fit, but I haven’t given up hope yet! I am absolutely in agreement that the more we can cut the clutter the more peaceful our lives will be, and that is just what we have been doing. Thankfully it is helping us to feel more calm while we are still in this house! Praise The Lord for that! Thanks for the great post, and important reminder to return to the simple things in life.

    1. I have to laugh…this week we are moving from a 900 sq ft home to an 1800 sq ft home, and I’ve been thinking how spoiled I’m going to be with all the space! Everything about our new house is bigger, from the kitchen and living room, to having an actual laundry room and a garage(we’ve never had those!). We only have 2 kids thus far, so with 3 bedrooms, it’s perfect. I can imagine that if we have more children, we may feel the cram. My hubby says he could potentially convert the garage to a bedroom if needed one day…
      My dad told me to give it a few years and I’ll be wishing for bigger, but I’d rather be content and constantly be simplifying. I don’t feel the need to fill every empty space with furniture or decorations. I like open space! I’ve gotten rid of quite a bit while packing, and I’m hoping to purge even more while unpacking. Initially, we will be kind of forced to live very simply, as the house still needs lots of work. I’m going to keep as much in the garage as we can. Maybe that will help me realize how much more we could live without!
      I totally agree…less clutter = more peace and calm. : )

  19. I crave simplicity and can’t stand clutter… and yet struggle with balance.

    Amy Daczyzn of The Tightwad Gazette used to point out the if you have room to store an item which may be useful again, the frugal thing is to store it. I have repeatedly found this to be true and I have been able to share with others as well.

    On the other hand, order is so much easier to achieve (and teach to children) with less.

    I think that a good balance depends upon the deeper motivations we have. Do we crave simplicity to look like a magazine or because we want to be freed to honour God with less distraction? Are we acquiring stuff because of an issue with discontent or greed?

    I don’t know if I’ll ever find the balance, but I do hope that I can address some deeper heart issues along the way. In the meantime, I regularly declutter, donate, and organize – partly for my sanity and partly because I believe that God is a God of order!

    1. Hi Ellen, It can be hard to balance the frugal side with the simplified side. What I’ve learned, is that for our family, even if we have the space to store something, our family is not the “organized” type, and so storing those useful, but not necessary for us right now, things just creates more clutter, distraction and overwhelm in our lives, and may cause us to waste money in other ways – as I outlined in my post on my blog about why our family wants to live with less stuff. So I think it’s really important to take your and your family’s personality types into consideration when deciding whether organizing your stuff or simplifying your stuff by getting rid of it is more important for your family and home.

      And I love what you said about looking at the deeper heart issues behind our stuff. It is so important to ask ourselves these questions and to strive to honor God through our decisions about our stuff. Thanks for bringing that up! I know for me, I crave less stuff not because I want a perfect looking house or life, but because I don’t feel like I can most effectively love and serve my family and others when my house is cluttered and messy, which is one of the things I know God has called me to as a wife and mother.

  20. I agree with Erin. The place to start is at the store. Be it new or thrift. Sometimes we may think that clothes multiply in our closets, but they really don’t! 🙂 If the amount of “stuff” is increasing, I need to watch what I carry into our home. Before purchasing anything, decide then if we really need it. It is so easy to use shopping for some kind of therapy. And then I get distressed about the clutter it creates and need therapy for that too!
    For me it often comes down to just saying “got enough, don’t need”.

  21. I know how you feel with 3 kids crammed in one room. We have 4 kids (3 girls) so the girls all share a bedroom with 3 twin size beds in it! Things can get cluttered pretty fast with a lot of people in a small amount of space. I’m working on the less ‘stuff’ thing myself but it isn’t easy when you have 4 helpers undoing everything for you 😉

  22. We are struggling with this very concept right now but I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I started with our laundry making a reasonable number limit on how many items to have. I have about 8 shirts and 4 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of shoes, two dresses. Think capsule wardrobe. I also reduced the kids wardrobe to about the same plus two pairs of outside clothes. It’s been awesome! I no longer have to struggle to keep up with the laundry! One load each day and much easier to keep put away. Then, I started on the rest of the house. If it doesn’t get used regularly it went to the yard sale. I appointed one box for each child for my keepsakes and everything else gone! Organized what actually gets used in the kitchen and bathroom and only the toys that fit in the toy box got to stay. I am so excited! Now it only takes about half an hour to spot clean the entire house! The garage and office are next on the list. I have realized though, that I’ve really started thinking if we need something before I buy it. If it’s not a need or able to multi task or have a place it can call home, it doesn’t get brought home. This has helped so much. I mean really, how many jackets can we actually wear? How many pizza cutters do we really need? Etc.

  23. LOVE this post!!
    I am a naturally very organised person, so I love tidiness and efficiency.
    I got married 2 weeks ago, and creating our own home is a mental challenge for me – I picture a few months / years down the track, cluttered spaces full of things that we really don’t need. For me at this point, I think I need to relax a little more (otherwise I will drive my husband crazy!!), but remember to just keep an eye on things as I go.

  24. Yes, I agree that there is a balance between realizing that having kids means you can’t have that tidy house and that decluttering looks different for different families. I also agree with the comment that it appears that “minimalism” seems to be the trend these days. I’d like to offer a different perspective on managing clutter. I am a naturally very organized person, so for example, in my home clothes only belong either in a drawer, on a hanger, or in the laundry hamper. Bedrooms are always picked up before bedtime, etc. Having lived with various roommates prior to marriage, I know that other personalities struggle with organization and that clothes get tossed onto the floor instead of being put away. Think Myers-Briggs “P” versus “J” on the personality profile. However, even those not inclined to natural organization can develop new habits. (British educator Charlotte Mason speaks a lot regarding habits in her writings.) Another idea is to balance your weaknesses with the gifts that others have. I have one friend who struggles with organization and clutter. She and I trade in that I go over and work alongside her to organize, purge, sort, etc. She is a massage therapist and gives me massages. Win-win! Organizing actually gives me a high of sorts. So I guess I’m saying that I think a key to managing stuff is mastering organization of it. There are a lot of helpful websites and blogs out there to help in home organization. One tip I’d recommend is simply make it a habit to have all clothes, toys, school stuff, etc. picked up and put away before going to bed. (And, for what it’s worth, if opposites marry, then that happened to me and my husband is the exact opposite of me. His clothes end up in a pile on the floor three feet away from the hamper. It’s not because he needs less clothes, it’s because he chooses not to put them in the appropriate place. That’s another topic though.)

  25. it’s true! simplifying isn’t simple. We wanted to clutter down our living room but it seems that it is next to impossible. If you think about it, it seems so easy but in reality it isn’t.

  26. Thank you for your post, Emily – I completely relate, especially the feeling overwhelmed part. I get very easily overwhelmed when my house is a disaster and have been working on not stressing out no matter what.. anyway, my husband and I have been trying to simplify as well. We have been blessed with three children. One of our biggest problems in trying to declutter, particularly the children’s toys and clothes, is that we get loads of gifts from their grandparents. At one point, the children had over 60 stuffed animals ! – and no sooner do I get rid of 15-20 toys, when a box comes in the mail from grandma with more toys, clothes, or stuffed animals.. I feel terrible but sometimes as thankful as I am for their throughtfulness, I feel overwhelmed at yet another toy or even shirt/outfit that they just don’t need. What to do?

  27. Wow. I’m totally struggling with this too. This was the post I needed – with a healthy dose of reality in it. Too many times I see ‘organizing’ stuff and it just looks so impossibly far-removed from where I’m at. Thanks for sharing some ‘messy’ pictures too. That’s what I need to see to feel like you have something to speak to ‘the rest of us’ (the non-high-achieving-type-A-always-organized types).

  28. I, too, have issues with this. My fiance jokes that if anything ever happened to him, I would wind up on that hoarders show. In all honesty, he is a total minimalist, and I struggle with not letting my things get out of hand. I have recently made big strides with this and have started purging. It feels so good to get rid of the things that I don’t need. It is just difficult to start the process. I stumbled upon this verse when reading my bible one night. I go back to it frequently for inspiration: Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things and revive me in your way. Psalm 119:37

  29. Yes minimalism appeals! I first learned of it about a year and a half ago. I realized how much stuff I had, and that it didn’t make me feel good walking into the garage or closet full of stuff. I was very motivated to make a difference and declutter my stuff–i left my husband to do his stuff if he wanted. We were moving in three months so it was a great excuse. Fast forward to this year March… And we felt that living in an rv full time was a life we wanted. We paired down, sold, and donated so much stuff in the two month window before we had to move for my husband’s job. It was crazy busy but we did it. We both were finally on the same page, wanting to live simple and small. We only have few boxes at our family’s house (pictures, artwork–im an artist) and the rest is with us in our 37′ fith wheel. We live simply. We made it possible. We are almost debt free. Its an amazing feeling to have dreamed about something and then just go for it. We spend less time on the interent since we have limited data….no cable or Netflix…its quite amazing how much more time I’ve found to be with my husband, create art, and cook good food. Its liberating. We don’t have the same shopping habits or desires for things as we used to. Its a new life. We love it.

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