Creating My Own Happier Home

Creating My Own Happier Home

This post was inspired by the first month’s ideas of Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home — in which she discusses the nine-month experiment she ran to create happier surroundings. Join From Left to Write on January 6th as we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member of From Left to Write, I received a free copy of the book as fodder for this post.

“But, Maa-ahm, it’s really special to me.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this from Big. He’s sensitive — to the extreme. And though it’s lovely that he puts so much emotion into everything he does, it can get a bit out of control. He’s the only kid I know who can make a case for why we can’t get rid of the ball with the hole in it (because he made that outrageous 3-pointer with it), or the Happy Meal toy that he got three years ago (because it’s the only evidence left that he discovered a new passion for Chicken McNuggets).

I see junk. He sees a treasure. (And so it disappears when he’s nowhere to be found.)

I get it though, because I’m not much different. Goodness knows, if a stranger went through my closets and cabinets, they’d see a whole lot of junk. I see memories. Or the heart that went into buying me a gift my loved one was sure I’d adore…even if I didn’t. Letting go is hard. (And there’s nobody getting rid of my stuff when I’m not looking, it seems.)

But all the holding on is exhausting me. It’s taking mental and physical energy that I need to free up to do some really great things this year. So, I’m taking Gretchen’s advice and going “shelf by shelf”. Not literally, our house doesn’t have a lot of shelves — which, quite honestly, is part of the problem. But each day from now on, I’m going to hit a drawer, a shelf, or a closet and I’m going to let go. And I’m going to help my kids let go.

Since I have a hard time making decisions, I know I have to tackle this project with a plan. So I’ve made a list of questions and if I don’t answer yes to any of these, our local shelter will be that much happier — which will truly make me happier too.

Does it foster creativity?
Little has learned to love drawing. Big is a writing machine. Pink is a princess LEGO maniac. My kids are opening their minds and I love watching them grow. I, too, want to focus on creativity for myself, so I want to be sure I’m setting us all up for success.

Is it accessible?
That collection of 25 waterproof markers is great, but not if the kids have to ask me to get them out every time they want to draw. That totally flattering top does me no good in a ball at the back of a drawer. By getting things we don’t need out of the way and finding new ways to present the stuff we love, I’m confident we’ll be happier.

Does it make us feel good?
From clothes to dishes to dust collectors that send our allergies into a frenzy, I want to be sure we’re surrounded by things that bring us comfort and confidence.

Is it truly functional?
If we haven’t used it in awhile, or have had to use superglue one too many times, it goes.

Goodness knows there are plenty of things in our house that have heart that don’t fall into any of these categories. I’m picturing the boys’ junk drawer and just imagining all the things they’d say about old ticket stubs, swimming ribbons, and baseball cards. Heck, I’m picturing my linen closet where I tuck sweet pictures people give me, notes from loved ones, and goodness knows what else.

But (thanks, again, to Gretchen) I have a solution for that too. I’m going to get a plastic lidded box for each of us that will be kept in our backyard shed. We can put things with sentimental value that don’t need to be accessed daily in that box. My hope is that when we’re given a set amount of space to keep things, we’ll really think about whether an item is worth saving. And for those things we’re not so sure about, I’ll take pictures and/or write notes about them to include in the box. Because sometimes simply being able to jog our memories is invaluable.

While we’re just a few days in to this experiment, I’m feeling excited about the progress. Big’s dresser top is now manageable. The boys’ closet floors are cleared (and we found 10 pairs of shoes and 2 hats that don’t fit in the process). A few of my drawers now close without me having to shove things down. The book shelf in our family room is stocked with some of the kids’ favorite books — and they don’t risk breaking a toe when they all come tumbling down. Each “shelf” brings me a sense of accomplishment, freedom, and yes, happiness.

What little changes have you found make you happier?


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  1. says

    Ooh! I love your suggestions for “getting more” out of our beloved stuff.
    I never even really thought about making things more accessible, it’s so simple, and yet, I just didn’t realize how huge of an impact it could make. Looks like I’m doing some reorganization in the near future!

  2. says

    I haven’t started going “shelf by shelf” yet but I need to. I have, however, been more diligent about keeping the kitchen clean and doing the dishes throughout the day instead of having to face a big pile at the end of tht day when I’m most tired!

  3. says

    I also have to trash stuff when my oldest isn’t looking…she gets sentimental about everything! 😉 But you made me realize that I need to make more of my kids’ things accessible. I have so many supplies put up high so they don’t get misplaced that they never even get played with.

    • says

      Accessibility is one of those things that seems so obvious AFTER you make the changes. It’s really great to see kids helping themselves!

      Oh, and this morning? My son spent 30 minutes in a fit of tears over an old backpack in the donation pile. Sigh…

  4. Christina says

    Perfect timing! I was going through a huge haul of stuff today. It felt sooo good to pack up the car and make a run to Goodwill. There were some things that I wasn’t quite ready to part with either. I really love the idea of making things accessible…therefore making the kids more independent! Because after this Christmas break, I’m feeling like they can’t do ANYTHING without me!!! ;). I’m sure I’ll miss that one day, but let’s just say I’m thrilled they are back to school tomorrow! I still have a lot of drawers, closets, and ahhhhh the garage to clean out, but I’m excited to try and live a more simplified life without all the JUNK! Happy 2014!

  5. says

    We’ve been slowly getting rid of things in a similar fashion. Except right now we have pile of boxes that need to be donated! My husband was going to drop them off Friday except that we had a snow day. Hopefully this week!

    • says

      Afraid this California girl can’t blame it on the weather, but I did need my husband to help me this morning because a couple of the boxes were too heavy for me. Goodbye weight of unneeded stuff. Ahh, it feels good! Best of luck to you, Kim!

    • says

      Good luck, Michelle. This morning in our house was proof that it’s not easy. We had a long talk with our son about why other people truly need the things we don’t use any more. I’m hoping at some point it will sink in!

  6. says

    It’s the sentimental things that keep me buried in stuff. Try as I might to toss them it seems I always find a drawer with just enough space for an old plane ticket (they make great book marks!). My stuff makes me happy but getting rid of what we can’t use sounds dreamy. I love that your children appreciate your sense of sentimentality, how wonderful!

  7. says

    one reason i have always hated putting away laundry is because i can’t close everyone’s drawers very easily. i’m trying to make sure we only have enough clothes to fit in our drawers now so that the chore isn’t so unbearable!

  8. says

    This week my office is being remodeled at work. I found it interesting how focused I was working in a cube completely free of clutter. I will never be able to look at my messy desk the same way again.

  9. Lora says

    This post comes at the perfect time. I’m feeling so overwhelmed with presents from two birthdays and Christmas, all in less than a month. I’ve already filled up one box with old toys and it doesn’t even feel like a dent has been made. The problem is that all the toys that Oliver is done with are going to be age appropriate for Maeve in about 6 months. Arg.

  10. says

    Happy New Year to you too, my friend! I totally understand. When my kids were younger, I tried to collect toys for charity at their bday parties, but they get wise to the whole gift thing eventually. We actually put a bunch of toys in the attic that would be “appropriate” now for Pink about a year ago, but she got so many new things between her bday and Christmas that they’re still up there collecting dust. It’s amazing what we think we can’t live without. Good luck!!


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