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?