Recently Read: Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker

On my last visit to the library, I picked up a slim volume with a very hopeful, though possibly oxymoronic, title: Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker. Since the fall, I've been spending some serious time trying to organize our home and I figured this quick read would help me in this endeavor.

It did and it didn't. Let me explain.

Becker's message is simple: forget about organizing your stuff. Instead: GET RID OF MOST OF IT.  He's got a blog and a number of books out that expand on this minimalist message and so I've spent some time perusing it all. But the title of this particular book contained the mystery I really want solved: how to manage a clutter-free life with children. I certainly think I could be an official minimalist - if I didn't live with two small humans whose entire existence appears to be dedicated to the stuffing of every closet and the littering of every horizontal surface.

(For the sake of this post, we're leaving my husband out of this. But he does live here, too. AHEM.)

I am sentimental about a few possessions so I appreciated Becker's advice to chose carefully what items to save, to remove as much as possible around them and then show them off.  I often feel like having too much stuff robs me of my enjoyment of what special items I do have.

After finishing this book, I found myself looking at our home in a new way. Every room gets my hard appraisal: what in this space is truly necessary? What do I think is beautiful? If something is neither necessary or beautiful, I try my best to get rid of it.

So I've been slowly divesting our rooms of stuff.

But now comes the harder part: keeping stuff out of our home. I don't enjoy shopping and have a ruthless ability to get rid of things before they even enter the house. But how in the world do I convince the rest of my family of the need to stem the tide of crap that flows into our house on a daily basis?

Becker points to our influencing power as a parent and partner; that is, if we show our families how much better life is with less, they will follow our example.

Yeah. That's not happening too much around here.

Both my girls are collectors. They want to keep bags of rocks from any hike, every valentine from their school party and each and every toy they've ever touched. It is a battle to get them to let go of things and so instead of relying on inspiring them, I am once again covertly disgorging their junk from every surface while they are at school or asleep.

Before reading this book, I thought the answer to my clutter struggles would be found in the aisles of the Container Store.  Surely with just the right closet organizer, all my clutter issues will be solved. I still think that organizing things well makes a difference and I am still forever in search of the perfect system for organizing pretty much every closet and cabinet. But I am grateful for the wake-up call: it's much easier to get our things organized - and keep them organized - if there are less of them.


Kara Keenan said...

I'm the most unsentimental Mom in the world. I throw out the kids stuff while they sleep. That way they don't see it go, and honestly, they don't miss it.

Erin G said...

This sounds like a similar premise to the japanese art of tidying up lady. I love the idea but I need concrete examples of how to get rid of kid things that are special to them. (Just because *I* know it is junk, doesn't mean THEIR feelings about it are junk, and I want to respect their kid-version of sentimental value.) Ahhhh. Maybe I should read this.

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