Several years ago when I was going through the crazy-making season of being a mom to two under 3, I started to realize how much stuff just happened upon us and ended up in my house. Infants and toddlers need big things: swings, highchairs, bouncing things, play pens, teaching to walk things, big strollers and little strollers (they need both), changing tables and then tiny porto potties. It seemed like everything the kids needed consumed so much floor space in the house. I told myself it was for a season, and it was, but then after those things went away other things kept coming – smaller things. . . so many smaller things. There were interactive loud obnoxious toys, plushies, big blocks and little blocks, tiny cars and dolls with elusive doll shoes, and puzzles with all of their pieces. There was also packaging from these small things that cluttered up the house as much as the toys themselves did.
We bought very little for the kids but we had so much donated to us by friends and gifted from relatives. We were blessed for sure but our blessings started to feel like a burden. I knew it was time to bless someone else, but how in the world was I supposed to manage a house of 4 and all of our stuff? Decluttering had never been a priority for me. If there was something that I wanted, I just bought it and if there was something that I didn’t want anymore I had enough room in my house to let it sit until I moved and was forced to deal with it.
With kids, it was different. No longer was I buying stuff when I wanted it, stuff was being given to us frequently which, in a lot of ways, took my preferences out of the equation. Instead of trying to control what everyone else did for my kids and act like a major ingrate, I knew I needed a system to better manage what left my house once the kids had outgrown certain things.
I started by asking myself, “Why is it so dang hard to stay on top of my clutter?” Honestly, having small children was just the kick in the rear I needed to see it but I had developed habits in my young adult life that had caused me to have a considerable amount of clutter from my own things. An angry weekend purge once every 6 months wasn’t enough to maintain a house that felt uncluttered and peaceful. Now with kids, there wasn’t enough time or desire to kill a whole weekend decluttering my house. I needed something stupid, simple.
The answer to my question was that nothing left my house unless it was trash. Having a trash can was second nature. I would have been disgusted with myself had I decided to not have a trash can. You probably agree that it would be hard to create a clean, quaint home without a trash can. I’ve never considered my trash can as an optional addition to my home. My clutter was causing some of the same negative feelings that I’d imagine I’d have if bags of trash were left in the corners of my house or under my furniture.
It was obvious that the answer wasn’t to make everything trash. I had to create an option for the things I wanted to donate that would be as easy as taking out the trash. I created a Declutter Accountability Station in my home (several at first), and wait for it. . .
It’s a box. That’s all. Just a box. So simple, yet so effective. At first I took 4 boxes and placed them smack in the middle of every busy room in my house and I just left them there for days. I figured (and I was right) that if I just did life in those rooms, that I would happen upon things that I wanted to put in the donation box.
The box was a game changer because when there was something that I wanted to donate instead of setting it back in its place to deal with later (which I never would because I was busy) now that item went into the Declutter Box. When the box was full, I took it out to the garage, called a local ministry for pick-up or dropped it off the next time I went into town. I’d buy another box and start again. I have been doing this for over 5 years.
Initially the boxes were in the middle of the rooms because I had a lot to donate and I knew it needed to be so obvious that I couldn’t ignore that it was there. Again, I was and still am a busy mom and I needed to develop a declutter habit with minimal effort. I also chose a box because it was rigid and I knew it couldn’t get lost under a pile of clothes. There was no way to mistake its purpose. Now that we are so accustomed to our declutter box (as much as our trash can), we keep it in the closet and the kids fill it up on their own faster than I do.
I’ve shared this method with so many women and the first comment I always hear is, “I have too much stuff for this to work.” I get that, but it’s about developing a clutter-conscious habit one baby step at a time. One full box is one box less of stuff in your home. Less is less no matter how you cut it and even a small amount of less is progress towards less chaotic spaces. One box at a time will start to make a big difference.
I understand there are other clutter causing factors to consider like buying too much or sentimental attachment, but that’s why I’ve written an entire curriculum around this concept. What started as a guideline for my small group ladies at our church is now available on Amazon KDP.
If you commit to keeping a Declutter Accountability Station in your home, I truly believe you’ll start to see the difference. It’s not about doing a big thing with fast results, but rather doable simple steps that are easy enough to fit into a busy life creating results behind the scenes. Your trash can is already doing this work for you with your trash. Put a system in place to stay on top of your clutter just the same. My prayer is that you find yourself on the pursuit to a Life Less Cluttered.