It’s PURGE WEEK (all caps because it’s that intense): that blissful institution of evaluating, purging, organizing, donating, and delighting in new space in our little house.
I’m a growing minimalist (oxymoron?), drawn to a sort of material and temporal simplicity. It’s during PURGE WEEK that I methodically approach each room and evaluate what can stay and what’s no longer welcome. Sometimes it yields enough “merchandise” for a yard sale or daily stops at the donation station in the Hobby Lobby parking lot; other occasions, my deep digging produces a neglected toy clandestinely slipped into the give-away bag. Either way, purging excites because less is more, y’all.
From the outside looking in, my efforts are an eye-widening weirdness meriting plenty of good-natured teasing from friends and family; but this quirk of mine is rooted less in cheap thrills and more in fortifying my marriage. Here’s my take on it: It is Andrew’s task as the breadwinner to provide the house for our family; it is my corresponding duty to reveal to him, through good management, that the home he gives us is enough. I’ve said the same about finances. This is the home his hard work secures. It’s paramount that we fit because 1) we have no immediate plans to move and 2) more importantly, that man of mine needs to see from me that what he has to offer works and works well.
If I abandoned my efforts, the stuff and excess would amount to frustration – hardly hospitable to its residents, let alone the visitors we’d never have. Because we six Scibas share 1200 sq. ft., I’m determined to make our house not only suffice, but be ideal for our us – it’s a stretch, I know; and I laughed in near-disbelief at myself when I told Andrew last night that I didn’t think a move would be necessary.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no doubt that more space would give us more breathing room, but I’m increasingly cognizant that smaller is sometimes better (<– a post to that effect on the horizon).
I have to be deliberate about the whole idea, but with spousal support and good stewardship at the heart of the mission, I’m making it happen to the best of my ability. Here are a handful of habits we put in place to keep accumulation down and space more open:
1) PURGE WEEK (obviously): From cleaning out the pantry to trashing half-used bottles of lotion, PW is a
celebration deliberate approach to sweep out stuff that’s no longer needed, wanted, or has been forgotten. The biggest challenge comes when items among our “excess” strike a sentimental chord. I have my late father’s super old Canon camera in his super old camera bag on the shelf in my closet and I’m not tossing that thing. It’s the clutter that tugs at my heart strings that stays, usually to collect another layer of dust, but with items of lesser significance, I wonder how much I really “love” the thing and whether someone else needs it more. Could someone else appreciate your extra stuff more than you do?
2) Purge clothes while folding: I’ve been washing, drying, and folding the same pair of sweatshorts for years (they’re as attractive as they sound). They’re uncomfortable and unflattering, yet they make it back to my drawer. I threw them out the other day. And it was amazing. Say it with me: I don’t have to keep the clothes I hate wearing…
I do the same with the kids’ clothes – are they outgrowing it? Do they hate wearing it? We hold zero prejudices against hand-me-downs in this house – we’re quite welcoming of them – but after going through innumerable boys, some t-shirts are just done.
3) Gift-free birthday parties: Our oldest received more toys than we could house for his 2nd birthday. Separately, dear friends of ours put gift-free parties in place for their children, and we gladly followed suit. Our kids’ birthday parties are usually gatherings with cupcakes and friends, complete with a “No presents please, just come play!” at the bottom of the [Facebook] invitation. It takes the pressure off parents to buy something and it’s fun to focus the boys’ anticipation on friends over presents. We’ve found putting a cap on the gift count increases the giddiness over what they receive from us and other family, instead of overwhelming them (and our house) with a heap of toys. Above all, it shows that friends and family are enough for celebration.
4) Nightly Reset: Before afternoon Quiet Time and bedtime, the whole fam puts everything back in its place. Dishes to the kitchen, toys to bedrooms, shoes and clothes away. The kids are big enough to help and little enough to be psyched over putting dirty clothes in the washer. No protest from me, plus it’s fantastic waking up to a tidy house. This hasn’t happened much lately, I’ll admit, but when we do put this reset into practice, a peace that surpasses understanding settles in my house and little uncluttered heart.
And I guess you’re wondering – That’s fab, Kate, but what does Andrew think of all this? I emailed him and this was his response:
“‘It pleases the mind of a king to have a trustworthy stewardess.’
Hmm…Having a tough time not sounding chauvinistic. What’s something you’d like for me to say?”
HA! When pressed again later, he said he didn’t even notice the fruit of my efforts. And honestly, that’s what I’m going for. Minimalism and simplicity yield a life lived more freely. The type of life where we can delight more in experience and don’t notice the material possessions around us as much. If we were tripping over junk with stuff spilling out of tightly slammed closets, I’m sure Andrew would share a piece of his mind if you know what I mean.
So, you’re welcome, Babe 😉 Anytime.