Sometimes people look at me cross-eyed when I say, “we live in 1600 square feet.” Like it’s incomprehensible in this age of huge houses—especially here where prices “per square foot” are so cheap—that any four-person family with the means to live in a larger house would actually CHOOSE to live in anything less than 3000 square feet. I sometimes wonder if the person I’ve confessed this to is silently pitying me—assuming I long for a huge McMansion on a acre (or more) out in the county.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s strangely satisfying to realize that we use EVERY SQUARE FOOT of our house. There are no rooms that never get entered. There is no corner that we don’t occupy.
But obviously that efficiency of space has its own unique challenges and can quickly become INefficient. If you’re not a good “stuff ” editor (ahem), living small + more stuff than you really need – functional storage space = Chaos. I was a liberal arts major, but even I know that equation doesn’t work. And that’s our situation. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been chipping away at The Chaos that’s taken over—specifically the kids’ stuff, but the grown-up stuff too.
We’ve performed the classic “Keep, Toss, Donate, Consign” on the girls’ toys in the past few weeks. If you’re looking for guides for getting rid of the toys that have taken over your whole house, check out these links to help you gain control of The Chaos.
- The 7-day Toy Cure is the primary resource you need. It took me longer than 7 days (I had to do it when the girls weren’t paying attention), but I eventually got it done. (Big Tip: don’t let Toss and Donate stay in the house). The Keep pile still needs some work, but we effectively cut The Chaos by half. Kids can’t be present during this time because nothing is junk to them. Not even the toys missing heads or other parts.
- The Toy Library will effectively cull what’s left or, at the very least, get half of the toys out of the house and into storage in the garage. I especially like this from the author of the Toy Library idea: Reminder for relatives that buying more ‘stuff’ is not helpful. Especially if you get them to help you either make the shelves or sort things into the bins when they visit. And we parents are as guilty, but relatives also give us stuff that just adds to The Chaos and thus the stress. There will have to be some tough love there, but it’s gotta be done. Remember, kids: a sane mommy is a sane household. I’m *really* hoping they just forget the out-of-sight toys.
As any parent knows, this is an ongoing struggle since kids outgrow everything. I waver between keeping or tossing clothes for the younger one because the girls were born in opposite seasons (so most stuff barely fits the younger one). Plus, there’s sentimental attachment to some of the clothes and I have to respect that. The best advice I have is to:
- Be ruthless while somehow not being callous of other people’s attachments. Putting stuff in a maybe-get-rid-of/half-way-house kind of box might help ease the process.
- Donate the clothes to a charity, then someone less fortunate than you will benefit from some nice clothes (and usually there’s a tax deduction you can take for donations).
- Consign the clothes, then you get the benefit of reclaiming some of the money you originally spent albeit via quite a large chunk of time and effort preparing the clothes for sale.
Once you’ve cleared out the kid’s stuff, you can move on to your stuff. There are lots of options for getting rid of the clutter and stuff that you don’t need (at least these are the items we’re getting rid of). Of course, you’ll need to figure out what you’re going to “Keep, Toss, Donate, Sell/Consign.” Keep and Toss are easy, but then comes how to Donate and Consign (or sell outright).
- Local libraries: Our local library takes books to raise money for the library. It’s a great way to make sure your books will find a good home.
- Homeless or women and children’s shelters, other charities: books, clothing, furniture, household and kitchen items…pretty much anything that’s usable and in decent shape. This is the easiest way for us because most of these organizations will even come haul it away for you. Plus, you might get a tax deduction (check with your accountant…no tax advice from me).
- Craigslist: If the item is in good condition, you can sell it on craigslist.
- Freecycle: If you can’t bear to throw it away because, like me, you have nightmares about landfills and you don’t think anyone will want to buy it because it’s broken, doesn’t work, or is too weird, someone on Freecycle might take it. Trust me. People will take free stuff!
- eBay: The ultimate online second-hand store. Good for selling collectibles, clothes, anything. The only downside is you have to ship items to the auction winner, and this can be a hassle.
- Consignment stores: Again, lots of work for marginal return.
- Friends and family: you can always ask them if they want your stuff.
- Yard sale: classic way to Get Rid of Stuff
An Ongoing Process
We’re still in the beginning stages of purging and organizing, but what we’ve doing so far feels good. I can’t wait until we get to a point where I feel good about where we are. Right now, though, I’m just happy that we’ve taken the initial steps. In time, we can love (see?) our house again.
If you’d like to see what I’m planning on doing to get organized (storage and so forth), check out my Contain and Control “The Chaos” (Kids) and Save My Sanity (organize and store stuff) boards on Pinterest.