Today I am delighted to welcome Jen Burns from So They Can Fly. Jen writes about intentional parenting and is the author of a number of books. I would strongly recommend you visit her awesome blog.
Over to Jen….
I don’t think most parents would literally tell their child, “My stuff is more important than you. I want to spend more time, energy, and money on my stuff, so that I have less time, energy, and money to spend on you.”
But without meaning to, we might be sending that message to our children.
Most parents I talk to want to have closer relationships with their kids. Even the grown up ones.
But so many of them talk about how stretched for time, energy, and money they are.
And as we all have found out, one thing it takes to build deep, close relationships…is time.
Most of us don’t have the opportunity to spend every waking moment doing exactly what we want.
We all have limited flexible time, energy, and money.
We make choices on a regular basis with what we do with those flexible resources in our life.
If we aren’t careful, we tend to give a lot of those resources to obtaining, organizing, and taking care of the things that are in our home, garage, basement, and attic.
Some of these things are needs. Some of these things enrich our home, our life, and our relationships.
But a lot of these things do NOT.
I want to talk about these things.
They are in our way and are consuming vital time, space, and energy in our home.
I have 6 kids. I definitely feel the pull of the time constraints. I only have so many days. I only have so many hours in each of those days. I have to choose what I want to spend them doing.
Every family is different, so every family will call different things necessary, and other things clutter.
In our house, dolls and their accessories that are being played with are NOT called clutter. My 2 younger girls get great joy out of playing with their dolls and making doll clothes. Having a place to store these things has made a big difference for their room. Since they want to keep those things in their room, they don’t have room for a lot of other things. They made a choice on what was most important to them.
We have 3 huge totes of legos in our garage. They are necessary for my oldest son’s brick film movies. At this time, legos are not considered clutter. He has chosen to spend money, time, and energy on making brick films. They are important to him, and so they are to us. He also has costumes, soft lights, and other movie making equipment that are being stored.
In our living room, we have a practice balance beam. Personally, I would not choose to have a balance beam permanently in our living room for decoration, but it is used on a regular basis, and it is the best place for storing it in our house. So it isn’t clutter because it is useful to my girls.
We have a lot of people that eat at our house. We have quite a few plates, bowls, and silverware. Even when we have pared back to just one plate, bowl, cup, and utensils per person, it was a lot!
Our size family dictates a bit more stuff that needs to find a home.
So what IS clutter in our house?
- Craft supplies I haven’t used in a year.
- Cook books (I use the internet for most of mine now)
- Clothes we haven’t worn during the appropriate season.
- Shoes we’ve outgrown or don’t wear.
- Magazines and books that we aren’t reading. (We each have a few books that we hold on to for sentimental reasons, but we are Kindle users, and weekly visitors to our local library.)
- Toys that we don’t play with. (even dolls and stuffed animals)
- Things that don’t neatly fit into the space of our home.
- Odds and ends that come from re-decorating a spot, or moving.
- Multiples of things. (Unless we actually need them)
- Piles of papers.
- Linen and blankets that we don’t use.
- Kitchen gadgets that don’t get used.
- Totes of “just in case” items
- Piles of pictures from back when you would develop whole rolls at a time
- Boxes of kids’ school work and crafts
Does that help? Everyone is going to have different things that are clutter. Give yourself permission to find what is clutter to you.
Whatever it is for you… getting rid of clutter helps you be able to focus on those things that you DO love, DO enjoy, and DO want to spend time on.
And one of the most important things we ever spend time on is our relationships.
If getting rid of enough stuff will give me more time to invest in my relationships… it is worth the regular purging that needs to happen.
If decluttering can help me not waste money, then I can use some of my flexible money on making memories with my family.
If I can spend less of my energy on cleaning and organizing my stuff, I can gain more time talking, listening, and sharing experiences with my family and friends.
I want my kids to see that they come before the relationship I have with my stuff. I love the phrase “hold on to things loosely.” I want to enjoy what I have, but never at the expense of my relationships. They are the best things I will ever enjoy.
If you want some very practical steps in decluttering, my husband, Mike Burns, has released a video course titled, “How to Declutter any Space at Work or Home.” You can find the course here.
Jen Burns blogs regularly about intentional parenting, and has authored 3 children’s books, and one for parents. Her latest book, More Than Things: A Children’s Book about Gifts encourages children that people are more than the things they can give them. She is currently residing in Phoenix along with her six energetic kiddos and her college sweetheart, Mike Burns. You can connect further with her on the So they can fly Facebook page, and sign up for weekly emails at Sotheycanfly.com.
Photo credit: SJ Bridgeman Photography