In the 14 years we have lived in our home, I have worked on decluttering it more times than I can count. Big projects, little projects, long term projects, and ten minute projects – I have done them all.
I shared with you my biggest problem with the decluttering experts’ advice. Today I am sharing what I have learned in my years of decluttering. There are three simple lessons.
Spoiler Alert: Only one of them has to do with decluttering.
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Empty spaces are dangerous
I am not talking about the danger of wild animals moving into open empty spaces. Rather I am talking about the innate sense my family seems to have – to fill a space.
Where I prefer margins, blank spaces, clean counters; my family seems to want to create piles – everywhere.
Thus the danger of empty spaces: they can quickly turn into free parking for all manner of clutter. As I mentioned, piles can quickly become clutter fixtures.
Keeping empty spaces empty is all about routines. Talking with kids about cleaning up more than once a day. Giving them kid-sized tasks and kid-accessible solutions to their clutter is key.
After almost 17 years of marriage, I was beginning to give up on “training” my husband to put his stuff in the “landing” spot I created for him. Yet he shocked me yesterday by opening a package from Amazon on the kitchen counter I had just spent 20 minutes scrubbing. The opening of the box on the clean counter wasn’t the shocker. What shocked me is: after he laid out all the items on the counter, he quickly put them all back in the box and took them to a place they belong!! My jaw might have dropped a bit.
Husbands are not “Trainable”
That story brings to another thing I have learned in my decluttering pursuits. It is not that husbands cannot learn to declutter or help to maintain a clean space. Rather it is that I don’t need to waste my time or energy attempting to change mine.
It adds almost nothing to my day to take a few seconds to pick up after my husband when he gets home from work. Another few seconds to pick up after him when he leaves for work in the morning. No big deal and absolutely nothing to complain about.
Accounting for all the things I do to keep our house a home he wants to come home to, expecting something in return for it, is just simply out of bounds. When he does pick up after himself, it is nice – for sure, but I do believe it to be a simple way to show him my love for him. Doing it without grumbling and complaining is important to me.
Kids are Entirely “Trainable”
On the other hand, I feel it is my motherly duty to train my children up in the way they should go. They are the definition of “trainable.” So, they get daily lessons in picking up after themselves, considering others as they clean up, and doing it all without grumbling or complaining.
Because we have four kids, I have noticed some kids are naturally more tidy. Others are tend to “collect” things.
Helping my kids, no matter how they are wired, to understand their role in decluttering is important. Teaching them they can have a positive attitude about it is also important to me.
Since I have spent what feels like a LOT of time training my kids in the area of tidiness, I am thankful to now be able to see the fruits of that labor. My kids will even sometimes pick up an item on their own! I know!
Training kids to be part of the decluttering and cleaning processes around the house is a matter of routine, too.