Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Clean House and Minimalist Children

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Corde has had a new TV obsession.  She’s been watching a lot of Style TV’s Clean House.  It’s been really inspirational for her.  She thought she was just watching it to have design ideas for her own room.  She likes the idea of interior design.  I thought it could give her even more ideas on what she can do as an art.

Well, that wasn’t at all the results we got.  I’m not complaining.  The results we ended up with were a million times better.  It’s making my life that much better, and it’s definitely going to be helping us meet our goals.

I’m big on the idea of minimalist living.  I love the idea of reducing to only the stuff we love and use.  The less we have, the happier we’ll probably be.  She’s already talking about what we need to go through and get rid of in order to live a happier life.

The truth is the stuff really does get in the way.  How happy am I when I’m burdened down with the never-ending mountain of laundry?  How thrilled is Oz about seeing the mountain of dishes this house creates.  If we cut it down to the necessary on clothes at the least, I’d be forced to wash it more, but it would also pile up less so it wouldn’t be as intimidating.  That’s just the necessary tasks.  Maybe we’d all feel less overwhelmed by those if we didn’t get so overwhelmed by everything else.

I’ve thought a lot about it.  I’m starting to feel like we’re getting burdened by our stuff.  We’ve got tons of toys, to the point that no one really plays with most of them.  They just get scattered all over the house.  We’ve got enough books to fill two library bookshelves with educational books alone.  We’ve got a full library bookshelf for both Corde and Beekee’s chosen books.  That’s not even counting the fiction that’s left over.  How many books do I have?  About twenty all together, possibly including Oz’s books.  There’s a ton of craft supplies that don’t get used because there’s nowhere to spread them out and work.

I’ve been trying for years to cut back on all our possessions, but it seems like no matter how hard we work to get rid of things, it just keeps accumulating.  I keep thinking “We’ve done so well!  We’ve gotten rid of all this stuff.  I can’t imagine where we must have put it all before.  Then again, we have been getting stuff from friends, neighbors, and family.  That explains some of it.  We really should be following the rule that for every new thing that comes in, at least one thing goes out, but I haven’t.  I guess it’s something to work on.  It’s hard to imagine just how much stuff we’ve passed on and that all of it really did fit in our home somewhere.  It’s also been easy to notice as we’ve been moving into smaller places after our original move down to Texas.  All that stuff had places to go before, and as we lose storage for that stuff, we find that we’re in need of getting rid of even more.

I’d never really put much thought into certain aspects of the whole thing before.  Like who ever thinks about how many toys their kids have, and how a variety of toys isn’t necessarily as good as more of the things that are really loved and almost none of anything else?  With kids spanning four different ages I keep trying to justify hanging on to old toys that can just be passed down from one child to another, but the reality is we get new toys with each kid, some from family, some from friends.  I won’t lie.  I get some things for my kids as well, though I try to keep it to useful things that will get used up and be replaced, or trying to expand upon interests.  The truth is I don’t need to hang on to things for my younger ones to grow into because they generally never grow into them.  They get new toys that are so much more fun than hand-me-downs anyway.  I’m sure there will be more overlap with the youngest two since Sander and Luca are so much closer in age than my older kids.  There’s almost four years between Corde and Beekee.  Between Beekee and Sander is almost three.  Luca and Sander are almost exactly a two years and six months apart.  The closing gap in their age differences will likely mean their interests in toys overlap a bit more as they get older.  At the same time, if things aren’t being played with regularly I really need to let go of them and make room for the things the kids really like.  Their favorite toys will get more play time that way since they can be found so much easier.

In all of this I’ve also come to realize that it’s not so much my kids that don’t want to let these things go.  It’s also my modeling.  Instead of asking them which toys they don’t really like so much and might want to pass on to another kid I tend to ask them if we can pass on this or that, and when they choose something I might be attached to, I question them.  “Are you sure you want to give that away?”  Suddenly they don’t want to anymore, and who can blame them?  I’m giving them reason to think I won’t be happy with their decision, and they want to make the right choice.  They seem to think I know what the right choice is.  Most of the time I don’t because I’m not the one playing with the toys.

It’s sometimes extra hard because the kids aren’t as attached to the toys I wish they’d been attached to, or they like toys that I wish they didn’t.  Then there’s the guilt of “but a family member gave them that!”  It’s difficult to let go and be okay with that.  I’m teaching my kids the same behavior, and I don’t want that.  Sadly, I’m having an easier time giving up my own stuff than the toys they don’t really use all that often.

Corde’s decision to get rid of her toys and only keep her absolute favorites really hit me.  She’s decided she’s going to do the same with her clothes too, which I think is great.  She wants to help the boys sort out their stuff too so they can have less.  At first I felt guilty, after all, how many kids do I know that have more toys than they do?  Tons!  I’ve known a lot of kids with whole play rooms full of toys. In comparison, my kids have very little and there are often more of them than there are at their friends’ houses.  It’s hard for me to recognize it’s okay for them to have a few favorites.  It’s also hard for me to recognize that their choices may not necessarily be mine.  It’s hardest to admit that toys and books really don’t make kids happy.  I had so many when I was growing up that you’d think I would have learned that, but I didn’t.  Instead I became very attached to my stuff.

So, once again, my children have taught me something.  They’ve taught me that I’m more attached to their stuff than they are.  They’ve taught me that my fear of letting them let go and live in a more minimalist way is not only making them less happy (because who likes not being able to find the things they want and then having to clean up all that mess anyway?) but it’s also teaching them it’s not okay.  It’s trying to desperately cling to the lives I want them to have, the childhoods I feel they’re entitled to, not necessarily the childhoods that they want.  In a lot of ways, it’s also an attachment to my own childhood, a childhood I feel I’ve still got some leftover baggage from.  More than anything I’ve learned that sometimes I really do need to take a deep breath and let them take the lead.  I’ve done that in a lot of aspects, but it’s time to take yet another step in that direction.

With three kids knocked out on their own terms and the last one putting herself to bed, I think it’s time to get some rest.  Tomorrow is our anniversary (well, for Oz and me), so I’m not going to put any pressure on getting things done.  After that, I think it’s time to let the good ideas put in Corde’s head from Clean House take root.  We’ll be one step closer to an easier life, and yet another step closer to realizing that my kids are sometimes smarter than I am!

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

4 thoughts on “Clean House and Minimalist Children

  1. LOL. I have these issues myself. We are minimalist. We do not have a lot compared to most people we know. We have plenty and in my mind too much. I find myself doing as you stated-influencing the children’s choices because I have a connection but they do not. I also kept clothes for younger ones but in the end, they rarely wear the clothes because they don;t fit quite right or they just aren’t their style.

    • Yes, that’s a lot of it right there! One child’s style doesn’t exactly match another’s. I don’t want my children to hate getting hand-me-downs and second-hand like I did. I want them to feel confident in their own style decisions.

  2. Minimalism is a beautiful thing! We’re big fans of the concept here, yet, still, I always find things to donate to Goodwill or the library.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who can find things even when we think we’ve found the end of it all! At least I won’t feel bad if we get down to being as minimalist as we think we can stand and still keep finding things. It’s amazing how it always seems like there’s something left that isn’t needed and can find a new home.

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