Saturday, July 2, 2011


God Tells Me To Do It

One day, back in April, I was listening to the radio, and the announcer gave some tips about decluttering, suggesting that people donate things that they don't use to charity. I thought, "Gosh that sounds nice, I've been wanting to do that forever, and it never works." And then I changed the radio station, looking for music. And another announcer came on who also mentioned donating as a way to help unclutter.

Huh, I thought. Maybe God's trying to tell me something.

I prayed about it later, and was overwhelmed at the thought of how much work is involved in actually uncluttering my apartment. There's just so *much* clutter. And getting rid of it sometimes adds a little stress to my marriage, when I want to get rid of something that Ken wants to hang on to. There's so much else that needs doing, do you really want me to be spending my time decluttering, God?

I opened the Bible, searching for answers, and it opened to a verse about God making mountains into valleys. I think I also came across another verse about giving your things away to the poor, thus making it really obvious that God was saying yes, this was his will. But I really appreciated the mountains into valleys reference: I needed to hear that God could make this herculean task into something I could actually do. So this is all I've been working on the last few weeks.


One of the first things I actually got around to doing1 was the re-organization of the kitchen. We had gotten an extra rack of shelves recently, so I spent a full day recently re-arranging things in there, giving away several boxes of things that we don't use to my step-daughter Brittany.

As I was transferring the boxes from the back of my van to Brittany's car, I told her, "When I tell Ken I want to give things away to the thrift store, he's like I think we should keep them. But when I say we should give these things to Brittany, he's like Ok, I guess." That's right, all you folk who want to declutter, if you don't have a convenient adult offspring to unload all your crap still-usable things onto, perhaps you should consider adopting/finding one.


Not long after the day when God told me to unclutter, I went over to my friend Becky's house. She's like my guru for decluttering; I am full of suppressed jealousy awe over the spareness of the apartment that she and her husband and three kids have. We talked about kids' clothes; here are some of the differences between our two approaches.

  • My approach: I keep almost every piece of kids' clothing I've been given since Kyrie was born. (Which is a lot). I have separate sets of winter and summer clothes for each kid; I store the off-season in the closet and flip them out twice a year. I have girl clothes that are too small for Savi, even though Julie won't be big enough to wear them for another 3 or 4 years. And I have a complete set of baby clothes, in both boy and girl, for all seasons. Chances are, any one baby will only wear a fraction of those clothes, depending on their gender and what age they are at each season. But I've kept all of them, just in case. There are even several items that I don't think any of my kids have worn simply because the proportions always managed to be off (too long for how skinny it was, or the like). Also, each of the kids has as many sets of clothes as I can stick in their drawer. With Kyrie especially, after I would do the twice-a-year clothes swap, her drawer would quickly start overflowing, bulging so high it couldn't be pushed back in again. The kids often complained that they couldn't find some particular item, because there were so many clothes in their drawers that it was a pain to search through them. And there were probably even more "extras" in the closet. All in all, I had the drawers and closet overflowing with clothes, most of which were not being worn during any given month. I could probably count on one hand the number of times we've bought clothes for the kids, because we've gotten so many hand-me-downs. The kids often wear stained or sometimes ripped clothes, because I don't want to throw them in the garbage and don't think anyone else would appreciate stained clothes.

  • Her approach: She keeps several outfits for each kid, all of which fit neatly into one drawer (that's one drawer for all the kids together, not one drawer per kid as mine have) plus a little closet space. She uses things like leg-warmers so the same set of clothes can work in any season. She has a couple outfits that the baby might grow into, but otherwise does not keep any clothes that are not currently being worn. Because each kid has only a reasonable number of outfits, the outfits usually get stained or ripped, so she gets rid of them instead of passing them on to another child. If a kid does outgrow a still-useable outfit, she gives it away. She asks for clothes for birthday and Christmas presents, and buys any other outfit the kid might need.

You can, perhaps, see the difference.

Can you see the spot stains? Would you donate this?

I finally got motivated to do something about this when a friend told me about someone he knew who needed baby clothes. So we've taken the last three weeks off homeschool and I've organized and washed all the kids clothes. Three containers of boy baby clothes, 5-18 month size, went to his friend already; I have another 6 or 7 garbage bags worth of clothes, 1 bag of shoes, and 1 bag of books that I 'm going to see about donating to a place nearby that I think works with parents who are trying to get their lives back together. I put aside all the girl clothes that I think will be the right size and season for Julie for the next year or so; the rest of the kids' clothes all fit in their drawers. I figure the next time I find out I'm pregnant, I'll start putting aside $20 a month to buy a new set of baby clothes with. I mean, really, I might get to pick out my own baby's clothes!

The hardest part was definitely deciding which clothes had to be sewing scrap because of stains.


I have this giant file folder I use to keep contact information in. If someone mails me something, I stick the envelope with the return address in there. If I jot down a telephone number on a scrap of paper, I throw it in there. And so on. It's gotten huge, so it takes forever to actually find any one given piece of information, and once I do, I never know if that information is up-to-date or not.

So instead I decided to put all my contact information into Evernote. I can do a new note for each contact, or I can stick a whole related-group of them in one note. Evernote is search-able, so all I have to do to find any given contact is start typing their name. (Business/medical type contacts can often be inputted simply by taking a photo of their business card.) I take my laptop places with me that I would never take that giant file folder; I can access that information on my laptop even when I'm offline; it automatically backs the data up online; I can even access it through a web browser on someone else's computer if I need to. And I will know that whatever info I have in there is the most recent info I have for that person. I spent a few hours typing all the information into Evernote and then tossed a giant pile of paper into the recycling afterwards. I LOVE doing that.

Kids' Toys

Yeah, so, really, it's hard to make this part sound at all interesting, but basically I spent a lot of time decluttering the kids' closet and organizing their toys today and tomorrow I plan to finish that, along with setting aside some of those toys to donate.


These were most of the major decluttering projects that I had to do; the one other one is to declutter our various outside toys and junk. There's some more minor decluttering to do inside; who needs VHS tapes when the VCR isn't hooked up? ... and the shelves of homeschooling things are a little over-full, and some space should be found for the cookbooks. But the biggest stuff is done, and I'm loving it. It feels so good to be free of it.

1. Yes, it took me two months to get started. I'm lazy; I'm busy, one or the other or both.


  1. Good for you!!! I am super impressed with your organization / decluttering. Want to come organize my file cabinets / paper clutter??!! Just kidding, of course :)

    I have the same approach that you did about baby clothes. Currently in our attic we have plastic bins (blue, because they're boy clothes) labeled: Newborn, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 (He still wears 12-18 month clothes). This has worked well because when friends have boy babies, I lend them the appropriate tub and then when they are done, it goes back in the attic (sometimes with a few new things in it!). However, as you pointed out, this strategy has the following flaws:
    1) I have only one baby, and only one year's worth of clothes. It's already sort of a lot of clothes.
    2) This only works when you have a large, relatively empty unused attic to store them in. These bins would overwhelm a closet for sure.

    I actually think that your friend's strategy would work pretty well. I also have a friend who stores NONE of her kid's clothes... she found some thrift store or clothing swap and she just trades them out each season- she said she breaks even or pays only a minimal amount sometimes (she might hold onto a few items that are sentimental or would last another season for all I know- but the point is, she doesn't store anything that can't be used). She also has sold items in good condition on Craiglist.

  2. You have four bins from one baby... now picture how many bins you would end up with if you also had a complete set for girls, too, and then add on another five years worth of clothes from older kids... and then stick all of *those* in one closet... :)

    I did keep a couple of sentimental baby outfits.

    One thing that I didn't say in the post is that I hung on to all the clothes because I never felt confident I could afford to replace them. Lately, though, I'm feeling more confident that we will be able to buy what the kids need, as they need it.