How I began living an uncluttered life with children while homeschooling

You see I was the mom always getting to the end of the day feeling exhausted and unaccomplished. I had used the reasoning “fed and alive is all that matters.” for too long and I wanted to start having more time in my day to do the things I wanted to do. Cleaning up all day long was not on my list of enjoyable memories I wanted my children to have of me.

 

My kids were doing great, walking, talking, knowing all the right things at the right time. But they weren’t getting the mom that was ready to do things. I was split between cleaning, teaching them and trying to get a children’s book illustrated and published (my dream). And I was trying to do it all at once but felt like I was just running in circles. I could go on and on about that but I’m sure you know what I mean. I was a mess emotionally and physically and getting worse.

declutter helped me get my creativity back

 

There was one particular moment where I truly had enough. I grabbed a trash bag and a box. The bag was for things that should be thrown out and the box was for donation.

I had ripped the bandage off really fast. It felt great. The one box turned into boxes and the single trash bag totally had friends. That felt really great. I stood in my house and could breathe. The best part was how long that feeling stuck around. I was happy to discover that the feeling didn’t disappear the next morning and then a week later it all still felt good. The house felt good and was still looking good, most of it still looked good. The part that was interesting to me was that although it wasn’t perfect any longer I didn’t feel as anxious as I normally would.

It’s funny how you don’t realize something is a problem until you are either missing it or have light shined on it. Apparently clutter triggers a bit of anxiety in me (my husband is rolling his eyes and laughing at my use of the word “bit”) and that then turns into a short temper and chaotic home. Now the only loud ones are the people currently under the age of 5 in my home.

About 2 weeks after that initial clean out I did start to see places that I could improve. There were areas of the house that still had too much, bookcases that were over stuffed and an over abundance of toys.

 

It was at that moment that I knew I needed to do another big uncluttering day but it also made me think that I needed something to help with daily upkeep. And so the Declutter Daily Planner started to take shape.

I loved the initial feeling of being clutter free and how smoothly the day would go but that feeling would fade. And the only reason it was fading was because I thought it was a once and done type thing. So with Daily Prompts and simple 10 minute tasks I was able to keep up with a minimal amount of cleaning and return to that blissful place.

tehlia minimalism motherhood

Is my house perfect? No, we live here. Food gets cooked, baths for 4 kids happen. But it all exists in a minimal state. The dishes might pile for a day however there are only enough bowls and plates for the six of us. There aren’t endless amounts of cups. The laundry pile is still a pile – but it’s only one pile per week. Because I had less in the house to physically take care of I had more time to spend on the kids and on my creative business.

 

Minimalism doesn’t have to be black and white, it doesn’t have to be monochromatic. And it doesn’t have to mean empty rooms and no personality. But what it can mean is a day full of time to do more instead of a day spent taking care of a house full.

Finding your blissful place in your home is possible. You can ABSOLUTELY find peace in your home, with kids, while homeschooling. You can truly be a creative crafty person but still have a minimalist home. Will it take some work and effort on your part? Yes. Can you do it? Absolutely.

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I am currently finalizing the prompts and quote inserts that are a part of the planner. I want everything to be as close to perfect for you before I make it available.

Organizing Wasn’t Working. Minimalism Changed That.

When I first started decluttering it felt great. I was getting things done. The rooms were looking great and I felt good. But within days or sometimes minutes the room would explode again. Toys, clothes, random projects, books. It would all be back out again.

organizing won't work alone

I would end up defeated and still exhausted.

Then I realized. All I was doing was organizing the chaos. I wasn’t actually decluttering or minimizing my home.

I was still messy. My children were still fighting over toys and the rest of the house was suffering.

The solution? I had to get serious and not be lazy. I had to stop putting the same junk away to only have it pulled out so we could get to the good stuff. I needed to minimize and get things out of my home.

You see Decluttering started off to mean that I simply pick up the trash, obvious trash, and then put the clutter away. I tossed a lot of little things – broken toys, books, receipts. But it didn’t go any deeper. The rest of the room got a good straightening up. Not a clean out.

First: making a plan

For me, with four kids all under the age of 5, I had to visually plan out my minimizing strategy. Walking room to room, taking note of what toys actually got used for longer than three minutes.

Noticing where my husband was placing things out of habit, instead of in their “home”. And looking at myself, where I put my computer, my paper for drawing, the mail and so on.

Noticing what had a home and what was lost in the house. Why didn’t it have a home? Was it out because it was getting used or because it had no other place to be, so it just kept getting moved from room to room?

And our clothes. What was actually getting worn and washed vs what was taking up space? And if those clothes weren’t in the closet what could be?

The other major pain-point was the kitchen. With small children and us being home all the time the kitchen was always on the verge of imploding. Too many cups, plates, dirty dishes and cluttered cabinets.

Even the pantry was overwhelming, unorganized and full. Did we really need it all and if it was collecting dust (I’m looking at you black beans) then why was it in there?

Second: taking action

I first picked a spot that was quick and would give me instant feed back. I picked the kitchen. Might sound daunting at first but it was the room with the least sentiment and I loathed some of the things in it so much that I knew I wouldn’t have any hesitation getting rid of most of it.

The most fun I had was getting rid of toys. Not because I am the meanest mom in the whole world, but because I knew deep down my kids didn’t NEED any of it. I knew they would be ok with anything I decided to keep. My kids were to young to involve them completely in the decision making of what toys to keep. I know that may rub some people the wrong way, but it could have resulted in every toy being an “I love that one too” dilemma. This topic deserves a blog post of it’s own.

The real work came when I needed to tackle the clothes. I had to make a few concessions. The kids clothes and their ages meant they grow out of things fast (YAY!) but I would still need to hang on to them because baby brother and baby sister would be wearing them. So I picked the best articles. No stains or holes. And that it could be worn with multiple combinations of clothing. As the oldest Boy and Girl got new clothes I changed my strategy. Instead of buying the outfit combos – pants and tops – I started buying neutral bottoms. For the Girls – Black and gray leggings and blue jeans. For the Boys – Blue Jeans and black and gray athletic shorts. Now any top we grabbed would match. And the kids could dress themselves without having to help them pick out the right top/bottoms match up.

Our clothes – The grown ups – I had maternity mixed in with hopeful return to pre-maternity and things I loved the idea of yet I didn’t ever wear. And oh yeah, AND… The things I actually wore everyday.

My husband, like most men, had three “uniforms”. T-shirts, outdoors work wear, and dress up (work or date night). As we began shutting down the farm we lived on, the serious work clothes were easy to get rid of. The date night or meeting up with friends shirts, got paired down to absolute favorites and with a 3 year old fashion critic approved. And his T-shirts – oh the t-shirts – took me organizing them so that I could see what was getting worn and what wasn’t. After 2 months 30 shirts left our home.

Those huge clean outs, weekly donation drop offs and over stuffed trash cans made a huge difference. The laundry was taking a third of the time. Food shopping became easier and cheaper. Toy clean up was fast. And if anyone dropped by out of the blue, other than a few dishes from the last meal created, I was ready for guests.

Third: keeping up

This part has the added bonus of having your radar activated from the second stage. Now not only could I see what was out of place and easily fix it but I could also see how I could declutter, actually declutter, even more.

I set daily tasks, one task for each week. One day I would go through each room and get rid of anything that was broke or obvious trash. Just a walk through with a bag. The first time I did this the bag would end up almost full. By the 5th week I was hardly taking out any trash and only one or two destroyed toys from my crazy bunch.

And once a week I would go back through my closet and see if there was anything still perfectly folded that I hadn’t worn before putting clean clothes away. And the things I wasn’t willing to part with the week before found their way to the donation bag.

Each day had a way for me to stay on top of things. Keeping my home feeling clean and clear. Even my electronics and emails had a day for decluttering. Mind, body, home and social media all got a look over.

Fourth: being kind to yourself

Now for the other part. Your heart. Decluttering and minimizing the things you own and have in your home is not a fast process. There will be bumps. Things might even look worse before they start looking better. Trust yourself, trust the process and believe that you are doing the best that you can.organizing won't work alone

Have You Ever Wanted To Throw Away All The Toys?

Have you ever walked out of a room and walked in a minute later to find every toy in existence scattered across the living room floor? Have you wanted to take every toy ever made and put it out on the front lawn? Kids, toys, messes, they do come as a package. And they will most certainly exist no matter what you do.

What if I told you that you could get rid of enough toys and use a toy rotation schedule that could make clean-up time take only minutes?

childrens toys vs minimalism

What if I told you that you could hear less bickering over toys by having less toys available?

What if I told you that your child will play with a few toys longer then they ever played when they had toy chests full?

How?

Decluttering or minimizing the toys you have in your home is how you can get to a house that is faster to straighten up. It’s also how your kids can start to stretch their imaginations. Toys can sometimes be like answers – kids don’t need all of them to have a good time.

Starting The Great Toy Clean Out

You first have to decide how much input you are going to allow your children to have on this one. I would take age and understanding into consideration before you ask your kids for their help.

I believe children are completely capable of telling you what they like and dislike and I believe they have a right to make their own choices about certain things. But if I gave this power to my three year old I guarantee she would find things that weren’t even toys that she also LOVED so much. At this moment she is gripping a hair tie and a piece of bubble wrap.

What I did – take it in steps.

Start with a quick decluttering dash. Be sure to check every room.

  • get rid of the obvious – broken toys, missing parts, “happy meal” toys and party favors from past birthday parties.
  • Books that are beyond repair or missing pages
  • toys that do not work anymore

Next clean up the room, placing toys on shelves and in containers the kids can reach.

Now Observe

  • what toys get pulled out
  • what toys get played with – this is different then the toys that come out
  • how long do certain toys actually get played with
  • what toys never leave the shelf or containers

You’ll want to do this for a few days and see how consistent they are with which toys.

toys are like answers

Fun Part Begins – box up the toys

Once you’ve recognized the toys that don’t ever get used, you can remove them right away. If they are in good shape please donate them.

Now the tricky part. You’ll want to leave the toys you know they play with, the ones that you feel are always getting picked up at the end of the day. But what do you do with the others?

There are a few factors to consider

  • do you like them, the toys?
  • are they well made, if natural is important to you – should plastic toys be removed?
  • educational, open ended (wooden blocks, wooden train sets etc.) ?
  • do you have a place to store them?

Once you’ve decided which toys made the cut from this pile you are then going to put them away. Like really away. Labeled with a date, sorted by type if you like, but they are going to go out of sight for a while.

You should now consider two options:

  1. hide them and if not asked for, then they go. (the way I went)
  2. toy rotation – once a week swap out the hidden toys for the play room toys. The “newness” of the toy swap can create a new excitement for the old toys.

If you choose #1 you are going to leave them hidden for at least 6 weeks. Six weeks might seem random but that was how long it took for the last toy from the hidden bunch to be requested. I retrieved four toys that would flash into my four year olds mind and one toy that my three year old was frantically looking for six weeks later.

For option #2 – organize toys by age, type, purpose and then pull them out once a week or when you find the other toys aren’t getting used as much. Pack away the other sets and toys and repeat a week later.

If you are feeling super ambitious, when the weather is warm, box up all the toys and get everyone outside. When you are home pull out the books, puzzles and board games.

I am excited to try a complete toy purge. But I think the kids are too young to understand that their favorite toys are no longer available. For now I’m on a mission to get rid of all tiny toys at my feet. Well until they discover legos.

So how did my kids react?

Did my children survive? Absolutely! Like I mentioned earlier there were a few toys that they asked for but after week six there were no more requests and those toys they didn’t miss, left our home.

The moment I knew I was on the right path was the afternoon they walked in from playing outside with their dad to a completely cleaned and minimalized bedroom and toy shelf.

They went straight for their favorites and spread out. Because I removed so many toys they had room to run, lay on the floor or build something new. They didn’t question anything in the room and they didn’t notice immediately that things were missing. Oh and they didn’t bicker about any toys.