Above the Water

My house feels overwhelming today. Laundry, dog hair, toys, piles in the garage, piles on the desk, piles, piles, piles. Our house is teeming with life. Swarming. I am aware of the wonderfulness of it and I am grateful, but I still feel like I can’t get my head above water.

The rooms in our house haven’t all been clean at the same time in about 5 years. There are plenty of reasons for this; we have little kids, I’m tired, our dog sheds wildly, my husband is in grad school, I’d rather play, I start projects that I don’t finish (I am an ENFP), I’m writing this instead, etc, etc, etc. I enjoy cleaning and I seem to do it non-stop, but nothing stays clean and there’s never enough time to complete any task. The water always seems to be rising. I recently found a jury summons in a pile of papers that was for October. I forgot.

So, I’m inspired because spring is here and I don’t want to drown in my stuff. Something about spring motivates me to dig through every drawer and closet to purge, organize and simplify. I want it off my shoulders so I can go to the beach and be carefree. Here are a few systems that are working for me right now:

When my space is in order, my brain and my heart follow suit. Clutter makes me inefficient. Moving piles, stepping around loads, digging to find things and dusting around trinkets is time consuming. Getting rid of things is therapeutic because too much stuff feels heavy and can ultimately steal away what I really value. A golden thread in my day can be as simple as finding the hammer when I need it- exactly where it belongs.

If it’s not beautiful, functional or very sentimental- you don’t need it.

Remind yourself of this as you do your spring cleaning. It’s relative because we each decide for ourselves what is beautiful, functional and sentimental, but using this filter makes us more intentional about our stuff.

Why beautiful? There are plenty of unnecessary things that bring color and form and life to a space. A house void of personal and lovely things isn’t where people want to hang out. A healthy amount of stuff can help create a warm and inviting home. Artwork, interesting fabrics, great paint colors, GOOD lighting.IMG_4426

What’s functional? I have more vases than is normal. I often have cut flowers in the house and I want the best shape for each scenario. They take up a lot of shelf space, but fresh flowers arranged well are a source of joy for me and therefore my many vases are functional. Do I need 50 mugs? Not unless I have big coffee parties regularly. Hmm, that sounds pretty fun.IMG_4421

How about sentimental? I wanted to save all of my mom’s clothes, but over the years I have sifted through them. It has taken a few rounds and lots of tears, but I chose to keep her dress that I wore to her memorial service and a bright yellow hoodie I bought her for Christmas the year she passed away. Things that remind me of her beauty and warmth.IMG_4420

When I choose carefully what to keep in my home, my things take up less space, require less maintenance and ultimately become more meaningful.

I have about 100 more areas of the house to tackle so I’m going to make April a spring cleaning month. Share some ideas that are working for you in the comments and wish me luck!


ideas for getting (and staying) above water

    • Evaluate what needs attention in your life and make a project list. Post it on the fridge so you can see it (and other capable members of the household can get on board).
    • Plan ahead to carve out enough time to start and finish. Thankfully my husband discourages me from starting a garage clean out or painting project at 9pm on a Monday.
    • Choose places you care about to donate (pregnancy resource center, homeless shelter, orphanage, friend in need) so when you let go of things you know they’re going to a good cause. And besides, nothing says overwhelming like cleaning out your garage only to have giant piles on your driveway with nowhere to take them.
    • Say no to free things or great sales if you don’t need something. (think functional, beautiful, sentimental)
    • Creating Systems and good habits will help keep your head above the water. Even kids are better at helping when there is an easy and consistent system for keeping things in their places. Give the people you live with a “tour” of the new system, or better yet, have them help you create it.
    • Think beyond closets. What about the hobby you never do anymore because your supplies are buried? What about the photos on your computer? How about thinning out memorabilia?
    • Think beyond spaces. What about your finances? Your eating? Your relationships?
    • Ask for help from someone you trust that is really good at this. They won’t be emotionally attached in the same way you are and can help you be decisive.

7 thoughts on “Above the Water

  1. This may go without saying (given my comment last week about your useful/beautiful/sentimental rubric) but I loved this post!! I recently read a book called “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh. The author talks about possessions, clutter, organization, memorabilia, and the deeply emotional (often negative) impact that these things have on our lives. You would probably find it interesting if you haven’t read it already. The author talks about a lot of the same stuff you mention in your post. He’s especially keen on getting rid of excess stuff, but finding ways to honor the possessions and memorabilia that we truly do value–like your mom’s dress and hoodie.

    Also–I like your suggestion about the baskets for people’s papers. My problem is that I’m pretty sure my dh would never check his basket…. I have no idea where to put papers where he’ll notice them… I’ve tried everything: taping papers to the bathroom mirror, his computer keyboard, his pillow, taped to his iPad–he doesn’t notice any of it! Hmmm. =D

  2. You’re so awesome Steph, I loved this post, too! I laughed out loud so many times because I could clearly see you in my head doing some of these things or hear you saying certain things as you went through your day in your house. I agree with Brian, don’t start a painting project at 9:00 pm on a Monday. It’s late. That time should be reserved for watching The Walking Dead 🙂

  3. Steph, you’re making me think I need a pot rack … but I don’t really have a spot for one! Maybe I’ll send you pictures of my kitchen, and you tell me where it could go. You always have a good eye. Or maybe dining rooms are okay. Is that weird? I do see one spot that is technically still the kitchen, but it’s narrow. Still, maybe with the right rack!

  4. Love the beautiful/functional/sentimental filter! I used it (and a helpful friend) to clear out my huge closet and most of my apartment a few months ago… super helpful! When I was a kid my mom would put on music and set the kitchen timer for 5-10 minutes and we would all get as much stuff cleaned up as we could. It made it fun, fast and efficient. And in a way I guess it helped us learn to prioritize what we needed to clean up most, or what we could get done in a short time. I still do the same thing, only now it’s doing the dishes while the coffee brews 😉

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