When you think about decluttering, does it suck the wind out of your sails? All too often, the task of tidying up can feel overwhelming, and turn even the most resilient homeowner into a deer in headlights. Sometimes it can make you want to throw in the towel, or at least call for professional reinforcements. However, a few clever strategies can be just the ticket. Here’s how to ensure the task of paring down is not only simple, it could even be called “fun.”
Formulate a plan
How do you plan to tackle your “stuff”? Everyone has their own best methods for decluttering, and to ensure you stick with your project, think about what works best for you. For instance, some people do well with selecting a certain number of objects every day and parting ways with them. Other people do best sorting a section at a time. For some people, the key to beating clutter is scheduling a particular time for the project, even 15 minutes per day, and committing to it. You can even print a helpful calendar from Home Storage Solutions to help you stay on track. The important thing is to find your method, and embrace it wholeheartedly!
Putting things in order
As you go through your home, keep in mind it’s important to develop a system that will help you avoid becoming cluttered again. This can be especially challenging if your home doesn’t feature an excess of square footage. If space is tight, be creative, and consider some unconventional, yet oh-so-clever storage hacks. For example, furniture can multitask, such as using an attractive vintage trunk that is both your coffee table and a storage solution. Wasted wall spaces can hold floating shelves. Baskets can house unsightly items on your shelving, turning an eyesore into an accent. In the bedroom, the space under your mattress can hold under-the-bed storage bins. Look for ways to put idle space to work!
Focus on feel-goods
As you declutter, there will likely be plenty of things you no longer want or need. Instead of tossing them into the trash, think of ways they can benefit other people. You can donate items to a charity, offer them on a swap website, or even have a yard sale. If you make a little money, consider donating it to a nonprofit, or invest the funds into furthering your decluttering project. Another idea is to check into local nonprofit events. Silent auctions are popular fundraisers, and you could piece together themed gift baskets to donate to a worthy cause. It’s a great way to amp up your motivation, and the warm fuzzies double the fun!
Put on some tunes
Even if you find a great decluttering method, are making wonderful progress, and enjoying seeing the fruits of your efforts, there will probably be days when you struggle with your motivation. One of the best ways to overcome those lackluster moments is with an upbeat cleaning playlist. In fact, you might want to put on your favorite tunes every time, since Huffington Post notes just listening to music can potentially cut your work time in half!
Reward your fine efforts
You’re doing a really good thing. Decluttering can be provide life-changing benefits, helping you to be more productive and healthy. On top of that, you might have donations to charities and a little spending money. However, there is nothing like a little pat on the back to really make you feel great. Some experts suggest picking out a thoughtful reward that compliments your project nicely. In other words, avoid something that will clutter up your house again, or that is unrelated to the task. For example, invest in some attractive storage baskets to outfit your space, or take a day off to stay home, savoring your uncluttered space. Think of the perfect gift to give hardworking you!
Decluttering can be overwhelming, but with a good plan you can do it! Choose a method that works for you, stay motivated, and enjoy a special reward. It’s a challenging project, but you’re worth it!
Written By Guest Blogger
Back when my kids were still in grade school, we were hustling through our morning routine, when my daughter Emily came running to me. She announced that she could not find her school uniform jumper. I calmly ensured her that it was hanging in the laundry room, clean and ready to be put on. “It’s not there Mom!”She barked back. I was confident that it was there so I told her to look again, sure that she would find it. But of course, she didn’t find it, so with a sigh; I trudged into to the laundry room to retrieve it myself. When I got there, I could not find it either, and I could feel anxiety and frustration boiling up inside me. Now I was the one going into crisis mode. We had to leave for school in 10 minutes; and it was going to be 95 degrees that day so wearing her hot pants were out of the question.
I knew for sure that it was hanging there yesterday…yet it had vanished mysteriously. I ran around the house frantically looking for the jumper. After 10 minutes of frenzied searching, my older daughter Maddie, was the one who happened to take notice of what my youngest one was wearing, Cassie, who was 6 had gotten dressed and was indeed ready to go, but her school jumper, which was supposed to go to her knees, nearly reached her ankles. The mystery had been solved, and I laughed at myself for being so busy panicking that I hadn’t even noticed her. Jumpers were quickly traded and we piled into the car, arriving to school without a minute to spare.
Once the crisis had past, the whole event turned out to be quite amusing. Though, big picture, this was not a large issue, it still managed to derail our morning. This is a perfect example of how one little mishap can turn a normal calm morning sour and stress levels can escalate in a heartbeat. We thought we had everything planned and ready to go, but still, unexpected chaos found its way into our home that morning. If you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean, craziness can happen without warning. It seems that these occasional crisis’s are simply part of family life and while we can’t avoid these roller coaster moments entirely, having helpful organizational routines in place for staying on top of things can go a long way to help us feel more in control when the unexpected does occur. Routines give us a sense of security and predictability that bring us comfort. They also help us to get more done and forget less.
Planning Sessions for Moms
One especially useful routine for minimizing family chaos, is scheduling a 20-30 minute planning session for yourself at the beginning of each week. You can greatly reduce the day to day stress of managing a busy family and feel more in control by doing this one thing. I do mine on Mondays, but they can be done anytime that works best for you. If we dive into each week without taking the time to plan ahead, everything comes at us without warning and we feel like we are simply managing one crisis after another.
Use a weekly planning session to examine your calendar and make sure that you are prepared for each of the week’s upcoming activities and appointments. Add things like errands, household chores, meetings and phone calls to ensure that they will get done. This will help you to catch things that may have been overlooked, like two conflicting appointments or the fact that your daughter has her first soccer practice this week and still needs soccer cleats. Make a to-do list for any other tasks that need to get done as well. You can also use this time to plan out your family’s meals for the week and make a quick grocery list for the items you need to pick up from the store. By doing this, you should only need to visit the grocery store once a week, which will save you time. This planning session can also be used to make out a weekly chore chart for your kids and pay any bills that are due.
If you can include a planning session in your weekly routine and stick with it, you will feel more prepared and in control on a daily basis. You will also get more done. More importantly, you will reduce the potential for any unexpected chaos that may be looming ahead. Instill a little much needed peace into your family’s busy week and add weekly planning sessions to your calendar.
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
I often work with clients who are
creative, and some of these people
have an incredible amount of talent.
But multiple unfinished projects,
and the supplies needed for
proposed craft projects can create
clutter in a craft room to the point
that it is impossible to work
in that space. The following is
a list of tips to help you keep
your craft room organized
and avoid getting physically
and mentally buried in your
Written By: Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free
Professional Organizing Services
1. Resist Starting a New Craft Project Before Finishing The First One
So you have a quilt that was started a year ago, a half made scrapbook for a friend, and then there is that dress you were going to make that you bought all the supplies for but never got around to starting. Does this sound like you? It is tempting to start a new project when the one you are working on gets challenging or boring, but if you force yourself to finish one before starting or buying supplies for another, you will avoid the mental clutter of having too many projects floating around in your head. Having too many craft projects going at one time can not only compound the physical clutter in your craft room, but can be mentally taxing because they morph into little voices inside your head nagging you to finish them once and for all.
2. Evaluate How Much Time You Have Before You Commit
Creative individuals often have inspiring ideas, but these ideas require a certain amount of time and energy to become a finished product. It is so easy to get carried away with too many projects because if you are passionate about the craft, you also likely enjoy the work. You may need to pace yourself to avoid getting too far behind if you have a busy schedule. Having too many projects going at one time and not being able to make progress on them can be frustrating and discouraging. Limit your projects so that you have a reasonable amount of time to complete them.
3. Decide Whether or Not Your Current Craft Projects are Really Worth Finishing
If you already have too many unfinished projects going at one time, consider each project and ask yourself these questions: Why have you not finished it? Is it solely due to lack of time? Are you looking forward to the next time you will have a day off so that you can work on it? Or would you prefer to do something else? Did you put it down because you got bored with it? Are you still excited about it or has it lost its appeal? Are you only finishing it out of guilt because you spent money on the supplies? These questions should help you decide which craft projects are worth finishing or even starting, and which ones to give up on.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Let Go of Unworthy Projects
So what if a project that you were once excited about has lost it’s spark? It has turned into a burden that you feel guilty about. You were inspired at one time to do it but where did that inspiration go? You feel bad because you have already invested money and time into it. But it does not make sense to spend precious time and energy working on a project that no longer inspires you. Why force yourself to finish something solely out of guilt? Unfinished projects do more harm than just clutter up a room, they make you feel heavy. Life is too short to live with these burdens, and crafting is supposed to be fun! It is okay to let a project go, guilt free. In the end you will be surprised at how liberating it feels to mentally let go of a project. And a clutter free room will simply be an added bonus! It’s okay if not every creative idea that you think up comes to fruition.
5. Get it Done Once & For All
If you have craft projects that you have decided to complete, commit to getting them done now instead of letting them linger. Schedule time on your calendar to work on the project and stick to the plan. Don’t let another activity take its place at the last minute. The best way to take action and beat procrastination is to get it on your calendar so that you make time for it in your schedule. Also remind yourself that you deserve to have some time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy. We all need a bit of leisure time to do what we love. Too often we are guilted into replacing enjoyable activities with work instead.
6. Resist Buying Craft Supplies Before You Start
I frequently come across multitudes of craft supplies that were purchased for proposed projects that never materialized. Resist buying supplies for a project until you are ready to start on it and have already put time aside on your calendar to do the work. Because we are inspired by our new ideas, and because shopping is so enjoyable, it can be challenging to resist shopping impulsively before we are ready to start. By being mindful and resisting these urges, you will not only keep your craft room more organized but you will save money. Also, once you spend money on craft supplies, you automatically lock yourself into completing a project. By holding off on shopping, you can avoid feeling guilty if you change your mind. As an alternative to shopping, try writing down your ideas in a craft project notebook so that you don’t forget them. Then you can shop when you are ready to start the craft.
Mental health is partly controlled by our genetics and partly by our environment. While counseling can help you manage stress and anxiety, you can also take measures at home to keep things cool and calm so you have a place of respite from whatever ails you.
Here are a few tips to help you keep a clean house and create a calming space.
Cut the clutter. If your decorating style can best be described as “junk drawer chic,” you might want to reconsider the amount of stuff you keep in your home. As the Huffington Post explains, clutter can actually ruin your life. Not only can it increase your stress levels, but having a cluttered house can wreck your diet and make your home anything but a safe haven. Spend an afternoon purging your countertops and cabinets of things you really don’t need, and only keep those items you can’t live without.
Simplify your cleaning routine. After the clutter is under control, keep things clean by streamlining chores. Dust, mop, and vacuum all rooms at the same time to avoid having to get your cleaning tools in and out of the utility closet. And don’t forget neglected areas, such as the walls and baseboards, behind the appliances, and inside the kitchen cabinets. Angie’s List also suggests dusting the ceiling fan and above the kitchen cabinets, which will reduce allergens in the air.
Insist on assistance. If you live in a home with more than one person, more than one person should handle the cooking, cleaning, and home maintenance. Assign specific chores to each member of your household. Even something as simple as having your kids put the dishes away or fold the laundry will help keep your home clean and free up valuable time for you to focus your attention on self-care. Your family—or roommates—will no doubt offer up excuses as to why they can’t help out. Be ready with a counter argument and available to offer instructions on how to get things done. And remember, teaching your children how to care for a household puts them in greater position to manage their own homes as young adults.
Learn to love lists. The human brain is hardwired to like lists. Not only do lists help you keep track of what you have—and haven’t—done, keeping a list of daily, weekly, and monthly household chores can help you remain focused. Creating lists helps bring order to the chaos, and that can lower your stress levels. Keep separate lists for each room in the home and make sure they are visible. Another benefit of listmaking is that it gives you a mental boost when you see tasks being marked off.
Don’t forget the outdoors. You don’t want to relax inside all year, so it’s a good idea to focus on the exterior of your home as well. There are a few simple tricks to make sure your outdoor spaces remain maintained season to season. Start by clearing debris out of the yard at least once a week. Once leaves begin to fall, rake them onto tarps for mulching or composting instead of allowing them to pile up and mold throughout the winter. Bob Vila offers more tips on simple outdoor maintenance tasks. Don’t forget to set up a cozy spot with a hammock or lounge chair where you can relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Once you have your cleaning routine down, consider changing your spaces to best accommodate your interests. For instance, if you like to read, carve out a corner of a room where you can cozy up with a good book, or rearrange your kitchen to free up counter space for baking. Whatever you decide, make it something just for you, and keep it neat and tidy.
Guest Blog Written By Alice Robertson
DEAR YOUNGER ME....
A warning to young families from an empty nester:
DO NOT PUT OF UNTIL TOMORROW, WHAT CAN BE DONE TODAY:
Earlier this year, I spent several days in the basement of a client, wanting to get her home ready for a future move. We were about two days in, with seemingly a long road ahead, when she sighed heavily and called out her warning to me. “Whatever you do” she said, “Do not wait forever to go through your stuff and get rid of it like I did!” Her large storage room was packed with the all of the beloved and not so beloved things of yesteryear. Her three adult children had moved out years ago. We had sorted piles of kids keepsakes, stuff to donate, stuff to give to her children, stuff to sell and stuff to keep. She told me that if she only could have known when she was younger what a burden all of her stuff would become, she would have none a better job of dealing with it then rather than letting it build up.
AVOID STOCKING UP ON BARGINS:
“Better yet”, she said, “If I would have known better, I would not have collected half this stuff in the first place.” She pinpointed one of her downfalls to be stocking up on sale items that she couldn’t pass up because they were bargains. She loved to entertain, and in her head, she wanted to be ready for future parties and celebrations. She also wanted to be ready to decorate for upcoming holidays. As it turned out, many of those “great deals” ended up being a waste of money because she never got around to actually using the supplies.
THE LONGER YOU WAIT, THE BIGGER THE BURDEN:
Of course this wasn’t the only thing taking up space in her storage room, it simply added to the ever growing pile. She had accumulated a mountain of stuff that fell into the ambiguous category of “No longer treasures, but not yet trash”. Including old furniture, home décor and framed photos that no longer merited a place upstairs. As the years went by, her storage room became a graveyard of things forgotten from yesterday. I reassured her that her situation was not at all uncommon, many families struggle with the same issue, especially if they have lived in the same home for many years. I commended her for making the decision to deal with it now. She easily could have put it off for another 10 or 20 years. Because this job is a physically and emotionally demanding one, it’s best not to wait until we are 90 to tackle our storage room buildup. I also reminded her that some people leave the job undone forever, placing a giant burden on their adult children.
DECIDE TO DECIDE:
My client does make a very good point though and young families can benefit from not shrugging off her warning. Much of the stuff we store in our storage rooms ultimately represents indecision, and it is tempting to put off all of those difficult decisions until tomorrow. My client suggests that you “Make it your goal to thoroughly go through your clutter well before the last child leaves home”. “Deal with clutter when you see that it is starting to build up.” she says.
LIMIT KIDS KEEPSAKES:
What I have learned from years of organizing is that adult children want only a manageable amount of childhood memories, not a museum of their past. A couple of keepsake boxes and handful of photo albums per child is sufficient. You would be surprised at how many of my clients are holding on to multiple boxes of keepsakes that their children don’t even want.
Take the following 5 steps to prevent storage room buildup:
By taking away a bit of wisdom from my client and becoming more vigilant of what you park in your storage room today, you can save yourself the pain of having to face an overwhelming mountain of clutter tomorrow.
Written By Laura Coufal
Owner: Clean & Clutter Free
Consultant, Clutter Coach
Next week, my daughter begins her second year of college, so in honor of this big event, I have reposted my tips and suggestions for organizing college dorm rooms from last year.
PLAN AHEAD FOR FURNITURE AND DECOR
If you know ahead of time who you are going to be rooming with, talk with your future roommate in advance to avoid duplication of larger items such as furniture, television, microwave etc. You could also discuss decorating, and come up with a style or theme together so that your décor doesn’t clash with what your roommate brings to the room.
Measure the spaces in your dorm room and take photos to ensure that everything you are bringing will fit into the spaces available. Try rearranging the existing furniture or stacking the beds to create more space.
ESTABLISH ZONES WITHIN YOUR COLLEGE DORM ROOM
If possible, create small areas for different activities such as studying, sleeping, entertainment and eating. Store everything that you need for each activity in their assigned zones. For example, for studying, create a place to store pens, pencils, highlighters, a comfy pillow, portable light, glasses, etc. so that you will have everything you need at your fingertips when it is time to study.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY INCH OF STORAGE SPACE
Bed risers and under the bed storage bins are a great way to utilize the space underneath your bed for extra storage space. Add storage cubicles to the bottom of your closet if you are short on shelf storage. Over the door pocket organizers, are great for extra closet and bathroom storage.
STORE IN-SEASON CLOTHING ONLY
Bring only your summer and fall clothes to school until cooler weather arrives. Take your summer clothes home with you and bring back your winter clothing as the weather changes. You will free up much needed space in your closet if you only store the clothing suited for the current season.
MAKE USE OF HANDY ORGANAZING PRODUCTS
Stackable storage cubes are perfect for college dorm rooms because they not only to give you extra storage space, but can also double as night stands or end tables. 3M command hooks are handy for hanging purses, coats, robes etc., and they can be placed anywhere without causing damage to the wall. Inexpensive plastic portable drawer systems can be placed in your closet for extra drawer space.
USE A CHECKLIST TO ENSURE THAT YOU DON'T FORGET ANYTHING
Visit the following website to print off a checklist of recommended necessities to bring along with you to your college dorm room: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/making-a-decision/off-to-college-checklist. Knowing what to bring will not only ensure that nothing essential is left behind, but will help you to avoid bringing items that you don’t need, that ultimately end up cluttering up your small space. This list is exhaustive, so you won't need to bring everything on the list, think about what you really need and only bring what you will use. You may also be able to share some of these items with your roommate which will save on space.
For savings on technology that will help keep you organized and informed, follow the link below:
This post was written by Matthew Adams. Classic Garage Solutions is a garage storage and organization company serving homeowners in the Lincoln area.
Many people frantically spend hours each week moving items from one place to the next in the hopes that it will “help” them be more organized. Others will carefully clean one room only to find that in doing so they have cluttered another. Some will label boxes and meticulously find spots for their items to go. Few know what to prioritize when de-cluttering and organizing. Most people become frustrated and give up after several failed attempts. Their homes and workspaces remain busy, cluttered, disappointing. This can lead to many things, including unhappiness, increased stress, and loss of time searching. According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American burns 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but cannot find.
Why Most People Make Mistakes
What is the reason so many of us are incapable of finding effective methods to organize our spaces? Why is it some people have the perfect set up, void of any clutter, and others appear to be close to hoarding? Why do so many find themselves confused and incapable of knowing where to begin when cleaning? The reason is simple. Most people are not able to clean and maintain organization simply because they never formed the habit of doing so.
What You Need to Do
Here’s a little known fact: Harris Interactive reports that 23% of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them. As we read that statement, we begin to understand the importance of remaining clutter-free! Can you imagine the amount of money that could be saved if those late bills were visibly in sight, or placed in a reliable location?
The solution is obvious, we need to form a habit of organizing, and staying organized! This means effective strategies must be implemented.
Establish A Pattern
Consistency is key in establishing an organized, efficient home. Set up a time every week where you will clean/de-clutter your home. If you are a relatively clean person, perhaps you only need to spend 30-60 minutes each week cleaning. The National Soap and Detergent Association believes getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home. If you have a lot of clutter and misplaced items, perhaps you should set aside more time, multiple times a week, until you reach a point where everything has a place and you are simply focusing on the weekly tasks.
Establish A System
Having a system in place is critical to an organized home. Everything needs a place, whether it’s in the trash, on the shelf, on a desk or in a box. Doing so helps:
Don’t Put It Off
Organizing isn’t a once a year event. It truly is a lifetime habit. The benefits that come from an organized home are increased happiness and decreased stress. By applying consistency in your life, you will find the results you want.
Every now and then we may be tempted to simply leave the task for a later date. We may try to convince ourselves that the house is “clean enough” and that we have other priorities that take precedence. When we do so, we are simply forming another habit. And unlike the habit of cleaning and organizing, this one is much easier to obtain and hold onto.
Be Ruthlessly Diligent!
Be diligent in your efforts. You deserve a clutter-free home, an organized desk, a clean environment. Don’t settle for anything less! Do yourself, your family, and your friends all a favor: be diligent, stay organized, and clean! You don’t know the wonders it will do to your life!
Written By Matthew Adams
Classic Garage Solutions
HIDDEN POWER OF MOVING
I often find myself helping others either with preparing for a move, or with unpacking and organizing once they have moved into their new home. But in late February, I moved myself, and was surprised at how much I learned since this time it was my own stuff that I was dealing with.
We See What We Are and Aren’t Really Using
Our move has made me think of Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. When Ryan first made the decision to downsize and join his friend Josh in the quest to live life significantly lighter and more simply, he packed every single thing he owned into boxes as if he were getting ready to move. Then, he only unpacked belongings as he needed them. After 6 weeks, he got rid of everything that was still in boxes. When we move, we are essentially forced to do the same thing. Packing everything we own into boxes has the power to help us see what we are and aren’t really using. In Ryan’s case, he had so much stuff that he realized he only really used about 20 percent of what he had.
In my own move, what shocked me the most is that our family does fairly good job of regularly donating and getting rid of things, but we still discovered that we have a lot of unused stuff. I unpacked our essentials, giving priority to the kitchen, bedroom closets and bathrooms like usual, then within the first week, I eventually removed everything else that we use from their boxes and assigned homes to it all. Once that was done I was relieved to be able to get back to our busy life. But I have to admit that like so many other families, after a month in a half, I still don’t have all of my boxes unpacked. We still have a bunch of boxes sitting in our storage room that have been all too easy to ignore.
Those Leftover Boxes are Full of Hard Decisions
Why haven’t I tackled those boxes? Because we haven’t missed what’s in them one bit. I can’t help but see the irony here, this is the same exact stuff that my clients desperately call me to help them with. But in their case these same kinds of boxes have sometimes been sitting in their storage areas for years after they have moved. They often can’t even remember what’s in them. The stuff they haven’t used hogs all the storage or garage space in their homes. There is more than one reason that we avoid these boxes; for one, in addition to not missing what's in them, other tasks on our to-do lists take priority, or maybe there’s no place to store what’s in the boxes because closets and cabinets are already full. But the biggest reason those boxes don’t go away is this; they hold all that stuff that is so hard to deal with. The boxes often represent indecision. Every single item requires a decision to be made. Are we are ready to let it go? Or out of guilt, do we think we need to keep it? What if we might need it someday? And finally, if we are ready to let it go of it, how do we get rid of it? Should it be donated, discarded or sold?
It Does Not Pay To Put Those Hard Decisions Off
It’s tempting to move onto everything else on our busy to-do lists and put these hard decisions on the back burner. But I know all too well that that’s not a good idea. Just because we are not missing whatever is in those boxes, doesn’t mean they deserve to take up space in our homes for years and weigh heavy on our minds. If you have a couple of boxes like these in your home, they may not bother you much, but if you have a whole room filled with them, I suggest you don’t put off dealing with them any longer. And if you are paying for a storage unit, or unable to use your garage for parking your car, the indecision is costing you money or robbing you of convenience. Decide once and for all to do the hard work of making these decisions and get yourself past them. Because it doesn’t pay to put it off, they will just steal your space and peace of mind.
Let Go of Everything That Has Been Singled Out as Unused
If you are in the process of a move, commit to unpacking every box now rather than later. Take a critical eye to what you allow to stay and be selective. If you have more stuff than you have storage space for, consider letting go of the things that you really don’t use. If in the rare chance you end up needing something that you got rid of down the road, it can usually be easily replaced. Keep in mind that you likely won’t miss 99% of what you let go of. If you decide to keep something, get it out of that box and use or display it. In the end, it will feel so good to get the job done.
Our move has forced us to take a closer look at what we really have, and separate what we use from what we don’t. But, at this point we have to follow through and let go of everything that has been singled out as unused. This weekend I have forced myself to get into my storage room and get through those boxes. Now I have a large pile items ready to be donated. My storage room is finally clean, but it was challenging even for me, because I was the one making the tough decisions about our own stuff this time. I have listed the steps that I took to get though my storage room boxes. Feel free to use these steps as a guide to get you through your own storage space..
5 Easy Steps For Getting Through Your Own Boxes:
My oldest daughter and I went on a mission trip to Haiti after she graduated from high school last year. My mind often wanders back there, because it left a permanent mark on my heart. Especially back to the day that we were hauling cinderblocks for the school that they were building in the mountains near the village of OSAPO where we stayed. As we worked alongside the villagers, I lumbered up the steep hill in the sweltering heat with 30 pound blocks in my arms, it was so hard! But I thought I was doing pretty good...especially for my age (I had to add that since I will be 50 this year).
I was drastically humbled when a 10 year old Haitian boy zipped by me carrying not one, but two blocks at a time, and not in his arms but balanced on his head! That’s 60 pounds, which probably nearly matched his weight. The locals were working circles around us. Just the same, however slow, we were doing our best to help and as we passed along the blocks to one another to get them across the river, they smiled genuinely at me in sincere gratitude. I felt something stir inside of me that was so deeply satisfying. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. And believe it or not, the fact that I was a little exhausted, filthy, dehydrated and sweating beyond belief, only added to my gratification. Because I was ignoring my own needs for once to help make as much progress for these people as possible. I felt like the work I was doing that day was so much more important than anything that I could be doing at home. Improving the lives of these people who are fighting just to survive was so much more meaningful than my usual petty concerns, like keeping my house clean or getting my kids to volleyball practice on time.
Now that I am at home, as I busily check things of my to do list each day, I often find myself thinking back to that mountain, to the day that we put aside all of our own trivial but seemingly important concerns to serve others. My only focus was on how to help these children who worry about where their next meal will come from instead of whether or not their parents will buy them the latest version of the iPhone. I can’t help but to ponder how purposeful and gratifying it would feel to live everyday serving others the way we did that week.
Perhaps these feelings exist inside of me, inside of all of us, because we all live with knowing that it is not right or good to ignore the fact that we live in such abundance and luxury while others, through no fault of their own, suffer in such poverty. Consumerism and the ability for many of us to easily acquire too many possessions is becoming more common every day. The Haitians use and keep every possession they have until it nearly disintegrates. In contrast, we throw out things that are perfectly good just because a new model has been introduced. I can’t help but recognize the absurdity of it all, and my time in Haiti has strengthened my resolve to try to live more mindfully.
I strongly believe that there is love infused within each of us at our cores, beckoning us to give more of ourselves and take less. Could that lead us anywhere other than to feeling more complete? Acquiring more stuff will never complete us. And in respect for those who live in this world with so little, should we not be more mindful of not taking and living with more than what we really need? Perhaps the emptiness we feel in our hearts is there to remind us daily that there is something more that we can and should be doing. Our hearts are tugging at all of us, not just mine, asking us to live each day in the name of love, giving away more and taking less, dedicating our time and our talents to others who have less than we do. I marvel at how serving others can fill up our souls and complete us like nothing material in this world could ever do.
There is a challenge that exists today for grandparents and parents alike. Grandparents want to find the perfect gifts for their grandchildren, and many of today’s children often already have more toys than they know what to do with. Parents also struggle with the issue of having too much toy clutter in their children’s bedrooms.
I frequently get calls from parents who have contacted me because they are struggling with their children’s clutter. Often, grandparents are major contributors to this clutter. Parents cringe each time another gift is lovingly delivered, because it will inevitably require a place to live within the already crammed storage spaces of their child’s room. The following is a list of helpful suggestions for dealing with this issue as the holidays approach and children’s birthdays come and go.
Communication Is Key
If you are a parent with this problem, having an open conversation with your parents or in-laws is a good place to start. Help them understand that your child does not need more toys and that you don’t have room for them. To ensure that the conversation stays light and positive, be sure not to blame them for the clutter that your child has already accumulated. Then, provide them with a list of suggestions for useful gift ideas and be sure that they have several options to choose from. Because grandparents struggle with finding gifts that will actually be appreciated and used, a list of ideas is sure to be well received.
As an alternative to traditional gifts, provide your parents or in-laws with ideas for tickets or gift certificates that offer fun or educational experiences. Experience gifts offer the additional bonus of providing an opportunity and an excuse for making special memories with that child. The activity can either be spent with a grandparent, or provide your own family with a special activity to do together. I have listed some ideas for experience gifts below:
Ice cream, cupcake, cookie or yogurt shop
Children’s Museum or other Museum
Educational classes such as music, art or dance lessons
Martial arts classes
Family get-away to a favorite destination
Play or music concert
Family Fun Centers
Ice Skating, bowling, miniature golf
For Girls – manicures or pedicures
Special activity night with grandparent to bake, do crafts or go fishing
Gift Certificate Ideas for Useful Gifts
Gift certificates to stores can also be given with the intent to purchase more practical items such as the following:
Athletic Stores where sports gear or clothing can be purchased
Music Store if your child plays an instrument
Favorite Clothing Store where school clothes will be purchased
Department or Super Store to purchase school supplies and/or backpacks
With a little creativity, Grandparents can make personalized gift baskets filled with fun consumable items. The possibilities for these are endless, and can be personalized according to the child's hobbies and interests. Here are few examples:
Snack Basket full of an assortment of favorite snacks
Movie Night Basket with a favorite movie, a variety of popcorn, drinks and candy
Baking Basket full of all the things needed to bake and decorate a batch of cupcakes
Give Giftster a Try
If your parents or in-laws are even just a little tech savvy, I recommend giving this helpful service a try; Giftster.com is a private, web and mobile based gift registry connecting family and close friends. It is a group gift wish list and is completely free. It allows family and friends to list their gift preferences so that others can make purchases using the list. This is a great gift buying resource for the whole family and is easy to use. Giftster will ensure that everyone receives gifts that they really want and appreciate.
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.