Friday, September 21, 2012

Home Improvement

First, a Zen parable:

There was a man walking on a lonely road. He came to a torrential stream and saw that the bridge had been washed away. He decided to spend several days cutting down trees and vines with his little knife to build a raft. He built it carefully and well, and the raft carried him safely across the water.  When he got to the other side, he said to himself, "This is a good raft. If I ever come across another stream, I can use it again."  And so, he carried the raft for the rest of his life.

I asked myself this question: what would make me feel the best right now? Have the least anxiety? Feel ready to welcome a new babe? And the answer is: a very clean and organized house, sparse even, without many THINGS.  When the house is neat and clean and organized, I feel energized.  But the problem is: it never stays that way for very long. So I've really been kicking it into high gear around here trying to get it that way.  And there's really only one way to do it: get rid of stuff. We don't have a huge house, but that cannot and should not be an excuse.  I remember living in France 10-12 years ago and working as an English teacher. A lot of parents hired me to give private tutoring lessons at their homes. I saw a lot of Parisian apartments that way. Most of these families were pretty well off.  And their apartments were teensey.  They made 800 square feet or less work for a family of 5 or 6, and made it seem spacious and luxurious. So I know it can be done. Maybe I need to think like a Parisian, only it's been so long that I don't remember how.... I'll have to figure it out along the way. All I know is I'd much rather have a clean, organized, uncluttered home than a house full of fantastic rafts taking up all my space and energy and patience. SO FAR, THIS is what I've done:

50+ books (I'm not going to write how many over 50 there were b/c it's so embarrassing that I'm such a book hoarder... But no longer!)
5 large full-to-the-brim bags of clothes- mine, Maxwell's, and Mimi's. 
10 plastic Tupperware containers and some other kitchen-y items that haven't been used in many years.
2 large bags full of not-touched-for-over-a-year toys.
LOTS of odds and ends, too many to mention.

Gone for good:
4 ugly throw pillows that constantly got in the way.
An extra crib mattress someone gave us.
A crib (too broken down for donation).
Two wooden chairs I absolutely hate.
Many, many old coloring books, magazines, bunches of half-dried-out markers and dull crayons.
Our old, used-to-the-final-moment infant car seat & base (the stroller broke long ago but got heavy use for 4 years).
An old printer from college that is super out-dated.
A broken sewing machine (sniff...)
All puzzles with missing pieces and all games we never play (sorry Operation and Mouse Trap, but my house is just not big enough for all of us).
A massive sweep of our food storage that revealed quite a bit of expired canned & boxed goods. Our recycle bin was heaping that week.
Old toys that the kids never touch that can't really be called "gently used" anymore.
LOTS of outside toys that have been cluttering up the joint and never get any play.
CD's I will never again listen to and are too scratched up to donate, also I don't have the original cases.
90% of my college papers, tests, and notebooks.
LOTS of odds and ends, too many to mention.

Things are really starting to shape up around here :) .  Some good books that got me going were Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer, The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, Clutter Clearing Choices by Barbara Tako, and Throw Out 50 Things by Gale Blanke.  I've also found some good blogs and websites devoted to simple living, downsizing, and clutter clearing.  Life is better and easier with less stuff!!!