It’s been slowly building for a while. It does that, you know? You slowly add small slivers of kindling to the fire, and before you know it the heat feels like it’s melting your face. I’m there.
I got to a point where I realized I was flustered most of the time. I felt like my life was the movie Groundhog Day, and day in and day out I was picking up the same crap over and over, and over. I would fuss at the kids to pick up their things, and even they would look overwhelmed at the task. I would yell, they would cry, I’d apologize for a short fuse, they would put their many toys into overflowing boxes that kept building in my living room floor, and the next day the chaos would repeat. It got to a point where I didn’t even feel like I could keep my house clean. I just strove to keep it picked up.
I felt like I was failing.
We would clear out the toys, give away boxes to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other local charities. I would feel a sweet release after a yard sale. But then I would let the kids use the money they made to go buy more stuff. My husband would pick them up a little surprise on his way home from work. It was like his own personal penance for the long hours he put in at the job and away from home. I would always cave at the store when they asked for a new toy. The fact was, they were really good kids, not spoiled at all, and always listened to me. They didn’t act like brats, they weren’t selfish, and most of all, I just loved them. I liked seeing the joy on their faces when I bought them something new. They always appreciated even the tiniest of things. This led to a lot of dollar store junk underfoot.
I would struggle to get the laundry done. It would pile up in my oversized, living room chair, and when I eventually got around to the folding part I would sit amazed at the towering piles all around me. The girls would put up their laundry for me, but I would have to help them cram all the adorable shirts and sweet, ruffled pants into their overflowing drawers. I would hang dresses in the closet. So many dresses. Too many dresses. There were dozens they would never wear in a given season.
A large part of getting everyone dressed involved digging through these bulging dressers and tightly filled closets to narrow down the outfit for the day. The hardest part would always be finding the right shoes that absolutely matched that given outfit, and one day as I stood with a rainbow, polka-dotted slip-on in my hand, searching for its mate, I realized the difficulty was due to the sea of footwear below me. The closet floor teemed with shoes of all sizes and colors. My first through was that I was a disorganized failure of a mother. The second, softer-spoken thought whispered, it’s too much. No one could keep up with this.
The hair bows! So many hair bows. They hung from cute organizers I had purchased, one for each girl. They piled out of matching Thirty One containers I had purchased with their initials to make my life less crazy, and more cute. They filled the bathroom drawer upstairs, and the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom downstairs. They showed up all over the house, and I would collect and deposit them back to their respective places. Except the rubber bands or hair ties. Those went missing and never returned.
It got to where no space was mine, and no place wasn’t overrun by toys, stray shoes, and ribbon in six different shades of pink. I would find a pink sandal by my bed, a stuffed animal in my bathroom floor, a couple of plastic shopping carts on my porch, and a tornado of Shopkins strewn through the hall. I told myself that this was life with kids, but as I brought a laundry basket into my own master bath to catch the sopping wet Barbies, I wondered. After all, they had their own bathroom, complete with an overflowing metal basket of bathtub toys.
I realized I couldn’t keep up, and it wasn’t simply because being a mom of little kids was hard. It was too much, but not because parenting was challenging. It was too much because we had too much. Too much stuff. It wasn’t just the kids. It was me too. After all, I was the forty year old woman who couldn’t get rid of jeans from high school. I held on to trinkets I had bought at the dollar store when decorating my first college apartment. I covered the walls with more pictures than they could hold, and every open counter space begged me to put something new from Poineer Woman there. Even the window seal wasn’t safe.
I had books I hadn’t read in twenty years, collections of glass elephants I had no time to dust, and my panty drawer was a riot. I mean, why did I hang on to those thongs? I hated those things. I had my Doc Martin sandals from 1996, that sat in my crowded closet alongside the slippers I had worn to my wedding. Tiny pieces of white chipped off them and lay scattered along the floor. Handbags filled the shelves above, and stacks of slacks filled the shelves below, and rows of shirts I hadn’t worn in years pressed against one another. All of it, not just my closet, it was all starting to press against me.
I was feeling stifled by all my stuff!
My life was the most full it had ever been. My heart overflowed with love for my children, and everyday I grew deeper and deeper in love with my spouse. My relationship with Jesus blossomed, taking on a whole new level of dependence, understanding, and adoration. I had never been so fulfilled and happy in my entire life, but the “stuff” around me was too much. It was taking too much time from the aforementioned. It was costing too much financially, and my attempts to control its chaos were too much for me to handle any longer. It came to a breaking point, and now we’re working on it.
The boxes are being quickly filled and labeled, and I’m not just putting it on the kids. I’m putting it on me too. I’m boxing up my own possessions and getting them gone. It’s the oddest thing ever. A woman who normally couldn’t let go of clothing that no longer fit and was in no way in style is suddenly cutting it down to the bare essentials. I realized I didn’t want the girls to see life this way. I didn’t want them to think life was about stuff. I didn’t want them to base love on gifts, or feel they had to give something material themselves to show they cared. I wanted them to know that time with family was most important, and if you were too busy straightening up and focusing on all your stuff you could miss out on that instant.
I think I’ve caught it in time. Not just for them, but for our entire family. We are minimalizing our possessions so we can maximize our time and satisfaction. And it feels so good.