Every year when that big yellow bus pulls away for the last time, school children everywhere fly home with that exhilarated feeling of freedom. It’s time to toss away the backpacks and drag out the pool floaties and other hot-weather essentials.
Summer stuff, as I call it. Outdoor grilling, beach trips, and epic water gun wars make for a huge pile in the garage (on top of last year’s cornhole game, sports equipment, and the treadmill you plan to sell).
Or the looming family reunion that sends you up into the attic, digging through boxes to find photos for the slide show you’re in charge of.
And what about all the bins of clothing you stored last year, in hopes that your growing kids (or their younger siblings) could get some wear out of shorts sets and swimsuits.
Any of these projects can make you forget just how far you’ve come, even if your living room is 90% clutter free and you’re tackling that kitchen counter daily as part of your evening routine. But before you get discouraged, we’ve got five tips to help you keep your momentum going on your decluttering journey.
Be okay where you are.
There are a lot of shame-inducing circumstances we find ourselves in surrounding our clutter. Even if we’ve been decluttering for a long time, we can discover an area that’s overrun by stuff we no longer need, or stuff that goes someplace else, like all those boxes in the attic we stuffed there “for now” (years ago).
Or, perhaps during a busy season, we let our routines go and now we’re faced with having to re-conquer areas we had worked so hard to declutter. That one dresser that you let pile up, or the bin of toys in the playroom.
Whatever the reason for your dismay, the worst thing you can do is to allow shame to pile up like clutter. Be gentle with yourself as you assess your situation and accept it. Wasting time and energy beating yourself up takes away from your ability to remedy the situation.
Remember, all you have to do is set a timer for 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in that short time. Set a timer on your phone, and then rinse and repeat the next day, and the next.
Before you know it, that area will be decluttered and feeling like new again.
Set small goals.
Instead of dreading that big job in the garage, tackle one shelf or one corner. If we wait for a whole day to magically open up on our calendar for garage cleaning, we might see a couple different presidential administrations before it happens.
You want to choose an area that’s small enough to complete in 15 minutes. In some cases, that may be only one box, one drawer, or half of a shelf. If you have more than 15 minutes to work on it, great! Keep setting the timer until you’ve either finished that area or run out of time.
Accomplishing small goals adds up to big goals achieved. Task by task, decluttering a bit at a time will eventually lead to an entire closet or garage completely decluttered.
Remember your “why.”
Why did you want to declutter in the first place? Often there’s an event that makes a cluttery person finally decide to get rid of all their unnecessary stuff. It could be the death of a parent (and the clean-out process of that parent’s house), or it might be an embarrassing visit when someone appraised the dresser with raised eyebrows. (Ahem…Not that any of us here at Clutter Free Academy have experienced any of those things personally, mind you.)
We may have had a unique catalyst for our clutter-free journey, but one big reason for us all to keep at it is this: God created each of us for a unique purpose and getting rid of the clutter frees you up to do what He made you to do.
Celebrate your wins.
Who doesn’t love a good celebration? Looking forward to a fun moment (or three) when you accomplish a decluttering project will help you across the finish line.
If you’ve finished clearing off the game shelf and gotten rid of those Hi-Ho Cherrio and Chutes and Ladders (and your kids are in middle school), play a game your family still enjoys, maybe one you rediscover after reclaiming that space.
Or reward the kids with a trip to the pool for helping you bag up winter clothes that are too small. It doesn’t have to be a big deal—just something to mark the accomplishment.
Keep your 15-minute decluttering routines.
In the summertime, it’s easy to lose our school year routines. But the future you—the one packing next year’s school lunches and buying backpacks filled with #2 pencils will thank you for the 15 minutes you spend each day decluttering.
It may not seem like much, but your efforts add up to a big payoff.
Like Jen Babakhan says in her new book, Detoured, “All the little things you do over and over every day are seen by God. If you could watch your life like a movie on fast-forward, you would see that the dishes, laundry, books, snuggles, tantrums (by you or the children), and even the socks you pull out of the corners of the couch on a much-too-regular basis add up to a life of authenticity and love.”
Thanks to our fabulous friends over at Harvest House, we are able to give a few of you a free copy of Detoured! 5 people will win a copy of Detoured!
And one Grand Prize winner will receive:
Lunch Tote Bag
Reusable Ice Packs
Leave a comment below to be entered to win. What is the summer decluttering job on your list?
It’s that time of year again! Summertime—the carefree days of pool splashing, popsicle eating and sleeping in.
At least for the kids.
Not so much for the parents, right?
Usually moms are the ones washing swimming suits, buying popsicles, and constantly wiping up puddles of water and dried grass from the floors. And what about the piles of sidewalk chalk and sandbox toys that have taken the place of backpacks and school books? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom long for that big yellow bus.
Let’s be honest. Getting the kids outside is a good thing, especially if their natural inclination is to sit around playing video games all day while eating junk food. But encouraging outdoor activity is also a lot more work than handing over the game controls.
With a little planning and prep, you can encourage your kids to go outside and create a system that will ultimately save time and energy for mom.
“Mom, I’m Hungry!”
Fueling up those hard-playing days often takes a lot of snacks. To ward off the question, “What can we eat?” you may want to consider labeled snack bins for both the pantry and the refrigerator. That way, mom-approved snacks will be ready for them to grab (and maybe even eat outside) without a lot of hassle.
When unloading groceries from the car, divvy up the snacks into appropriate bins. You may even want to label these according to house rules. (For example, when I was a kid, we were allowed one can of soda per day.) That way, when they’re hungry, they know what they can grab to eat without the same old “I told you — no more potato chips” argument.
Don’t forget to include some healthy treats for the freezer. I love these frozen ice pops, because you can feed an old favorite to your kids without guilt.
Fun Stations are bins filled with outdoor activities for kids based on their interests. They can easily be stored in the garage or the back patio. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and other outdoor favorites can get messy and take up the entire house, if we let it. But a big bin you can grab and set outside enables them to choose which outdoor activities to indulge in without a lot of in and out.
Other Fun Stations that you may want to separate into their own bins (to contain water or sand messes):
And the best part? All of that outdoor fun goes back into the bin for the night, ready for another sunshiny day.
Pro parent tip: periodically replace or add fun items to keep kids interested in their Fun Station bins throughout the summer.
“I can’t find my…”
During the summertime, when kids live at the swimming pool (or play nonstop with water toys in their friends’ backyards), moms can save their sanity by keeping a day’s supply of water gear in a dedicated swimming bag. You could include toiletries, a swimming suit, cover up, sunscreen, water bottle, swim passes, sunglasses, sun hat and beach towel.
If you take your kids hiking often, you can save a lot of time by having a hiking backpack ready to go whenever you are. Include a water bottle, small first aid kit, binoculars, compass, bug spray, and sunscreen. You may even want to include a book for identifying plants or birds. Summer is a break from school, but you never stop learning, right?
“I spilled glitter! And other things you never want to hear your kids say.”
Have you banned glitter from your home? Does the thought of cleaning up one more glue mess make your heart palpitate? (I can’t be the only one!)
Summer is a great time for crafts outdoors. Create a bin with all the messy stuff that makes you sprout gray hairs whenever you see it out on your dining table. If you have a craft area designated outside, your kids can glue, glitter and paint to their heart’s content and all you need to do is supply a smock to protect their clothes. Or they can make gorgeous jewelry out of all of those maddeningly tiny beads and you won’t have to vacuum them out of the carpet.
It’s a win-win! Kids get to create staggering works of art in the great outdoors and mom has minimal mess.
Messy Marvin Strikes Again
Most of us have encountered the trail of soggy towels, goggles, and swimsuits through the house after a day at the pool. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent searching for missing items to (hopefully) load into the washing machine before they stunk of mold.
You can prevent the trail of tears (er…soggy swimming attire) by creating a hanging place for wet towels and suits. Whether it’s a bona fide clothes line in your back yard or some hooks near the entryway of your house, your kids will have a place to hang all the wet things, and you’ll save yourself time by not having to search through the house to find them.
A bin by the door for flip flops and other wet, messy shoes can prevent a lot of floor cleaning too. As a bonus, everyone will be able to get into the car at the appointed time without having to search for something to put on their feet.
Spending time outside improves kids’ health and their imaginations. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for them to explore, dream and try new adventures. It gives them a chance to focus on what they were created for and seek their Creator.
In her new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature, Laurie Otsby Kehler encourages us all to seek connections with our Creator and other people. She says, “Why are we so afraid? Why do we settle for reading about, talking about, but not stepping into our own adventures of faith?” Laurie’s new book is perfect for summer reading. And with a little planning and prep for your kids, you’ll have more time to spend turning pages while sitting by the pool. And who knows? You might even have time for a water war or an outdoor finger-painting session with your little adventurers.
Comment below for the opportunity to win! We will be giving away one Grand Prize Package- A copy of This Outside Life, a Sling Backpack, compact binoculars, and a reusable water bottle. Five Runner Ups will win a copy of This Outside Life.
One of the most frequent questions we get at Clutter Free Academy is “What about my kids’ clutter?”
Conflict over clutter can damage any relationship over time, but it’s especially crucial to navigate this issue carefully with your kids, because what you teach them right now will impact their lifestyles as adults.
As parents, we want to empower our children to have the life skills they need to succeed. Here are four ways we can help our children learn how to live a clutter-free life.
Schedule short decluttering times.
Time-boxing makes decluttering bearable for anyone, young or old. As adults, we’re more likely to focus better if we only have to do it for 15 minutes. Depending on your kids’ age, set a timer and make a game of it. For example, challenge your 5-year-old to clean out one drawer in 5 minutes.
Here at Clutter Free Academy, we don’t expect anyone to spend hours at a time decluttering, much less a child. Decluttering works best in small, manageable sessions.
By the way, we need to differentiate between cleaning and decluttering. Cleaning means putting things away, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting. Decluttering means getting rid of stuff you don’t use, love, or would buy again. Both are important, but in this post, we’re focusing on decluttering.
Teach by example.
It’s been said that in raising kids, more is caught than taught. They tend to learn more from what we do than what we say.
They aren’t born knowing how to declutter. The best way to teach them is to work side-by-side with them to show them the same decluttering systems we’ve learned as adults. Make sure they have the tools they need—3 boxes, 2 bags—so that they have a system in place to declutter. Go through the steps one by one: what to give away, what to throw away, and what to put away. Any trash or recycle goes into the bags.
Have a fun celebration when you empty the contents of the boxes and bags into their rightful places. (It doesn’t have to be a big deal—a sticker, a high five, or a “Yay! You did it!” works great.
Focus on one tiny space at a time.
Trying to declutter a large space is even more overwhelming for kids than it is for adults. Choose the smallest area possible and set the timer. Even better, let them choose which area is the most problematic for them. If they already see the value of decluttering, then you’ve won half the battle.
Divide up the closet into small sections, sort one drawer at a time, go through one toy box at a time. Decluttering is a gradual process. Their space didn’t get cluttery in a day, but a consistent habit of setting a timer to declutter a small space will result in big changes.
Help them maintain their space.
To help keep things organized and tidy, teach your child routines; set times during the day when they put away toys, backpacks, clothes, and anything else out of place. Even five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening will work wonders.
To help with motivation, make a timed game out of it, for fun. They’ll be motivated even more by getting consistent rewards each week for working through their routines. Before they know it, picking up their things becomes a habit.
When it comes to clutter, our relationship with our kids is so important. When we come alongside them and give them the tools and skills they need to create a clutter-free home, we free them up to be who God made them to be.
Parent-child dynamics are already challenging enough, especially between mothers and daughters. Reducing clutter conflict can go a long way to improve the relationship.
In their book, Mended, Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh talk about how to rebuild, restore, and reconcile the connections between mothers and daughters. One of their chapters deals with generational patterns and how hard they are to break. It takes intentionality and determination to change long-term habits and break learned clutter cycles.
The generous people over at Harvest House want to give some of our readers Daniel’s and McIntosh’s Mended. 5 people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:
-1 Copy of Mended
-Assorted Note Cards
-Distressed Wood Frame
-Fruit Infuser Water Bottle
Enter to win by commenting below. What sorts of rewards motivate your kids the most? Which of these tips do you plan on implementing first?
How to Avoid Distractions and Live Out Your God-Given Purpose
When it comes down to it, clutter is a distraction.
As I walk around my house, trying to get ready to host a group of five of my favorite women for three days, I can feel annoyance with myself starting to rise.
Here are some thoughts that come to mind:
“Why do I have all these half-done projects lying around?”
“Why didn’t I finish unloading the dishwasher? Now I have to unload it before I load it.” (Because the dryer buzzer had gone off.)
“Why did I leave the pile of bills on the table instead of paying them?” (I wasn’t sure where the money was going to come from for an unexpected auto repair.)
“I wish I could finish half of what I start. Why is my normally mostly-put-together home suddenly way more out of control than normal?”
And then I think about my past week:
One of our grown children is in a career crisis.
Our contractor is two months behind on completing our renovation.
I’m stuck on a part of the book I’m writing and can’t seem to focus.
My husband is going through some significant health issues.
Clutter was only a symptom of a distracted mind.
When my heart is heavy, sad, or frustrated, my go-to move is to either let distractions take over my life, or to create distraction so I don’t have to pay attention to painful things.
In their new book, Shiny Things, Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley talk about the areas of distraction—not when it comes to our homes, but to our families.
Moms have particular challenges regarding distractions when raising their children. When my kids were small, I remember being pulled in so many different directions. I didn’t always know what my priorities should be.
So as a mom, how do you focus on the important things?
Stop being a slave to your schedule.
Just because someone asks you do to something, doesn’t mean it has earned the right to be on your calendar. Learn to value your time like never before. When I was single, my only obligation was to myself. But when I became a mom, for some reason, I thought I should be able to do everything I had done before and still be able to raise tiny humans.
Understand your limitations.
I know when I’m over-tired, I self-distract with food and stupid TV. There is nothing wrong with watching the “Holiday Armadillo” episode of Friends (again), but when I know I’m using it as distraction because I’ve stayed up too late (again), it’s time to realize I can’t run with the same energy that I could if I didn’t have kids.
Find meaning in what matters.
When I’m neck deep in distraction, oftentimes it’s because I’m looking for “hits”—something that gets me approval from outside sources. When that happens, I realize I’m at a stage in marriage or parenting that’s hard, where the rewards are few. I feel not only unappreciated, but downright unlovable.
In those situations, it’s important to remind myself:
This is a season.
I’m doing hard work that does not have immediate rewards.
God sees my efforts, even when no one else does.
We’re all prone to chase shiny things, whatever that looks like in each stage of life.
Recognizing the reasons we are drawn to distractions helps us to focus on the purpose God created us for, especially as parents. Then we can give the best of ourselves to what matters most — loving God and our families.
The generous people over at Harvest House want to give our readers Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley’s book, Shiny Things. Five people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:
A copy ofShiny Things
Rustic Felt Letter Board 10×10
A Notebook Journal
18 Colored Felt Pens
Enter to win by commenting below. Are distractions keeping you from your highest priority? What shiny things are distracting you right now?
For some people, a three-step plan for a decluttering system results in a neat and cozy home within a few months. For others, decluttering is an arduous journey. It’s not because of busyness or not having a system in place. Behind stacks of clutter, hidden spiritual and emotional issues lurk. If we’re honest, we admit that sometimes it’s just easier to keep those issues hidden in the piles of clutter.
Here are some hidden reasons for clutter:
Pleasing other people
Clinging to the past/reliving our mistakes
Poverty mindset—fearing the lack
Depression/anxiety clutter cycle—If we’re constantly in the emotional part of our brain, we can’t use the logic part (where we make decisions).
Some of these reasons are chronic, while others are situational. In 2014, my eyes were opened to a long-time clutter problem in my own house.
A few months after my dad passed away, my siblings and I traveled from three different states to his house. It took us four days to clean it out, working from early morning until late evening, when we were too tired to move.
I lost track of how many giant, industrial garbage dumpsters we filled. Time and again, a driver would load it onto his truck, empty it at the dump, and bring it back again.
Anything you could think of, we threw away. (We gave a lot away too. A charity came and took what was useable to help needy families.) Stacks of old magazines, mattresses, bank papers from before I was born, and an entire drawer full of keys to who-knows-what. Sixty-seven years’ worth of stuff, and I don’t think Dad ever tossed anything besides old food.
For me, it was like looking into my future.
When I arrived home, I saw everything I had piled around my house. Even some stuff I didn’t want but kept anyway, for fear of offending the relative who gave it to me. If I didn’t do something now, I realized, my kids were going to be saddled with loads of useless stuff to deal with upon my death.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever learned a practical system for being clutter free. One of the books in my many stacks was Kathi’s The Get Yourself Organized Project. I’d read it and even written a review for a newspaper article.
So how did I get from cluttery mess to (mostly) decluttered and organized home business owner?
Here I share five crucial elements on my clutter-free journey.
Here’s the main difference between then and now: Today I really can’t stand clutter and work the systems from Clutter Free daily to keep it out of my house. Before, I didn’t notice it or care that my house was cluttered. I lost time, money and sanity because of my clutter, but I tolerated it because it just seemed normal to me. I didn’t consider there might be a better way to live. This is the simplest—and also hardest—of the steps.
2) A new safe space.
Since clutter is often accompanied by feelings of low self-worth, we must redefine what feels safe to us. It’s a big mind shift to feel worthy of the time it takes to improve our living spaces. Making change is hard; it’s easier to just stick with what we know. Gradually, I accepted that my new way of living was the actual safe space, and not the unhealthy condition of an overly cluttered house. Instead of making ourselves feel better by buying more things, we can enjoy the calm, peaceful feeling of an uncluttered home.
3) Treat yourself like the treasure you are.
Once I became aware of my clutter problem, I worked to keep my thoughts about it positive. I changed “I’m such a slob!” to “I’m working through Kathi’s steps to get clutter free; I didn’t get here overnight, and I won’t be rid of it all overnight, either.” If we’re constantly berating ourselves, we’ll stay stuck in our low self-worth mindset. Kathi’s mantra of decluttering being a lifestyle and not a “one and done” became my mainstay. The more kind and gentle you can be with yourself, the more progress you’ll make.
4) Deal with specific issues you’re hiding.
Among my stacks of books, I had one titled Not Marked that deals with childhood sexual abuse. I had purchased it with several other titles and dumped them into my other piles of books. At that point, I hadn’t told anyone I was suffering from PTSD flashbacks to childhood trauma. Not even my husband knew about the abuse or that I was trying to cope with overwhelming memories. Other places to hide our issues might be ridiculously messy pantries to hide eating too much junk food or crammed-full closets to hide a clothes shopping addiction. It starts with telling one friend you can trust (or a therapist) and getting to the source of whatever’s eating you.
5) Celebrate your wins by enjoying that decluttered room again.
Once I got all the piles of books out of my living room, we bought some pretty pictures and couch pillows to make it cozy. Since it looks so nice, I’m really hesitant to leave anything that doesn’t belong out in the living room. One by one, as you conquer the specific areas of your home, decorate and personalize them so that they feel complete.
Whether your hidden reasons for clutter are chronic or situational, there is hope. Establishing a system for decluttering and recognizing the hidden reasons behind the clutter is the first step. Remember, give yourself grace for whatever you’re struggling with; even if it takes longer than you hoped, you’ll get to the place where you can live peacefully in your space again.
Enter to win!
Want a chance to win a copy of Lyneta’s memoir, Curtain Call? Comment below and two random winners will be mailed a copy by March 13th. (Winners outside the U.S. will receive a digital copy.)