40 Days Tips and Tricks: On Kid's Room Purges

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have,
but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
Fredrick Keoniq
How I De-Clutter My Kid's Rooms:

1. With older kids, I have them work alongside me.  I go through all their clothes and things with them asking, "Do you want this still?" "Do you need this for school anymore?" "Does
this fit you?" "Will you ever wear this?"  I will make a hand-me-down pile, and then a garbage pile and a donate pile.
2. I found that the younger kids are harder to keep on task and also want to keep everything. I go through their room the first time while they are at school. I do a thorough purge of things I know that are either garbage, they don't use, or won't miss.  I do leave things I would love to get rid of but
know I must ask first, just in case. I bring them in the next day or so, one at a time, and we go through
things together...lots of questions, trying on clothes, asking if they like things, if they fit, if they will ever
be worn*. I ask them to help me organize things, so they can learn, and also so they know how refreshing
an organized room is vs. a messy one...they need to see that before and after process.

3. All my kids have special places to keep things. They each have a large "treasure box" (that white suitcase type container above) where they keep mementos...a good place to throw that special rock, or some little object they love. These are left down and easily accessible. If they have a larger collection of something, (Pokemon cards, stuffed animals) I put those things in some type of container.

I also have a large plastic container for each child called a "scrapbook box". These contain everything from first shoes, to special drawings, baby blankets, old journals, that type of thing. These are up in a closet and not very accessible...but they will often request that special things are put in their boxes.

4. On hand-me-downs: I have four boys, but there is a 14 year span between youngest and oldest....SO I
keep some things, others I know it won't last. I have piles of khakis, blazers, dress shoes, uniforms,
sports stuff, dress shirts, ties, and belts...all things that won't go out of style. Some things can make it to
the next in line, some just end up looking too junky. I keep everything in a separate container or drawer,
in my middle son's closets, which are roomy. I have a sports drawer, a shoe container, a uniform
container, and a seperate section for the dress things. When they were all younger (babies and toddlers), I had the big plastic containers labeled and stacked in the basement according to size, but I would go through these with a fine-toothed comb and really think if the item looked nice enough to pass down, or was just too worn or stained or out of style.

*While I am with the kid's sorting through and organizing their closets, I keep a notebook with me, so I
can jot down who needs what for spring/summer. Do they have dress shoes that fit? In need of a couple
fresh t-shirts or a new pair of shorts or swim trunks? This way I know what to keep my eye out for or
what to get for birthdays with no excess.


My Dad

So many memories add up to make a childhood don't they?  And to make an impression of a person you keep with you for a lifetime.

I can remember rushing to my mom's stationary drawer at 4:00 p.m.  I was little...4, 5, 6?  I'd go there often to write notes to my Dad, and when I saw his car working it's way down the street after work...I would actually hear it crunch first on the stones....I would burst out the door and run my little note to him as he got out of the car.  I remember feeling shy about that bursting out the door.  I can remember how he seemed tired after a long day, a long commute, but how he always had a smile as he took the note from my hands. I can feel the warm sun, the fresh evening air, I can smell the spaghetti cooking in the kitchen.

I can remember the time my Dad crushed his finger hammering shingles on the roof.  I was scared to death, hearing him yell for help.  I can picture his face, and the cloth diaper my mom had thrown up to him on the roof to stop the blood.  I can feel the panicked, scared feeling in my stomach that made me want to run and hide.

I can remember the time it was my turn...a brick (yes, Katie, I still blame you) dropped on my finger from a picnic table, a burning pain, blood dripping, me screaming barefoot across the painful stones.  My Dad grabbing me, running to the bathroom, another bloody cloth diaper (boy, those come in handy, don't they?), the cold water making it more painful.    The discussion...ER or not?  ER we go.  I know it was a warm, beautiful summer evening, and somehow that made it all better.  All the attention helped a little also.  I knew I was safe, because my Dad was in charge.  To me, he knew more than any fancy doctor.

I remember running out to visit my white pet bunny one cold spring morning, excited because my Dad had just spent the day before building a brand new fancy cage for her.  I remember seeing the hole torn through the bottom of the cage, finding my poor dead bunny around the back of the garage.  I remember wailing and running inside, and having my Mom and Dad panicked, "What? What?"  I remember the look of absolute fury on my Dad's face because we knew right off the culprit was the big mean dog whose owners let him roam the neighborhood.  I knew he would take care of it.  The fact that he was as mad as I was sad, made me know he cared so much.

I can remember when I bought my first used car, a little Honda Accord...saving for that down payment, negotiating over the phone.  I had no idea what I was doing and quite accidentally, because of pure desperation, I ended up negotiating a pretty good price.  I remember knowing, somehow, maybe from a little chuckle from him, or the look in his eyes, that he was proud of me for that.

My Dad is quiet, kind, forgiving, sensible.  A hard worker more than anything.  A bootstrap kind of guy.  I don't think he's asked anyone for anything in his life...an ounce of help, a request to borrow, a favor.  He does it all himself, and never expected not to.  He worked two jobs often to provide for his family.  At the same time, I've never heard him turn down a request for help in my life.  If there is work to be done, he works harder, faster, more efficient than anyone else, no matter what the job.  He can clear a field, plant and tend a garden, build a house, fix anything.  

And on top of that, I don't think I've ever heard my Dad complain once.  Maybe sometimes about his knees, only because he's had surgery on both, and only after he does something like haul two 40 pound buckets of maple sap for 8 hours a day, and still then, he'd do it in a way that make you think he's joking.  "I'm a little sore today, we hauled syrup from 2,000 trees you know."  Um, YEAH?  Your 73, DAD!!!

There is no one I could be prouder to call Dad.   He has set an example, in his actions every day of his life, for 73 years, of what it takes to be a good, honest, hard-working, loving son, brother, father, husband, and grandfather.

Happy Birthday Dad!


40 Days Tips and Tricks: Questions and Decisions

Take time to deliberate;
but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."
Napoleon Bonaparte

I was going to post some practical professional questions I found on the internet to ask ourselves while
de-cluttering, but it was just all so stupidly generic and magaziney-ish I thought "OH how dumb".

I'm a mom just like you, so here are my unprofessional REAL-LIFE thoughts when I am making
decisions to rid my house of something:

-Do I want this in my house anymore?
-Where the heck did this come from and why is it in my house?
-Do I love this toy for my children? (Was it just a gift that I would never have bought, or did I make
a mistake thinking it would be hit and it's plain old dumb.)
-Do they play with it often?
-Do I like this shirt or do I never wear it because my bra straps always show and bug me or
the sleeves are too short, or some other annoying thing?
-Do these pants make my butt look big? Or do they make my butt look bigger than it already is?
-Will my child look like a rag-a-muffin wearing this?
-Will he/she EVER wear this in spite of my attempts to force them into it?
-Does it have stains?
-Do I want to dust this for the rest of my life?
-Do I want to look at this for the rest of my life?
-Is this really me or do I feel I need to keep it out of obligation?
-Do I use this daily, weekly, or monthly?
-How long will it be before anyone even notices it is gone?
-Will I be able to sleep at night if I get rid of this, or will I be racked with guilt?
-Do I really need more than one of these?
-Do I swear at this thing a lot? (Like a small lamp that was in my kitchen once that shocked me all
the time. Or that battery toy that never shuts off and drones on and on and on? So long, sucker.)
Or more eloquently put, I always keep this quote in mind:

Have nothing is your house that you do not know to be useful,
or believe to be beautiful.
william morris


Just Like Her

Sometimes people are meant to come into your life and change it for the better.

When I was in sixth grade, I was assigned a "big sis" to write to from the all-girl's academy down the street.  I wrote a letter, and then Jane, who I chose from the list because Jane was (is!) one of my favorite names ever, surprisingly, wrote back.  We kept this up...she sent a picture once and I, little mousy shy 6th grader, was in awe at this incredibly beautiful older girl who actually cared enough to correspond with me.

I once, in pure desperation to be "just like her", bought a bottle of magic potion to grow really really long hair from the back of a teen magazine.  In months my scraggly dirty dishwasher hair turned into thick, shiny, long, dark brunette locks.  Oh, no it didn't.  All my hard earned money wasted, and a lesson learned.  But Jane taught me many other much more important lessons from our friendships...lessons I learned by the example of the way she conducted herself in life.  Here was the gorgeous, incredibly smart, and confident girl, but more important GOOD...good to the core, respectful to her parents, respectful of herself, kind to her friends...just really really GOOD.

We corresponded for years, then lost touch for awhile...and found each other again, thank goodness.

Jane tells the story better (and includes some funny pictures of me in grade school)...except the part where she says I was a good friend to her.  I worshiped her, of the long shiny hair, jetting off to college at one of the top universities in the nation.  She was not only a great friend but one of the best role models ever to walk across my path.  And still continues to be.  A girl couldn't ask for anyone better.

Jane sent me all those letters I wrote to her over my late grade school, junior high, and early high school years, and I have so much to say about how different things are now.   It made me sad.  I seem so innocent and young compared to so many of the girls the same age today.  Of course everyone says how fast our kids  are growing up now, but really there is huge difference.  That's another post for another time.  OH, to be young again.  We aren't giving our children, I'm afraid, the same chance at a long lovely childhood.


Questions To Ask Myself

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  
I say, let your affairs be as two or three, 
and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, 
and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.  
~Henry David Thoreau

I've asked myself all these questions over the course of my 16 years of parenting, and I still continue asking.   What if?  I have the power to change so much about our lives!  I can give myself a lot of excuses, but more than at any other time in the history of the world, I know I have the power of choice. 
What if you gave up your obligations to school, to church, to just about anything else, especially when they just made you feel stressed and frantic?  
What if you cut to the core everything but just the bare essentials of time commitments?
What if you woke up in the morning to see an almost blank calendar staring at you in the face everyday?  What if you were able to fill that calendar only with what you felt was best for your family?
What if you never felt torn in a million directions, but could "keep your accounts on your thumb-nail"? 
What if you felt calm almost all the time?
What if you said no to playgroups, no to toddler activities, no to endless play dates, no to so much running around?  
What if you refused to feel pressured, guilty, or weird for living a life that looked quite the opposite of the way everyone at the time was living theirs?  
What if you could say 'no' without following it with an apology or an excuse?  
What if you were able to stand strong with constant endurance against the daily onslaught of the frantic pace of society and find a different quiet, child-friendly path of mothering?  
What if, in spite of what society is telling you, you decided that the role of mother is enough work to warrant all of your time, attention and talents and never needed to be shared with less important man-made things?

How will my children remember me when they're grown?  What kind of mother do I want to be described as one day?  I know, it's a question that sends a little fear into my heart.  Will they say I was too stressed, too busy, impatient and angry?  Will they say I seemed to spend time on everything else but them? Will they say, "I needed you then, but you were never really listening?"  

Of course, I know I am human, learning as I go, making plenty of mistakes on the way.  I'd like to live though, with a little bit of contentment in my heart, that I gave this mothering thing the best shot I had.  Asking and answering those hard questions reminds me of that contentment I wish for.

As I get older I've gotten braver...sometimes in great bursts of choices to say no as I wiped my calendar cleaned and vowed to keep it that way, sometimes with the regret of learning the hard way with stressful years as I split my time among too many obligations, or wishing time would move faster instead of slower ("as soon as spring is over, things will slow down and I can enjoy more...").  I have been inspired to be courageous by studying others whom I admire, who exude a peace and contentment in their mothering spirit.  I have been falsely misled by my own self, quick to buy into the "how does she do it all so well?" comparison, only to find out once again, it's an illusion.  (Because it is every time!  Doing it all and doing the important things well does NOT exist, please know..and the price is almost always paid by the little ones that don't have a voice.)   I have been way too quick to jump on a bandwagon, only to fall off and hit the ground hard, with a few bruises but a little relief in my heart. 

I think it's so important in this day and age to remind myself that right now my plate it full of mothering and that's ok.  It's enough for me to be a mother.  Just a mother.  It's a darn big job that takes an incredible amount of energy, endurance, spiritual and physical strength and I am in the thick of it almost every minute, and if I do have a moment to come up for breathe,  I should be recharging my batteries with a quiet moment so I can jump right back in.  My children deserve a mother who is unstressed, happy, content, and PRESENT.


40 Days Tips and Tricks: House Love

Do you want to love your home?

I think I've found the secret to house love: stop comparing your house to other homes...just pay attention to your house, wherever you may be right now, whatever it might look like, and work at turning it into the
coziest, cleanest home it can be.

In a little book of "rules" for life I once wrote these things:

-Clean and everything will look better to you.
-Less toys, furniture, clothing, junk is always better...keep a SIMPLE house...get rid of stuff
constantly. Or better yet, don't buy it!
-Don't ask for endless opinions...you'll get too many ideas...stick with what YOU love.
-A small change, that usually costs pennies... flowers, a pretty plant, etc...makes a big difference.
-Don't copy anyone's style...find your own and stick to it.

Today there are tons of ideas and images out there from just about everywhere..magazines, (and I'll
add now- blogs!)...I find for me that it is a waste of time to constantly be on the search for the perfect idea, or to constantly want/need change. I want to be content! I find that when I mind my own home, with what I have on hand I achieve contentment.
Sometimes this means: I NEED TO STOP LOOKING!

Sometimes I feel we have so many, TOO many, chances to want, want, want. Or to wish, wish, wish.

What if we just tried contentment? What if we accepted our homes as they are, linoleum, old cabinets,
tiny closets, squeaky doors, hand-me-down sofa, and worked with and learned to love what we have right
in front of us? I think our grandparents did this much better than we have ever done. Most of them lived
in the same home for their lifetimes, and took such good care of what they had, whether it was the "in"
thing or not.

I really have found if I clean, everything looks fresh and new to me. It's a little miracle I feel, with no money and some elbow grease I can transform my home and my attitude towards it.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking, "Oh, I need a change in here." And that change always means more money, more searching (time wasting searching), maybe an errand, something new.

BUT I find when I just give that room a good old fashioned cleaning I feel so differently...that's all that was needed. Dust those shelves, buy some tulips or pick some branches from outside to put in a vase, scrub, scrub, scrub, wash the windows, move things around, and purge all that clutter. Fill the air with the fresh scent of 'clean' and I love my home again.

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
be it ever so humble,
there's no place like Home.
- T. Howard Payne

I Can Smell It In The Air

I can smell spring today!  Yes, I know, it will snow again...there is sure to be another storm, and maybe even a snow day.

But soon enough, the snow will melt, the birds will sing, the trees and flowers will bloom, the grass will turn green and lush, and I will throw open the windows and let the sweet smell of spring come in.

And boy, I can't wait to throw my kids out onto that green lush lawn, and let them run their little hearts out.  If they all haven't killed each other by then.  Boy oh boy, if there was a magic pill to make all siblings get along I'd be willing to anty up a pretty penny for it, wouldn't you?  What is it with cabin fever that brings out the mean in everyone?  Of course, I have been as sweet as pie all cooped up too.


Coach Patrick

This is Patrick's favorite Christmas present...yes, a $2 coloring book.  (Which just goes to show me....why do I always buy more than necessary at Christmas?  And why is it always the littlest simplest after-thought type thing that gets the most love and attention?)  He doesn't color in it, he just looks at the pictures.  I've actually covered it all up with contact paper because he was very disturbed that it was starting to fall apart.  His favorite picture is the one of the coach, with the basketball on the page next to it.  He was thrilled (some of us were not) when I scrounged up an old whistle.  He puts the whistle on, and sometimes I catch him making referee like gestures with his hands and arms, and yelling to himself, "Shoot it!  Shoot it!"  He gets embarrassed when he catches me looking at him while he's in imagination coaching/referee/basketball world, which is of course, even cuter.  I think he might have found his calling.  Only time will tell.