Job duties

A few weeks ago Thomas said something to Margaret about mommy quitting her job to stay home with the kids. Margaret’s response? “Noooo, Dad, she quit her job to clean the closets.”

She has a point, honestly. I resigned to be with my kids, but when I did I also set specific measurable goals unrelated to them. Bonding with my kids and witnessing their lives (plus keeping them alive) is my job, but it’s helpful to have something to point to if ever I feel like I’m not doing anything, you know?

Something like the What We Ate series. I can point to that and say I enjoy the whole process of feeding my family, grocery shopping included, and it’s a big part of our week. Finding new recipes, going to several stores, trying new things. The meals may be gone quickly, but as long as I’m writing about them on the internet I have proof.

Also: cleaning the closets. My goal when I quit was to eventually go through every nook and cranny in the entire house and really pare down our stuff. Most closets and storage areas were all but unusable because they were so crammed with stuff we hadn’t seen in years.

My view on “things” has changed a lot in the last year or so, starting with reading minimalist blogs and books and really kicking into high gear with Seven, which didn’t come about until three months after I left my job – long after the goal had been set. I don’t think the book is a secret key that will solve all your clutter problems by any means; it just hit me when I was primed and ready. Combined with all the tools I already had:

  • If you get rid of something you won’t have to ‘manage’ it anymore (aka, find a place for it, decided what to do with it, pick it off the floor when your kids throw it there)
  • Free space is worth something: if you give a ton of stuff away you’ll likely have to repurchase a fraction of it. But consider that cost to be what you’re paying to have a manageable closet/storage room/whatever.

Seven added this one:

  • Is there someone out there right now for whom the item you’re keeping in the closet ‘just in case’ would make a difference?

Since I was going through Seven as a Bible study at church, this question came with a list of organizations who can get stuff to people who really need it. (Namely: a homeless ministry and a thrift store run by a crisis pregnancy center.) This was HUGE as I don’t know if I would have found them on my own.

That led to the mother of all purging projects and I’m more than halfway through our entire house decluttering. MAJORLY decluttering. When you look at your stuff and think “who will get more use out of this, me or a homeless person?” it’s pretty hard to keep the item.* Obviously I’m still a major cheapskate at heart so I’m not giving away items we actually need (“need”), at the risk of having to re-buy them, but there is a heck of a lot around here we don’t need.

And yes, it feels awesome to point at and say “I’m accomplishing something.” Cleaning closets isn’t exactly the stuff a high powered career is made of, but I’m making our house SO much more livable and that has made a big difference to those of us who spend our time here.

 

*I realize the question “who will get more use out of this, me or a homeless person” (which is my own paraphrase, not a quote from the book) is one of those things that can be so spectacularly unhelpful as to be useless. (So…I should keep nothing, then?) It’s just working for me right now, since my number one justification for keeping everything I’ve ever owned has always been “but I might use it.” Being able to reframe that as “I might use it, but I’m not right now and someone else definitely will” has broken the dam for me.

Also, it didn’t have to be a homeless person. If it was something someone in that situation really wouldn’t have much use for, I could give it to the crisis pregnancy center or save it for the Garage No Sale next month.

 

P.S. ‘Stuff’ is only, well, one-seventh of Seven. (Seven!) (sorry, I couldn’t stop myself) and I don’t want to make it seem like the whole book is about that. Plus, the book gets pretty heavy handed at times, in all the areas, and don’t think I didn’t roll my eyes sometimes and think she was going a little overboard. It’s also VERY churchy, so you’ll probably want to skip it if you’re not into that.

Comments

  1. I love to clean out and pare down my stuff. I didn’t used to be like that, but at some point that changed and now I try to keep things cleaned out pretty ruthlessly. There are still categories where I have a hard time (I struggle to get rid of books, even if I hated them) but mostly it’s been good. I have far fewer things in my closet, but I wear them all. I have only a couple pairs of shoes, but I don’t miss having more. The book “Clutter’s Last Stand” is a fun one to look at if you’re de-cluttering. I especially like the list of excuses people use to keep stuff, because it really helps you see the places you’re making excuses!

    • Jessica says:

      Ooh, thanks for the book recommendation! I make SO MANY excuses and reading them makes them seem much less valid.

  2. I am working on this, too. I have a hard time because I’m sentimental about too many things. I have to keep asking myself if things are worth expecting my kids to hold on to them when I’m gone. If not, I might as well get rid of them now.