Kitchen Packing Party

kitchen packing party

So far in my minimalist journey I have mostly been sorting through things in-situ. Everything around me in the house has been pared down without actually removing anything and putting it into storage.

I decided to change this today.

I have reached a point, I think, where pretty much everything in the house is what I would consider something I need. However, we still have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff.

I am nervous about just chucking out or donating these things that we have left. They are functional items in almost all cases and I do not want to realise in 6 months that I am desperate for a lot of the things that have gone, especially as financially I am not able to just replace things without justification (stay at home mum doesn’t pay too well, sadly).

Anyway, that aside, today I decided to have my own packing party. If you’re a follower of The Minimalists, you have probably already come across their extreme jump into minimalism, but to read more, check out this post.

Another blogger whose journey I have been following avidly is Ginny at My Simplicity Quest, and she did a similar thing back in 2011, although instead of removing everything, she packed what she thought she would need (as if going on a journey) and stored the rest.

Initially today, I was going to pack up the whole house. Within ten minutes I realised what a ridiculously enormous plan this was (with a husband and two kids living with me), so I downsized it to the area that I hate the most.

Our kitchen.

Our kitchen is sorely in need of a facelift, but since we don’t have a budget for that right now, we have to make the best of it. The thing is, because it is tatty and old, keeping it clean and tidy seems to be difficult for me. This becomes a big problem when it comes to cooking. I hate cooking in a messy environment (I don’t much like cooking at all to be honest), so any excuse to not cook will see me eating ‘easy’ (read: not healthy) foods, or worse, ordering a takeaway. And since our kitchen is pretty much always messy, we are suffering at our own hands by not eating as well as we could.

So today, I have packed up probably half of what we have (and we didn’t have a lot to start with because our kitchen is very small). It’s all going up in the loft. I’ve kept down the things we use regularly (but less of them – 6 mugs instead of 20, 2 kids plates instead of 6, etc.).

I’m not sure what Mr Tech will say when he comes home, but one of the lovely things about my husband is that he tends to take my eccentricities in his stride 🙂

Over time, all the things that have been packed away will either be needed or not. And if not, I think eventually they can just go.

I’m not going to list the stuff we have left, because it is still quite a long list. I am not sure if over time this will grow or shrink.

In fact, I’m not sure about a lot of things, but I want to see how we manage with much less. And I am hoping that by having much less in the kitchen it will be easier to keep clean and I might actually spend more time in there cooking proper meals.

We’ll see!

This is Not a Minimalist’s Kitchen

kitchen clutter

This.

This is not at all what I want to be looking at each day.

I’ve had a break from environmental minimalism, I’ve been focusing on my mental clutter and I think I’m ready to pick up the downsizing baton again.

My brain is less full of emotional crap (not that I’ve resolved all my baggage, I’ve just gotten better at not dragging it out and around with me each day), and this journey is a bit like the journey to physical fitness:

On some training days, your lungs are tight, you can’t get enough oxygen, your aerobic capacity is being stretched.

On other training days, your muscles feel like lead, they are heavy and slow, they need to grow and strengthen.

For me, these two things alternate – one week it’s all about my lungs. My legs are strong but I can’t fuel them. Another week and I’m breathing beautifully, but my muscles can’t keep up.

They seem to have a staggered, alternating, improvement cycle.

And I think minimalism is like this.

It’s a physical and mental journey and you need to alternate them.

For me, I feel it’s time to get back to my physical environment. Christmas is looming in the distance and Christmas means stuff, family, stress, holiday, busy busy busy.

It’s time to get physical. Let’s find some stuff to get rid of.

Random Release of Stuff 6 (and a Pause)

Oh I’m quite excited to share with you all the things I’ve got planned!

The house is pretty empty (well, compared to what it was), so after this post I’m going to hold off on the physical decluttering for a while and instead do some serious soul-searching and clear my mind of clutter.

I genuinely think I’ve reached a kind of critical mass (if that can even apply in this case) of stuff going out and my mind and spirit are now crying out for some attention, instead of my house.

I’ve compiled a reading list, with a few recommended books on it and I have a list of other things I’m going to try to incorporate into my life. I’ll blog about it all, as in a way, this is as much a part of my minimalist journey as removing all the physical things from my life.

One final thing – after a bit of an emotional meltdown yesterday I have picked myself up, scrubbed down the kitchen, bought party supplies, a lovely cake, balloons and drinks and I’m focusing on celebrating my little boy being 2, instead of thinking about the baby I lost this time last year. I’d like to get some nice pictures tomorrow and after this milestone weekend is out of the way, I want to move on.

Hopefully with a little more grace than I’ve managed so far.

So here is the last of the random objects to go for now…

  • 1 squashed toy car
  • 2 pillows (we have downsized to one each in our bed)
  • 1 set of hanging storage pouches
  • 1 bookcase!!
  • 1 teflon saucepan
  • 1 wooden spoon

Out today

7 items

Ongoing total

707 items!

PS – I know I promised new, minimalist house pics. They are coming soon, I’m just waiting for a handful of repairs to be done so we can put a carpet down in the hall!!

Random Release of Stuff 5

So this was a bit of a strange one. I haven’t tackled any particular category, I just wanted to see the 700 number on my things gone list, so I pottered around the house picking out things that could go.

Today I also managed to get Boy1 to donate 10 toys to poorly children in exchange for a foam sword that he desperately wanted. So despite all the difficulties I described when I started my plan to reduce toys, it turns out there IS a way 😉

What I did notice while walking around looking for things that could go is how far I have come. Wowee – there really isn’t much in our house that we don’t use on a pretty regular basis!

Once I’ve got the toys a little more under control I’ll write up a house tour with some pictures, so you can see how we really live now. I’ve got some great photos over the years of all the clutter, so it’ll be nice to put up some “after” pics to balance them out.

So, where do I go from here?

Well, we still have a scary loft that we haven’t touched, and a pretty frightening garage. I also think that we can further reduce what is left in the house. I’m not sure yet what the next steps will be.

I feel a little like I am on the verge of a big precipice and I’m not sure what’s out there. I know that further reduction at this point is way beyond what anyone in our family or social circle would class as “normal”. But I’ve never considered myself to be particularly compliant to the given norm, so that’s not such a bad thing 😉

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the latest list of things out:

  • 1 glass bottle I was saving (for what?)
  • 3 pairs kids slippers
  • 1 pair kids cut-down shorts
  • 1 pair baby shoes
  • 1 kids hat
  • 1 kids jumper
  • 2 kids smart suits (trouser, waistcoat, bow-tie)
  • 1 kids shirt
  • 2 kids PJ tops
  • 2 shoeboxes
  • 1 china mug
  • 3 biros
  • 1 bean lizard
  • 2 small teddies
  • 1 wind-up toy
  • 1 plastic fire-engine
  • 1 plastic police car
  • 1 argos catalogue (!)
  • 4 cars with trailers

Total out

30 items

Ongoing total

700 items!

Downsizing Childrens Toys – The Plan

toy clutter
The normal state of toys in our house

So. Toys. Given how much of my own stuff has gone, and how clear the house is generally, the flood of toys we have under our roof is now even more conspicuous than ever. With two boys 21 months apart, our youngest grows into toys before our eldest grows out of them. Duplicates are already commonplace to counter the squabbling and we’ve never really chucked or given away anything (see below for what happened when we did).

I know we have less toys than some households, but really, in our house (840sq/ft), we have too many. In the run up to last Christmas we said we would have a serious cull in the New Year because the boys would have new toys to focus on. But that never happened. I’ve tried to reduce them on several occasions, but I feel a lot of resistance to this task. Namely:

It’s a learning opportunity

I feel as though every toy should be 100% played with before it goes. For example, Boy2 can’t do the final twisty pop up on a pop up toy, so I feel like it needs to stay until he can, even though he rarely plays with it now. I need to accept that a given toy isn’t the only item in the world that will teach him a certain skill.

They played with it at some point, therefore I feel I should save it for them

Anything they have played with more than a couple of times becomes An Important Toy in my mind. Something that we need to keep. Why? I’m not sure.

I can’t get their buy-in

I have tried, but any explanation or suggestion I make about having even slightly less toys is met with complete refusal on Boy1’s part. Boy2 is too young to have a say, but the fact that I basically am going to have to do this behind their backs makes me feel like it’s wrong.

Boy1 has the memory of an elephant

Because I can’t get Boy1 on board (he’s 3), it’s all very well to say oh I’ll just do it when he goes to bed then and he probably won’t miss most of them, but he will.

For instance. A couple of months ago I chucked out a car that had a broken wheel. Almost every week since then, he has asked me where the car with the broken wheel has gone. And each time I have to explain to him that Mummy threw it away because broken toys are not safe toys.

For instance. We visited a farm last year and a man demonstrating woodworking gave Boy1 a stick that he drew a smiley face on. After seeing “stickman” rolling around at the bottom of the toy box for a couple of months, I put it in the bin. Several weeks later Boy1 comes over to me and says, Mummy, where’s my stickman?

For instance. We watched the Olympic Flag last year and Boy1 and Boy2 had little plastic flags to wave on the day. Again, they rolled around the bottom of the toy box for ages, untouched. I eventually chucked them out. Just last week Boy1 came over to me and said, Mummy, where’s my flag?

How can I reduce the toy clutter faced with this kind of memory??

Lots (most!) of the toys were gifts

This is really tricky, isn’t it? While it’s easy to decide your own purchases can go, it’s something altogether different to decide other people’s gifts are no longer needed.

But really, they are all just excuses aren’t they? The fact is that I truly believe children play better, develop better concentration and better imagination with less. Less clutter, less toys.

tidy toys decluttering
Boy1 with every toy in the house, all tidied into boxes. Can you spot my minimalist desk in background?!

Take for example those small die-cast cars. You get them everywhere. When Boy1 first got one of these it went everywhere with him. He adored his first car. And then, the next few that he was given were such a treat for everyone – he loved them, everyone happy. The thing is, soon everyone was giving him these little cars all the time. And he did play with them all for a long time until suddenly, the number of cars he owned must have reached critical mass.

Almost immediately there was a drop off in the time he spent playing with them. And more importantly, the time he spent playing with a new one. The end result was perfectly illustrated last week when Granny came over with a new orange and green car for both of them. They took them out of the box, pushed them along the floor, and haven’t touched them since 🙁 So, how do my children play best? These are my observations on how they enjoy playing

  • In a clear space
  • If something is new and different (obviously!)
  • If something is old but they haven’t seen it for a long time
  • Increasingly, they are playing more imaginary games with ‘props’, and less with actual toys
  • If I get something out and set it all up for them
  • Visible toys e.g. they are more likely to take out toys from a box with no lid than to open a toy box and look for something (especially Boy2, who is younger)
  • With me (pretty much anything is much more fun if Mummy is doing it, however this isn’t always possible or desirable!)

The plan I’ve thought about the best way to do this for ages. I know we need less toys, but I don’t want to upset their world by doing a massive cull. I love the idea of toy rotation, but this requires space to put toys out of sight and reach. Our only option is the loft, which isn’t conducive to regular rotation. So, this is what I’m doing:

  1. First of all, I collected every toy in the house and put it all in one place – the main play area downstairs. This was a good way to see how much we really had, instantly tidied other places in the house and gives me added incentive to keep on track with downsizing.
  2. Every 4 weeks, when they are in bed, I will fill a large box with the least played with toys.
  3. The box goes in the loft with a date on it.
  4. If they ask for anything I have put away, I will retrieve it that night.
  5. Anything left in the box after 8 weeks goes.
toy box declutter
First box ready for the loft

Once the toys are under control (I’m not sure how I’ll know when we’ve finished, but suspect this will be an ongoing process), I will probably think about a simple rotation system with one box in/out of loft further down the line. This is going to be a slow process, update to follow.

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