Saturday, January 17, 2009

Living Large in Small Spaces

Living Simply Saturday struck a chord with me today (Thanks for the post, Kate, I'd love to pick your brain!).

The guest post opens with "Our family lives in a 1000-square foot house. We have 4 children whom we homeschool. Do you see the problem?".


We live in a 912 sq. ft. house -- 8 of us (4 adults, 4 kids). And all of our stuff.

Normally it's fine, (and happy too), but I've been behind the past couple of months on keeping up with things like decluttering. And WOW, is it a pit. I feel buried.

Now, the above statement (about the space in our house) is an exaggeration. It's 912 finished square feet. We have a basement, which isn't included in that number, and Chester's two brothers sleep and keep their stuff down there. The basement also houses a lot of storage and laundry, a freezer and a garage. So we really should fit quite comfortably.

But we don't.

At first glance, it would appear that I have a shopping problem -- the amount of "new" stuff that comes into our house is astronomical. But the truth is, that if you don't count one hour of Christmas shopping, I haven't shopped for anything other than food since September. No, we get stuff given to us: 30-gallon bags of clothes, rubbermaid totes of toys, freezers full of meat, etc. This is all WONDERFUL! (We almost never have to buy anything!)

But it requires that I keep on top of the dejunking really agressively.

And I haven't been.

So my bedroom has a huge mountain of clothes that were given to me, that I have yet to go through to decide if I'll wear. My kids clothes don't fit in their dresser drawers. There's so many toys in the toy room that no one can keep it picked up. (All four kids sleep in one room so that the toys and school supplies can have their own space. I know, we're weird).

Life is less happy as a result of all the stuff. The other day I read Luke 12. Verses 32-35 read: "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately."

I want to be someone that is not encumbered by too much stuff, but is ready and eagerly waiting for the return of my Savior.

I've already started -- I have four large trash bags (the big black ones that go in real trash cans, not the kitchen sized ones) of stuff for the mission. I'd guess that I'm not half-way through yet.

So I'll start taking before and after pictures as I clean. I'm hoping that it really will be From Clutter to Clarity.


  1. Good for you for staying so on top of clutter! I struggle with that and we've only 3 kids and 2800 square feet! I'm not a pack rat, but often have a hard time getting rid of things. Do you ever try to sell things or just always donate/give-away? I'm currently going through our baby stuff as we believe our family is complete and find it hard to just give away??? Any advice, especially with baby items (big and little)? :-) Sadly, I have no friends that I could pass it along to and our church doesn't have a mission closet/pantry.

  2. We're working on the decluttering thing, too. It's always a work in progress. I just try to focus on one small area a day. If there's a day I don't get to work on it, oh well.

    I have homeschooled for nine years. I have enough curriculum for preK-12. On top of all that STUFF, I am a crafter. Scrapbooking, sewing, quilting, needlework, you name it. Oh, and did I forget to mention we are all readers...I could get rid of it, but I would just have to buy it again, later.

    Our toy and clothes situation is way out of control, too. I plan on getting rid of some, but then another child seems to come along. Some of the toys in our house are from my 21yr old daughter! I guess I better hang onto a few in case of grandkids. LOL!

  3. @sabakose - you know, I've tried selling in the past, and it just seemed like too much effort to me (it also makes me feel guilty, since our stuff is given to us, not bought). So I usually give it away. I try to find someone who will really value it and be grateful for it, not just view it as me giving them junk (since most of it is really nice and would actually be sellable). I've found that Freecycle is a pretty good way to find someone who will be grateful. We usually give to the local rescue mission also. In the past, we've given to thrift stores where we find a lot of good deals, or donated it to church drives, etc.

    For the baby stuff, are there any young or expecting mothers you know who can't afford all the terrific new stuff? Or perhaps a crisis pregnancy center that supports moms who choose to keep their babies?

    If you decide to sell -- craigslist is easy, ebay sometimes works, but I would look for local consignment sales or such personally. I've tried them all, and really do think it's a pain. Maybe I'm just lazy :)

    @Calina -- I hear you -- I should try decluttering some every day instead of having marathon sessions when I get overwhelmed (like now). Thanks for the idea!

  4. I went to a spiritual gifts thing this weekend, and have always felt that I couldn't 'give' because we didn't have enough money. Their description of 'giving' included time and STUFF!! That's been a change for me, but in the last year, I've gotten much better about giving away stuff. I always say I'm going to sell it (consign or craigslist), but i usually end up just passing it along to friends or family who may be interested in it. If it's a random pile of stuff, then I just head it over to the battered women's shelter's thrift store. Now, that I know that is considered a spiritual gift, I feel even more motivated to pass things along.
    I'm also WAY behind since Christmas for unloading... time to get to work!!

  5. Amy-
    Your house sounds a lot like my house! We have three kids with one on the way. Everyone at church gives us bags and bags of toys, clothes, bedding, etc. The baby ended up with 45 24mth long sleeve shirts this year. Did I mention that we live in a warm state!? A friend asked me this week if the kids need any new clothes. I answered, "No. More hangers? Yes. Bigger dressers? Yes. Please don't send any more bags of clothes. The baby's room looks like a Goodwill donation center.
    Anyway, glad to know that I'm not the only one. I am so pleased to be blessed and that others think of my family when they are looking to give. But, it is hard to be thankful when we have too many items that we can't use. One thing that has helped me is to ask the person what I should do with any items that we can't use. This lets them know that I may not keep everything and it helps me not to feel bad when a huge percentage of the items I receive find their way to Goodwill!