Cleaning house (and so much more).

kitchen storage breakfast nook organizing reorganizing new year improvement cookbook storage art supplies little girl crafts recyclingI gave myself an unofficial challenge this first month of the new year. Perhaps without even knowing I had done so, but as the days and weeks pass it has shaped itself in my head and my actions.

santa gifts black friday foodsaver pyrex glass tupperware food storage dutch over food network cooking baking lunches breakfast dinner cuisnart adults giftsIt all began with our Christmas presents. We got a ton of stuff of kitchen stuff–happily (and also purposely because at a certain point in their lives some parents might find them selves Black Friday shopping together for the greater good of putting Santa gifts under the tree and meeting some long-held household needs).

Actually it all began before that. Almost three years ago we moved into this house. Our first home-owning experience. Previous we had moved yearly, both together and apart. I personally hadn’t lived anywhere move than a year since I left my parents’ house for college at eighteen. And moving so much is a double-edged sword. It makes it difficult to settle in and make the space your own. But it also provides a forced opportunity to regularly go through your things and manage your space.

So we moved in to this big, beautiful house withe multiple times more storage than we had stuff…and we did our best to make it a home.

But moving in is such a funny thing. You don’t know yet how you will use a space. So you guess. And you adapt your use to where things are, often without knowing (or noticing) if there’s a better way.

Of course life goes on. I was pregnant and in school and horribly sick and then there was a newborn and birthdays and holidays and papers and flus and jobs and survival mode and toddlerhood.

In June when I graduated one of immediate goals was to organize some/all/one of the drawers in the house. It wasn’t hard to make the place look clean, and it’s often moderately presentable, but inside most drawers was a long-ago (or perhaps never) organized disaster.

master bath drawers cupboards make-up jewelry product hair nails skin cleaning reorganizing new year self improvement project
Taming the disaster

Newborn M grew into a crawling, then walking, little disaster who , for the past year or so, has regularly emptied every drawer and cupboard in the master bath while I attempt to get ready in the mornings. And every morning as I sifted through a chaos of junk and struggled to close the drawers I felt frustrated at the state of things. And kind of like a failure.

Every weekend we spent out running errands–inevitably coming home with more stuff–there was a pang of guilt knowing we weren’t at all properly caring for all that we already had. And guilt is the ultimate anti-productivity agent (second only perhaps to shame). It does little to get you off your ass and moving in the right direction. Instead human nature often leads to pushing it down, turning away and running/shopping/eating/drinking/hiding/sleeping/excusing to mask it’s presence.

I would often lament about our lack of time. The lack of opportunity with two children underfoot. The enormousness of the task at hand. My inability to stop a project in the middle (and therefore, hesitation to start). Excuses. With truth to them, of course, but ultimately not helping me–us–at all. Instead increasing the amount of time I wallowed in that frustration and feelings of failure. Not to mention the weight on my shoulders that there was so much to do.

bags recycling being green too many organizing reorganizing sacks bag grocery tote
The pile of reusable bags I pulled out of one cupboard.

Today, after three weekends of focusing on the house–and with the luxury of the rest of the family being on board–I am in a much better place. Close to a “on top of the world” place.

It’s really quite amazing.

I’ve only experienced anything like it with a stretch of clean (paleo) eating. Two different ways of cleaning house, both creating a similar mental clarity.

And now, since I’ve not been active on Facebook or Twitter to brag-share about my productivity, here is the progress we’ve made since Christmas:

  • Complete reorganization of the playroom
  • Reorganization of the majority of the kitchen cabinets (includes emptying, cleaning and thoughtfully re-filling)
  • Master bath and kiddo’s bath
  • Dot’s room (serious out-of control mini hoarder mess) from floor to ceiling
  • Linen closet
  • Kitchen nook (includes the girls’ arts and craft supplies–kill me now)

And the projects left to be undertaken:

  • The kids’ closets
  • The playroom (again! organizing is so cyclical, as you sort out one area of the house you have to keep returning to others)
  • The pantry, fridge and freezer (though I do these more regularly, but they need it, sigh)
  • The medicine cabinet
  • The office (I’m not sure it was actually fully unpacked)
  • And perhaps obviously, the garage
  • Bonus points for: the master closet

We have gotten rid of So Much Stuff. It’s almost like a high. We participate in a neighborhood garage sale every June and I didn’t think we’d have much stuff but now I don’t know where we’ll keep it all until then.

organizing reorganizing getting rid of stuff house cleaning too much shit what to do with kids old stuff
Garage sale pile after from kids' rooms and linen closet--and partial at that!

It’s amazing how things accumulate and equally amazing to recognize the stages we’ve grown out of. Babyhood? Gone. Undergrad student? No longer. Wii exerciser? Not for years. Even toddlerhood is fleeting at this point. Wow. And we are real adults (have been for years I guess) who purchase items we need or want or like. So many of the outdated or long-used things we’d accumulated (and appreciated!) as young adults are no longer needed. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

And I’d just like to add, that I wonder if I’d be able to be so productive if my phone was pinging all the time and Facebook statuses begging to be checked. On that front, I’ve reaching a new sense of serene that is pretty fantastic.

Edit: I wrote the bulk of this post this morning. It is now 2:30pm. Both girls’ closets have been cleared of too small clothes, filled with any in their current size waiting in the wings, and reorganized. Phew! I am VERY eagerly anticipating a weekend not filled to the brim with being stuck in doors, buried in material chaos and longing for a shower. Some day 🙂

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