Most people cannot imagine having four children under age four, but my friend Marilee lives this reality every day, with her beautiful 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old triplets. Marilee has always impressed me with her ability to manage such a busy brood while simultaneously working part-time as a registered nurse. Now I have a whole new reason to be impressed by Marilee – she is a master declutterer! I interviewed this amazing mama about her decluttering experience and posted some great before and afters. Check it out!
What are the biggest clutter challenges in your home?
My biggest clutter challenge is probably piles. Piles of papers, piles of my husband’s stuff. We work with the youth at church and each teach a Sunday school class, so we have piles from that, too. Also, I become so attached to things I/we don’t even use. I remember who gave us what for a wedding present or who bought the kids a certain toy and I, for some reason, think they’ll notice and be upset if I get rid of it.
What are some of the steps you’ve taken to reduce clutter?
Some of the steps I’ve taken to reduce clutter are getting rid of seldom or never-used things in the kitchen. Do I really need two woks? Three cast iron skillets I’ve had for eight years and never used? Twenty coffee cups?
You significantly reduced the amount of toys your kids have. How did they react? Have you noticed any differences in the way they play since you have less toys?
I got rid of tons of stuffed animals and small clutter-making toys. I gave a lot to Goodwill and sold some baby/toddler equipment. Our 3-year-old noticed ONE missing toy. ONE. I had way more trouble with it than the kids did. I have no idea why I get so attached to toys. The more I got rid of, the easier it was to keep going, though. All of the kids are actually playing more in the play area since the downsize. I could definitely get rid of more still. We also had a large baby gate across play area that we no longer needed for its original purpose of safety. Taking that down really opened up the area.
In your opinion, what is the greatest benefit of a less cluttered home?
The greatest benefit of a less cluttered home is peace. I feel more at peace with less stuff to put in its place. We also got new (used) furniture and painted as I decided to unclutter/minimize, and it feels like a whole new house! I didn’t even ask or tell my husband to keep his clutter off the kitchen counter, but when he came home and saw my work, he just stared and said, “Is it alright if I lay my wallet here just for tonight? I promise I’ll pick it up before I go to work in the morning?” He didn’t attempt to lay his keys, work phone, or papers on our new counter space. I think he appreciates the calming look a bit, too.
Where do you go from here? What are your next decluttering projects?
My next project will be our bedroom. It isn’t a mess, but my closet is overflowing with rarely-worn clothes and my nightstand is piled with rarely-read books. Also, we have one bookcase in the living room that is full of rarely-used items and is so crammed that you can’t see the nick-nacks that I actually want to be seen.
What is one piece of advice you would give to parents who feel overwhelmed by clutter?
My best advice would be to do a little at a time and not tackle the whole house in one day.
Here is Marilee’s toy area before:
Wow! What a difference! No wonder her kids are actually playing in here more. They now have free space to wonder, imagine, and explore, which is truly what kids crave in play, not toys.
Here is her kitchen counter before:
This may not look like a huge change to some of you, but what I particularly notice is how Marilee moved often-used items, like her cooking utensils, next to the stove, and rarely-used items, like the stand mixer, somewhere else. She is making her space work better for her.
Here is a kitchen corner before:
Awesome! I love the clean, spacious feel of these counter tops. It makes me want to chop veggies or relax with a cup of coffee. Nice work, Marilee! Thanks for sharing and hopefully inspiring some readers!