The explosive container drawer. You know it. I’m willing to bet you’ve had it. You know what it’s like – you go to pull out the drawer with all those plastic food storage containers and the darn thing won’t open. You can feel the pull, the slight springy action of the drawer as you try to force it open. It’s that homeless lid that was stuffed in the back and decided to get caught in the abyss behind the drawer. You either force the drawer open, breaking who knows what, or you decide not to store the leftovers. In my experience, it’s usually a pretty close tie.

As my college roommate will tell you, this drawer was my staple, the representation of my living quarters. Not coincidentally, it was also the representation of my mind. Chaotic. Frazzled. Stuck. Overfull.

Second baby in, my living room looked like the Rose Bowl parade paraded right through it. It’s what happens when you have kids, I’d mentally note at the end of each day. Embrace the chaos, I’d repeat. This is just how it is.

Nope. Couldn’t keep it up. Eventually, with third fetus growing, I realized that I could change it. Back up the parade. Bring out the vacuum. Donate the plastic dollar store toy under the back end of the bed. We don’t need it.

In fact, it was more than that. As I began getting rid of things from our home, I started feeling lighter yet fuller. The outer chaos turned calm, and the inner chaos followed suit. It really did. The kids, although not thrilled with some of the changes, came to admit that they liked having rooms with floors they could see and closets they could open. They felt safe, at ease, and like they wanted to be in our home’s environment.

So here is the thing. It’s HARD. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, stuff comes in to our home at a sprint pace. Here are some tips to transform your outer chaos to calm.

  1. Make sure more goes out than in. Choose a closet that is your “donate” closet. As you go throughout your day and see something that your family no longer needs (and no, you don’t need an individual sock) put it in the closet. Then, at the end of each week, put the unneeded stuff in a garbage bag and drop it off for donation.
  2. Teach your kids (and yourself) that clothing drawers should never be full. If they are full, they have too many clothes or might need a new dresser. Kids don’t fold well, and when they rummage through a drawer to find their favourite shirt, any folding that was done is now undone. Keep it half full so that after this happens it is still manageable.
  3. Realize that getting rid of things does not discount the impact they’ve had in your life. If someone gave you that shirt that you don’t like, getting rid of it doesn’t mean your relationship with that person is any less or that their generosity to you isn’t valid.
  4. Watch your kids thrive with less and then contemplate which of their toys brings value to their lives and which distracts them from true creativity. Here is where I’ve gone awry. Yes, I have waited until the kids are away at day camp and done the purging then, thinking they wouldn’t remember. WRONG. They remember EVERYTHING, even if they haven’t seen or touched it for months. Respect them by respecting their things and do the purging together.
  5. Go through each room and closet one at a time, and know where every single thing in your home is. If you know you have something but don’t know where it is, you need to keep digging through each space. Does a closet stress you out to open it? It’s time to tackle it.

Does it take a lot of time to do it? Is it super overwhelming. Yes and yes. Is it worth it? YES. Just do it. Give yourself a goal for how much of your home you’ll get through each week and just do it. Set your time expectation low – give yourself a minimum of 3 months so that you can do it slowly.

Trust me. Your whole family will breathe easier, act with more ease, and have the home that feels good. And you won’t spend so much time looking for those dang keys. They will be where the keys go.

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