We’ve all been there… We feel like we’re finally getting somewhere in our system of tidying, organizing, or simplifying. Sometimes gradually, sometimes all at once, our “stuff” grows back and we are back to feeling like we are drowning. So many people I know have an honest desire to live with less, yet they find it so difficult! I feel like there are a few reasons why this is a struggle.
Firstly, sometimes people that have grown up with very little materially, their inclination is to have as many things as possible to give themselves a sense of security. For these ones, getting rid of things they have purchased is emotionally like asking them to throw money into the ocean and just walk away- it’s as foreign as it gets. Commonly, you’ll hear the reasoning – “What if I need this someday?” or “It was expensive, maybe one day I’ll fit into it again.” When we get them to do an honest evaluation, we can ask them if they have even used/worn it in the last six months. (even ever?) Usually people realize that they are serving the item and the item is actually doing nothing for them in return.
Secondly, is not so much from the person themselves, it is from the outside world- family and friends. This is very common, especially in families with young children. You’re starting the tidying process, your house is being freed of the accumulated “stuff” and then well meaning family members or friends drop of the infamous bag of assorted hand-me-down children’s clothing/toys. Maybe your mom/sister shows up with clothes/shoes from that boutique second-hand store in town (that you may or may not like, and that may or may not fit you).Listen, I’m not cold-hearted. We know what is motivating this generosity – love. These people have the best of intentions. What people don’t realize is that when they leave those items in a house, they don’t have to clean it all up when the kids are done destroying it. They don’t have to sneak it out in a blue bag when the kids are asleep and then drive to the nearest donate bin and secretly drop it in.
Both of these struggles have to do with boundaries. Yes, boundaries. Now we are usually discussing them in regards to relationships. While I do think that is super important, I also think establishing boundaries for your home – guarding your home and mind from unwanted items (and stresses) is just as important. Your home needs to be your haven. So then we have to take those mental boundaries we’ve established and use them in creating loving but firm boundaries with family and friends.
Things to try:
- Explain to family members honestly, about your efforts to de-clutter, simplify, or reduce consumption. Make sure they know that their generous spirit is very much appreciated – especially when their gifts are for your children.
- Encourage family/friends to try gifting experiences as opposed to things. 99% of what anyone (you or kids) is time and attention from those we love.
- Communicate with them when there are ways they could use their generosity to support you or your children’s interests or hobbies. (Paying for swimming or dance classes, going to the movies, or helping pay for sports-related fees/equipment)
Sometimes, they will look at you sideways. Other times they will be offended. Now, I’m not encouraging being rude. But you do have to be firm when trying to instill boundaries, understanding that what you decide to allow into your home is very important to your mental/emotional health. Remember, people usually want what’s best for you and don’t have ill will so treat them with kindness.
To be successful, be an example of tidying up. We can’t tidy for anyone else, so perhaps seeing you getting less stressed and keeping a tidy space will encourage them to help you by not bringing more things into your space.
Try it for yourself!