I’ve been a little inspired by this little blog post. I love the photo. Since our site is not strictly a blog I am not particularly interested in posting 7 blog entries in 7 days. I would however like to challenge myself to at least 3 new posts of any variety. So here goes #1….
DEALING WITH MY CLUTTER. Clutter Clutter Clutter… (Check out the video at the end for a song)
I think this is a topic that most everyone can relate to, but living in a very average two bedroom apartment with no garage, 2 children, a full-time daycare and 4 more children, homeschool, CF, food blog supplies, an adult and child drum set…. dealing with clutter is a daily task. We do have a shed and I utilize the crawl space, but ‘stuff’ really starts to add up! I’m going to be the first to admit that part of my problem is not ever saying “no” to free things, (as they relate to our jobs). For the daycare alone I have craft supplies, games, toys… then in the shed I have various build and design sets (like a big tub of trains and tracks, a box of Duplos, a tub of tinker-toys, Lincoln logs, Hape village houses and people…) that get changed out in the house weekly.
In our crawls space I have extra storage shelves and children’s tables that I was given expecting to expand our daycare. There are a few items saved for Nathan when he is older or for later in school. Then there are all the baby clothes. I still don’t know what we will have for future children so I have a box saved for each age/size. I also have to keep various pieces of baby equipment on hand for the times that we will have a baby in the daycare. Now we get to the seasonal things. SNOW-GEAR. Does anyone else relate to how quickly the winter gear ‘pile’ adds up when you suddenly have 1 and 2 or more children? Plus I hold onto some of the extras for use with daycare. And don’t forget Christmas and Easter stuff. Even as a minimalist that adds several more boxes to the collection. Finally each member of our family has 1 or 2 ‘save’ boxes.
I don’t want to think that I’m a hoarder or pack-rat, I just haven’t been in a place to know exactly what we are going to need (or definitely NOT need) during the next two years, and it’s now gone back to 5 years ago! That’s a long time of ‘collecting!’
To add to this problem Nathan is getting older now. What I had been gathering for use by our family and the daycare is now still perfect for daycare, but Nathan is ready to add new things, like Legos, tools, science kits, and homeschool supplies. I go back to the idea that I don’t think I’m a hoarder we just seriously don’t have enough space for all the supplies needed for all of our ‘jobs’ in our simple two bedroom apartment.
Now, given, Andrew and I have talked about this and will be making changes in the future that will help our businesses (and our mental health) thrive, but in the mean time I am taking inventory, well literally, on my inventory. When I first started the daycare I collected (often free or very cheap – as I still do) just about anything I thought would be fun for the children. I’ve been very good at keeping it all organized and well maintained; ‘A place for every thing, and every thing in it’s place,’ but after nearly 3 years I have a little better understanding of what we actually use, and how I actually plan daycare days and activities.
A lot of that has to do with Nathan not really being part of the preschool activities anymore. I can’t lie that my enthusiasm for preschool learning was definitely more zealous when Nathan was part of the group. I might *wink* have worked a little harder to create activities that I knew Nathan himself would learn from. However, it was a perfect fit at that time, with several other preschoolers who were as eager and disciplined as Nathan, to get to do some field trips and activities that might have otherwise been more appropriate for children a couple of years older. I have a hard time trying to repeat that routine with the children I’ve had more recently. Mostly I have had more toddlers and infants enrolled. Ah, but I think I’m off topic again…
In the process of increasing our license to 8, (with the intent to fill to 7 with more flexibility for part-time children – this also includes our own children) I needed to update my policies. It was a nice way to ‘clean house’ a bit about how I actually run my facility and not just the idealistic way I planned to from the beginning. Not that many things have changed, but that’s how any new business is. With that fresh ‘purging’ I began to look at each ‘section’ of clutter I have amassed. “How many of these [great] child games do I actually sit down and play with the preschoolers?” With this kind of thinking I’ve also had to think about how I approach other parts of running our daycare.
I have a notorious problem with planning to do it ‘all’ but really not having the time to accomplish such a lofty goal. For instance my weekly list of activities has regularly included: 5 story times, 3 crafts, a cooking project, a nature walk, 2 trips to the library, a trip to the playground (in the summer), 1 music and movement session, and different puzzles and games, and other toys, a different sensory table activity, floor manipulative, dramatic play, and learning center activity each week. I plan them out, I write them on a special page for the week… and then I get some or most of them done. I think I’ve rarely gotten them all done. Now that’s okay, because I set the bar so high that ‘most’ or ‘many’ is still a job well done, but it also leaves me with the feeling that I have only gotten a passing ‘B’ average, which quite honestly is not fair to myself both because a ‘B’ is good, but apparently I’ll always strive for an ‘A’. Continually creating a list that is so lengthy I’m too tired to accomplish it is not healthy either. Why do I keep setting myself up for failure?
So I started with the games. I brought in new/used snap circuits by request from Nathan for homeschool, and now needed a place to put them, so I practiced ‘bring something in; bring something out.’ I removed 4 or 5 games, that when I’m honest with myself, I really don’t play with the kids, and donated them to library. I also cleared out a box of diapers, travel bibs, and bed liners that I really don’t need to have on hand. (More stuff I didn’t say no to.) I cleared out enough toy cars that the lid would now actually fit on the box. I cleared out bathtub toys Nathan has out grown. I cleared out books that we have already studied or are no longer of interest. I cleared out some large play set items that Andrew was really sick of having stashed behind the TV. Have I even made a dent? NOT AT ALL.
My next steps will include those tub sets in the shed, and things like the box of shells that are ‘so cool’ but we don’t really use. I have enough children’s clothing (almost entirely free hand-me-downs) to raise 4 more children of my own! Certainly I can sort through these things and find them a good new home.
“What about my collection of craft supplies? Those are useful.”
“This whole process is going to go far beyond just kid stuff. I’ve collected more books about crafts and activities than your average kindergarten teacher. I’ve crammed more pages of activities and theme ideas into that filing cabinet than I could ever do in five years.”
“But there are so many great ideas in there!”
“Do I really need to save all the past theme pages I’ve written out? That’s almost 200 pages in itself. And are we really ever going to do a preschool unit on railroad safety or soybean crops and alternative energy?”
“But those were free coloring books from my folks!” I say back to myself.
“Self! Get a hold of yourself! YOU DO NOT NEED THEM!”
(Self is seen leaving the room. Myself later finds them curled up in the corner sucking their thumb.)….
So, as I jump in, what do I discover right off the bat? Yes, we know, I have some really useless stuff (or stuff I never use) but I also have some really great, perfect for preschool stuff that I also never use but only because it isn’t part of my routine, in an easy place to get, or has totally been forgotten altogether.
So lastly, I need to organize a theme/curriculum plan for the daycare that is easier on myself and reflects how I actually run the daycare; how much time I actually have, and the ages and abilities of the children I will actually have in routine care. 75 pages. 75 Themes that I know I can ‘pull-off’ with success (and enjoyment). A proper list with just a little bit of ‘everything’ and not a mountain to scale.
The best part of all this is that I LOVE to sort and organize. That is part of what got me into this whole mess in the first place. I just kept bringing in every wonderful idea, activity, and toy that I could find, wanting to make all of it a part of the children’s lives. Now I get to reorganize it solidly and hopefully be able to stop this vicious cycle of crap-bringing, clutter-dealing, stress-inducing, failure-breeding compulsiveness, and be able to have a couple of quiet, fun, easy, good years with our daycare, and my family. Instead of trying to do it all, I’ll do it smart.
I guess the whole reason for this blog is to perhaps help others of you out there who might be facing their own ‘piles of clutter’ and either not know where to start, or perhaps just needed to hear that it’s okay that you’ve collected these things, but it is also okay to let them go when you realize you really aren’t using them and probably never will. It’s okay to lower the bar to something more realistic. You’re not failing yourself. You’re actually setting yourself up for success. Trust me, your mind and soul will welcome the relief.
So if there are any of you out there who are feeling what I’m feeling or are inspired to ‘clean-house’ as well, please tell me about it! Come along with me on this little journey. We can share how it works out together.
I heard this comedian a LONG time ago on Bananas. I’ve been singing The Clutter Song ever since.