This is definitely the mantra that has been guiding my Spring cleaning this year. I’ve decided to embark on an intensive cleaning and organizing of my house, room by room. It is extremely slow going as I try to fit it into little snippets of time here and there through the day. Sometimes I think I am crazy taking this on- it’s just one more thing to do while I continue trying to make lots of art towards my August solo exhibit. But as I’ve progressed from one room to another, I’ve decided that it is totally worth it.
To begin with, the house needs a good cleaning. It was a long, long winter and there is always a desire when the good weather comes to get things clean. And when I say cleaning, I mean pulling out the furniture and cleaning behind it, washing down walls, washing down floors, peeling stickers off the floor, etc. All the things that I don’t do on a super regular basis. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a total neat freak. I maintain the base level of cleanliness that you need to live. I really believe that having a fulfilled life with lots of time with my kids and time or the things I love, is much more important than a spotless house. Trust me, I subscribe to this wholeheartedly.
But even I have to admit that sometimes the house does need a good, thorough cleaning. Even more than that, though, is the constant need to remove clutter. I will fully admit that there used to be a time when I thought it was great to have lots of stuff. I had knick knacks on every shelf and decorative doodads here and there. If I had an empty space I felt that it had to be filled.
Now that kind of thing drives me crazy.
I have learned that clutter and “things” affect your life in a number of different ways. First, there is the time involved in dusting and cleaning and organizing all that “stuff.” It takes so much longer to clean a room if you have to move things out of every corner to vacuum, and lift a million things off of a shelf just to be able to wipe a cloth across it. Second, there is the visual effect. Clutter kills creativity- I am absolutely sure of it. There is so much more opportunity for creative thought if when you look around your house there is empty space for your eye to fall on. And since I live and work in my home, having organization and a lack of clutter is even more important.
This is not to say that my house has become totally minimalist- far from it. But I do embrace the concept that not every empty space is crying out to be filled. In fact I now strive for empty spaces. I also no longer believe that everything has to be held onto for a lifetime. If it is no longer my style (and I think my style has changed substantially over the years. I’m so over primitive and old and so into contemporary and modern and colourful), or if it isn’t loved by someone in my home then it goes to a new home. Simple as that. I want my house to be filled with the things that I love and that hold meaning for me. And what I have found is that more often than not the things that I am keeping fall under three categories: 1. Photos of our family- this is my favourite thing to decorate with and hang on my walls 2. Things that my kids have made- I would much rather fill a shelf with pottery that my daughter has made than a bunch of mass produced knick knacks from China and 3. Things that we have collected in our travels together as a family- these things have meaning attached to them that is shared by the four of us.
Of course with kids it is hard to avoid some degree of clutter. Awhile back my husband and I struck a deal- if I took on the hassle and legwork of selling the baby and kid stuff that we no longer need then I could keep the money to use towards making more art. A perfect win win! So over the past year or so I have been selling things that have been outgrown. Things that can’t be sold or aren’t worth the process of selling have been given away. Instead of feeling sad that those “things” are no longer a part of my life, I have been feeling happy that getting rid of them has freed up space in our lives for more fun and memory making. Gone are clothes and toys and equipment that have been outgrown or are not played with. I really do believe that kids can have too many toys. It is always amazing to see that when you remove those that are never played with how they suddenly discover new favourites that were hidden behind all the others!
I posted a link on my facebook page the other week to an article that was discussing how baby boomers are now downsizing and finding that their kids don’t want their “stuff.” One theory was that the next generation isn’t into the same style as their parents (which is probably partially true). It also suggested, though, that younger generations are not as “stuff” focused and want less things in their homes. I really believe that to be true. I think we as a society are slowly learning that the production and consumption of mass produced “stuff” is no longer sustainable and it no longer desirable. Stuff doesn’t equal happiness- experiences and memories are what are important.
And so the cleaning around here continues, but each day I feel better that I am getting everything clean and am getting down to what really matters in our home.