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Mindful Mom: Decluttering the Key to Happines?

In my house, less really is more.

If you have ever watched a movie about a newspaper reporter you have seen the filthy spaces in which the news is written. And let me tell you, while some aspects of movies about any profession are inaccurate, the movies got this one right.

So what happens when a newspaper editor has a baby and begins staying home full time?

She brings home the mess, of course.

Over the last three years as I have raised my son, Truman, I have added piles of toys, National Geographic magazines and craft projects to this house of ours. Then last fall as I began growing plumper with our second child, I realized that we were about to have another child with his or her own stuff.

"Wait, more stuff? AND another child? How am I ever going to keep this clean?" I thought.

And by clean, I don't even mean scrubbing the floors and washing the windows. I mean, you-can-see-the-floor-of-my-basement clean.

So I began de-cluttering. I started with my own clothing, which felt easier to let go of because my disappearing waist had no chance of fitting into the shirts I was adding to bag after bag destined for a garage sale or donation. As I got to the toys it got harder to let go of things. I couldn't help thinking that I was depriving my child of the opportunity for puzzles or all of these other toys I had carefully chosen and filled our house with.

But then I realized something: no one is benefiting from our house being so full of toys that it can't be cleaned.

Our second son joined us March 13 and a few weeks later, while my mother-in-law visited, we tackled the last of the toys.

The basement that I hated showing people who came over to our house is now a second living space where we could have guests.

Not only am I spending less time cleaning, but I am spending less time worrying about not cleaning and have a clean house.

It really does feel like de-cluttering is the key happiness.

Here are some simple steps I took to start de-cluttering:

1) Limit the amount of clothing my children have: Kids really don't need that much clothing. As I was pulling out baby clothes to prepare for my little one I limited everything to ten pieces -- ten shirts, ten short sleeved onesies, then long sleeved onesies, ten pairs of pants, ten footie pajamas, and when I still thought he was a girl, ten dresses. Then I did the same thing with my older son's clothes.
   
 Key to happiness:
Less articles of clothing mean less laundry and less to put away, which allows for more time for my kids or more free time.

2) Asses the kitchen: I went through and looked at what we had in the kitchen and got rid of what we were not using. For me, this meant getting rid of a bunch of storage containers while reorganizing so that it is easier to put things away.
    
Key to happiness
: I don't have to hunt for lids for my storage containers because I know where they are. Cooking is a fun experience because I know where everything is and because there is less stuff I can clean up more quickly.

3) Tackle the toys: In order to decide if I was keeping a toy I created a simple equation comparing the amount of enjoyment my son got out of the toy with the amount of time I spend cleaning it up. Toys that he just throws around and doesn't play with but I spend ages cleaning up, in our case, puzzles, I got rid of. This may be all you have to do. This was not enough for me. The second wave of toy simplification involved looking at how a toy interacted with other toys, what kind of play it encouraged and if it was a duplicate of another type of toy. So, while we kept a few hammering toys, many tools-based toys left. Block building in our house makes my incredibly energetic boy calm and quiet, so blocks make up a large percentage of our toys now.
   
Key to happiness:
Yes, you will spend less time cleaning, stepping on toys while cursing in the dark and have more time to enjoy life, but the really neat thing about this process is that it has made my son more interested in the toys he does have. Fewer toys is actually creating more fun.

The reason my son is happier with less toys I believe is the same reason de-cluttering seems to be the key to my happiness: too much stuff makes life full of too many choices and when we are spending our days deciding instead of doing we are not enjoying life as much.

Editor's note: Brooke Walsh is a former newspaper editor, freelance writer, photographer and, mainly, full-time mother of two boys: Keen, who is currently working on holding up his own head, and Truman, a little three-year-old architect. She writes about mindful parenting and finding peace and happiness within motherhood. Before writing for Patch, Brooke freelanced for MPR and severed as an editor at Thisweek Newspapers. The opinions expressed in the column are that of the author, and don't necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Lakeville Patch.

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