After the madness of the holiday season, the general mood surrounding so many of the people that I spoke with was that of being overwhelmed by stuff. So much stuff. Everywhere.
We had children who were acting like ungrateful little brats post-Christmas. When we looked around our homes we felt like we were drowning. Our days were occupied with moving, cleaning, picking-up, organizing, collecting, washing and moving again, loads and loads of… stuff. Just stuff.
Not necessarily stuff that we loved, or liked even. Not really stuff that helped, brought joy or provided function for our lives. It was all stuff that, if put away behind a closed closet door or toy box lid, we could easily forget was even there. (So rarely, though, does that stuff actually get put away.)
Pinterest shared a post on my feed one day that basically started a revolution in my life. I’ll call it divine intervention:
I don’t think I will ever be the same.
One morning while doing dishes, I decided I needed something to listen to and clicked on this pin. The first video rocked my world. I don’t know if it opened a new door in my brain, or closed a bunch of open ones that were no longer needed, but something clicked and I thought ‘THIS! This is what we need.’
I was so excited that I emailed the link to Jon, who was out of town for a 24-hour business trip, and I told him to find some time to watch these videos because I wanted to discuss them and how they might fit into our life when he got home. Then I watched the remaining 4. I will say that the first one was the best, but all were worth watching.
When Jon came home, we found some time to talk about this concept of ‘minimalism’ that if you had asked me about up until that moment, I would have dismissed as being a hard ‘no’ for us. Before watching these talks, Minimalism seemed unrealistic, hardcore, and like more of an ‘investment’ (ironically) than I was willing to make. But the reality is, we have been heading towards this lifestyle for years, but I hadn’t yet seen the blinking neon light ahead that read… ‘GET RID OF YOUR CRAP!’
In 2012, our son was born and overnight I went from being a career-focused, working-woman to a mom. My priorities flipped, flopped so fast. I hung in there for about 18 months, but then Jon and I had a CTJ (Come-To-Jesus) talk about where we were, where we were going and where we wanted to be. At that time, our house was listed for sale, as we had decided that with the new addition to our family we had outgrown our home. (This was partially true, because as first time parents we had acquired a ridiculous amount of stuff for our new baby.) We had also just started working with a fabulous financial planner, who was requiring us to examine our financial picture & financial future in a very adult-like way, which we had never before had to do.
I remember this conversation so clearly; I said to Jon, “Why am I working? So we have more money to buy more crap so we need to buy a bigger house to fit all of our crap and all of the crap we are going to continue to buy, and so we can eat out in restaurants more, because we like to eat crap that makes us feel like crap and makes us fatter so we have to buy more fat clothes to fit our crappy-feeling fat bodies into?” The answer was yes. We took the house off the market that day.
I quit my job and have been a stay-at-home-mom since. We have also slowly been trying to reduce the amount of ‘crap’ in our home, simply out of necessity, but the full connection between why we would want to do that and what the full benefit for us would be hadn’t fully clicked in my mind. Being introduced to Minimalism as a movement, and realizing that a minimalistic lifestyle can look differently for different people, was the final piece to the puzzle we were already working on.
With all of this rolling around in my head, I realized that so many people in my life might be in the same boat so I posted a simple question on Facebook:
16 Facebook friends joined my group and it has been so rewarding!
POO Accountability Group
We call it our POO Accountability Group- which stands for ‘Purge One Object’ daily. The concept is simple- find one object to purge (sell, donate, trash or give away) a day for 30 days to create a habit of being more critical of the objects you surround yourself with. By sharing photos or posts of that item(s) we have purged we hold each other accountable, support & motivate one another, and share ideas of objects or areas of your home that might be in need of a good purge. The definition of ‘purge’ says it all; who doesn’t love a cathartic release?!
I have been enjoying this group immensely! I am surprised and excited by the changes I see happening in my friends. I knew that it would feel nice to get rid of clutter, but I had no idea just how much weight all of that junk can lay on a person. I have friends sharing stories of depression and anxiety… and feelings of hopefulness and release coming from their decluttering activities. It’s just amazing!
The POO Rules
There are no ‘rules’ to this group, but a few ‘guidelines’, if you will. You have to purge one object a day, every day. If you purge more than one object, you don’t get a pass tomorrow. It’s great if you have the time (and energy) to declutter an entire room, closet or cupboard, but you still have to find a new object to get rid of every other day for the full 30 days.
The reason for this is simple: we are trying to form new, better habits. The goal is to retrain your brain from ignoring or pretending that the clutter isn’t there to thinking critically about every object that you touch, move, see or step over everyday. As you flip through your closet getting dressed in the morning and think to yourself ‘No, that doesn’t fit right” or “Uh, I hate that sweater, I don’t why I bought it”… stop flipping past it! Pull it out and donate it! If the hem needs sewn, sew it or get rid of it! As you pick up toys after the kids go to bed, exhausted by the day, for the love of Bruce- stop picking up toys that are broken, missing pieces or tossed around and not properly played with. Toss it, donate it or sell it!
Psychologically, one object a day seems much more manageable, especially for busy women with young kids and/or full-time jobs. If we wait until we have a weekend to sort through our entire closet, clean out the basement or garage or completely rearrange our living rooms, it likely won’t happen. I promise though, once you start you will feel motivated to keep going! Full disclaimer: It’s addictive.
Saving MOney by Poo-INg
If you are trying to stick to a tighter budget this year, working on paying off debt or, like us, trying to build up savings, this is a must-do activity to help you reach your goals. When you start being more selective over the objects you have in your home you also start to think more critically about what you are bringing into your home. Personally, I have stopped thinking ‘what else do we need’ and started thinking ‘what needs to be replaced.’ When something comes into the house, something must also go out. As the Swedish proverb states, ‘He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.’
As a SAHM, I feel a bit obligated to recoup any value left in objects we no longer need. I may not earn an income, but I can bring in additional funds for our family by selling what I can, by saving money on purchases and by avoiding purchases when able. Since starting the POO group about a month ago, I have made $200 by selling items, mostly children’s clothing and toys but also some household items. My personal rule is that once I identify an item to purge it needs to leave by home within 24 hours if donating or 7 days if selling. I keep a bag for donations hanging on the door by our garage entrance, so whenever I am running errands past a thrift store drop-off or collection bin, I can grab it on the way out and donate it right away. Here is a little tip: use a bag that isn’t see-thru and hang it up high enough so your kids can’t see that you are purging their stuff and throw a fit! If they don’t see you get rid of it, 90% of the time they won’t even notice that it’s gone!
The 24-Hour rule
Some items have a 24 hour life expectancy in our home. After 24 hours, these items must go
- Happy Meal toys. I try to not even get Happy Meals anymore, but somehow they still occasionally make their way home. I promise, after a couple hours they have lost their appeal and your child will not miss it!
- Balloons. Uggggh… balloons. The kids love them, but I have spent way too much of my time cutting balloon ribbons out of the ceiling fan motor before my husband finds out; it just isn’t worth it! I need to get better about this, but balloons are definitely on my 24-hour list now!
- Art Crafts. I know… this is a tough one, but I have quite a few more years of keepsake collecting so I just can’t hold onto 99% of what my kids create. We do art crafts all the time and, let’s be honest, not every paper roll ‘bug catcher’ or paper bag monster puppet is a keeper.
- Cards/invitation. Now, I do keep a couple cards from the most important people in my kids lives, but for the most part we just don’t hold onto birthday or holiday cards. I keep 1 extra birthday party invitation and family Christmas card in each of the kids’ keepsake boxes but I recycle the rest right away. If I don’t, a stack of them will be tossed around and pick-up (by yours truly) multiple times everyday.
Because we use a simple closed Facebook group, anyone can start a POO group at anytime! With Spring approaching, it’s a great activity for mommy groups, church groups or a group of friends. Our days don’t need to be filled with dealing with our stuff, they can be filled with dealing with people and living of lives!