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Hi friends!

Just wanted to let you all know that I’ve started as a contributor to Apartment Therapy, something I’m incredibly excited about. Apartment Therapy was one of the very first blogs I read consistently when I first got married and had my own, then, apartment. I barely applied when I saw they were looking for contributors but I ended up just going for it, even though I didn’t really have the time to do it or to do it absolutely as perfectly as I would have liked. Lesson learned: GO FOR IT!! push past the myriad ways you could (legitimately) excuse yourself and just give something you want a shot.

apartment therapy

Anyway, I wanted to share the articles I’ve written over on AT, because I think they’d interest many of See Mommy Doing’s readers.

The House that Cleans Itself

Color Block Curtains: Adding Color Without Pattern

5 Ways to Declutter: Conquer Clutter Before It Conquers You

7 Beautiful Spice Rack Storage Solutions

Better Sleep and Allergy Relief: How To Banish Dust Mites from Your Bed

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

5 Reasons to Include Children in Organizing Projects

Earlier this week I was bitten by an organize-the-children’s-art-supplies bug that would not let me not do it. So I dove in in that irreversible way that involves emptying entire shelves and drawers onto the floor. The process took all day. We sorted, we made a list, and then I went to go buy containers while the kids napped. After dinner, their treat was to stay up and help me organize. And they totally loved it.

five reasons to organize with your children

I was honestly surprised by how they responded. They kept telling me, “Mommy, I love you. Mommy, thank you so much.” I realize two things were probably going on: They were happy to be included in what Mommy was doing, of course (as 3- and 5-year-olds still are), but something about the organizing itself was filling up their little hearts.

Although I involved them in the process without too much deep thought, their reaction to helping me made me realize the value of involving the children in organizing projects:

1) They find things they forgot they had. Two things in our home are kind of like Christmas: When I come home from shopping at a consignment sale and when we rotate or organize the kids’ toys. While Danny and Elora were helping sort through their art supplies and toys, they got really excited about things that were too jumbled up for them to access or even remember they had. “Discovering” them breathed new life into things we already have.

organizing with kids-2a

2) Sorting in a real-life setting is educational and practical. Sorting is an important activity for young children. It teaches them to look at things and consider what’s the same and what’s different and how to categorize things in various ways. Sorting is a building block for both math skills and language development. Sorting through helping with a real-life organizing task melds an educational activity with a practical skill — and that’s very high on the the list of the kinds of activities I want to do with my children.

organizing with kids-1-2a

3) They can practice working together. In the already pleasant atmosphere of them helping me and me helping them, the kids were primed to work with each other nicely and were able to practice manners and collaboration: “Danny could you pass me that crayon?” and “Oh, sorry Elora, excuse me.” I was able to model teamwork with them and they were able to apply it immediately both with me and each other.

organizing with kids-5a

4) They feel loved. Their outpouring of love to me made me realize that by letting them help me they must really be feeling loved by me. It’s easy to attribute this to the fact that I was including them in something I was doing, but I also think there was something more going on. I think that by taking the time for them to see me taking care of their things, and including them in my process, they knew that their things — and by extension, they — were important to me.

5) Appreciation and an incentive to keep things neat. By seeing how much work and how long it took for us to organize their things, they realize the labor and consideration it takes to organize. And by involving their time and energy, they feel invested in the project. This leads to a healthy kind of pride in a job well done (you should have seen them beaming at Daddy when they showed him what they did) and, moreover, a huge incentive to keep their things neat.

organizing with kids-6a

Whether I do it myself or involve them in the process, I can see the effect that organized surroundings have on the children. They are calmer, less “lost” in terms of deciding what to do or play with, and much, much more apt to put things away where they belong. Involving them in the act of organizing makes the process even more valuable than the end result, and I hope to remember to do this more often.

Have you observed similar effects when organizing either for or with your children? Share in the comments.

 

 

On Decluttering

Decluttering

My mother’s home as we were growing up was always impeccable. I remember my best friend’s twin walking into our apartment one time, drawing a breath, and describing his instant feeling as, “It’s so white in here.”

I believe the lack of clutter, the norm and even expectation of “a place for everything and everything in its place” made an indelible mark on me. Although I’m sure I drove my mother nuts with my teenage messes and my sassy barbs (sorry Mom!!) about how cleaning out my closet wasn’t my idea of fun (I knew she used to do that as a kid), the setting she provided set the stage for what I feel, viscerally, should be my norm for my family now.

a place for everything and everything in its place

I appreciate the quotes I’ve seen about spending time with children rather than cleaning, etc. etc. and I try to glean from them the essence of those sentiments. Of course, I don’t want to miss the fleeting, fleeting (I’m painfully aware of this, always) moments of their tiny little childhoods.

But at the same time, I’ve found that in surroundings that aren’t at least harmonious enough, I’m not a pleasant mother or wife. The noise of clutter and uncleanliness around me, to put it simply, makes me grumpy. While I acknowledge I need to work on refusing to let my surroundings dictate my mood, I also realize the profound if subtle effect of ambient chaos on my psyche and behavior.

So much of keeping the balance of maintaining order while not letting this maintenance take over (i.e., not being controlled by things) I’ve found has to do with having less things. Obvious. But not necessarily intuitive.

present me is tired of holding on to future mes crap

In addition to coming from a line of women who always kept their homes spic and span, I inherited a streak of clinginess to things, a tendency to save something “just in case,” a well-intended waste-not-want-not mentality that serves its purpose when it comes to eating up leftovers but not when it comes to saving stacks of magazines for the recipes they contain.

I kept my beloved grandmother’s beautiful China, but the number of teacups she collected “in case” some broke is, frankly, excessive. I can’t help but wonder, without judgment and with some sadness, at the insecurity this may reveal. When going through my dear aunt’s house after she died, we were heartbroken to discover the things that she had, unbeknownst to any of us, hoarded. Neatly, primly, arrayed in stacks and stacks of perfectly organized bins, what she’d gathered spoke of a hole she couldn’t fill, and, more broadly, of how the things we surround ourselves with, in one way or another, bespeak our inward condition.

I want to be present. I want to be here and now. I don’t want to be bogged down by the past, and I don’t want to live in fear of the future. I want live in a state of having only what we need. My goal is to keep only what I “know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This lets me keep cherished birthday cards from my mother throughout the years (beautiful), but also frees me to donate the curtain rods I might need someday (not useful now, nor beautiful).

useful or beautifulArrived I have not. I’m still navigating things like which baby clothes to keep for future children and what to do with the art I kept of my grandparents that doesn’t have a home in our house. And I do have regrets about trashing some things too hastily. (Strangely, the two things that come to mind in this category — the only two, actually — are my elementary and high school year books and my translations of Latin poetry. Neither fit my parameter of useful or beautiful, but I remember them and wish I had them to thumb through, whatever that means….)

Nevertheless, I’ve learned the pleasure of exchanging “security” for the lightening that comes from getting rid of things. I treasure the breathability of an uncrammed space more than an area so stocked with items that it’s impossible to even know what I have. I love the serenity of (some) emptiness and order.

It’s a battle. Accumulation and entropy don’t require any work. But for me, for our home, for my children, so that none of us are weighed down by things and their enervating effect, keeping clutter away is a constant, unglamorous, but necessary and very rewarding battle that I choose to learn to fight.