Dinos, decluttering, contraception, and the life-changing magic of tidying up
June 12, 2015
Last night I officially hung up my speaking hat for the foreseeable future, knocking off my last “public appearance” before baby. Handily, in the humidity of the basement our torrential summer rainfall exiled the crowd to, I looked ready to hit up labor and delivery by the end, so I don’t think any invitations will be forthcoming for the time being. It was an immense privilege to be invited to speak at my own parish, and I think it was my favorite public speaking experience to date.
I’m going to be using the text from last night as a starting point for a week-long series on the hows, whys, and whats surrounding the history and the theology of the Church’s teachings on sex, so tune in on Monday for round one. (I may eventually post the audio of the talk here, too, and the great Q&A session that followed.)
But let’s talk really important stuff now, like how tonight at 6:30 pm a dream 22 years in the making will come true when I settle into my overpriced reclining theater seat for a luxury showing of Jurassic World.
I don’t know about your family of origin, but mine is straight up dino crazy. Jurassic Park is literally a cult classic between the 9 of us, and my adult siblings have been known to hold entire conversations using only dialogue from the film. (I’m sorry for the still-single Senour siblings I just publicly outed. Hopefully your romantic prospects don’t drop off too sharply.)
Suffice it to say we’re a leeetle bit excited to get our paleontology nerd on tonight, and the reviews I’ve read so far are encouraging that this summer blockbuster, with the assistance of one raptor-training Chris Pratt, is finally going to do justice to the cinematic masterpiece that is the original.
I understand if you need to stop reading now. There’s a lot of embarrassing self revelation going on at the moment.
But! Pressing forward, I want to share some tips and tricks that have been absolutely transformative to our home life and for my motherly mental health of late, and they have nothing to do with dinosaurs.
Perhaps you’ve eyed the NYT bestseller list lately, or seen Marie Kondo’s name making the rounds on social media? Her odd, fascinating little book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is one of those rare occurrences where the title completely and accurately sums up the content within.
Life changing. Magic. Tidying.
While there is a fair bit of bizarre, Eastern-style anthropomorphism intrinsic to the text (thanking your ratty t-shirts for their service as you trash them, for example), the takeaways from this handy little book have honestly been life changing. And I’ve talked to so many other mom friends who feel similarly.
Her premise is basically thus: If you have something in your home, it should “spark joy,” otherwise it does not have the “right,” if you will, to occupy physical or emotional space in your little world.
My takeaway? Throw out all.the.crap.
Kids’ dishes in a quantity greater than the number of children currently living in this house? Gone.
Next-size-up hand me downs given to us by neighbors, friends, family, etc. but not our taste and not in the greatest shape? Smell ya later. (Literally, in many cases.)
(I’m a firm believer in passing along baby gear as needed, as soon as your present need has abated and you see a friend or sister with their own immediate need. Baby gear is cyclical in nature, and it will always come back to you when you need it. The only things we hang on to between kids are our stroller, high chairs, Ergo, and car seats. Everything else is transient, and meant to be poured out into the great, procreative collective of child rearing. It takes a village, etc.)
Random knickknacks from travel/school/another lifetime? Bye bye.
Clothes which do not currently fit AND will probably either a. never do so again or b. are cheaply made/out of style? To Goodwill you go. (Take heart here, I’m actually giving stuff to charity, not straight up landfilling it.)
Endless piles of paperwork that are either available or already duplicated electronically? C ya. Except for tax documents and the current year’s bills. You can stay. But no more school notices, paid utility receipt stubs, random insurance mailings, etc. Gone. All if it.
Home goods or decor that were never my style to begin with? No more. You don’t deserve to be here if you don’t fit our design aesthetic. I can easily replace you at Saver’s with enough patience and persistence, and I’d rather look at an empty table top or a clean white wall in the meantime. Even if somebody gave it to us. Which was so kind and generous! But it doesn’t mean you have to keep it if it doesn’t work for you.
Since we’re big into thrifting around here, it’s very easy for me to detach from furniture/clothing/toys to begin with, so it has been such a relief to say, actually, you know what? This doesn’t work for us right now, and it’s not “sparking joy” (whatever the hell that means, precisely) and so since I am annoyed and frustrated and harried by its continued occupation in my domicile, I actually do have the right to (literally) kick it to the curb.
Here are some of the upsides that we’ve observed since I read this book early in the Spring:
Fewer toys = happier mommy and more creative and generous children. I would say we’ve gotten rid of 60-70% of our toys, and we didn’t have a ton to begin with. What we kept:
Costumes/dress up clothes
Matchbox cars and ramp
Melissa and Doug train set, latch board, auto carrier with cars, and horse trailer (thank you Grandma and Grandpa!)
Small box of musical instruments
Bikes, chalk, balls, and other outdoor toys
Toy cradle with 2 dolls
Wooden shapes and tray for assembling
Little People nativity set
And that’s it. Seriously. Except for a handful of stuffed animals special to each kid, that’s our entire inventory. There’s no more yelling about cleaning up, nobody feels overwhelmed by the mess in the playroom (including mommy) and everyone is dwelling in increased harmony. It’s amazing. (and yes, I realize as my kids get older they will acquire more crap, and I will have less and less to say about it, but for now I control the inflow and the outflow, and we’re hoping to teach them quality over quantity so that we don’t end up looking like Sid’s backyard in Toy Story.)
Outfits that look good on everybody, all the time.
We’re kind of doing capsule wardrobes, I guess? Mine certainly is, anyway, as I round the bases for home plate with quattro bing. I culled all my non-maternity and doesn’t fit (I’m wearing way more non-maternity this pregnancy, because flowy tops are in and workout clothes streeeeetch just fine) and boxed it for later use or (ding ding ding) gave it away.
I assembled a small postpartum capsule as well, one small plastic container full of flowy tops, a pair of yoga pants, my skinnier maternity jeans, and the requisite postpartum unmentionables, so now I can just pull that down after baby arrives and avoid the heartache of trying on “normal” clothes too soon/continuing to live in blown out 10th month stretch shirts.
The best part about curating our clothing content by far has been the kids’ wardrobes, though. I’m not completely heartless, so I allowed each of the boys to keep 3 superhero t-shirts, but other than that they have really cute, limited wardrobes for the summer consisting of a swimsuit and rash guard, 4-5 short sleeve tops (polos and t-shirts), 2 button down dress shirts (1 l/s 1 short), 5 pairs of shorts (cargo, bermuda, khaki, soccer), 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of khakis, and a pair of sandals, running shoes, and dress shoes, each. And that’s it. Everything else is either boxed up for another season, given away, or stashed for a future sibling of the male variety. (And I didn’t stash much at all, only about 1.5 plastic tubs worth.)
Now when I send them to get dressed, they almost always come out looking just fine, if not a little pattern-confused. And I’m no longer peeling 2T Lightening McQueen jammie pants off the resident 4-year-old to coax him into a more Costco-approrpiate uniform. Because they’re gone. Cackle.
In short, my life has been changed, the change has been magical, and we’re all having a much better time of it when it’s time to tidy up.
End novella. Because it’s almost time to start primping for tonight.