Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
Something seems to happen to me every spring – as the snow melts and the sun emerges, I have an urge to throw everything in our house away. (I never actually follow through with this internal nudge, don’t worry.)
But after the winter I long to shed what we don’t really need or love, to focus on the essentials. To me, spring decluttering is even more important than spring cleaning.
Cleaning doesn’t take nearly as long (especially if you have growing little helpers) when our homes aren’t overflowing with stuff we’re hanging on to “just in case.”
Use the following four tips to help unshackle a few extra burdens you’ve been lugging around:
1. Use shelves, instead of making piles.
Notice the lack of piles? I much prefer having room for this expression of Mommy-love instead.
I have a side table in our dining room, and on it I used to make neat piles of our current homeschooling materials–the stuff I needed to have on hand at a moment’s notice. It bugged me to look over and see these piles, but I chalked it up to going along with the territory of homeschooling and left it at that.
Then one day I had a sudden organizational epiphany. I moved my collection of cookbooks closer to the kitchen, which left me with an entire shelf free in our dining room. I gathered all the piles and voila – a clear, clutter free table in the dining room and continued access to the materials we need.
I had a decluttering high from this event that lasted for days, people. It’s the little things, right?!
2. Focus on building your library, not your curriculum collection.
If I could give one piece of advice to new homeschoolers, this would be it. A few bookshelves filled with well-chosen and loved titles isn’t, in my opinion, clutter. It is life, nourishment, and an education all by itself.
Carefully constructing your own home library is a hobby that will return dividends for decades in your family’s life. It’s pretty hard to find a curriculum that can top that.
An excellent curriculum might last and work for a year or a few years, if you use it for multiple kids. But your library could last a generation.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to snap up every title for a quarter you come across at a yardsale. Take the time to research and find what actually deserves a permanent place on your shelves–Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is a wonderful resource to help.
3. Ask yourself this question when you’re not sure what to keep or let go of.
Our family is about a month away from our Little House on the Prairie site tour this summer. All year long we have been busy inhaling all things Little House, and I have learned just as much as my kids.
One thing that has helped me when thinking through organizational questions in my life–about possessions or our schedule–is to ask myself this question:
What would Ma do?
I’ll be the first to admit this only works in certain situations. Asking what Ma would do about the laundry, for example, would have me hauling water outside with a scrub brush (not planning on that one).
But taking a look at the principle behind this question is useful. Take the case of the laundry. Ma wouldn’t have done a lot of laundry because of the effort involved. She would have pared it down to absolute essentials in the amount of clothes they owned and washed. I can follow this example and simplify my life, too.
Caroline Ingalls prioritized creating an inspiring atmosphere in the many homes her family journeyed to. Whether they had a dirt floor or store-bought wood, the homes were swept, organized, and arranged neatly.
She did her best to make a place of beauty and order for her family–I aspire to do the same.
4. What do you love? Keep it. What do you hate? Let it go.
I think of this not only in terms of possessions, but also in terms of the activities we add to our days.
I remember a time when a certain curriculum told me that I should introduce the recorder to my young kids. I started out with enthusiasm, but it quickly petered out. Soon recorder playing ranked right up there with having cavities filled. How happy I felt when I realized I could actually let it go (Thanks to an ever-wise husband who encouraged me to do so).
I will happily assist my kids in learning the recorder when and if they show an interest. But I can and should center our day around the activities I love and am passionate about. I wasn’t teaching the recorder out of love, I was teaching it because the plan told me I should–and out of fear that my kids wouldn’t be successful in life if I didn’t.
While you’re making a few changes to your outer surroundings this spring, don’t forget to declutter your insides as well.
Because isn’t it about time to let go (again) of the comparisons that hold you back? And would you be better off to release the judgements you make of others and the ways in which their homeschools differ from yours?
And maybe your kids would thrive even more if you shook off your results-driven focus and concentrated on the process of falling in love with learning instead?
Our outside atmosphere influences our insides. Our insides influence our outsides, too. As we trim away the excess baggage in both, we’ll feel lighter, happier, and more content in our homeschools this spring.
“Certain environments, certain modes of life, and certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others.
There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow.
Simplification is one of them.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea