The draw of comfort: either be comfortable and die or get dirty and live

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Comfort is the nemesis of adventure. Life should be lived with your toes hanging over the edge— otherwise it’s just dying in a slow, boring way.

Toes over the edge

Remember toddlers? They ONLY have a sense of adventure. They don’t want to sit and they don’t want to wait and they don’t want to bother with silly social norms like spoons for applesauce.

But it changes by adulthood, doesn’t it? I have recently seen the alarming truth that by middle school comfort over adventure is already deeply ingrained. You see, we went on a field trip.

They took 5th graders to a farm and I was a chaperone. We got to see a whole ecosystem of life. There were cows and horses, ducks and sheep, fields and a fire pit. Now, I’m no stranger to the farm scene so maybe that’s why I smiled deep down into my soul when I stepped off the bus. There’s new life and provision and loving care and nature and bounty on a farm. I know it to be a magical place that we should all revere at least a little. Hey, if there were no farms there would be no McDonald’s. (Although some may debate that McDonald’s is almost purely chemical at this point. You get my gist anyway.)

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I was not a little horrified when I turned my contented face around to look at the kids throughout the trip. Some had their faces screwed up in disgust and covered their faces with their shirts or hands. Several had personal bags they carried with them full of a variety of snacks, electronics, hand sanitizer, and beauty products. Some complained about the amount of walking. At each new animal stall inevitably the same scenario played out again and again. Someone would be standing near the fence and something would happen (i.e. the animal would turn over, the wind would shift or something similarly benign) and someone would scream, “Ewww!” and would pull away in disgust. It even happened with the bunnies. A kid really screamed “Ewww” because of a bunny.

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This handsome kid jumped in and offered his thumb for the newborn calf, just days old, to suck on. Yes, it was slimy and gross. Yes, it was worth the experience. Yes, it was my kid.

These kids who missed the adventure because of the lack of comfort were not mine. But they are the future that my children will run the world with. Now it’s my turn to say “Ewww.” These kids all go to a good school that displays Christian values. I’ve known most of them for many years and they are really good kids. How could so many have turned to the blinding nature of comfort so easily and early?

 

 


I recently talked to a mom about the upcoming summer vacation. She told me that her daughter is expecting to spend the entire summer plugged in to some device and the mother was grieved because she knows it’s not good for a kid. I told her that we plan on spending several weeks and most every weekend at our cabin which has no service for TV, internet, or phone. When we’re there we are 100% unreachable unless we go into the library in town. There was a flicker of longing in this mom’s eye. She saw the adventure. She saw the pure unadulterated life that could be lived at such a place where you stay entertained with pitcher plants and frogs, mud and leaves, hammocks in the sunshine and a gentle breeze.

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We cooked up some foraged food last time we visited that magical place. Spring is great for treats growing in the woods.

“That would be great.” She said with almost a whisper. It seemed too impossible to ever hope for. We saw her daughter and the mom told her, “You should hear what they have planned for this summer.” I told her and her immediate response was:

“That sounds like the most horrible place ever!”

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Are you familiar with Fruit Ninja? Well, the kids used a hand-carved sword and some watermelon rind to make the live game. Very ninja-esk moves going on.

 

 

 

 


My own kids are not immune to the comfort creep. My own middle-schooler is starting to push back against our biking to school. “It’s too cold.” “I’m too tired.” “It takes too long.”

It is true that driving provides great climate control, minimal effort and in a shorter amount of time. But to every adult that feels the void left after becoming an adult to only focus on life we are told we should live—one with nice cars and drive-thrus and a high ratio of pre-made dinners—those adults know that throwing caution to the wind and riding a bike with the sun glaring down into your eyes and muscles aching from conquering “the hill” and wind whipping your hair around is life. Those feelings, those mean you are alive. It means that you can do and that you did do. We think that time is gone and we ache for our kids because they are seeming to miss those times you remember so distantly but fondly.

We all knew it as toddlers.

We lost it by middle school.

We miss what we’ve lost by adulthood.

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BUT NO MORE!!!!!!

Quit the comfort excuses and go out and do it. Walk in the woods with your kids and when you see a rotting log dig in it with your bare hands and see what you can find. It is not written anywhere that as an adult you are just destined to die as slowly as you can. We feel like we are told: “Don’t take risks, be cautious of every stranger, stay clear of germs.” Well don’t listen to ‘them.’ Germs build our immune system, 99% of strangers could be potential friends, and risks are what move us forward.

Jump into a pool even if you think it’ll be too cold. Better yet, jump in with your clothes still on. Have a food fight. Unplug the TV. Try to cut your own hair (you can always pay someone to fix it if you need to. First have an adventure with it.) What else do toddlers do? Stop in your tracks and admire every strange animal you come across, even if it’s an ugly, mean looking dog. Dance in the grocery store when that song you like comes on. Catch snowflakes or raindrops on your tongue. Stop and smell every flower. While you’re squatted down there, inspect the ants and disrupt their path and see how they react. Answer the phone with a British accent. Color outside the lines and in unconventional colors.

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Those are just the LITTLE things. Since we are now adults we can also do things like: Skydive. Buy an old-run down car and use YouTube to figure out how to fix it yourself. Bike to the store to buy three gallons of milk and then figure out how to get them home. When you’re driving home from church one day blow past the house and keep driving with no plan except to call into work for Monday. Think you have a chance to be the best in something and then go for it. Order the weirdest looking thing on the menu and then eat it—well, at least some of it—then tip the waiter 50%, just because this is life and life is meant to be lived. We can’t be the people we were created to be if we don’t ever do anything. So be generous, take risks on things and people, be willing, have your hands deep down in this life all the way up past your elbows in any and every way you feel even slightly inspired.

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Adventure means stepping out and getting dirty and stretching yourself to be more of who you were meant to be. We should not atrophy into a shadow form of our abilities.

 

 

 


I once said that I didn’t need special bike shorts to get outside and bike. Someone responded, “Those shorts are a necessity for me if I’m riding any length of time.” I get the point she was trying to make but, a fear of chaffing should not cripple your life. It’s just an example of a way we can let the desire to be comfortable creep in to steal away our lives. By all means, ride your bike with whatever clothes you have on and suffer the consequences of being adventurous. Chaffed. Dirty. Sore. Tired. Accomplished. Alive.

We naturally find ourselves finding our way to a more and more comfortable life. I implore you, do whatever you can to fight it.

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Be weird

 

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I counter your doubt with today’s example

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 28

Product: When we bought our cabin we got a very, very run down place. It’s been over a year now and, as much as we love to come here as much as possible, we’ve been repairing it very, very slowly.

The countertop had this huge crack right in the middle of the sink, front and back. The sink itself sprayed water everywhere when you turned on the water.  And we’ve been living with it for over a year. We are finally getting it fixed and boy am I excited.

We’ve been looking at new countertops for awhile but now we’ve finally decided that we’ve earned the new countertop/sink.

Yesterday Mr. WW headed to one of those warehouse/flea market places for building supplies. There were huge buildings full of scraps/incorrect special orders/damaged/reclaimed goods. He found a countertop that would work with a big bubble right in the middle. Since our sink would go in the middle, that bubble doesn’t bother us a bit.

He then brought it home on a trailer borrowed from a friend. See, he and the friend took the trip together so the friend could haul some of his scrap to the dump. We supplied the vehicle, the friend supplied the trailer. Both got something they wanted out of the trip as well as spending time together.

When it arrived home our ten-year-old was keen on watching and learning how to install the whole deal.

Mr. WW pulled the sink from the shed he’d bought almost a year ago. It’s extra deep and a nice style so when he saw it for cheap at a thrift store he had picked it up.

While they where figuring out how to caulk the new sink it was the 10-year-old who had the idea to put it in then turn it over and caulk from underneath so that’s what they did. They then recruited the 7-year-old to help by moving things out of the way and the mom (me) to lift the whole shebang high enough to get it onto the counter. All in all it was very much a family affair.

Now there were some issues. There were boards that needed trimming, the faucet that came with the sink ended up being kaput, and the sink had an extra hole than what we needed. But we worked through them. The wondrously weird clan used their noggins and figured things out.

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Here’s the eldest trying to recapture the cord to the refrigerator I so flippantly tossed aside as we were placing the counter top. He had to hold the flashlight in his mouth but he got it. 

The bottom line? The counter top that normally would have been at least $150 was only $50. The sink that would have been $250 was only $8. I have no idea how much it would have cost us to pay someone to put it in for us and we got to keep that experience for free. We also kept good things from going into a landfill somewhere.

When it comes to building supplies there are tons of ways to minimize. Think outside of the box. A lot of things are made for others and they can’t use it like our counter with the bubble in the middle or the leftover tiles after a job is completes or a door that the distributor put the handle on the wrong side or a 2-year-old off-white microwave after someone decided they want their kitchen to have black appliances.

For those do-it-yourself projects your problem solving skills are already getting a much-loved workout. May as well flex that muscle a bit more and see how you can save your wallet some money as well.

Reason to buy less: It’s hard to focus on small quiet things when a house full of clutter looms large.

Suggestion: I don’t know if I’ve made this clear yet: a manufacture’s job is to make as much profit as they possibly can. Everything they do, EVERYTHING, is with the point of making more money.

You can’t blame them, that’s their job. Just remember that that’s their job.

They don’t have sales or deals to help you out. If they can convince you to buy something of theirs it is for their profit, not for your benefit.

Hairy situation

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 23

Product: The people who have stumbled on the joy of this next trick stick with it. If you could possibly figure out how to cut hair, you can save a lot of money.

Boys cuts can be super easy. Clippers give an easy buzz cut. If you want anything different, it definitely more difficult, but there is good news: every six weeks you get another chance to practice.

Mr. WW just cut our own boys hair last night and he’s been cutting his own hair too for many, many years.

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Sure the seven-year-old’s hair would look better with a comb run through it, but he is seven years old. Otherwise, it’s a nice haircut.

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A few years ago Mr. WW’s cut was shorter while the boys’ were longer. It’s amazing the range you can do at home. 

Girl cuts are also easy, straight cut across the bottom and an optional straight cut in the front for optional bangs. If you want fancier, let me introduce you to my personal self-layered haircut.

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Just make a ponytail at your forehead, yes, this in a picture of the front of me, then cut a straight line as short as you like (for the first time be cautious and start small. You can always try again if it’s too long.)

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Tada! Layers coming higher around the face.

If none of these options appeal to you, take to the internet. YouTube is full of tutorials.

And cutting your own hair is strangely appealing and fulfilling. Just ask any two-year-old. You know you want to.

Reason to buy less: Contentment. Yes, that’s it. Be content with that reason.

Suggestion: Beware of free. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should get it.

This one is difficult for me. I hate things going to a landfill. If someone is going to throw something out I feel like I have an obligation to give it a home. Thankfully we have these places called thrift stores that take in poor orphaned items and helps them find a new loving home. If there is value yet, it should not go into a trash can.

Just remember that free is only worth it if you gain anything from the product. If it’s just going to be another piece of clutter to clog your life, even with its $0 price tag, it’s is not worth the costs.

Just say no.

Toying with a lesson

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

 Day: 22

Product: So yesterday we covered that we shouldn’t put our value in the stuff we surround ourselves with. We should make sure to restrict buying too many things that we think will make us happy like electronics, motorized vehicles, blatantly extravagant gear, or other types of toys we adults like to indulge ourselves with.

This is such a good lesson to learn to keep grounded. To find value in life instead of things, it can be really important to limit the things so we don’t get distracted.

This is such a good lesson why aren’t we teaching our kids?

You know what I mean, right? It is the common thought that we need to buy our kids as much as we can to give them a full childhood. We buy them learning toys. We buy them princess everything. We buy them iPads and cell phones. We buy them brand name clothes. We buy them video games. We buy them whatever the going fad is.

What is this teaching our kids? If we want them to learn that value is not in the stuff, we can’t be buying them so much stuff.

Have you ever noticed how much guilt is created by the holidays when it comes to getting kids the going gifts? How many times have you heard “Christmas is about the children” in relation to pleas to buy them gifts? Let’s teach all of them, even (especially) those who don’t live in families with extra funds, that we need stuff to be happy.

We have to quit perpetuating this. We have to give our kids life, not things.

Try this: for the next gift buying time for the kids in your life, give them things of value. Give them your time. Truly help them understand you love their handmade gifts by handmaking something for them. Give them products they can actually use and need.

To teach our kids we start by providing an example ourselves (be okay with the small, deep TV you have) then continue by limiting the things you buy them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you have enough money to buy them lots of things. Then buy them only one or two things this holiday season.

As someone who’s practiced limiting gift giving to my kids for several years now, I can attest it’s not as big a deal as you might think it is.

Plus, think of this: This has gone on for generations. Where has it all gone? Where is all that stuff from when you were a kid? Where are all those troll dolls? Where are the Jordache jeans? Where are the Pogs? They’re in a landfill.

Don’t buy the kids in your life extra things. When they grow up they’ll put those things in a landfill while they move on to other empty pleasures and the cycle starts again.

Reason to buy less: Because MacGyver is cooler than Inspector Gadget. “Go, go gadget tripping hazard!”

Suggestion: Today’s suggestion is to appreciate uncomfortableness for what it is: a tool to help you appreciate the finer things in life.

Were you one of those kids growing up with a game console? Atari? Nintendo? Nintendo 64? Did you ever go to a friend’s house that had a different console? Wasn’t it amazing?! When they let you play it you noticed every cool feature, appreciated every special button, were taken in by every extra pixel. The one you played on at home didn’t have that much draw. You played it but you didn’t appreciate it. It was just what you had.

When you live with less any more is amazing.

It’s almost become addictive for us. We keep our house cold in the winter so we can appreciate the warm air in every other building. We don’t update anything unless we absolutely have to. When we experience the extravagance elsewhere, we fully appreciate it.

Mr. WW got a rental car not long ago when I tagged along with him on a business trip. The weather was in 70’s yet we turned on the air conditioning and I had my seat warmers going constantly. I loved it. I curled up on that heated seat like a happy kitten. Is that what people do that have heated seats in their everyday cars? I’m guessing not.

10 ways to answer that question

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The short answer is wanderlust. The long answer is a little more poetic.

Wait. Did I skip the question? Sorry. The question is there because we can’t keep from GOING. Every time I try to write a post, it ends up half written about the most recent trip. One was about a business trip where we tagged along with Mr. WW. Another was about spending weekends up at our cabin. Then there’s the most recent trip to two different countries in Africa. All while hauling around the kids. So after the realization that I have problems with finishing writing projects, I guess the question is– why?

Why don’t we sit and binge on a Netflix series like normal people?

Plus, aren’t we supposed to be frugal weirdos? (To take a name from the Frugalwoods.) How we do we justify spending the money it takes to always be going?

The long answer is this: We want to teach our kids life.

To not accept mediocrity. We need to realize that life has so much more to offer outside of our comfy couches.

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Real is always better than a screen.

To embrace the unknown with reckless abandon and by so doing breaking apart fears, stereotypes and anything holding you back.

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Mr. WW took a risk. Of course he bruised his tailbone a bit when he didn’t make it far enough but it was still worth it. Did you hear me? It was worth it. It’s okay if you get bruised along the way. Bruises heal but memories last a lifetime.

To realize that our freedom is to be cherished.

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When you regularly find yourself surrounded by people wanting to hear what you’ve experienced because they are not able to experience it yourself it gives you perspective.

To be okay without a set schedule. Life constantly does not go as you expect and that’s okay because we know how to go with the flow.

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At any moment adventure could knock on our door. Are you willing to make it work? One last minute adventure left me pushing my computer battery to it’s limit so I could work in the pool room several states away from my regular office.

To know that most of the time, “no” does not in fact mean “can’t.”

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You could find a lot of reasons to say “no” to going halfway around the world. People blame disease, cost, comfort, etc. to never travel anywhere more different than a park with costumed people wandering around in it. Sometimes you can ignore that “no” and get to meet gobs of boys and girls that all deserve to be princes and princesses.

To learn that pressing forward against the “no’s” in life is what brings growth. We’re talkin’ character. Knowledge. Experience. Respect even.

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It may not seem normal to talk to some people. Children are regularly told not to talk to adults, especially strangers. Sometimes it is highly edifying to let people with differing ages or backgrounds learn from each other. What better way to learn than to talk to strangers now and again?

To appreciate everything— from the fact that water lilies bloom after the pond lilies to the incredible blessing of being able to turn a tap and get water.

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How many living organisms do you think you could find in one square foot of a forest floor?

To learn how little we really need to do anything. We don’t need many changes of clothes. We don’t need a plan. We don’t need electronics. We make do with what we have when we get there.

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Bed? Who needs a bed?

To use the “make do with what we have” to build ingenuity. The ability to think around a problem is grossly underdeveloped these days. To always rely on the known to get through life is very boring.

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This go-kart wasn’t working. That’s okay! With a little people power things are still thumbs up!

To get dirty and know that dirt is okay.

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This jawbone lying in the woods may not be clean but how can you examine it properly if you don’t pick it up?

All of these things are learned by going out and doing.

All of the pictures I posted today are from our own adventures (and I have many more.) In trying to teach our kids about life, we’ve learned so much ourselves.

We have SO MUCH opportunity in life. Every day you could go and walk down your street and meet any number of people with compelling stories. Every day you can lay in the grass on your stomach in your very yard and contemplate the tiny ant or turn over and contemplate the cosmos. No matter your situation, no matter how many “no’s” you hear from others and from your own head, you can have grand adventures. EVERY DAY.

However, there is a catch. If you take these opportunities on your street it doesn’t take long for that to turn into a desire to meet people and ants outside of your street, your town, your country. Before long you’re hauling your kids to secluded waterfalls in the mountains.

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Sitting in a waterfall may not be common but it is much better than standing behind a guardrail because it is a location that is so popular. Thinking out of the box leads to more opportunities.

To villages where no one speaks your language (but everyone understands the universal language of a ball.)

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This village was not a scheduled stop but there were so many willing faces to meet. We stopped and there they were.

And pretty soon they learn to have the confidence to speak to and even teach those older than themselves.

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This is our son’s first time using an interpreter to communicate with an audience. He is leading a craft time. It was his idea to lead it himself. 

This is what it’s like to have wanderlust and I will not apologize. It is a wonderful thing to have. Next time I’ll post about the finances involved in having such a serious case of wanderlust– you may be surprised– if you are still sitting around to read it by the time it comes out.

Go. Have an adventure.

Time to teach/learn

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Welcome to our daily challenge! Wait! Don’t go away!! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on. (And coming in in the middle is totally cool.)

Day: 27

Objective: Sell/give/donate/trash twenty-seven objects

Definition of “Freeing”:  Not held back. Disentangled by things that encumber.

Reason: You don’t want any extra reasons for a thief to be in your house longer.

Suggestion: Do you have kids? I bet they’ve been a great help going through your stuff so far. I bet they really enjoy watching you hem and haw over your stuff. I bet they are good at pushing you over the edge when it’s obvious that they don’t understand the attachment you have to the thing in question. I bet they find it funny to watch you squirm. I bet you’d like to do the same to them to get back at them sometime. I bet that day’s today.

If your kids are really young it might be a good idea to do this when they’re not around; but if they are old enough to think at all analytically, then they should use all they’ve learned from watching you the last 26 days to do the majority of the work today. It will be a wonderful time of bonding and learning about the important things in life.

I realize that today may be easier for those with 6 six kids to reach the goal with the suggested area so I’ve saved got another suggestion for you! How about checking your outerwear closet for stuff ready to go? If you don’t regularly put it on to go outside than you should put it out in the car for a trip to be donated. Included things are coats, shoes, and those things knitted for your warmth.

Do you know that there are people who move from an opposite climate? I am reminded of a yard sale where I picked up some great winter gear from someone moving to Wisconsin to Florida. More seriously, there are refugees who move to your climate- from an opposite climate- who have nothing and know no one and need appropriate outer wear. Find a place to donate these things.

Just this last week my own kid did his own decluttering. He got upgraded in boot size. I told him to bring me his own boots so we could get rid of them. “I know where to take them Mom! I can take them to the school. Those kids from Somolia, they need warm clothes. If we take them to school they can give them to someone who needs them.”

So try to keep up with the generous six-year-old. Help them clear out their rooms’ and clear out the outdoor wear.  It can help so many others if you let them use what you are not actively using. Don’t be selfish and don’t be encumbered!

How to declutter what you don’t even have

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I just did something a little weird. I decluttered my Amazon wish list.

It was a very interesting experience. Decluttering something you never bought in the first place (though came very close to) provides so much satisfaction! Many of those things I had on there were from the last few Christmas seasons. A lot of it was stuff for the boys. They were options if I wanted to grab another gift, or if I needed an idea for a birthday. But with these new eyes? Wow. I metaphorically crumpled them up and tossed ‘em over my shoulder. No looking back.

During the main declutter (and we’re not done yet BTW) the boys’ rooms were certainly not immune. Not a few of the things that got sold or tossed were science kits that my parents had bought them. A saltwater powered robot. A plant growing kit. A beginners chemist set. Have you guessed it yet? Many of the things on my wish list we’re JUST like those things. They looked cool and educational at the same time. But I now know that the cost of keeping those things in our home is not worth it.

You may be thinking, “Those are very good things for a boy to have! The more opportunity they have to learn the more they can grow and prosper! Why would you actually get rid of those things? Just find a shelf to stick it on, crazy lady, and quit getting rid of your kids’ good stuff before you are a detriment to their education!” followed by a mental image of a tumbleweed rolling through a room with a squeaky metal bunk and gray cinderblock walls.

Let me explain myself before you string me up, okay?

Not quite. The boys can still seriously trash a room in no time with the stuff they have.

Not quite empty. The boys can still seriously trash a room in no time with the stuff they have.

The saltwater robot my dad put together with the kids 10 minutes after they opened the box. The thing rolled approx. 1 ¾ inches across the table then got put back in the box. The plant growing kit had a neat maze thing that the plant would grow around. The kid put the seeds in the box and stuck it in our front window where it was never seen and it never grew because it was never watered. The chemist set. Oh dear. The chemist set lost most of its pieces before anyone gave any kind of thought of actually opening the instructions and doing one of the projects.

You see, we did keep these things and did they provide educational value? Not really. What they provided was guilt.

Every time I saw that chemist set I thought, “I should do that with them,” but I did not cherish the idea of digging through the mess to try and find enough pieces for any of the projects. And I felt that guilt every time I came across a cheap, tiny, plastic test tube (usually smashed because it got stepped on.) Every time I saw the box with the robot I thought, “That was a nice thought. I can’t throw it out though because we didn’t get enough enjoyment out of it and my parents paid good money for that.” Every time I saw the plant growing kit I made a mental note to get some more seeds sometime… then immediately stashed that mental note in the bottom of a massive pile of mental notes with only the tiniest hope that I’d come across it anytime I was anywhere near a seed store. (Yes, I realize I could have used any dried bean but I had hopes that the project would be a lot cooler than any basic bean could provide. The longer it sat dead in the window, the more I felt it needed to be bigger and better to make up for the uselessness we’d experienced so far.)

So all the good intentions ended up a useless, messy pile of guilt. Are we bad parents? Maybe. But are bad parents made into good parents if you simply add a heaping helping of guilt? No.

We CAN do better by throwing out the guilt and adding things like

  1. Additional shelf space to display their coolest Lego creations
  2. Additional funds in the budget for experiences over stuff
  3. More pleasant voices and less, “clean this mess up, why did you get all these pieces out if you’re not going to follow the instructions anyway?!”

So that is why the tossing of a magnetic themed magic/science kit on a wish list was so fulfilling. No money spent, I never had to pick it up or tell someone else to pick it up, and I never had to find a place to keep it while I felt guilty that it wasn’t being used.

Decluttering of Amazon wish list: success.


Are you ready? I’m prepping and preparing for a month long decluttering inspirational encouragmental and extravaganzal time this January. For the whole month I’ll post a short daily blurb to help you clean out and free up space, time and soul as you find yourself no longer having to store, maintain and feel guilt over those extra possessions you have lying around.

So start eyeing up now what you would enjoy not having to deal with anymore and make sure you subscribe (there’s a button under the beautiful random picture up there on the top left) so you don’t miss a single day! We’ll clean up together and I will have a giveaway for the best declutterer among us (whether it be in actual pieces tossed or in excitement or hilariousnesss of effort; I probably won’t decide until I actually see the responses and decide “this is best.” It will be fun any way!) And don’t worry I won’t give away something that will fill your home back up. Stay tuned for more info. ; )