Friday, November 14, 2014

What Having Kids has Taught Me About Being a Pack Rat...

I've realized more and more lately that one of the greatest gifts that my kids have given me, particularly my sensory seeking kids (and of those two especially a certain four year old with a propensity for breaking things completely accidentally and without malice) is a growing detachment from the "stuff" that has accumulated in our house over the years.

It wasn't always this way.  By nature I'm kind of a pack rat.  I feel bad for each and every one of my college roommates who had to put up with my natural affinity towards hoarding.  I have a tendency to think that I might need something someday and so I really shouldn't get rid of it.  My love of sewing and crafting doesn't help the problem, because when I see an old outdated piece of clothing a dozen different possibilities for what I could make it into zip through my mind, quickly pushing aside the fact that it's unlikely that I'll actually have the time in the next decade or two to make those ideas into a reality.

Having kids has changed all of that.

Mae rarely intentionally breaks something.  The most destructive thing I can think of that I've seen her intentionally do is tear a piece of paper when she was frustrated.  But unintentionally?  Well, it doesn't happen all that often any more, but that's mostly because most of what could be broken has been.

The metal space heater?  She thought it would make a perfect stand and while using it to climb somehow snapped one of its legs.  The little table and chairs  that were mine when I was tiny?  It lasted almost three decades with me, but after a couple of years with my girls the sides snapped cleanly in two, leaving it in three pieces.

Even items (and large pieces of furniture) that have withstood breaking are dented or ripped and patched or just battered by the constant jumping, spinning and crashing that goes on in our house on a daily basis.

And it has been really, really good for me.  The experience has put our belongings and their place in our lives in perspective.  It's helped me stand back and realize what we need and what don't... and my main wish these days is that I had a solid week that I could devote to purging our house of all the extra things that get in the way.

A couple of weeks ago as we walked out to the van to do our weekly errands Paul announced that after work the previous night he'd gotten back to our car and found a huge dent running down the back half of the passenger side of the vehicle.

I stopped and shook my head at the sight and then started to laugh and pointed out how grateful I was that we had a van where it doesn't really matter if another dent or scratch or ding is added here or there, because it sort of adds character. Besides, people seem to be less likely to cut you off when your car is ringed with scraps of paint in the wrong color and dents decorating the sides.  Our car had quite a lot of "character" when we bought it... but after a couple years parked in parking lots as we've traveled across the country it has even more.

These days when things break, the way they do on an almost daily basis around here, I find myself almost cheerful.  That's one more thing that can make its way out to the curb, one less thing to contribute to clutter at the end of the day as I realize that we really need less and less than I ever imagined and that the best toys seem to be had with cardboard boxes that of course, hardly ever survive more than a day inside these four walls.

I usually leave the major yearly purging of everything we don't need for Lent, but this year I think I might make it part of Advent, or even begin a bit ahead of Advent as I try, with the help of the insight given to me by these kids and their clumsy, crashing tendencies, to put things in perspective and cut out things that we don't need, putting aside as much as possible those things that get in the way as we begin to prepare our hearts for the coming Christmas season.


  1. Yep. We all feel and behave better when the house is neat and uncluttered. When coffee tables and counters are clear, when there are no stacks or piles, when the carpet is freshly vacuumed there is not a dish in the sink. It is amazing how much your insides match the condition of your home (or your car - when mine gets messy I hate riding in it!) Clutter, junk, mess, dust, useless trinkets and waste - who can think and feel their best when they are surrounded by all that? Coming home to a super clean house makes me feel great! And it shows in how I carry myself and treat my family. We all own too much. I have gotten in the habit of really asking myself, "Does this item bless my home? Will this add or subtract peace from my life?" when I think about whether or not I should keep or acquire something new. If the answer is "not really" - then out it goes. It feels good!

  2. A thought I have sometimes is that if I give it away before it gets broken then I don't have to throw it away and someone else might get some good from it.

  3. After moving in August/September, I was determined to declutter. On the one hand, the kids definitely take their toll on things. On the other, with 6 kids, the amount of things just seems to multiply. I’m slowly making progress though…

    I’m using the small moving boxes, which are 12x12x16 and so far I’ve collected about 3/4 of a box to store in the basement, thrown out about the equivalent of 1 box, and filled 3 boxes to donate. Slowly but surely I will reduce how much is in this house. It isn’t exactly easy with 3 kids’ birthdays and Christmas all within the next 2 1/2 months, but we are going to try to focus on books, footed pjs (hello, Wisconsin winter), necessities, etc.


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!