Living room detox
I’ve been in a mood. A get-rid-of-everything mood. How is that you can walk by a cluttered nook every day for months and think nothing of it, then wake up on a Saturday feeling like you must purge your home of anything that hasn’t been touched in the last 24 hours?
Some of it is the changing of seasons. I feel the urge to reorganize and tidy. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and we’re hosting our family again this year. I’m OK with people thinking we’re a little disorganized if they pop by on a random weeknight, but not on a major holiday. I love having everyone over . . . and really don’t want to feel embarrassed by the chaos.
Plus, well, my mother- and father-in-law will be here. Their standards are more exacting, and I feel pressured to clean so we can pretend to be in control of the house for a weekend.
I woke up Saturday and immediately eyeballed the corner of our living room. Wedged in between two couches is an end table that has gradually become diaper headquarters. We keep all those must-grab items handy, and that’s cool.
What’s beneath? Well.
As soon as Oliver was mobile, he became obsessed with crawling under the table to reach the open space behind the loveseat. It’s a decent chunk of real estate back there, and Ollie quickly picked up on its most desirable quality: we can’t reach him from that spot. I can’t, anyway — my arms are too short. And there’s no way I can pull him out if he digs in his heels.
Though he’s outgrown some of that rambunctious desire to hide and evade our grasp, Ollie still likes to crawl back and stow his precious possessions away from his sister. Hadley hasn’t figured out the fun of the “table tunnel” yet, but we know it’s coming.
What’s gradually happened, though, is the route has become littered with toys. And not just toys: puzzle pieces and doll shoes, books and coasters. It’s a combination of pushing toys there when my husband and I get tired of them being underfoot, and the kids “hiding” them at other points. It’s become the Bermuda Triangle of the Johnson home: what goes in rarely comes back out.
I walk by this corner constantly. I stare at it every day when I come downstairs, and again when I get home in the evening. I’m a bit of a minimalist in my heart, but two young children come with lots of . . . stuff. It’s just been woven into the fabric of our house — until Saturday.
What made me suddenly fill with rage and angst at seeing this ugly pile? I’ve been reading lots of articles and blog posts on decluttering, including an epic spread on a 31-Day Detox Challenge by Jennifer Lifford, featured in the September “Family Circle” (a pretty awesome magazine, by the way). I actually trimmed it out of the maga zine and hung it on my fridge.
I’m just getting started with the home detox, but felt compelled to really get started in advance of the holidays because:
1. We’ll have visitors. Lots of visitors.
2. New toys and other gifts will be arriving.
3. The kids are old enough to help clean, and they should be encouraged to do so.
Also, this line from the article: “Clutter drains energy. It reminds you of something you’re not doing or you need to do, and you feel like a failure.” Bingo! Dismantling the Bermuda Corner was my first step. Crouched with my curious children standing guard, I began excavating my way through the mess until everything had been pulled to the center of the living room. The sheer amount of stuff under there would have been impressive if it weren’t so horrifying.
Hadley played happily with the puzzles and books we unearthed, grinning like they were all brand new. Oliver crawled under the table tunnel to “help” me, but was really just excitedly pawing through the toys he, too, had forgotten.
It’s amazing how much better I felt with that task complete. I got out the vacuum next and deeply cleaned that whole nook, which gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.
I didn’t realize how much that mess truly bothered me until it was fixed — and now I can’t wait to start the official home detox. The 31-Day method from Lifford recommends starting with paperwork . . . so I’ll be getting the shredder handy.
Let me just finish this coffee first.