Thursday, January 21, 2010

Less is always more

I have to admit that I'm really tired this week. I've been trying to go to bed earlier, but it really hasn't translated into more rest. In fact, I feel more exhausted than usual. Maybe I'm getting too much sleep, but that can't be it. I'm still getting up a couple of times nightly to nurse Tess.
Anyway, I've been working on the house the week- doing those jobs that I've put off for months and months like finally tackling all the paper piles around the house. I'm determined to organize and to purge everything that I haven't managed to find a home. It's a constant theme here that I fully believe that less is more. For instance, I decided that I'm selling my set of parfait glasses. I haven't used them in five years! Now, I know that I will find the yummiest parfait recipe as soon as they're sold, but oh, well. I am a minimalist at heart and I don't think that I'll miss them that badly. Right now, I'm reading Simplicity Parenting and I'm on the chapter that focuses on the impact of your child's environment. It's intuitive for me that cluttered spaces leave children feeling overwhelmed and anxious and frankly this isn't new information for me. I've read it all before. This chapter talks about toy overload. I got the boys together this week and we started going through their stuff looking for things that we might donate while organizing their room. I can see that they are visibly relieved when we organize their room and purge a few things. It's easier for the boys to focus on the things they actually do want to play with when there are fewer things to play with and they can easily find those things. They don't have to go searching through jumbled toychests looking for missing pieces.
I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating. It's so easy for things to mutliply in your house without you even noticing sometimes. Today, I just went ahead and chucked a few things. Normally, I just hate the idea of things going into land-fill, but I know Goodwill doesn't really want a box of old toys. They probably have more old broken toys than they know what to do with. So, I just threw them away and I felt relieved. They weren't anything special--just things picked up at garage sales over the last year or so.
It's not just the toys though and this is where Simplicity Parenting got my attention again.
It's the books! Not only are unloved toys the target. So are the books. I say this hesitatingly, but it's true. There is such thing as book overload.
Books offer such delight and satisfaction to children, conjuring magical worlds and bringing the wonder of our own right into their hands. How could it be possible to have "too many" of such good things?
-Simplicity Parenting
The same principle that applies to the toys also applies to the books. I have learned over the years that as much as I love books, I don't need to own everything. Over the past five years, I have relied heavily on my library and sometimes I'm much happier know that I have to return the book than having to find space on my bookshelves. Of course, I still buy books and probably too many of them, but I'm much choosier than I use to be.
I've noticed that my 4 year-old prefers reading the sam few books over and over. He has a special relationship with his favorites and many books just sit there. We want our children to have a connections with good stories and those favorites deserve a permanent place on on their shelves. Simplifying our children's environment is our goal and the same principle goes for both toys and books.
We honor the value of something (like reading) in our child's life by fostering a deep - not disposable - relationship to it.
-Simplicity Parenting
So, as we enter 2010, I'm going to be even more focused and determined to make even better purchasing decisions on everything. I always remind my boys that purchasing things has consequences. Where are we going to put those things? Will it hold your attention very long? Things are just that. Things. I plan for us to make better connections to our books and our crafts this year. I don't want them to just "consume" books, but to read and to make meaningful connections with those carefully chosen books. A simple environment clears the way for true connection.

Could I go a year without buying a new book?? Hmmmm....


Sarah said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for the reminder. This couldn't have come at a better time ... We're moving one week from today, and we're sorting, packing, etc. the whole house. Lots of bags to donate and throw away. It feels good!

The playroom hadn't been picked up in over a week, but yesterday I started organizing it. I pushed the little table and chairs away to be packed away, and just had my son's little farm set out. He played with it for the longest time. But he hadn't in weeks, even though it was there the whole time. I think there was too much in the way, too much visual clutter.

The part about books is a good challenge. We use the library a lot, too, but I still think we have a lot of books. Perhaps rotating them would be good, except for the select favorites. At least that would possibly give a good indicator of ones that could be donated in the future ...

darcee said...

This has been a slow hard lesson for me as well, but the overflowing bookshelf of torn, crumpled, colored on and otherwise destroyed books lends credence to the thought that too many books make all books worth less ... until they are worthless.

I have simplicity parenting on hold from the library and hopefully will see it soon.