Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

This Stuff Makes Me Crazy!

Okay, mothers, what I'd really like to do for you for my Mothers' Month is come and help you clean your house. Wouldn't that be an awesome gift? Since I can't, here's the next best thing, the permission to live with less mess.

Well, I can't possibly be the only mother overwhelmed by STUFF. And by stuff I mean: toys, clothes, books, and treasures (otherwise known as rocks, dirt, small pieces of paper and tiny, plastic objects). Where did all this stuff come from? I have probably, in seven years, bought my children collectively one toy and ten outfits and yet my house teems with it.

Photo by Bill Longshaw courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
Here's my problem with stuff: it consumes way more of my time than I want it to. I love playing with my children, reading to them, dancing with them, cooking with them, making art with them, running around the yard with them and having them give me back rubs (just kidding on that last one). I do spend time doing those things. The trouble is I spend an awful lot of time cleaning up their toys, tripping over their toys, putting books back on shelves, trying to find homes for random objects, and feeling, occasionally, defeated by the sheer quantity in our house.

I wish I could look away. I wish it didn't bother me so much. I wish I didn't want to live in the 1850s when kids had three toys and all slept together in one bedroom. But let's be honest, life with children IS different now than it has been for, essentially, the entire length of human history. The kind of product rich lives even children with parents of modest incomes enjoy didn't exists one hundred years ago. Sometimes I think about how hard it must have been for women without washing machines and dishwashers. On the other hand, they had a two room house and instead of ten balls for the kids to toss, they had one. Also, how hard was it to clean the outhouse? Just let it stink!

All of us have to spend some time cleaning up and putting away and taking care of the things we possess and love. And it's great for kids to have toys and enjoy them. But I'd venture to guess that a lot of women's lives--mother's lives--would be easier if the house didn't froth with objects. Can we give ourselves permission to have less? Can we begin to redefine a good life? Can we pass on what we don't need, get rid of what's broken, and let children enjoy the best and simplest of toys: boxes and blankets?

I don't know about you, but I need permission to free myself from some of this stuff, and if you need it too, Mama, I want to give it to you. Your life is good and full of love. Let's fill our houses with the stuff that doesn't get dusty, use batteries quickly, break under pressure, or end up forgotten on the floor. All that good stuff: love and time and laughter and peace.

Now there's some good, free advice that won't clog your toy box! Are you with me?


  1. I remember those days and have experienced with my granddaughter, who plays with the same toys as her mom and in me. :)

    1. I LOVE the toys and books my mother kept. They are the best and the best made.

  2. Absolutely! Now you just have to convince my kid...

  3. No, you have to do it at night, while he's sleeping, then say that the tooth fairy came and magically took everything away!