I live in a prison of clutter. It’s everywhere. I spend at least 6 hours a day, picking up my kids clutter, scraping dried yogurt off the floor with my fingernail, putting cushions back on the couch, searching for and putting all 30 pieces of a toy back in its box, scrubbing up a spilled nail-polish stain, and wondering, “How exactly do those green blobs of kids toothpaste get on the sink, the wall, the floor, the stool, the light switch, the magazine basket, the toilet, and the air freshener can? How is that even possible? Did it explode?”

I almost can deal with the accidental (though thoughtlessly left) spills and messes. But I would venture a guess that we have well over 100 toys and stuffed animals in our house, and every day they emerge from their bins and get scattered throughout every room in the house. Every day I put them back, but they never stay. And by noon, I usually have 8-9 cups covering every surface of the kitchen. First the kids wanted milk, then they changed their mind and wanted orange juice. Then after they brushed their teeth, they “needed” a new cup for water. Later, leaving a few sips in the water cup, they retrieve yet another cup for Gatorade. Then, with lunch they fill a 5th cup with Sprite. Then when I ask, “Whose cup is this?”, no one will claim it.

This started my need to minimize. I threw away the entire cabinet full of plastic cups. Now, they each have a color.  They get one cup. Drink what you pour. Rinse. Repeat. Simple. 

And, I am getting rid of things no longer played with or used. Because the only way to keep things from being scattered all over the house, is to get them OUT of the house.

Now that the kids are in school, at least for part of the day, I have gotten a glimpse of the life of someone whose cushions actually STAY on their couch! Whose blankets and sheets stay folded (not made into a fort by people who later claim not to know how to fold them back.) And whose possessions don’t get scattered all over the house, backyard, and neighbor’s yard.

When my daughter was 4, she brought in a big box full of sticks, leaves, rocks, and dirt. I asked what it was, and was told it was “very special treasures”. These very special treasures stayed, forgotten, on the floor by the laundry room for over a week. Thinking I was finally safe to do so, I dumped it back outside. Wrong. Caught, my daughter cried out, “Nooooo!!!!!!!!” Then, through tears and sniffles, “Those were my very special Remembories!”

Very special remembories. I get it. I understand holding on to something because of the memory attached to it. Shoot, I have exactly 53 forks in my house. Some fancy, some casual. But all of them toppling over in my drawer, constantly aggravating me. But I can’t part with them because some were Great Nana’s, some were Grandma’s and some were my husband’s grandmother’s. They’re our special “remembories”. But I think Great Nana probably looks down from heaven, sees my clutter, sees my desperate attempt to keep up with it all, and sees the good stuff in life that I’m missing out on as a result. I think Great Nana would say, “Stop! Keeping up with your remembories is taking you away from today. And those 53 forks are nowhere near that important.”

I’ll never forget my friend Anna’s reaction to my 53 forks. “Will you ever have 53 people over? Heck, even if you do have 53 people over, you’ll totally be pulling out the plastic-ware.”

She was right. Even with the all-important dishwasher, that gives us the capability to wash 53 forks, all at one time with ease, if there is ever 53 people at my house, I will absolutely be using plastic forks.

Part of me, a big part, wants to join the “tiny house” movement and live on a big piece of land in a little 400 square foot house. I fantasize about all the extra time it would free up to play with my kids and converse with my husband when I have less square footage to clean, and less clutter to be endlessly putting away. And I fantasize about my husband not having to spend 45+ hours a week making enough money for our bigger home that so adequately fits all our clutter. We slave away to have money to buy “stuff”, then need more money to buy a house big enough for the “stuff”, so that we can spend all our time cleaning, picking up, putting away, and organizing all the “stuff.” It’s all seems like a big exercise in futility. When I’m in a nursing home, my house gone, and all of my “very special remembories” sitting on a dusty shelf at Goodwill, will any of it matter? Will I miss the stuff? Or will I wonder what memories could have been made in all the time I spent picking up and cleaning all that “special stuff”?

Stuff equals stress. And stress is taking me away from my family, and away from my life.

The special remembories, after all, have nothing to do with the stuff in my house, but the people here. And the short time we have been given together.