Blogging, Teething and Reading.

The archival quality of a blog has already proved useful. I ended up reading through older entries last night, particularly the ones about Noah’s progress in decluttering his toys, and I was surprised by how well we had actually done. I was pretty impressed with us at the time but even more so when looking back. It was very inspirational and has me working on getting more “junk” out of our home. I also am able to let go of more sentimental things, like Olivia’s clothes that she is quickly outgrowing. I actually have a friend that is due in March with a baby girl so I have a good place to pass on the nicer stuff that I wish got more wear. :) Definitely works for me!

Also, as far as Olivia’s growing goes: she’s now 13 months old, an expert crawler and a ham! She loves to laugh and loves to make people laugh. It is rare that people look at Liv and not see her either smiling or ready to break one out. Her smiles are also still very gummy…oddly, she didn’t cut her first tooth until very close to her birthday last month. She’s actively cutting 6 teeth right now (4 on top, 2 on the bottom) and getting ready to get her first year molars in. Poor girl has been fussy (for her) for a few days now and she’s not sleeping as soundly as she was. She’s also nursing all day long and frequently through the night even though she eats solids regularly.

She’s not walking yet, either. She’s almost ready, has it down physically, but mentally she will not let go. If she realizes she’s standing independently, she deliberately leans forward to put her weight on something. Instead of hitting this milestone and taking off with it, she’s decided to pick up words. Baby sign, verbal, whatever. She was very quiet before and now she’s absorbing whatever words she can. Whether she repeats them or not is entirely up to her (mostly, she doesn’t) but understanding the meaning behind them and expanding her vocabulary is something else.

Noah isn’t letting her be the only impressive one in the house, though. He’s picked up reading through phonics (no program, just me teaching him the way I was taught by my mother). What we – Joshua and I – didn’t expect was for him to grasp the concepts so quickly. He went from reading 3 letter words to reading whatever he sees. It is not unusual to find him in his bed, reading a book. He also reads the names of episodes on Netflix, signs, instructions, etc. If it has words, he reads it. This does mean that all internet browsing is SFW (Which it generally is anyway, but we’re Redditors and stuff tends to pop up.) because he has been known to read our monitors over our shoulders.

I realize that at five years old, reading is a pretty typical skill, but the genuine love for reading that Noah has brings me great joy. I hope that my kids will be readers for the span of their lives. Books are knowledge and adventures. Thanks to books, I’ve rarely been bored in my life. Hopefully they won’t be, either.

Bittersweet Purging

There is always a sense of accomplishment when I get rid of stuff we no longer need. I feel a little more free and a lot less cluttered in my mind.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is a little bittersweet. One of the hardest things for me to declutter are my kids’ clothes. Noah’s aren’t so bad any more…he outgrows stuff about every year now, and it’s not a huge jump when he does (or it is, depending on how you look at it, I guess). Olivia’s are harder. She turned 3 months old this past Thursday and she’s transitioning into 6 month clothing. Yes, my little newborn barely-a-7-pounder is now 14 pounds and long and huge. Still itty bitty to hold compared to her brother at three months old, but huge.

However, as bittersweet as it is, it must be done. Thankfully, I can give a lot of it to my cousin, Michelle, who is expecting this June, because many things were “gender neutral” or “boyish” hand-me-downs from Noah. I saved some favorites, of course, but for the most part, there is a pretty big haul headed her way and most of it is in pristine condition because Noah wore it once and Liv wore it once or not at all. So there is a positive, definitely, in knowing that these clothes are going to my little nephew (technicalities aside).

Then there is the benefit of having more space, of course. I re-organized her drawers and hanging clothes and there is a lot more room for everything, which is nice. There is a whole range of sizes (newborn to 3 months) that I am no longer holding onto. There are a bunch of clothes that fit her but aren’t the nicest (like heavy staining) that I could get rid of, because we are blessed to have a good bit of clothes for her 6 month size to add to the “nice” 3 month stuff. My mom, grandmother, aunt and cousin Alexa have been especially sweet in picking out goodies for Olivia and then I found a good deal on Carter’s onesies.

So, yeah, I suppose there is an upside, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to shed a few tears over her rapidly disappearing newborn days. Three months is kind of a big one. Ah, babies. At least there is so much to look forward to.

Oh! And speaking of babies and gifts and clothes… a couple of weeks ago, I went to Michelle’s baby shower and got to feel her baby bump. Woohoo! I’m so excited for her and her husband. I mean, I felt that baby bump and I started to cry! Anyway, I bring this up because I forgot to post pictures at the time and my mom is probably reading this and thinking “Finally! She takes forever.” I love you, Mom. Now here are those pictures. =P

(Click to enlarge.)

And just for fun:

More Noah Progress

Noah went through more of his non-plushie toys today. We are trying not to push him too hard, but we do try to steer him towards certain toys or set certain limits for him. When we see that he’s hit a wall in the decluttering process for the day, we stop, and we praise him for being able to let go of stuff that he really won’t miss. (In fact, he has not asked for anything we decluttered together – not even the stuffed animals! – and it’s been a week for some of it.) At four, the idea is to teach him about not hoarding, not being a pack rat and learning that less can be more, especially since the less you own, the more time you can spend playing and the less time you spend cleaning!

I do find myself having to watch my words, because sometimes I want to say, “but you play with that so much!” and really I ought to say, “okay, sure. Why this one?” (and the latter question is just to make sure he’s thought it through). Perry the Platypus from the last post is a great example; I felt like he played with Perry a lot but he felt like it was too frustrating of a toy.

In addition to the stuffed animals, this is the box of toys he has chosen to get rid of:

I’m glad to see that green skull go and the train tracks will be sold so he can have some pocket money. It surprises me what ends up leaving but, truly, he has so many toys that he has no room for new ones and there are already a couple of things on his personal wishlist to get.

While I’m at this, I’ll share my own bit of decluttering today. (I tend to focus on my stuff or Noah’s stuff or else it gets overwhelming for me and, well, chores still need to get done.) I love the Forever stamps provided by the USPS and I had bought multiple books back in 2006 and 2008 when I needed to mail wedding invitations and birth announcements, respectively. Since I overbought, we’ve been using these stamps since and a lot of the $0.39 and $0.02 and $0.41 stamps were in a pile, getting unused. Today, Joshua looked up the cost of postage for one letter ($0.45 now!) and I did a little math to use up most of what was left. This is the result:

Not too shabby. Getting rid of clutter (yes, this counts!), and saving some money without any effort. Love it!


Decluttering Sentimentals

It’s hard to let go of sentimental items. Everyone I talk to about minimalism and decluttering has admitted that, even though they want the space and lack of clutter in their life. I actually managed to get rid of a lot of sentimental things last year when I went through my dad’s stuff and only kept a very few items, like his coach shirt from when I played softball.

Lately, it’s been more of a “I just don’t want to get rid of this because I like it” and that had me at a standstill. I mean, you can say “I like it and I want to keep it” about pretty much anything you own. You did buy it, after all. Then you may have added some sort of sentimental tag to it and you’ll say it over and over while it weighs on your mind.

That’s been my problem. My most recent round of decluttering was to finally go over to our shelf that displays a lot of our “pretty” things (like my Willowtree collection) and pull out the things I didn’t want to keep. I kept a Precious Moments snowglobe to give to one of the kids but decided to donate a plastic one I paid $3 for in a souvenir shop. (Actually, Noah is playing with it for now because he’s never really used a snowglobe before but it’s going to be donated.)

I decided to share a few examples. You can see my progress from about 15 minutes of work. Imagine all of these items together and then think about how much space I’ve cleared up to devote to things we care about more!

I bought this because I thought it was pretty and then kept it, intending to give it to a future daughter. Now I have a daughter and the cup set is cracked. Whoops.

I don’t think these are sake cups but I’m not sure. I used them to hold random trinkets – trinkets I no longer have.

A glass cat I just kind of ended up with. I loved it and kept it because it reminded me of my huge cat, Omega, but the ear is chipped and Omega lives with someone else now. This figurine might actually cause more pain than happiness, so off it goes.

I bought this at Goodwill once, intending to use it for jewelry. Well, I have a jewelry box and very little jewelry as it is, so this has been on a bookshelf since I bought it.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember where this came from. When my dad died, it ended up back in my possession, so I never let it go. I’d look at it and say, “I could declutter that!” but then I would pause, think of the sentiment and keep it. No need, any more.

I bought this little cat faux painting at a thrift store when I was 11 or so. I kept it for so long because I like the idea of it and I had it sitting in my bathroom at my dad’s apartment when I was a preteen but it’s been over a decade, now. Time to let it go.

So you see, I kept a lot of this stuff simply because I “wanted” to, but now that I’ve made the decision to let it go, I don’t actually miss any of it. I also found that by getting through this hurdle, I’ve broken past my block and I can continue purging stuff that I no longer want to keep. I’m still learning to look past, “but I like this” and go to, “do I like something else better?” I actually learned that lesson from helping Noah go through his plushies!

(The park entry will have to wait. I apparently have 200+ pictures to wade through before I can post any. Thanks to terminal and Joshua, I can re-size them all at once with a simple command, so that won’t make me drag my feet at least.)

Noah’s Plushie Purge

Noah really blew me away today. We’ve been working on decluttering around here which, as many fellow declutterers (not a word; so don’t care.) know, is a project that is never really done. Noah’s toys have really gotten out of hand though and it’s only more obvious now that he has his own room. We bought more storage for him and still don’t have enough places to put all of his toys!

(Maggie’s crate is actually where the pack-n-play is in this picture because neither Maggie or Noah liked sleeping without the other one.)

This picture was actually taken before all of the toys made it from the living room to his room so believe it or not, he has more than this.

So today, I went in his room with him and I said it was time to start getting rid of toys. We’ve been talking about kids who don’t have toys or don’t have many and also just about how easier it is to not be frustrated all of the time when you don’t have as many toys to pick up. I know it overwhelms *me* and I’m an adult!

At first it was very slow going. My concentration today was on stuffed animals because they can take up the most room and they’re a good starting point to get you in the groove, so to speak. Like books, they can be hard to declutter because of sentimental attachment but they are often easy to replace and, even if not, are more likely to show their age.

I gave him a few free passes: Bananas the Monkey (his big brother animal we just made at Build-a-Bear), Buddy Bear (from when I was pregnant), his mama/baby elephant set (“us”, because he is my baby elephant), and the two that Olivia has a match of. There were also a couple that I took back into my own personal collection (which is very small) so he’ll still technically get to play with them.

My original goal was 20 small stuffed animals and 5 large ones. I figured we’d get to those numbers and re-evaluate because I wasn’t sure how many he owned or how many stuffed animals 20 would be (other than, you know, 20). We went through every one, and I would give him scenarios like, if that particular plushie was destroyed, would he want to replace it or say “oh, it’s okay, I have plenty more”. On some it was a definite “I would want it back SO much, Mama” and on others, he surprised me by saying “oh, it would be okay, it can go”.

This activity got him going, but he started to drag his feet (who wants to think about their stuff getting messed up over and over?) so we switched tactics. I grabbed ones I knew he loved to play with and compared it with the ones I was sure he wasn’t too crazy about. That got us through quite a bit and then I switched to picking some up and saying “Can this go? No? Then pick something to go for this to stay.” and, honestly, it worked for us. It may not work for all kids but he “got” it. I would make a suggestion, he didn’t like my suggestion and then he would look through his pile until he found something that could go.

Near the end, I could tell it was getting really hard for him so we called it quits and kept the rest. Noah was genuinely trying, though. He would touch every plushie still left in the pile, think about them, play with them for a second to see if he was still interested and then he would make a decision. When he could no longer choose between one or the other, I figured he had done very well.

The final count? 41 smalls (3 free passes and a “collection” of Angry Bird-related plushies) and 9 large ones (4 free passes). I realize that this is double my original goal but, believe it or not, it was about HALF of his original number.

I was really surprised by some of his choices. He said Blue the Puppy could go because he didn’t have a Steve or a Joe. (I’ll be saving Blue for Olivia before she gets harder to find, though.) He decided to give away Perry the Platypus because he can’t easily switch him from Perry to Agent P without help. Henry the Octopus went because his pleather? shoes were peeling. I thought those were very sound reasonings and they are only a few examples! Some of the choices had me biting my lip because *I* wanted him to keep them but this was about him and what he wanted to play with. It was very hard to do that! I’m a bit of a control freak. There are a couple that I question and will be stashing in the closet for now, like Tigger and Eeyore, who he asks to sleep with often.

In the end, I think today’s project was a success. We’ll declutter his stuffed toys more as we go on, I’m sure. We don’t typically buy him any and he doesn’t usually ask for any, so they’ll go as he stops playing with them or as their partners disappear or as they just plain get worn down. I’m hoping that he learned a few things today that will have him bringing some to me in the future with a reason for him not to keep them but, considering that he’s four, I’m not expecting that to happen.

We did make a small dent in his actual toys, but I needed a break and said we’d pick it back up tomorrow. I think Noah is just as excited as I am to go through his toys and purge because he seemed much happier when he looked at his stuffed collection. Of course he doesn’t want to get rid of anything but that’s part of being human. I don’t think either of us could give you a full list of what made it into that pile, to tell you the truth. I think that’s pretty telling.