Making Space


Today is March 20th, the first day of spring.  I discovered my first daffodil in the yard a few minutes ago and thought that I’ve got to hurry up and get outside to deal with my yard!  There is work to do and miracles to watch as everything comes back to life.

I was scanning one of my Pinterest boards a few months ago, noticing that many of the home decor pictures I’m drawn to in the last year or so are more sparsely decorated than my own home is.  It made me wonder if my style is changing, or if the craziness of my family made these really simple spaces seem calming to me.  The question has been floating around in my mind for a while and I concluded that it’s time to act.

I set aside the month of March to go through everything we have in storage in our house and get rid of as much as possible.  Keeping my commitment to myself has meant zero sewing (yet still my brain is scheming) and lots of 15 minute time segments going through another box or pile.  I want our family to learn a simpler way of living, one that leaves margin in every area.  I want more space for people, for things that matter, for spontaneity, for reading and writing and dreaming and talking.  I know I’ve said this before, and I realize that it’s probably an ideal I’ll always chase with varying degrees of success, but this month my goal has been creating margin in our living space.  Less, less, less.    While I know that getting rid of “stuff” won’t solve the larger challenges we’re facing, it’s my first step in trying to tell the Lord that I’m willing to do whatever He wants.  In having less “stuff” to take care of/clean/store I’m hoping I’ll also make space in my mind for more important things and room in my schedule for more service.

And then my husband went snowboarding and crashed on his head.  We were grateful – very grateful – that no serious injury was sustained.  His ribs were bruised but not cracked and his neck and spine seemed fine.  Until 4 days later when suddenly his legs had no strength.  Today, 10 days later, everything seems to be ok.  He’s banged up but fine, but it took a toll on me emotionally.   A new (and dreaded) assignment at Church came his way and all of a sudden I felt like I’d been pushed off the emotional cliff I’d been so carefully backing away from.  The irony of it all is that lately I’ve been studying the life of Abraham and particularly his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.  I’d taught a lesson on the subject and had prayed for the ability to be like him.  And then there I was, facing something I had no inkling belonged on the table and I did not want it.  At all.  Now that I’ve had several days to process it (and feel certain that his health is fine), I’m sure things will work out, likely for our good, but I’d be lying if I said this chapter began with a willing heart.   Oh well.  I’m obviously no Abraham.  Thank goodness for repentance!

Today I feel trapped because the next steps in my mission to make more space for life require another set of strong arms, and they are all at school.  I keep walking into my sewing room, wanting to start something but not knowing what to work on.  So here I am, blogging!

I’m not sure I’ll accomplish all the tasks on my list for the month, but it’s been a great experience.  I sort of informally started the 40 bags in 40 days thing, and have already said goodbye to more than 40 full bags.  That’s a good thing, because I have no intention of taking a 40 day break from sewing!   I chose to start in all the areas where I have primary stewardship (plus the basement) and make sure I’m setting the right example for my children, who will be asked to do the same thing in their spaces when I’m done with all the other rooms in the house.   I’ve had a clarity of thought that makes my heart sing.   I find myself lingering in the areas where I’ve accomplished my goal because I love how they feel.  I think it’s working.  I’m making more space for the life I want.


September’s mission

My goal this month is to go through as much of the house as possible, get rid of things, sort them, reorganize them, and so forth.  I feel like I haven’t really done this thoroughly for too long and am anxious to buzz through every room.

I’m also working at finding my stride during the school hours.  Long as they are on paper, by the time I get some exercise, take care of the girls, clean up, do some laundry, and then feed the girls lunch, the day is almost over and I feel like I still have about 10 hours of work I need to do before the after school rush hits.  Still, I’m making progress.

So far I’ve been through the toy room, one girls room (including closets and all clothing), the living room, dining room and yesterday I did the pantry.  I wish I could say I was deep cleaning everything, but this sweep is just for organization and de-cluttering.  I’ll go back through and do windows, etc. when all the junk is taken care of.

Today I’m trying something new.

These little monkeys (probably inspired by my projects) have been unusually effective at tearing things apart while I’m working.  This morning we made a fort for them to play in, using the dining room table, chairs, and a bunch of tablecloths.

They seem happy with their hiding place and I’ll make them a picnic lunch to eat there in a few minutes.  It will be much easier cleanup than yesterday’s mess!

And so I’m off and running with my head buzzing with ideas and possible solutions.  One solution that worked well in the pantry was to take my stacks of pretty trays (many of them vintage) and put them sideways into a large basket which will slide under the shelves.

(Sorry about the pictures.  It’s so hard to get good photos in a dark room with no windows!)

I liked having the trays on the shelf, but I’ve been wanting to clear off a shelf to just keep empty in there.  When the children don’t know where exactly to put something in the pantry, they have a bad habit of putting things on the floor.  I’ll walk around the corner and have to climb over things to get what I need!  Moving these trays cleared off a six foot section on the bottom shelf for them to put things on.  I’m hoping the pantry will stay tidy this way and I’ll be able to move things from that section to where they belong without trouble.  The key word in that sentence is, of course, hoping .   We’ll see how it goes!  It did work well last night when we were unloading groceries from the car.

I found this awesome vintage step stool during the summer.  We keep it in the pantry but use it in the kitchen all the time so the little children can help prepare dinner, do the dishes or just wash their hands.  I particularly love it because it’s wide enough for my two youngest to stand on the top step together.  I also love it when we have just one stool in the kitchen and not five different kitchen chairs:  one at the counter, one by the microwave, one by the sink and one by the refrigerator, etc.  Why they don’t use the chair next to them instead of going to the table for a new one, I’ll never know!  This stool has been a great fix for that clutter.

There is something about a clean kitchen that really keeps me calm.  A clean kitchen AND an organized pantry put a smile on my face!

Back to work!  Hope your day is great!



Last week, as I was preparing my guest room for company I decided to take a few minutes and straighten up my fabric piles and projects.  What I thought would help me feel better quickly backfired as I sorted through a half dozen unfinished projects and supplies for unstarted ones.

Suddenly I felt completely disgusted with myself and with my life.  What a waste of resources!

One of the piles that made me particularly irritated with myself was the pile of mending.  I went through it, noting a missing button here and a torn seam there.  How is it that I cannot even find time to mend our clothing?!?  Why is it that I didn’t take two minutes to reattach a button when it first came off a year ago?  For that matter, why do I have a mending pile at all?  Why don’t I just fix things as they tear and move on instead of putting them dutifully in the basket?

I looked around, looked at the clock, looked at the pile.   I had housework to do, food to prep.  All of the things that I have to do over and over again each day.  I spend a great deal of my life telling myself that as soon as everything is clean I will tackle the other projects, projects like mending or prepping a craft project for my children and some of their friends.  I looked around and realized that the “other projects” weren’t moving any closer to the top of the list because the daily list of repeats is so long.

So I went through my buttons, matched threads, picked up my needle and went to work.  I mended dresses, skirts, shirts, ties, doll clothes.

I didn’t get the house clean, but I did the mending.  As I sat quietly and went through the methodical steps of fixing things I noticed what a calming activity it is.  In spite of the clutter in other rooms, my heart felt at peace and I felt a certain amount of gratitude for these items which had been so long out of circulation but were now ready to wear once more.  I longed for a life of simplicity, where sitting quietly to mend something is a normal part of life instead of a deviation from it.

I smiled as my two year old squealed with delight at the pink skirt she’s never seen before, smiled as my four year old son proudly put on his “new” tie for church on Sunday (which his older brother promptly ruined again).  It was interesting to watch these items of clothing as they were noticed and quickly put to use in daily wardrobes.

Then, as I went to work on the rest of the house, I thought about how hard I work to maintain the routine so that we can function.  I realized that taking a break to do the mending was actually helpful, as it reminded me that the routine exists to help me, not the other way around.  I am in charge of my time, not the clock.  The daily mess will come as surely as the sun rises, but that doesn’t make me a servant to it.

I’ve been pondering these things ever since.  What can I get rid of?  What can we let go of to make room for a simpler life?  How can I live so that there is time for simple tasks?  Yes, I’ve asked them a hundred times before, but I’m asking them again because I believe the answer is still worth finding.  More difficult to find, perhaps, when they’re buried somewhere beneath the busy lives of 10 people under one roof, but worth finding nonetheless.

How do you do it?


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