Mama to four Allie Casazza shares how the state of her house was affecting her state of mind, and how decluttering turned it all around.
“About five years ago now, I had just had my third child and we were living the ‘American Dream.’ We were living in a pretty big house, and my husband was working about 90 hours a week just to keep our lifestyle going. It’s what we thought we had to do – keep increasing the square footage and keep buying all the things we thought we needed. It was a daily fight just to keep it all up.
If I’m honest, I was really struggling with depression, and I found myself waking up every morning feeling a little bit of dread. We had a big playroom full of toys which was filled with all the typical things I think most mums find themselves cleaning up during the day, and I felt like I couldn’t catch up. I was tired before my day even started. I had always wanted to be a wife and mother and here I was doing what I wanted, but I found that I couldn’t spend time actually enjoying it because all I was doing was cleaning up all the time.
The house just ruled everything. It was a constant battle of reorganizing the playroom so the kids could go in there for ten minutes and dump everything out and come out saying they were bored. It just felt pointless and it felt like a trap.
And then one day it became so overwhelming I ended up locked in my bathroom, sitting on the floor, just crying and praying. I was desperate for something to change, but I didn’t know what that could be. I started thinking about all that I do everyday, and that’s what I realised I spent my day cleaning up random stuff. That was the trigger for the epiphany for me. It was this moment when I realised ‘oh my gosh, if I just got rid of everything that we don’t need, maybe things would get better.’
So, after I had put the kids to bed that night, I went into the playroom, and removed pretty much everything. I started with all of the toys that didn’t line up with what I wanted for my kids’ childhood, which was very outdoors-y, organic and natural – I wanted them to be players and not just collectors of things. I just got everything out and asked myself: ‘is this something that encourages my children to use their imaginations, to create something?’ Legos and blocks and puzzles and art supplies, dolls – they all stayed. I kept things that encourage them to make things up in their imaginations, rather than the light up, noisy toys that do all the playing for them. It started with asking myself what is the purpose of this thing, and that really, really worked for me.
What I ended up with was really just a few bins of very intentional toys that encouraged my kids to grow and get smarter and get more imaginative and use their creativity and everything else went into the donation bin. So, starting there, I did that first because the toys were taking up so much of my time, so I got rid of those first.
The next morning, I immediately saw a difference in my kids. I was a little afraid that my oldest, would be upset at the loss of toys but she wasn’t at all! She walked in there and she was like, “Mummy, you cleaned. Oh, I’ve been looking for this toy, thank you.” And she just started playing. And, even though was only three, she ended up playing in that playroom for about two hours, which is incredible for how little she was. That’s when I knew that I was onto something and that this was going to work. Then that eventually carried into my dishes, my laundry, my wardrobe, my calendar, everything that I was filling my home and my life with.
I started decluttering the dishes because that also took up a ton of my time. I cut it down to only one plate and one bowl per person at that time. I really got rid of a lot. Now, I have a little bit of a bigger family and we eat very healthy, so it’s a lot of cooking, so I have a little bit more than I did at that time. But at the time, it really helped me, as I didn’t have to do a huge pile of dishes anymore. I rinsed them as I used them and it eliminated the hours that I was spending at the kitchen sink.
After that, I went onto the clothes. I decluttered what didn’t fit us, what wasn’t in season, what I was holding onto because I hoped I would fit into it one day. I let go of everything that wasn’t actually being used and then I had almost no laundry to do. I just did a small load every morning and that was it. It opened up my entire day – it was amazing. I had time for my family, which was the whole purpose in the first place. It really, deeply impacted me as a mother and in my marriage. Being more available to spend more time with my husband instead of freaking out and yelling at the end of the day about how dirty the house is and how he never helps me with anything and that he’s gone all the time. Everything became calmer and quieter and more peaceful. I was a happier person and I was more available to be present for my family. Every relationship got better.
Looking back, there are definitely things that I did that I wouldn’t do now looking back, because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I would say the entire process took me about six months or so and it definitely didn’t need to be like that. Even with all the stuff we had, even with our oversized house and three little kids, it just didn’t need to take that long.
And I can honestly tell you, all I have seen in my kids is gratitude. They are so appreciative of what they have. Whenever we go over to our friend’s house for a playdate and it’s time to clean up what they’ve played with, my daughter always says on the way home, “Oh my gosh I hate how everyone else has so many toys it takes forever to clean up.”
My husband and I are also very open with them and we tell them, “We are able to have a camper and travel and do all these exciting things that nobody else gets to do because we don’t spend our money on things.” They’re very aware that we’re purposely living differently. We spend our money on experiences instead of things and that their life is a higher quality than other people because of that.”
ALLIE’S THREE TIPS FOR DECLUTTERING AS A MAMA
- Don’t start where it is too emotional.
Start somewhere like the bathroom – where precious things (like baby’s clothes or sentimental pieces) are least likely, but you’ll notice an immediate difference. Save the attachment places for once you’ve got momentum.
- Don’t use the kids as an excuse not to start.
Lots of people act like they can’t move forward because the kids are around – but it’s not true. Get them involved, or put them near you with a game or toy. Embrace their presence – and don’t use it as an excuse anymore.
- Start somewhere you feel overwhelmed.
Toys, dishes and laundry are usually the biggies for mamas. Most of us crave simplicity and order in these areas, so start there for the biggest impact. Once you see the difference, you’ll be on a roll with the rest.
You can find more de-cluttering tips on Allie’s website.