The Facebook Post: In which it is noted I have Even More Time.

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Fun we enjoyed just because. Not for an audience, just because we were having great family time together.
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I made these with my 3 year old after dinner, before bedtime. She said “Mummy I love making these with you”. I knew normally this was my coffee and Facebook time. The guilt was far less significant than the joy in hearing those words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part way through last year one of my friends (also a beautiful mama of 6!) gave up Facebook. This was highly inconvenient to me. We both homeschool, used to live in the same State, and a few years ago they moved interstate and Facebook became a really great way to share vignettes of our day to day lives… till she gave it up. I wobbled for a bit, we lost touch a bit too… then I remembered we both had phones, and started using them more. Her freedom from Facebook and the willpower she seemed to have in ignoring it (she hadn’t deactivated her account) intrigued me and I felt a tug. Eventually  I decided to try a month without Facebook and see what happened. I have been reading Hands Free Mama by Rachel Stafford this year, and knew I needed to try it, after other minor screen free experiments, such as a day a week or certain times of day when I didn’t use any screens.

The minute I switched Facebook off for my trial I felt an immense freedom. And I discovered I had Even More time for the things that were important to me, my family, especially hands on time with the Littles and little slots of time when connection with a child replaced connection with the internet. It was amazing. I discovered I loved my life way more without Facebook. And I had so much more time for housework, organising and decluttering. It definitely contributed to the fast forward on simplifying and reducing our possessions. Space in the house was rapidly appearing, and the space and freedom i felt mentally from taking away this big distraction, was amazing.

Gradually a word for all of this began to dawn on me and I shared it with my husband and we have made it a family goal.

Intentional.

We want everything we do, to be intentional. Not an accident, not being carried along with something because it seems like it’s what we perhaps should do, not because we don’t want to interrupt a status quo. We want to be intentional with our time and with our possessions. We will buy or keep things because they fit with our goals, and because they have something to contribute. Things won’t stay if they distract us from what we are aiming for. A long time ago we had a much milder version of this, but now we are feeling much more ruthless, and seeing the benefits of all of this make us more determined and excited to continue.

Back to Facebook… I did go back to Facebook after my month off. But only to wind it down permanently. I loved my life too much without it and discovered what felt like the most amazing treasure I never knew existed. I have had long calls with friends, and discovered our friendships are far better when I do that rather than connect briefly with them, and 200 other people, daily. I wrote myself a list of the benefits to me, at this point, of not having Facebook.

Tiny pockets of useful time
Clear head
More natural thought processes
Feeling of freedom
More present
More calls with friends
Making more of an effort to connect with positive friends
Control our information flow
Intentional communication
Silencing negative lines of communication
Not exposed to bad news we are not connected with
Not rushing to help everyone
Better boundaries
No continual information overload
Less distracted
Better motivated
Better sleep

Looking at this list, there is some pretty big stuff I have discovered. Everyone is different and just how not everyone should have 6 kids, I am sure not everyone needs to give up Facebook to discover all these things.

I have kept myself one tiny thread of Facebook. I admin a group, and I have created myself an admin profile, with only 1 friend (my co-admin). It’s a group  we started together and at present there’s no one else to run it. It’s slow traffic and I am seldom logging in. For some reason I am getting text messages to my phone if I get a message, so I don’t even need to log in to see those. This is intended to be a temporary solution to the group issue. I had to make sure I don’t drop other people in it, but by the same token I have still achieved my goal of letting Facebook in the traditional sense, go. Loving it.

Even Less. And Loving it.

Goodbye to an historic possession... and a whole heap of others too...
Goodbye to an historic possession… and a whole heap of others too…

Part 2 of the Decluttering Story.

Less stuff, more cash, more time… more satisfaction.

Definitely more boundaries.

I will be writing about boundaries…wow I am enjoying thinking about those and finding more all of the time. We have definitely put boundaries on our house, and on our possessions.

The relevance here is that by putting a boundary on our physical possessions, we have made room for creativity, for the things that are important to us, for our values. Now I sound like a minimalist, although I don’t look like one yet. 🙂

Once the mad frenzy of decluttering mainly to charity shops had slowed, we turned our minds to bigger things. Floor space. Wall space. Any space we could lay our hands on. Instead of continuing to lament the lack of storage, we have decided not to store. This decision has been hard. We are in this house for another 3 years, and after that will be moved to another house, somewhere in Australia, and it will Have. More. Rooms. But rather than think that we have to store things for 3 years, or keep tripping over them… we have now decided to audition everything into, or out of our lives. Now we are actually selling some of our storage. We have thrown away book cases, sold cupboards, a filing cabinet, and even toy storage.

Some of the things in this category have worth that we felt we couldn’t just give away’. Though giving something away to someone who needs it more than me, simply because they need it, has always been something I want to do.

So we are prepared to give things away but this time also knew we were going into different territory with some of these items. The best example of this is the Vintage Bass Amp. I know nothing about this stuff but my husband had one, and when we moved into this house it had only one place it could go. In the study on the third floor. It wasn’t going to be used in a gig any time soon. Pretty much this amp has turned into a millstone that we kind of drag along with us wherever we move to. It has moved house with us 4 times in the past 7 years. Finally we had The Conversation and my husband let me list it on Gumtree… particularly after I found out what they were being advertised for on Gumtree…

A useless piece of furniture became a fantastic find for the guy who bought it, and was actually going to use it, my husband said goodbye to his Navy Band days and we were able to buy a bunk bed in cash for the boys (after realising that a new bed would really help them with the storage and function of their room). We went from that early sale on to selling heaps of things. We have made $2,000 in about 7 weeks. Now we have a ‘Gumtree fund’ of cash that we can use to buy our kids swimming lessons… we have sold stuff we don’t need to buy skills for the kids that we DO need but can’t afford. We’ve actually chosen to sleep on the floor for a while  because we did a room swap with the boys and found out that our bed was faulty, going to break sometime soon where it had been poorly made, and was suitable for the hard rubbish. I am not sure it makes us minimalist yet but it’s amusing to us anyway, that apparently some minimalists choose to sleep on the floor. 🙂

This rush on selling bigger things, being brave and getting rid of big wobbly book cases, saying goodbye to old instruments that have served us (and others) well… have given us so much more room. Even more. We have a study and music room where we were literally just storing everything previously. We have another room where the children can read books, practice instruments, and where my husband may even get to study during the next 3 years. Considering that is actually why we are here, suddenly our house looks like it is suiting our purpose and serving our goals.

And we are All. Way. Happier. The kids love decluttering, love selling stuff on Gumtree, we laugh at our pitiful attempts to hold garage sales… the last one was pretty good but it was nothing like this, and was way more work.

The key is not holding on to stuff. We have recently had as our goal: Owning less. Making room. So you price things differently because you want them gone. My bottom line is ‘this thing has to go’. If someone won’t pay the market value (who does, on Gumtree?) then I have to take what they are prepared to pay. These things still add up. $2K later, I finally get it.

The more money part? Not only did we make money for our fund, but we started spending less, and differently. This has made more difference to our finances than any other lifestyle choice we have made before. In December we had no money for food, or rent for January, or even Christmas presents. By the end of December we had money for presents, food in the cupboard, and rent set aside for more than January… without even touching the Gumtree fund. Some of this is fathomable, but mostly it is God’s Economy.

Less is more. A decluttering story.

Regularly filling donation bins has become a pastime
Regularly filling donation bins has become a pastime

We have been on a quest to create space and organisation in our challenging home for two years.

We moved into college accommodation (3 storey townhouse with little to no storage space, and a tiny backyard) two years ago this month.  Term for my husband started almost immediately. Our youngest child was due to be born in 6-7 months. There was time for unpacking what we could, find what we needed immediately, and ‘the rest’ stayed in either boxes stored in the ‘study’ (the top floor landing area), under the stairs (a cupboard filled with dread in every house we have ever lived in, with or without stairs) or stored in my inlaws’ shed. We also had a massive wooden wardrobe stored in their shed, again filled with items we decided we did not immediately need.

In a three storey house, with 5 or 6 children learning at home… one rarely visits the top floor save for getting out of bed in the morning, and going to bed at night. Certainly the Study never reached its potential.

The challenges of a large family, together all the time, in such a difficult-for-us- home took their toll on our family in many ways.

We had a few holidays away from home, thanks mainly to generous offers from friends, or the occasional splurge on a week in a holiday house while the money was still there.

Our efforts turned from organisation to decluttering. We started to look at what we had in boxes, and knew we had too much. We also started to notice that we felt so amazing in those holiday cottages, without most of our ‘things’ and enough clothes to last us only a week.

After our own efforts and ideas ran out, we turned to a professional. We hired Rebecca Mezzino from Clear Space Organising Services for a two hour consultation. It was the advice and missing pieces we needed. We had advice on how to put our house ‘on a diet’ and received some real encouragement about our efforts to date. After that meeting we started to work on the strategies we had discussed – re-evaluating what we owned, looking at ‘prime real estate’ in our home, working out what was needed to make high traffic areas more successful and also accepting that we can never achieve perfection but need our place to be functional and give us a feeling of more space.

It turns out that we found decluttering addictive. We began to really notice our productivity, mental health and organisation sky rocketing in the areas that we were working on. We took the advice we had received from Rebecca and instead of a kind of ‘new year’s resolution trip to IKEA’ to buy more storage, we put a block on any spending for organising.

There were so many immediate benefits and there were others we had not anticipated. We began to stem the flow of anything coming into the house. Around the same time we were still receiving donations of bags of clothing or toys from well meaning acquaintances and sometimes friends. We let very little into the house, and passed on what we did not immediately love or need to use. We were also daily piling up bags and bags and more bags and boxes of clothes, toys, books that we knew we wanted to live without.

I have always believed in setting children up for success. So our view on toys and tidying for example, has always involved having a system that was easy for the children to manage, reach, and when things were too difficult for them to deal with, reducing the amount immediately available – either by rotating toys when we had room to store, but in latter years by simply having less.

We weren’t able to sell things for a long time. We had too much of a problem on our hands, and a house that was driving us crazy. We needed to pass on as much as we could, as quickly as we could. This generally does not involve trying to sell things.

Rooms began to improve. The children were wholly on board, and enjoying their own efforts to own less, and create more space in their rooms.

Then we moved on to stage 2. Even more fun, even more space, and even more time on our hands to concentrate on what matters to us.

We have learned so much. This beginning is the tip of the iceberg.