PAREN(t)HESIS — Right sizing, decluttering

March 1, 2017

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

The first signs of spring include the robins’ return, joggers out in force in our parks and on the Oak Leaf trail, and my own inklings of spring cleaning.

I have found that an easy way to keep things tidy at home is to have less stuff. I think that the architecture in Bay View lends itself to a more minimalist lifestyle than the suburbs because our older homes have small closets, our floor plans are unlikely to include a dedicated playroom for kids, and our garages are small, too.

Some of my friends swear by certain philosophers of decluttering such as Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. Kondo even specifies a certain way to fold clothing for maximum efficiency. Instead of following a specific author, I get my inspiration from my uber-organized mom. When my grade school friends came over, some would tease me that our house was tidy and quiet, reminding them of a library. She and my dad, now in their retirement years, still keep their home like that.

Intergenerational relationships can be especially tricky when it comes to clutter, especially the clutter of too many toys. Parents tell their own parents to stop buying so many toys but grandparents enjoy the gift giving. Once I sat on a plane next to a grandmother who told me she was bummed out that her adult son asked her to stop bringing so many McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and similar little gadgets when she visited her grandson. I replied that it felt like every parent my age was having the same conversation with their own parents, and the commonality seemed to reassure her.

Conflict over clutter can also be a sore spot within marriages and parenting relationships. When I read the comments to articles about clutter, inevitably some people mention how their views differ from that of a spouse or partner. The fundamental disagreement seems to cause lots of tension. Spending on toys that clutter the house can lead to that famous topic of marital disharmony, money!

In our house, we seem to do fairly well with Saturday sweeps that result in a pile for Goodwill donation and a stack of books for one of the area’s abundant Little Free Libraries. Peer pressure helps too, like when friends talk about decluttering success. And there’s the peer pressure of other people coming over, like when my husband and I host a party or my daughter has a friend sleep over. And as winter wanes, there are less snow pants, scarves, and mittens hovering about to clutter up the entryways.

Just like exercise routines, decluttering routines are probably best when they’re a regular part of every week. I clean out the questionable, ready-to-expire food from the refrigerator on most Sundays. Seems like a perfect time to also spend a few minutes decluttering our home—and clearing our minds in the process.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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