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Recently in one of our homeschool communities we had a used curriculum sale. I sold or donated 3 garbage bags of materials. Two weeks following, we had a hand-me-down swap of used children’s clothes and toys. Again, I donated 3 garbage bags of extraneous “stuff.” Still, our apartment is stuffed to the gills in an embarrassment of excess. Toys and gifts from more than two full sets of grandparents, family, hand me downs from friends and our own purchase overwhelm us. I’m fully aware that this is the very definition of a “First world Problem.” I’m sure that many people in other parts of the world, as well as our own, would love to have so much for their children that they felt mildly oppressed by their things.

As for me, the constant occupation of curating our home takes energy from more enriching work. I’m thinking about mediating, exercising, reading the classics….playing with my kids! Forget all that! All I can do is tidy up. I reorganize, thinking that if only I have just the right system, I’ll be free to pursue what is really important.

Like so many people I used to move my clutter from one place to another, sometimes reorganizing or re-labeling. Really, I needed to be resigning myself to discarding it.

Voluntary minimalism allows me to focus my mental energy and time on my priorities. I consciously, and carefully choose the order of my priorities and how I spend my time should reflect that order.

Some real life tips that I have used to simplify:

I use clear, stackable tupperware containers to store  everything. I change out a piece of paper inside to label the items. No speciality containers needed, and you can see everything.

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I use only white linens and towels. Everything can be washed together on hot and bleached if necessary. Everything goes together. When one towel or pillow case wears out, another seamlessly takes its place.

I use baskets and apothecary jars on shelves for the play room so the children can tidy up and sort their own toys. The containers are nice and can be used in the pantry or around the house when they are no longer needed for kid stuff.

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The children each have their own laundry basket that they put dirty clothes directly into. When it is full, they can push or carry it to the washing machine, wash, dry, and bring the basket back to their room to put away. No- I don’t sort their laundry into colors/whites. No, I don’t fold their laundry. We right-side-out, sort, and put away. I call it a success. Plus- they’re learning a valuable life skill! (Lazy mommy rationalization alert!)

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandburg

I recommend consciousness in other areas of life as well. Activities can quickly take over empty space in the schedule, and people may assume that homeschoolers have infinite time to volunteer, babysit, or perform other services. Remember that everything you say “yes” to means something down the road that may be more in line with your interests or values will have to be told “no.” Be discriminating with your time and energy. It’s more precious than pearls.