Why Do We Have So Much Flippin’ Stuff?

There was a time, albeit over twenty years ago, when I moved across the country from Pennsylvania to California with nothing more than a backpack. At that time, everything that I owned fit into a vintage military rucksack that I bought for $5 from an Army-Navy store in Allentown, PA. While the reason behind this isn’t the most pleasant (I had lost everything in a fire), there was truly something calming in knowing that I was able to heft all of my worldly possessions around with me.

Even with everything in my pack, I still had room to spare after securing the strap and making my way westward to start anew.

I embraced the minimalist lifestyle and held onto it as long as I possibly could. Once settled on the west coast, I acquired a bed, a TV, a dresser and some kitchen items – the things I felt I couldn’t live without. Bringing a date home to my apartment and sitting on cardboard boxes wasn’t pushing any buttons in the romance category.

As the years ticked by, I met my wife and together we combined ‘forces.’ By that, I mean I was suddenly the co-owner of all kinds of random linens, VHS tapes and tchotchkes of every form.

And with our wedding, just like most folks, we created a large registry of ‘things we needed’ to start our lives together. You know… the cake dome (which I finally broke last week – my wife is still not speaking to me), blender, China, pots and pans, etc.

But instead of getting rid of most of the old items, we began to collect OR hoard, however you want to look at it. I used to see it as the former, but recently began to see it as the latter. There was always that part of us that said, “Let’s hang onto that in case we need it. It may come in handy. We can use it for camping/a lake house/our kid’s college dorm.”

And now, four kids and over a decade later, we find ourselves fighting through the idea or concept of ‘downsizing.’

Aside from needing more than one of these every time we move (which is just ridiculous)…

… there seem to be TWO specific motivations behind our new desire to streamline: REALITY and SAFETY.

The reality is, we can’t continue to bear the burden of all these ‘things.’ We simply don’t have the space to store them, nor do we really use them anymore. We’re trying to follow different versions of an old adage that states ‘if you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it.’ My wife has somehow twisted my rugged phrase into ‘if you pick something up and it doesn’t bring you or your family joy, get rid of it.’ Six of one, half a dozen of another – yoinks, I’m really going full-tilt on the proverbs here…

Bottom line is, there’s no need for me to keep a dozen pairs of jeans with a 28 waist. It’s just never going to happen again for me.

The second motivation is safety. Those four kids that I mentioned are all under 9 years old and the newest addition just turned 6 months this past week.

While we need to start trimming the fat for the obvious reasons, it also has a lot to do with the kids having access to things. This will be my last lap around the track when it comes to baby-proofing and ensuring that these little wildlings are able to move around the house without me having to worry so much about them getting into things that they shouldn’t – for example, cleaning and laundry supplies. The American Cleaning Institute is on my side for this one and helping to remind me and YOU, with their #PacketsUp campaign that we need to be mindful of how we store items not meant for human consumption.

Last month, Jen and I committed ourselves to one of those gimmicky ’30 days of decluttering’ social campaigns and so far, we’re crushing it.

We started in the place that has the most traffic – mostly by me – lol. Jen has taken our spice rack to the next level…

After that, the beloved pantry. This is the same pantry that I’ve threatened to put a lock on after school lets out each day. The snacks are still available, but at least we won’t see the carnage of everything else hitting the floor while they surf and scrounge four different shelves looking for what they want.

We’ve even moved the most ‘trafficked’ edibles outside of the pantry…

And while our mission is still an active campaign, with baby Evelyn on the verge of crawling and walking, the laundry room was a high priority.

The labels clearly exist for me (and those climbing towards tween status) and serve as a positive reminder (including the #PacketsUp sticker) that young children explore the world by touch and taste. Laundry packets contain highly concentrated detergent and should never end up in children’s hands. If the packets come in contact with little wet hands and mouths, they will dissolve and could cause great harm to them.

A few tips on keeping your #PacketsUp:

  • Always store laundry packets up and out of reach
  • Keep packets in their original container and store them immediately when you bring them home
  • Always keep product container securely closed before and after use
  • Text ‘POISON’ to 797979 to save the poison control contact information in your smartphone
  • If your child comes in contact with laundry packets, call poison control right away

There’s something satisfying about having things around the house organized and stored safely. And even if everything I own will never fit in a backpack again, at least I can rest easy knowing that I’ve done my best to keep my little ones safe from everything that no longer fits in a bag on my shoulders.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is sponsored by The American Cleaning Institute and their #PacketsUp campaign. For more information, check them out at www.cleaninginstitute.org, www.packetups.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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