Our family has been through a lot the past month. It began with a series of events that forced me to face a lifetime of “family issues”. Issues and pain that I had experienced before I met and married Ryan, but that continued to negatively affect our daily lives. Through many conversations and tears, I realized that I could not move forward unless I let go of the toxic relationships I had in my life. That is obviously easier said than done, and the past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Our girls also kept tag-teaming each other with illnesses over this time, which forced me to drop all of my “plans” and just be with them. I won’t lie, the first few days I was really stressed out and began reorganizing our calendar so we could still complete all of our missed activities. But the sickness stayed in our house and I was left feeling more and more behind. One morning I woke up and just began cleaning everything. I don’t know why I did it – maybe because organizing brings me peace – but hours passed and the cleaning had turned into purging. I started getting rid of any junk I had laying around that I had been avoiding. It moved to my closet and I quickly started making piles to donate or dispose of. I had multiple things with holes in them that I just kept leaving in my closet…why? I ended that day feeling very accomplished, despite the fact that the girls were sick and mostly just wanted to lay around.
Fast forward another week. The girls were still sick and miserable. I was very burdened down by how “behind” I was feeling. I sat down to have a cup of coffee and stumbled across a news story that suddenly grabbed my heart. It was about a mom named Allie who finally began purging things in her life. As I read through her struggles and pain, I felt like I could have written her words myself. I knew in that moment that I finally needed to make a change.
Now I know this post is a lot more personal than I have ever gotten on this blog, but because so many families are invested in us, I truly wanted to share my heart. I have not been happy for a very long time. My creative solution has been to “go through the motions” or do things the way that others have said is “the right way”. This goes for my personal relationships, my home and even this blog. I now realize that by ignoring who I truly am, I have been missing out on the peace and joy that comes from accepting and celebrating the person I was created to be. The truth is that I hate stuff. When I was little I would frequently go through my things and get rid of items that I no longer wanted. When my parents found out about this, they would go back into the trash and take out the majority of what I had thrown away. I was scolded throughout my life as not being “sentimental”, which I know couldn’t be farther from the truth. When I became an adult and had my own home, I was criticized because there weren’t enough items on my walls or on our shelves. I began to let the guilt from others change my actions, and after time, I needed all.the.shiny.things.
I say that within reason. I’ve never spent an excess of money, lived outside our means, or done anything irresponsible, but I did begin hanging on to things (mostly out of guilt). If I thought we needed a new piece of decor, I would simply stash the older pieces in the basement “just in case”. When it came to our girls, I would find it hard to pass up clearance. Sure, they didn’t need anymore leggings, but they were only TWO DOLLARS! And I just knew that I’d be kicking myself if they ran out of leggings and I ended up having to buy a pair at full price (that has literally never happened). And then there is the whole realm of homeschool. I knew that I wanted to homeschool through elementary at a minimum, so anything I purchased, I did so with the idea that it would get a ton of use. But once you get into the swing of sensory bins and art projects, you find yourself picking up way too much stuff at the dollar spot, because again, it’s only a dollar! On top of that, we have extended families that go extremely overboard when it comes to gift giving. My creative solution was to make an Amazon list of anything we could use for upcoming themes or units, and the girls were gifted these items for birthdays and holidays.
Adopting all of these negative habits led to that stressed out, unhappy mom who stumbled across a news story a few weeks ago. And even though I felt I had dug myself into such a deep hole, that morning I knew that the only solution was to fully embrace me and move forward.
The truth is that I hate stuff.
I began really researching minimalism. I think the term has a somewhat negative connotation and that a lot of people think it means “cold”, “bare” or even “void of emotion”. I love the quote that “Minimalism is not the lack of something, it’s the perfect amount of something”. I know we each have our own “perfect amount”, and for me – I was way beyond that. I took a week to address our house. I went through everything.
If I didn’t use it, it got set aside.
If it brought up bad memories, it got set aside.
If I was only keeping it because of guilt, it got set aside.
I went through all of the toys, which was probably the most daunting task.
Anything the girls had outgrown, I set aside.
Anything that was duplicates, I set aside.
Anything that did not promote creative thinking or imaginative play, I set aside.
I quickly realized that almost every electronic toy was in the “set aside” pile. This is not because I have anything against them, but because the girls only spend a minute on them before moving on. In the end, I had an entire car load of items to donate locally. Rilynn took part in helping me sort through things and she also went with me to donate them. We talked about her birthday and how she had gotten some new gifts and then I explained that we were going to share some of her older toys with kids who didn’t have any. The next morning after breakfast, I realized that the girls played for an hour and a half, independently, and with no arguments or meltdowns. That is a HUGE amount of time for a 15 month old and a 3 year old. By decluttering their rooms, our loft and the homeschool room, they were now able to focus for long periods of time on a single activity.
I cannot explain the amount of relief I felt in the few days that followed. I was completely at peace and I could just breathe.
I only had one area left in my life to address: our homeschool curriculum. I’ve known for awhile that a literature-based approach fits Rilynn best at this point. I’ve also always favored various aspects of the Charlotte Mason style, but up until this point, I hadn’t really figured out how to implement it. Through prayers and a lot of reading, I felt that I had a collection of plans that would personally allow me to feel at peace, while also providing learning resources for all of you. I will be continuing on with our two week literature units and we will still use the book list I have provided, but my new philosophy will be less is more. Less prep. Less supplies. More time to sit and play with my girls. More time for your little ones to explore what interests them in the book. I’ll still use the anatomy books, maps, etc, so do not be worried that you purchased those items and now they’ll get no use. They will actually be used even more with this new approach! I will be condensing the amount I have to type by as much as I can – I’ll be combining the preschool/tiny tot planning posts into one. The projects will be little to no printables that require extensive cutting or prepping. I will still be providing things like our 3 Part Cards, Animal Classification Cards, and a few other printables, but ideally I would like prep for the 2 week unit to take less than 30 minutes. For the past year I have been a slave to my computer – creating the curriculums, making printables and writing up supply posts. I kept doing it because I really do love this community and blessing families with our resources. At the same time, I never want to look back and feel that I wasted too much precious time with my girls because of the blog.
I’m sure that some of you will be disappointed, but I’m hoping that even more of you will be excited by the reduction in prep time, supplies and stress that “too many projects” can cause. I long for quiet, peaceful days in our home with my girls. Since we have implemented some of these changes, I have seen such gentleness and joy come out of their spirits. I take full responsibility for stressing us all out by trying to do too much. I admit that I get on Pinterest and want to do every.single.project. But all that led to was a lot of “stuff” and a sense of stress and uneasiness in our house. I do believe the girls could sense it and that’s why we were battling frequent tantrums and inability to entertain themselves for extended periods of time. One other change that I noticed was the correlation between their moods and how long they spent outside of the home. Whether it be playing outside or just doing errands, getting them out = happier kids. All of this to say:
Simple is just better for our family.
I’ll be sharing more details in the next few weeks and the changes will be slowly incorporated into future units. In closing, I wanted to share something that dawned on me this past week. When I switched over to this blog and rebranded Let’s Tot School, I read an article that suggested sitting down and writing any words that come to mind for 5-10 minutes. The words were supposed to incorporate your mission and purpose for your blog/business/website. One word just keep popping up: simple. And what were my girls doing? Learning. Even in those early stages I knew what was at the root of my spirit. I knew what I wanted our homeschool approach to look like – Simply Learning. And even though I got lost a little along the way, I am so happy to finally be at peace.