It’s crazy, this hoarding of “stuff.” Last week the kids and I scrambled through our entire 3500 square feet and pitched and burned. Now that the dust has settled, we feel about three van loads and two trash toters lighter (our normal cycle of family organization had been interrupted by a recent family crisis, so we’ve had more to go through than usual).
The idea was to get the house in order so we weren’t loosing precious time in the “stuff shuffle.” You know, when the house is messy and so you make stacks of junk and then shuffle them from one place to another saying, “I’ll go through that later.” Or when you can’t close the closet door because of all of the shoes and coats and scarves and gloves (that don’t match).
Even though we’ve ditched the greater part of what we don’t need, we still have the better part of what we do need to deal with.
In a large family this is more than just a little bit. Think about it, with (only) nine people who live here, we need to have at least:
- 18 pairs of shoes.
- 18 coats and jackets.
- 36 pairs of socks.
- 63 pairs of underwear.
- 81 sets of clothing.
- 45 bowls, cups, and dishes.
- 4 skillets, 6 pots, three pizza pans, three cookie sheets, two roasting pans.
- 36 utensils.
- 7 sets of bedding.
- 18 pillows (besides throw pillows for the couches).
- 9 toothbrushes, brushes, combs, sets of cosmetics, etc.
And on and on and on…
So, even though we have paired down considerably, there is still the question of taking care of the necessities of life for such a large group. This is what I was considering (since I am a professional homemaker) as I was packing up our 60+ VHS tapes for the Goodwill: What is it that has kept us from being overwhelmed by all of our junk over the years?
And then it occurred to me. What is one thing we never have trouble finding in our homes? I’ll tell you, it’s groceries. No matter where we are and what time of day it is, we know exactly where we keep our cans of corn and chili and our boxes of cereal; the kitchen.
This is because when we come home from the grocery store we don’t stack our boxes of mac and cheese in the corner of our bedrooms, or on top of the dresser, or under the couch.
No, when we come home from the store we arrange all of our food stuffs neatly in our cupboards and pantries, right where we know they will be when we need them. We also tend to maintain these fairly well, paying attention to what we have on hand, using up what is older, and making sure we shop only for the items we actually need.
So, the biggest secret that has kept our family of 17 from having our time and money drained by the stuff in our lives? Pantries.
Yes, pantries, but not only the food kind. All over my house I have certain places set aside for the storage of specific supplies. Under my bathroom sink, for instance, is a bucket filled with extra shampoo, shaving cream, underarm deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. In the hallway are bins filled with socks, separated according to color. I have a white desk whose drawers are full of school supplies. I have another desk whose various drawers are dedicated areas for electronics, textile crafts, and stationery.
Why is this important? Here are some reasons:
It keeps us from spending too much time searching for what we need.
If someone needs a new toothbrush, they know exactly where to look. Or if they need a hammer, or a pencil, or a needle, there is no question where it will be found.
It helps us know exactly where to put things back.
Having a place for everything makes it easier to put things back. The hair brush goes back in the hair-care drawer, the tape goes back into the stationery drawer, the stapler goes back into the white school supply desk.
It keeps us from over buying.
You know you’ve got a problem when you go out and buy another set of expensive paintbrushes because you can’t find the expensive set you already own among all of the other important, expensive supplies in your garage.
Or what about when you are standing in the middle of the store and know you are needing supplies but are confused as to which ones, so you buy a bit of everything, only to return home and find out you purchased the items you already have and missed the items you were out of?
Maintaining neatly organized pantries cuts down on that sort of waste. I can easily look into my bucket and see that we are out of toothbrushes or shampoo. It only takes a glance into my hair-care drawer to see we need bobby pins or round barrettes.
It makes it easier to declutter and organize.
The second law of thermodynamics says our existence on this earth will require us to constantly fight chaos, but pantries can make that job a little easier. It’s one thing to have to tackle and retackle a hodge-podge all over the house, and another thing to only have to clean out and organize specifically-designated areas.
For instance, when it comes time to clean out and discard out-of-date medicines, I only have one place to look. If I want to discard worn socks, I don’t have to waste time gathering them from all over the house.
However, even the best pantries can get out-of-hand, so here are some tips to keep them in check:
Decide just what goes in each space and stick to it.
It’s easy to look into that huge bin under the sink and think it would be a good idea to stash some other type of item there, such as some extra towels, but we have to resist such a temptation. If we don’t, we will end up with just another hodge-podge mess that will confuse everyone (including ourselves). Better to have some white space in our cupboards than a jumbled wreck.
Keep only a certain amount of each item and no more.
There is something about a “deal” that makes us grab and buy things we really don’t need. Just because the hardware store is going out of business and selling paint for a few dollars a gallon doesn’t mean we need to buy it. Even our food pantries need to be cleaned out of certain items we bought on sale that no one will ever eat (I’m thinking here of my stash of raisins–got to go through those and get rid of about half). Hair care, cosmetics, and medicines can also be areas where we overbuy.
If we sit and think about it, we only use a fraction of what we have sitting around, and most of these items are perishable, which means we don’t use them before they go bad and then we have wasted precious time and money.
It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time just how much you can use and then keep to that. It may be helpful to keep a list that you can refer to whenever you decide to go shopping, or you could organize your spaces so you can visually keep track. Then, as you are making your shopping list, you can check your pantries and write down only the items you actually need.
Make it a practice to go through your pantries regularly.
You don’t have to wait until spring or fall cleaning to do this. You can make a list of your pantries and put them on a rotating schedule, picking one day a week or month to go through each one.
This way you will always be prepared with bandaids for boo-boos and socks for cold weather, but you won’t have to swim through discarded packaging and out-of-date items to find them.
There must be bunches of possible pantries we could create. Here are just a few that I use on a regular basis:
- Tools and household supplies.
This includes hammers, nails, screws, and other basic tools that we can grab in an instant.
- Car cleaning supplies.
My husband loves to maintain his vehicles, so I try and have everything he will need directly by the car, including rags for wiping and drying, tire dressing, window cleaner, etc.
- Morning supplies.
I keep these in a drawer in my office so the little girls and I can get ready in the morning (since I am usually having devotions and doing blog work before they wake up). Included are a brush, some round barrettes, bobby pins, glasses cleaner, nail file, etc.
- Stationery supplies.
Thank-you cards, wrapping paper, curling ribbon, tape, etc. are all tidily stashed in another drawer in my desk.
- Electronic device supplies.
Charging cords, instruction booklets, covers, selfie-sticks, cameras, flash drives, etc. are kept here.
- Baking supplies.
We like to bake all sorts of breads and other goodies, but looking all over the kitchen for rolling pins, measuring cups, sugar, etc. can be a real time-waster. To make our projects easier, we keep all that we need in one central area in the kitchen.
- School supplies.
I have a white desk close to our dining room (where we homeschool) that is dedicated to markers, crayons, pencils, chalk, wipe-off markers, scissors, and the like.
- Medicines and other health aids.
Included here are both natural and over-the-counter remedies, such as Zicam for allergies, acetaminophen, ibupropfen, Alka Seltzer, cough drops, bandages, burn cream, antiseptic wipes, etc.
There is one more thing I would like to say before I close. We women are so good at so many things, and God has helped us to be part of the care of the family by giving us an urge to store up supplies for our families. However, if we depend too much on our stores, whether they be in the bank or in the closet, we are risking relying on our “stuff” instead of the Everlasting Father.
That’s why the Apostle Paul said:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
And the cry from our heart should be:
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.