SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

July 2022

“Junia, Where Do You Find Space for All 5 Kids’ Things at Home?!”

Mothers I meet often ask how we maintain our house with five growing children and all their belongings. They complain that their homes feel cluttered with just two or three kids. Well, we make it a point to declutter every quarter to regain space. This July, I also decided to take on a mini redecoration project. A facelift for our home was an opportunity to redesign certain spaces.

We started by making a list of what didn’t work and another dream list of what we wished for. The first list was easy. Rather than seeing the house through lenses that were accustomed to its interior, I asked everyone to imagine they were a visitor to our home.

(See also: Feng Shui-ing Your Kids’ Bedrooms: Forget the Myths and Follow these Tips)

“How do you feel when you look at this house?” I asked, as we stood at the entrance.

“Messy — too many shoes,” said one child.

“Shows a sporty household!” responded another.

Each family member brought up various points, but the entire family unanimously agreed that it was “cluttered”. So, we got right to work!

First Step to Decluttering

It wasn’t always this ‘simple’. The reason it’s now easy for us to declutter is because of a mindset shift we adopted three years ago.

Prior to that, our study room was filled to the ceiling with ugly boxes. All thanks to a purchase I had made from China for 1,000 glass tumblers. It took up half of the room, plus the top bunk bed in the girls’ bedroom. For about three years, we lived with the eyesore reminding me of a business idea that never took off.

declutter cartons
Image: cottonbro on Pexels

One day, it occurred to me that I was stuck. Upon examining my internal dialogue, I realised how negative it was. Half of the glass tumblers cracked enroute, which increased my costs. I had no idea whom to sell them to, as I did not think anyone would want them. Yet if our exterior is a reflection of our internal mindset, it was obvious that my thought patterns were the reason the unsightly boxes had a permanent space in our home.

The way to break out of an old pattern is to interrupt it with a fresh commitment to action! Believe it or not, it took just three days to get rid of all the boxes. All we truly needed were…

Three Mindset Shifts

1. “Does It Spark Joy?” 👉 Answering Marie Kondo’s famous question with a resounding NO!

For too long, I placed all my focus on the inflated costs. I failed to balance it with the fact that the decaying cardboard boxes were attracting silverfish, cockroaches, and other pests! It was costing us hygiene, workspace, and play space, not to mention the negative mental load.

I resolved to get rid of the mental and emotional weight. First, I stopped blaming myself and started thinking of new ideas to clear it in bulk. I priced in a small profit for three years’ storage costs, made some calls, and created a win-win situation. Many disadvantaged old folks were delighted to receive these Mid-autumn Festival tumblers with their mooncakes. In just three days, the boxes were gone!

(See also: Spring Clean Your Home with the Kids for CNY — the Marie Kondo way)

Everyone at home was stunned because we had been so used to the clutter. Something had shifted and I wanted that creative energy to stay.

messy study room
Image: Humairah L on Unsplash

As adults, it’s easy to not feel our emotions because society trains us to function in certain ways. So when I chose to embrace joy, I realised how foreign that emotion was. This is especially true for a parent who makes decisions based on responsibilities. Anchoring myself in delight is an emotional habit that I decided would be my new normal. I mean, mothers set the emotional temperature at home, right? Let mine include sparking joy!

2. “It’s Such a Waste to Throw” 👉 But it’s even more of a waste to keep!

My mum hoarded, so I knew it stemmed from this dominant thought pattern that insists throwing stuff away is ‘sayang’. That was why our closets were an unsightly mess. The attic was full of old papers and toys strewn around. Books were haphazardly double stacked on the bookshelves.

I realised this hoarding habit has roots in scarcity. So I traded my ‘not enough’ mindset for an abundant one where it’s a joy to bless. This was a breakthrough because I connected with the fact that we live in an abundant universe. If we started living with an expanded view of the world, my old-but-good clothes could spark joy for someone else. The real waste would be to keep them till they yellowed beyond help. Or in hopes that my daughters would have the same fashion sense I did!

(See also: 17 Places to Donate Books and More in Singapore)

“It’s such good quality stuff, it’s a waste to hoard them for ourselves.” With this reasoning, I activated the kids to declutter their belongings. We quickly sorted the toys into three piles.

  1. Throw-away pile for toys with missing or spoilt parts
  2. Give-away pile for toys they had outgrown but were still in good condition
  3. Put-away pile for toys they still enjoyed playing with, to be stored in designated spaces

Very quickly, we continued this sorting spree through clothes and books. I always feel lighter with each bag we throw or give away, because we have more than enough! Today, it is something we do on a quarterly basis every year.

declutter with kids
Image: cottonbro on Pexels

3. “But What If I Need It Later?” 👉 There’ll be something better!

This is the fear-based twin that accompanies the ‘sayang’ mentality. “What if you regret throwing or giving something away?” the scarcity mindset warns me. (Our minds can benefit from a declutter now and again too!

My retort? I deserve newer models and I’m sure there will be better designs to choose from then. This spurs me to move forward, in trust of a better future. Instead of holding back and hoarding outdated fashion, devices, or furniture, I get to stay relevant with the times. My material things should reflect my current state, not that of yesteryears.

That’s when I discovered Carousell. It excited me to know that I could make money from selling things we did not use for cash! In time, this became the fourth pile the children actively include in their declutter. They get to keep their earnings, which is a great motivation for decluttering!

(See also: How to Get your Children to Tidy Up by themselves – and Enjoy doing it)

Does Decluttering Usher in Prosperity?

I love to declutter. It is the perfect event to take stock mentally, emotionally, digitally, financially, and physically. I get to choose what I want and don’t want in my life. The regular exercise of adopting an abundance mindset means I challenge my old thought patterns. And by setting that example for my kids, they grow up with the positive mindset already within them.

happiness is homemade
Image: Jessica Kessler on Unsplash

Now that we had regained the space clutter used to take up, we were ready for new furniture:

  • A quality queen-size bed for the girls, since no one uses the top level of the bunk bed
  • New study room desks because they outgrew their kid-size ones
  • New living room lights and fans because we were on a budget then and can afford more stylish chandeliers now
  • An extendable dining table because the kids were not so little anymore
  • New wallpaper to dress up certain naked walls (and the experience of doing it ourselves!)
  • New pictures on the wall to include family and friends who have grown over the years

A month of online shopping and DIY renovations makes me smile. The kids too! It presents milestone opportunities to practise an abundance mindset and for our space to reflect who we are now. So yes, decluttering does usher in prosperity and abundance, even if it sounds ironic.

(See also: “Mum, Are We Rich?” – How Would You Respond?)

We have space because our space grows with us. The physical dimensions remain the same, but a completely different look and feel projects where we are at the moment.

Time to declutter? Which small area would you like to start on for your own mini family project?

Author of “The Naked Parent”, founder of Mum Space, and mother to five amazing children, Junia is a respected thought-leader in the parenting space. Recognised for empowering parents and kids with her 21st-century parenting model for over a decade, she now brings her ‘Modern Asian Mother’ expertise and experience to this exclusive SingaporeMotherhood column.

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“Junia, Where Do You Find Space for All 5 Kids’ Things at Home?!”