This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I'm writing this post in the spirit of, "Those who can't, teach."

Did I ever mention that when we were wrongly investigated for child abuse, that we were also cited because the house was too cluttered? Honestly one reason (admittedly not the biggest one) that we haven't pursued adoption again was having to keep the house perfectly clean all the time. We're not filthy people, but I am a packrat and sometimes it's not worth it to me to argue with the kids to keep things picked up. (Funny story: Once Kitty asked if we could adopt again. I told her we'd have to keep the house picked up all the time, and she said, "Never mind then.")

Our biggest solution for baby clutter while satisfying my packrat, cheapskate green ways, was

"Mary's Closet."
Every time my child outgrew a size or type of toy, I put them in big Rubbermaid tubs - carefully labeled "Boy" or "Girl" the size and season if applicable. We were planning on adopting so we kept everything just in case. My kids were the first grandchildren so there was no one around to hand stuff down. I had a girl then a boy - so most of Bob's stuff couldn't be handed down to Ponito. When my sister's first child was born he was only 6 months younger than Ponito so we really couldn't hand down much, but we tried. My sister returned the clothes with all of my nephew's clothes too (and he was the first grandchild on her husband's side so was pretty spoiled! *grin*).

I continued this practice with friends, family, neighbors... pretty much everyone. Trying to keep what eventually became the "Wall of Clothes" out of the house. I told all the borrowers not to worry about anything getting damaged (I buy almost everything second-hand so I wasn't terribly worried about it), and if they didn't want their stuff when they were done with it then they could add it when they returned the rest of the stuff to "Mary's Closet."

I realized that things had gotten out of control one day when I ran into a woman at a thrift store who was unexpectedly getting custody of her two year old nephew, and needed clothes and items for him. I arranged a time for her to come by the house and started pulling "Boys 24mo/ 2T Warm weather"... there were easily 6 of those huge Rubbermaid tubs, several lawn trash bags and some toys!! It was ridiculous, and the worst part was the woman ended up not getting custody and brought it all back!

By the time we were ready to adopt Bear and Kitty - you'll have to use your imagination about what the "Wall of Clothes" looked like. Of course you've seen pictures of what Bear and Kitty looked like so needless to say they didn't need ANY of those little clothes.

"Mary's Closet" had become "Mary's Storage Warehouse." I had one last friend with several small children approach me and I told her that she could have the entire storehouse if she promised it would never return. She could sell it, burn it, whatever, I no longer cared!

So that's my best solution for clutter.

Kid school projects
For all the cute school stuff the kids brought home, I'd put it in a folder marked with their name and age/school grade. A couple of years later, surrounded by the detritus of 2-4 kids' massive amounts of awards, report cards, stories, art projects I am able to go through it again and be fairly vicious. You can also take a picture of the item and trash the original.

Moving Time
Every time we move stuff around (like when I had to give up my sewing room to Bob for a bedroom), I try to go through it again with an eye to "what have I used recently... or never"?

Santa is Coming
Twice annually, I try to have the kids go through the house and de-clutter their own stuff. It works especially well to do it over the Thanksgiving holiday. I think I've blogged about this before. Basically I tell the children that Christmas is coming and they have too much stuff. Lots of kids would love the stuff that they no longer play with and the more they give away the more room they'll have for new toys from Santa!

Numbers Game
When going through items they had many of, I told them they could keep "X" number of items. I tried to make it sound like I hadn't just pulled the number out of the air. Sometimes it was based on their age, how many they needed (7 days in a week so 10 shirts), or how much room the toy took up (Ex. Ponito got to keep more match box cars than his age that year, but Bob could only have 10 stuffed animals). I didn't tell them my reasoning, just said, "You can keep 10 stuffed animals." This way the control issues were kept to a minimum and they didn't argue with me about what should be kept (it wasn't my decision it was theirs!). Helped them learn to prioritize what they like and wanted.

Fashion Show
I don't know how the clothes manage to accumulate like bunnies (except for socks of course, which disappear singly). Rather than just having them try on clothes, we make it a little more fun with a "fashion show." Once we have clothes pared down to just what fits, then they have to pair it down to just what's needed (the rest can go in the Clothes Closet or Good Will bag), usually one for every day of the week, plus a couple of extras. They get to choose which clothes they want to keep.

Clothes Closet
Clothes are back to being a huge issue for me because the girls and I wear similar sizes and all of us fluctuate in weight so it's harder for me to get rid of the clothes (I want to hang on to them just in case). I tend toward classics so it's not as easy as throwing away all the acid wash jeans with zippers and the ripped up sweatshirts (am I showing my age)?

Garage Sale Prices
I paid the kids $1 a bag (large kitchen trash bags) for all the toys they got rid of - the theory was I would sell them at some future date in a garage sale and this way they got their share of the money now instead of waiting and hoping it would sell. We got rid of a lot of those McD*nald type toys that clutter up everyone's toy boxes!

Sort Immediately
Paperwork is my other big clutter issue. Hubby keeps every bill we ever had - mostly not opened because he pays online - and that's a LOT! I have IEPs, psych evals, applications, reports... for both kids. I've gotten a little more organized about that, because otherwise the piles will eat me. Now that I'm in two NAMI classes, trying to study for my social work license, and keep up on my reading, that adds up too. I try not to even go to the mailbox unless I'm ready to sort right then. Hubby's, Old Company, Mine, and Trash (recycling). Coupons and stuff go in my car - which I usually end up throwing away as they expire.

I read books about de-cluttering, watch lots of trash TV including things like Clean House and other decorating shows for inspiration. I signed up for Fly Lady at one point - which was really helpful. Of course the kids are old enough now to do lots of stuff for themselves (laundry, dishes, etc.) as evidenced by our chore chart.


Mama Drama Times Two said...

A recent flood in our basement is all the inspiration I need to do a de-clutter and clean out.

GB's Mom said...

I am decluttering- and I don't know why. I am not planning on adopting again. Go figure.

Last Mom said...

I love your Mary's Closet idea! What kindness! I can see how it can quickly get overwhelming, though! The organization I work for operates a children's clothing closet and the stuff quickly piles up like crazy.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

My poor husband has moved the very same 10 boxes of "paperwork" four different times, and each time I SWEAR I'm going to go through it and get rid of stuff. We're moving in May, so we'll see where it lands after that!