Decluttering and making a house a home: a family effort!

It is a blessing to have someone on your life who loves you enough to kindly tell you how you could do better…some one who loves you enough–as you already are–to help you grow even better. My big stepsister Dymphny is like that. Totally accepting, yet boldly courageous in proclaiming the truth with love.

She flew down to help me reorganize my home, because we have been fortunate enough to be able to rent the suite below us, and now have the whole house! Instead of 3 bedrooms for 9 people, we have 5 and a den, besides an extra little kitchen and bathroom. One of the most exciting parts is the large living room, which will be our new homeschool room, instead of the tiny, narrow dining room we’ve used for school till now.

Things have been rather quiet on my blog because they’ve been so packed here! The kids and I, with some help from Grandpa, my brother and my lovely landlord Joe, repainted the downstairs…transforming the pale, depressing, hospital-gown green suite into cute Bubblegum Pink bedrooms, a Thai Teal bedroom, and a English Daisy yellow schoolroom! 🙂

Everybody helped…

It was quite the fun project…home renovation and interior decorating 101! My 12 year daughter became an overnight IKEA expert and made a massive list of everything we needed to make our new space beautiful. Since I never usually buy many new things for our home, the list was huge, and we had a rather epic expedition involving a 5 hour shop and a U-Haul. Happily my sister and brother were there to help!

Of course my productivity manager came along as well…

We survived!! IKEA soft ice cream was a definite must in our way out the door.

But besides buying new things to make our space lovely…we had an even more important job to do: purging everything unnecessary, ugly, extra, etc, that was currently making our home cluttered, chaotic and well, rather resembling a ramshackle thrift store instead of a beautiful, intentional space. No more!

My daughter’s new bedroom

This is where having a loving big sister with an objective eye for crap came in so handy. She wasn’t going to let me hang on to anything that didn’t make my life better. Rather, she helped me dig out the precious things hiding under the clutter so I can display and enjoy them instead of having them tucked away and forgotten, like the fancy tea pot I bought for my birthday on my last IKEA trip last Advent…and still haven’t used, less than a month till my next birthday!

It’s a gift to have someone affirm that you’re better than some kind of recycling bin, and that you don’t need to hold on to everything that comes your way. Sometimes when trying to sort stuff alone it’s hard to cut the invisible strings of guilt that make you keep stuff for “one day” or because it’s from “so and so”…or because getting rid of stuff feels wasteful.

Sorting books

The minimalist mom Allie Casazza says that whatever takes up your space, takes up your time. You don’t need to lose time shuffling around odds and ends you don’t need. I’ve done this for years. And what’s really wasteful is harming your relationships because of unnecessary stress….not being able to find things, arriving late, not wanting to have people over because of mess, etc.

It’s so freeing to let go. Chuck those old shampoo bottles and extra creams into the recycling. Take pictures of all those kids drawings and then let them go. Let someone else enjoy those books and clothes you don’t need. Live with a lighter heart and be able to find things. A clear beautiful space is so calming. A study quoted on a Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier found that women’s cortisol levels, indicative of stress, were directly related to the amount of clutter in her home. No wonder I’ve been on edge!

I was so grateful to have Big Brothers to pick up our porch full of donations, and Half Price Rubbish Removal to come the next day. Seeing what we don’t need has opened our eyes to see how we could enjoy our home even better. Having space to do so more peacefully and enjoying the presence of family, including our IKEA expert building expert Opa, has been the best gift so far this season!

Thank God for big sisters!

Amidst the chaos of packing, moving and unpacking again, a lovely big sister is such a help! Her lucky baby brother has a mini-mum! 

 

“Here Mum,” she said, “You’re tired. Let me try the snugly.” Only nine years ago, she was the little baldy in the snugly! Now she is more organized than I am, and very maternal to boot. I am very blessed to be her mother. 

soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar

My big sister—

the poet, the editor, the mediator

the strong survivor,  the loving mother

the beautiful woman

my inspiration, my friend—

gave me this Dutch cake mix for appeltaart

when she last came to visit us.

And though she’s a province away,

when I make it with my girls—

carefully chopping the apples together,

blending in the butter,

brushing with egg to finish the masterpiece—

I am with her, too.

“Lekker gezellig!” deliciously cosy…

The love of my sister

wraps around me like these strips of dough

around the nested apples,

soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar.

  

Homeschooling Keeps Siblings Close

One of the nice things about homeschool is that you can always be with your favourite “friends.” Everybody, no matter how big or small or imaginary, is included.

One of my favourite things about having the 5 kids learning at home is how close they are…and how the kids of difference ages interact, include and care for each other. They are not artificially separated into age groups and a myriad of separate activities, so they don’t forget how to play together. Many homeschool activities can be done together, like reading and discussing stories, learning about things from animals to waterfalls, doing art, putting on plays, singing, dancing, doing nature walks and running outside.

Playing hairdresser for drama class charades

Nor do the kids get easily bored. They are quite happy to turn the living room into a giant block tower and Duplo city while I get the dishes done. Or to build endless forts with blankets and upturned furniture. Of course all this teamwork means there is also an organized team effort to drive me crazy, but happily I’ve already been crazy for a long time!  Comes with the territory! 😉

The Ever Changing Tides of Grief

I received this beautiful advice on grief during the holidays from my lovely big sister. Having been widowed when her children were very small, she knows about grief…that we can’t skip it, but have to go through it. She has been a great support to me since I lost the baby.

Hi sweetie,

I know all these celebratory days are falling flat under the weight of your enormous grief. It’s awful and expected and normal. That doesn’t help. Nothing really helps. You have to ride the wave of it. It will wash over you again and again. Sometimes you’ll think the tide is way out there, that you’re safe and far away from it, and yet another wave will cut you off at the knees.

The intervals will eventually get farther apart and yet when a wave hits you, it will feel every bit as intense. That, in my experience, is just how it goes.

The thing is – the waves will send you spinning but they won’t drown you. You’ll keep going because you are tough and resilient and wise and beautiful and have a thousand blessings to offset the struggle.

All my love,
Dymphny

I wanted to post these words today for all others who are grieving, and especially in honour of two of my friends who recently had fairly early miscarriages. My heart is with you as you ache for your babies in Heaven. Your truly lost a little child, just like me. All the potential for a whole life was there in that tiny little being, that new little soul created in love. It is understandable that your heart is broken. This child—with their unique DNA, their individual soul, their mysterious mission—can never be repeated. It is ok that you long for them forever. Forever will come.

May you be comforted by family and friends, and carried by grace through the ever changing tides of grief. And as you keep swimming to that distant shore of peace, know that you will be a sign of hope for others.