The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.


Posted · 23 Comments

Sometime in the next few months our family of nine intends to move from our 7 bedroom, 3300 square foot house, into a cabin less than half that size.  Good luck, you no doubt laughingly say, and we’ll need it.  We’ve spent the past six months slowly narrowing down our belongings to a reasonable amount, and yet as we look around our full home, we wonder where it all came from…and where it’s all going to go.

Ever since I wrote Three Small Things after a potential house fire threat left us knowing what is important in life, I’ve put a lot of thought into the necessity of “stuff”.  Does having stuff hinder us, or does it help us?

Today, as this February warm spell fools me into thinking spring is just around the corner and my time to prepare is limited, I swung into the store and picked up a cart of colorful totes so we could finally get serious about the task of consolidation.  And I do mean serious.

My kids have too much crap.  And I’m not even a shopper. I’ve never been one to go out and buy them the latest toy or electronic.  They have always been that pathetic kid who gets the game system years after everyone else, when I can pick it up used for half the price.  Six new versions have been released before my kids get their paws on the original.  We still have VHS tapes, for gosh sakes. Blue what?

So this afternoon I handed out the totess with their names in Sharpie on one end, and assigned them each a given amount.  Fit all of your things in these, I said.  What does not fit…does not go with us.  Period.

I was met with far less freaky stares than I had anticipated.  Kids who have been in the system usually go to one extreme or the other when it comes to their things. Either they don’t hold onto anything because they have grown tired of saying goodbye to their favorites, or they cling to them with the death grip of one who has done without for far too long.

Mya’s face lit up at the idea of packing, as she is a strict minimalist who’s room resembles that of a prisoner in solitary confinement on a good day.  Mya has no attachment to anything, including people, and her possessions are pointless to her.  If she can’t use it that moment, she doesn’t want it.  Her bedroom is a mattress on the floor because she thinks the frame takes up too much space in her 14×14 room, a few clothes hanging in the closet and a few things neatly placed on her shelf, spaced just so.  She disappeared into her room with her tubs and emerged less than thirty minutes later, declaring her room packed.  Even her hamster…who lives in a tote that I made into a cage…was stacked neatly with all her worldly goods…ready to move on.



Robin, the second messiest kid here…me being the first…hasn’t quite figured out the tote size limit yet.  But she’s diligently working on her sty, one book at a time.  Robin is a holder-on-er.  The year before she came to us she was living with a relative, between foster homes.  When I asked Robin what she got for Christmas she gave me a whole list of what her cousin had received…yet couldn’t really remember what she got.  Robin has been making up for lost time ever since.  She’ll be a tough one to consolidate.

Destini…well, she attaches to everything.  Every single thing she has ever gotten has some memory attached and not only does she want to keep all of her things, she is allergic to clean.  And so her bedroom could be a theme show all in itself.  No, that is not a beer bottle, hey…is that a ukulele case?  And there’s that screw driver I’ve been looking for!

Anthony packed his three assigned tubs very quickly.  One with books, one with a pile of old broken game systems some kid gave him that he swears he can fix, and the third with his clothes.  I’m not sure what he thinks is going to happen to the rest of his heap…but surely, he’ll devise a plan to get it all in.

Steven and Luke have been here only about a year so they have relatively few things.  And Billy…he’s easy.  He’s a magician when it comes to organization and will somehow manage to fit everything he owns into three totes, with room to spare.  As I type this I hear him, late into the night, going through his things.

The funny thing is, not one of them argued.  Not one of them asked why or scrunched their face.  None of them said, “Hey…I need more totes!”  They said things like, “I won’t need much…” or “Let’s do it now.”

I think even the kids have been evaluating the clutter, rethinking what’s important to them.  They seem ready to plunge into the unknown, risk everything to make the cabin our home…and gladly leave all of their baggage behind.


23 Responses to "Consolidation"
  1. Pennockposey says:

    Maya has 4 things that didn’t fit in totes, how do you handle that? also Bella was wondering about winter gear, and shoes? Our winter gear would fill a whole tote each. Also wondering about school gear is that the same or separate, from personal gear? and….what about things the whole family could use together like board games or cards, shampoos. Only questioning because I am right there with you : )

    • Good point. I didn’t point that out because I try to keep my blogs as short as possible. But indeed, the intention of their totes is to narrow down the toys/clothes/books/junk the hold on to for no particular reason. They are to keep the books that are emotionally important to them and get rid of the rest, as we have Nooks and they are flooded with reading material. All of the educational books are kept with the homeschool stuff, in the living room, and I will go through them and week out myself. The things like games and snow gear will be something we go through and pack together. In fact, Mya and I are going through the board games and puzzles this afternoon. Mya’s instrument and hamster are ‘givens’…as well as Anthony’s electric guitar, Steven’s drums, Robin’s base guitar and all of their snowmachine helmets and snow gear. The totes are my tool for decreasing the crap…not the useful things. It was shocking how much stuff just Robin was able to say, “I don’t need this…” and eliminate. On the other hand…I go through Mya’s stuff when she is done and say things like, “You can’t get rid of BunBun!!!” and salvage her infanthood stuffed rabbit. haha

      • Pennockposey says:

        I was so proud of the kids for what they just went through and said we could get rid of, tons of toys and stuft animals, but then I had to rescue a bun bun too. : )

    • Wow, lots of typos. Sorry!

  2. Pennockposey says:

    Going through this myself. It is a hindrance I think to have too much. It is for me anyway. It weighs me down, cuts my creativity in half. When I asked Evy what she enjoys doing most it is drawing and listening to music and playing out side yet her room is full. Dennis said he could get rid of everything, but a lap top, because the Library has all the books he could ever want and he can down load games for free. Bella loves everything, from the broken candle a friend gave her to a cool bottle with a marble trapped inside, but she doesn’t have a ton. I am the problem in our house.  I think one of the hard parts is somehow controlling the intake of stuff. How do you prevent the overwhelming build up? 

    • In short…don’t shop. 🙂 haha You live in the perfect place for that….you have to get on a boat to get to a store. Just stay away from Amazon..haha We came back to Alaska in 2004 with two vehicles and two one trailer of “stuff”. Five years later we moved to Ninilchik and had to use a semi trailer as well as many, many, many trips in the pickup. Where does it all come from? I don’t know. But I do know I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want it anymore. So my shopping has cut way back and my bankbook is happy. ha

  3. jeannie says:

    I love you and your children.  So much planning and organizing.  You do inspire the rest of us.  Maybe one of the reasons your kids ar trying so hard to do their part is that they see you also having to get rid of things.

  4. Chelsie says:

    The tote turned hamster cage is BRILLIANT!!
    Keep us posted on how the story unfolds for those in the family w/more than 3 bins worth of belongings. Books would be my downfall. I actually just brought home the rest of my book boxes that have been in storage in my friend’s barn for a year or more. I don’t have enough shelves, YET, to store them all, but that’s my goal 😉 And I’m carefully considering the worth of each book before putting it on the shelf. So far not many have made the cut list…   :-/
    Oh and yarn…that would be a problem for me, and fabric and well craft stuff in general…lol

  5. Jill says:

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Pat says:

    Two and a half years ago we downsized from 2000 sq ft to just 450 – not an easy job!   Had a couple of yard sales and many trips to St Vincent de Pauls and Good Will to donate “stuff”.  Still have some furniture and more “stuff”  in the Amity house which is going to have to be moved out as trying to rent the house; as no one seems interested in buying it.  I am also married to a “pack rat” – but he’s getting better!    Course  I can barely get to my little freezer in our tiny shed as there is so much of his “stuff” in the way.  Time for another hoe-out!!  Good luck on the move guys!! 

  7. Laurajoem says:

    I never thought about the kids in the system being desperatly attached to the few things that are actually thier own. When I got my nephews out of 26 months of foster care, they came with 1 garbage bag each. The clothing was ill fitting and ragged. When I started getting rid of it to be replace with new things my oldest nephew became very upset. He cried. He was only 8 and I didn’t understand what I was doing. He is 16 now and I can look back over the past 8 years and see many mistakes I have made. If only I had known they would be soo attached to things, I could have made things better and avoided hurting that child by getting rid of the only things he felt were truly his. 🙁

    • gramma_bettie_mae_turley says:

      hon – you did such a great thing by takin in your nephews!!! ALL parents learn as they go so be easy on yerself. you added sooo much to those boys life. way to go!!!

    • Jeanie says:

      Isn’t that the way we all learn is by making mistakes?  The great thing is if we are lucky enough to teach our children what our mistakes were and maybe they will make even better parents than we were.  You love them and I am so grateful you were there to try your best.  Thank you for loving him so much after 8 years it’s still so fresh for you and that at 16 he still has you in love with him  🙂

  8. Andrea says:

    You’re going to have one heck of a yard sale with all the leftovers!

  9. Megan Eggers says:

    Don’t take this as a negative post, you’re absolutely doing what you need to do.  But I once had to do this with my kids, and be prepared for a backlash of some regression coming up.  Like you said, they are tied to their stuff either as a symbol of non-attachment or improper attachment.  They might seem like they are ok with it, but in the next few weeks you’ll see behaviors pop up that you might not have seen since day one!  But I figure forewarned is forearmed right?  I know I can deal with things better when I know there’s a trigger and can be prepared!

    Good luck with everything!

    • jeannie says:

      Megan, I hadn’t even thought about that with our kids.  They know what needs to be done and may seem to understand, but you’re right.  We all throw fits sometimes when things don’t go our way, kids may too.  I guess that is a healthy reaction whenever it will come.  Good advice.

  10. Bobbyspain says:

    my wife trys to get me to do that all the time,,,but my stuff is just so important, and unique, and possibly useful. if im walking and i see something shiny im probably gonna pick it up and bring it home. i think its part of my charm.

  11. Merrie_mary says:

    I am all for minimalizing….we are in the process of moving my father in law into our home with us..already having my parents here and our third son who still lives at home(hes 15).We are moving him from his home of over 60 years…THAT IS MAJOR one bedroom.   It’ s all good. We have family,and will be quite close together…thats what counts. bless your heart BWM!!  Good Luck during this transition.

  12. Kristy K. James says:

    Looks like you’ve got a great plan in place to keep the cabin as clutter free as possible.  And I’m impressed that you didn’t have a group of tantrum-throwing kids on your hands.  That, in my book, is a miracle. 

    I keep trying to convince my kids that we need to cull the clutter because sometimes it feels like we’re living in a storage facility.   Maybe I’ll have to resort to the tote system.  🙂

  13. Amanda says:

    Awesome lesson for us all to learn. We have just done a big de-clutter, because lets face it.. are you really gonna read that crappy $2 book again or do we REALLy need this massive pile of bills from 10 years ago? Being a pack rat (reformed.. I have hit my threshold!) & being married to one with 2 juniors coming up the ranks, I am very keen to instill the very same lesson you are teaching your kids, that it’s just “stuff” and you need to prioritise!

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