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East County Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 9 months ago

 Clutter Got You Down? Purge, Don’t Protest

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You can fake spring-cleaning by just giving away your stuff.
by: Jess McIntyre Contributor

There is an after-Christmas fog that I’m certain doesn’t just descend upon my house. Immediately following Dec. 25, a period of time sets in that I refer to as my “Post Holiday Reality,” or PHR for short. This phenomenon typically manifests itself as you take down the last of the glittery ornaments and pack away the ever-dreaded Elf on the Shelf. 

It is characterized by low-level anxiety and curmudgeonly thoughts, such as, “If I have to take down one more light, I’ll scream,” or, “Where on earth did the kids get all this junk?”

PHR can be highly debilitating and contagious. Epidemiologists agree that PHR is transmitted parent to parent via texts and park play dates. No one is immune, unless you’ve mastered the fine art of decluttering — the only effective remedy for PHR. 

Folks, it’s simple. Get rid of your stuff.

Pro tip: After cleaning the toys out, make sure to tuck a few new ones away. You can rotate them out every month or so to keep your kids from getting bored or over-stimulated.

As a single mom in a home with very little storage and two rowdy toddlers, I have perfected the art of cleaning up without losing out. The trick is to tackle the house in stages and include the rugrats in your mission!

We always start with toys. To make room for all the new, exciting baubles and bling, we must decide what items the children have outgrown, or stopped playing with altogether. To make this more palatable to my children, I ask them to decide which of their toys is now “a baby toy.”

No preschooler wants a baby toy.

These items are then donated to kids in need, which makes me feel less like a joyless toy warden and more like a thoughtful do-gooder. During this process, we spend a lot of time talking about how other families may not be as fortunate as we are, allowing me to clean up and instill the value of giving back. Win-win! (Pro tip: After cleaning the toys out, make sure to tuck a few new ones away. You can rotate them out every month or so to keep your kids from getting bored or overstimulated.)

Next, we move onto clothes.

Room by room (myself included), we sort through outgrown or never-worn items. I don’t ask the kids for help with this because, well, have you ever asked a 3-year-old to fold laundry? However, I do get the boys to hand me the articles of clothing one by one, telling me the size, so I know what pile to put it in. Genius, right? It’s like a lesson in numbers! (Pro tip: If you have clothes you aren’t sure you’re ready to donate, place them on a shelf. If you don’t look for them or wear them in a month, you know it’s time to part ways.)

Once we’ve made our way through the house, we collect our items and decide where we should bring them. Fortunately, there are many organizations in East County that want your wares. 

In addition to the tried-and-true Goodwill, there are two other local charities to which I like to bequeath my stuff.

The Sarasota-based Mothers Helping Mothers is a nonprofit with an actual storefront off U.S. 301 that provides basic necessities to families in need, free of charge. For 28 years, they have relied on the generosity of public and private donors and grants, supporting over 6,000 families every year.

Prodigal Daughters Recovery Home, right here in Lakewood Ranch, acts as a safe home for women and children recovering from drug, alcohol and domestic abuse. Backed by a Christian foundation, the organization houses, counsels, protects and educates women (and their children) by giving them the opportunity for a fresh start on their own two feet. To make a donation, call the center first, at 941-351-0652. The next time you toss an old book in the garbage or let an ill-fitting blouse gather dust in your closet, think of the women and kids at Prodigal Daughters and remember, it’s not a hand-me-down. It’s a hand-me-up.

Jess McIntyre is a Greenbrook resident and working mom to sons Gavin, 3, and Jackson, 2 

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