Our little house gets cluttered up quickly.Four people in a one room, 460 sq foot house doesn’t always feel comfortable. All the lovely, bright, and clean images of #tinyhouseliving on Instagram seem to focus on the homes of urban, minimalist, or obsessively clean people.I would love to be an obsessively clean person. But, even if I were to become neat and well ordered overnight, I don’t live alone.I live with two delightfully creative children – both of whom are absolute magpies. They love to collect rocks, sticks, stones, and bits of cut out paper. They love playing games that involve pulling out piles of toys, books, and clothes 20 minutes before dark.And that beautiful creativity isn’t something I want to crush in the name of tidiness.I also live with an artist. As I write he’s painting by lamplight with papers, paints, and brushes scattered across the table. I’d love to relegate all this work to an attractive and well-ordered corner of the house. But yurts don’t have corners, and his materials defy organization.The truth is, tiny house living is often messy and frustrating. There is only so much space, and oftentimes, we have to be gentle with each other as our belongings share space.I would love it if my husband’s workspace was perfectly arranged and easily packed away into attractive vintage wood wine crate at the end of the day. I’m sure he’d like to see something similar happen with my herbalism and soap-making supplies. I’d love it if my children kept their collection of toys, books, and natural wonders to a minimum as well.Instead, we have books tucked everywhere, art supplies spreading throughout the house, and sticks peeping out from under the bunk beds. All the same, our house is lovely. It isn’t the curated perfection of photo-worthy tiny houses, it’s the casual, bohemian beauty of a creative haven. It’s our little nest as we work to make it and everything around it reflect the life-giving beauty of God.So here’s what I can do. When the frustrating imperfections of my house overwhelm me, I can chose to embrace it’s wabi sabi glory. I can focus my urge to tidy on one small section of the house: the kitchen area or my sewing machine. I can tidy those areas and then look through them at the mess beyond. I can pour cups of tea, settle down with one of my many books, and delight children by reading aloud.Keeping a clean house is healthy. It’s good and necessary. I’m no fan of the whole “excuse the mess, my kids are making memories” trend. A clean home and happy children not only can go together, I think they naturally go together. But cleanliness is a spectrum, and sometimes, clean houses have stacks of half-read books; scattered blocks; and colorful cups of paint-water.I have to remind myself that wabi-sabi cleanliness is beautiful too.
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Thank you so much for this post! When I first read about your blog in the Franciscan U alumni magazine several months ago, the two things that made me go “I need to check this out” were your striving for Beauty and the fact that you live in a yurt with small children. I really appreciate how you reflect on the goodness and beauty of your home here as well as the fact that you guys aren’t spartan minimalists and that small-house living can honestly be frustrating.
I would love to know, how do you handle homeschool materials and artwork with your kids? It seems like it is so easy for homeschool materials and art projects to pile up, and as I embark onto homeschooling with my own kids (preschooler, toddler, and baby coming this summer) I’m trying to think of ways to create an environment for creativity while having some semblance of cleanliness. I don’t want a barren home, I want it to be thriving and lived-in, but I’ve found that my kids (and myself) operate better when things are at least slightly in order. Do you have any good strategies for not getting completely overwhelmed with homeschool books, toys, and countless papers splashed with paint?
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Thanks so much AnneMarie!
Homeschooling materials are so frustrating! Oh my goodness! I do avoid buying curriculums because of this – and because they’re so expensive and I’m super picky, lol. – BUT, we still end up with so much stuff.
I try to use a lot of the same books for both kids as often as possible. We do that “morning time” trend that is super popular, and it really helps. This month, the basket has a Bible, a book of saints, slim catechism books for Yarrow (8) and Ilya (5), a book on Polish culture (we’re doing an “all about our people” unit this month), an art book, and some printed out Latin prayers I got from Truth Goodness Design (www.etsy.com/shop/TruthGoodnessDesign/)
Then, I sort of shift through books. The one’s we’re not using end up getting stored in the outhouse (we have bookshelves in there). If a book isn’t working for us at all, we pass it along really quickly too. I find a lot
With toys…we don’t really use many of them. I try (desperately and not always successfully) to keep our toys to a minimum, and apart from a globe and some little wooden letters & numbers, we don’t have many that count as schooling toys.
The papers splashed with paint pile up so quickly. I save the best-loved ones, but most of them have about a month of life before they’re used as fire-starters. I know that sounds so mean! But most of them aren’t really loved by the kids, they’re more transitory, so unless there’s something especially meaningful about them, we burn them.
I’m still figuring it all out, honestly. Right now I have too many papers and toys in the house to feel really at peace with it..and I’m actively buying more books!
But, I think the whole process is more fun for all of us when we’re figuring it out. The kids get some input, and our whole house has this seasonal cycle of fuller and simpler – like the moon! It’s always more crowded in the winter and open in the summer.
Did that help? I hope so! I do have to intentionally keep myself away from too much minimalism imagery to keep my internal peace. I like to look at more bohemian houses to inspire myself to love my piles of books and plants and children’s toys. ❤
Masha, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on all that! I’m going to think more on the “seasonal cycle” view towards the home, where it’s full in the winter and open in the summer-that is such a good perspective! I think that will help me work through those frustrated feelings in winter when it seems like we’re drowning in stuff.
I think it’s really nice that you are OK with burning up transitory artwork and passing along books. I have spent lots of time around wonderful homeschooling families, and it seems like there is frequently this assumption that we “need” to hoard everything because “we’ll use it someday” or because it “involves memories.” It’s very helpful to hear a different perspective! Plus, that seems like a nice way to bless other people with materials that aren’t working for you, instead of letting them languish indefinitely “just in case we ever use them.”
I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions! I am saving your advice to look back on in the future, as I am sure I will need these reminders again and again 🙂 (also, thank you for the Etsy shop link-those prayer sheets are beautiful! I will keep those in mind for the future; we love Latin prayers and beautiful artwork over here)
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