THE BLOG
05/23/2011 12:04 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2011

Cleaning Out: What Was I Thinking?

I don't know about you, but every once in a while I get in the mood to clean out...REALLY clean out. The kind of clean-out that starts at one end and keeps going till there are bags of trash and stuff to get rid of, piled up high. What made me think of this was seeing a story on Yahoo about how people are donating those bags of junk and broken toys to the tornado victims in the Southeast--creating even more of a mess! I know all about those bags....

This past Sunday, I spent all day in the basement with my three daughters, cleaning out. It had gotten to the point where there was no room to play, do crafts of any sort, or even sit. As we sifted through lifetimes of toys and 45 years of Barbie clothing styles (yes, I still have most of mine, mixed in with all of theirs), I couldn't help but wonder why I had allowed so much stuff to get into our house. Too many holidays and birthdays, too many gifts we felt too guilty to get rid of, too many projects half-started and never finished...much too much plastic; and what's left is a mess of epic proportions, and no room left to play or create!

And so we sorted, and surreptitiously removed tiny bits of things that the youngest still thinks are essential, and things that the middle one might one day eventually use in a craft project. And all the while, it made me rethink how we live. How much time do we spend shopping for new things when we don't even use what we have? How much energy do we spend wishing for more when we already have what we need? All those little impulse buys and "just one thing!" add up to a pile that rivals the island of plastic floating in the middle of the ocean. I'm guilty of all of this. But I'm determined to change. Because frankly, cleaning out is depressing. I'd rather be doing fun stuff!

And so I'm vowing to myself (and as a result, to the rest of my family) not to bring more crap into our house. No plastic. No cheap little mementos. No impulse buys that will add to the pile that prevents us from truly living. For lord's sake, no more stuffed animals! I don't care how cute they are! From now on, we will focus on experiences, not souvenirs. We will spend our time creating rather than shopping. We will donate time and money, not junk.

Wish me luck! And please, don't send gifts.

Related Links:
Top 5 Records to Clean By - Maria's Farm Country Kitchen
The Nickel Pincher: Spring Cleaning Naturally and Affordably - Rodale.com
Speed Clean the Healthy Way - Prevention

For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.