One of the great things about living in a small house is that it forces you to keep a tight reign on your possessions. Let’s face it, we just simply can’t fit a lot of things into our house comfortably. 52″ TV screen? Not hardly. Pool table? Dream on. Huge entertainment system? Yeah right. A collection of priceless antiques? How about a collection of priceless children instead. That we’ve got.
I always hoped that somehow, having a small house where we can’t have pinball machines in bedrooms, a dresser for every inhabitant, or collections of stuff would somehow create an innate understanding of how to cull possessions to fit within their space. Yeah. Again, not hardly. You know how children go through a buffet line and instead of taking enough dinner to fill their stomach, they take enough to fill their plate? Well, people do that with their homes. They fill to their mental space rather than their literal space– and kids need training.
How do I know? Well, on Sunday, Kevin was doing the monthly spraying for critters. We don’t like bugs in here. So, he sprays. We used to pay for a service, but since we do have so many people in the house, and all the possessions that go with them, it is difficult to make it easy for them to spray all walls. You see, once every other month, Kevin would wake up super early and start the process. He’d remove baseboards in the kitchen (they just clip on), pull all furniture and things away from the walls. Empty all closet floors. The works. In every room. Yeah. After doing all that, why on earth not spray too?
Well, when he got to the boys’ room on Sunday, I started hearing the groans, grumbles, and exclamations of stunned indignant alarm. We have two boys. They share a room. We have six girls. They share a larger room. Now the boys would like you to believe that the reason their room has so much stuff in it is because the girls’ things migrate into more space. Well, it is partly true. The girls do have dresses hanging in the boys’ closet. The closet also houses all games and Lorna’s “Sweet Streets” houses. There is also a bookcase in there that belongs to me. It takes up a tiny bit of unused wall space. You really can’t count that. However, the stack of boxes, three (or is it four) guitars, TV, game systems (that rarely see electric power), keyboard, couch, computer… yeah, all that stuff– it doesn’t belong to the girls.
I don’t want to leave a false impression. Nolan and Ethan do not corner on the market on too much stuff. When Challice moved out, it took a couple of TRUCK LOADS to get her things moved over to David’s house. I have an insane amount of fabric and craft supplies. I know this. We have more power cords, cables, and such to go with electronics that we may not even own anymore than I can count. Our children, at least compared to the average American family, do not own a lot of toys. I don’t own very many shoes (4 pair? Or is it 3?). I have one purse. My husband doesn’t own golf clubs, a weed whacker, or very many power tools. We don’t have a lawn mower, only have a dozen or so board games, and snow gear/water gear is pretty non-existent.
However, we do have books. TONS of books. We have a lot of DVDs as well. The older girls have a lot more clothing than do the younger girls, but compared to most American teens, I bet they have a fraction of what is common. The problem is, they also have a fraction of the closet space. Think of how many American teens who get one sixth of an average sized closet and then you’ll get the picture.
You’d think that seeing the limitations would be enough to prevent people from bringing home more STUFF, but it only helps. The root of the problem is still there, and the root is different for everyone. Discontent, inconsideration, thoughtlessness… it could be anything. It’s hard because there is nothing wrong with wanting to own something. There’s even nothing wrong with wanting to own something that you don’t have room to own. There is just a limited amount of space in which to put what you own when you life in a small house, and at some point, everyone must accept it.
I know, I’ve written variations of this post over the years so what makes this one different? Nothing. Not really. I just realized something new that I hadn’t really “gotten” before– even if I did think I did. You see, I just realized that in addition not to being able to own the amount of stuff that many people do, because we do have so many people, we also cannot have your typical house set up. Few houses have rooms that look like something from a magazine. Ours never will be like that for sure, but neither will we have the clearly de-cluttered look that I personally prefer. I have to accept that my girls’ closets will be packed. I have to accept that we aren’t Laura Ingalls– we’ll have more than she did. And that’s ok. I just have to find that delicate balance between very little and way too much.