I have mentioned the British singing duo, Flanders and Swann, here before. They are a family favorite and you should really look for their albums At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat (my favorite) if you are unfamiliar with them. But I bring them up because a line in the song, The Second Law of Thermodynamics (click the link and look for the link on the page to hear the song... go ahead and listen, I'll wait), which always makes me think of my house: "That's entropy, man!"
Why? Because without vigilance, that is what happens... it moves toward chaos. And the more people who live in the house, the faster chaos wins. For us homeschoolers, keeping chaos at bay is even trickier because there is never a time when the majority of the household is out of the house. It is much easier to keep your house looking like a catalogue picture if no one is ever home.
This is why, even though for the most part I don't collect a lot of stuff (children's clothes aside... and I took care of those), there is always something that needs to be sorted or reorganized. The natural state of stuff is to be strewn about and not happily and neatly organized into boxes, bins, and folders. I've been reading a lot of organizing/clearing out books recently, and the main rule of thumb is that if something can't be picked-up in five minutes, it's too much stuff. Currently our toys do not fit into the 5 minute rule, but that is my goal.
I just keep focusing on living in a way that did not constantly include me telling children to pick-up toys or me picking-up toys myself or me feeling angry that I'm constantly stepping over toys. (See a theme?) Having too much stuff about robs us of our relationships because we are focusing on the things in our lives instead of the people. I'm tired of being annoyed at my children because their stuff is not picked-up, so I am opting to do something about the stuff. I am choosing to fend off chaos by giving chaos less to work with.
Stuff, part 1 -- Lessons from the playpen
Stuff, part 2 -- Lessons from the too small house
Stuff, conclusion -- The hard part