Project Eliminate: A Word on Refusing

This post >> on How to Become Minimalist with Children has really good information including the benefits and how to involve the kids, which got me started going through Bylee and Ian's things last week. (You can see that process >> here.)

I explained what I could to Brylee and she caught on quickly, excited about the items she could give away and clear about the toys she wanted to keep. (Of course, as these things continue to sit in the living room now a week later, she's wants to play with them or will say "I want to keep this." Once it's gone through once, it needs to leave the house as "out of sight, out of mind" is very true for kids.)

I'm still on Week 2 with only Ian's closet to clear out before crossing Ian's and Brylee's rooms off the list. I cleaned out Brylee's closet, moving Ian's things over so I have room to work. As we get to the packing stage, it'll be nice to have everything they use in one room, so it doesn't get mixed up in everything else.

We also decided once more to nix the yard sale idea. As we started pulling everything out, we thought a yard sale might be nice to get some extra money and not have to haul so much off to Goodwill. Meanwhile, I'm feeling so overwhelmed being surrounded by all this excess. Whether we yard-sale or not, we're still going to have some items to list on Craigslist (to be sure we get our desired price), and we're still going to have trips to Goodwill. With that in mind, spending one of our last few Sundays here devoted to a yard sale did not sound ideal. So, we'll be pulling aside our pricier items and listing them on Craigslist, and giving away everything else. Which means the excess could be out this week, and no more emotional breakdowns from me. (Yes, "stuff" gets me that worked up.)

Thoughts On Refusing for Kids

I've also been thinking more about "refusing" (keeping things from coming into the house) and my apparent inability to do so, especially when I'm refusing on behalf of a child that loves receiving. This last week and a half I've mentally noted every item that's come into our home, observing the process around it.

First was our trip to the dentist and the "loot" the hygenist loaded Brylee up with: one-time-use flossers, stickers, trinkets from the grab box, toothbrush, toothpaste, all in a one-time-use bag. The word REFUSE flashed through my mind in capital letters as she handed these items to Brylee, and I wondered the most polite way to refuse in this and other similar situations. My best attempt at an answer is being proactive.

Here's a draft of steps I need to make habit, and I'll use the dentist as an example:
  1. Before I even leave the house, I need to know where I'm going and why I'm going, and not go or do without a set purpose.

    Example: We were taking Brylee to the dentist to get her teeth cleaned, no unplanned pit stops along the way.
  2. After thinking of the trip's purpose, I need to think of what I will be receiving, both intentionally and unintentionally.

    Example: I intentionally stock up on toothbrushes and toothpaste at the store (bulk means less wasted packaging), but, if I had thought about it, I would have known that the dentist would have give-aways for Brylee.
  3. The items that are intentional need to be put on a list, unintentional items need to have a refusal plan.

    Example: Thinking of the dentists give-aways I could plan ahead what would be useful (if I didn't have extra toothbrushes on hand for Brylee, maybe I would want that but not the toothpaste), what would be nice (Brylee doesn't need 3 stickers, but one for her to put on right away would be fun for her), and what is unnecessary (really, one-time-use flossers and bubble gum flavored toothpaste? No, thank you).
  4. Intentional items should be evaluated and bought if truly essential (I'd like to start shopping around more, buying secondhand as much as possible, and waiting 48 hours to avoid mistake purchases). Unintentional items need to be refused. Period. And that's the part that trips me up.

    Example: The hygienist mentioned the give-aways to Brylee while she was cleaning her teeth. I should have spoken up and said what would be allowed. How this is said will take some practice, so I hope nobody gets offended with me as I learn the best way to approach this. It could sound something like this: "Oh, thank you for the offer. I don't know exactly what items you have for her, but we actually have a good stock of toothbrushes and toothpaste." A quick statement opens the door for refusal and is guided by me, like having Brylee choose just one sticker.
Listed like this, it sounds complicated. But, really, these are the steps that I hope to make habit. Started by being more intentional about this thought process, refusing will become second-nature. I hope I'll figure out how to keep tact along the way.

I am so ingrained to accept everything that is offered with a "thank you" and deal with it later (which often means find a place for it in our home whether it's useful or not). There is something about saying "No, thank you" that seems rude even though it's not. I guess the balance comes with being gracious and not getting too much in the "whys" as they can sound a little "better than thou" if not shared carefully.

And that brings me to ideas on refusing from people you're closer to. This last week have developed a few examples and lessons that followed.
  • My sister was doing her baby shopping at a favorite secondhand children's store and asked if there was anything we needed. Going through our things, my initial reaction was "No! We don't need anything!" Then, I remembered after going through Brylee's and Ian's clothes, there were a couple items I needed for them. My sister looked and found the perfect items and sent them the next day. She got her gift fix (her and my mom are gift-givers as part of their love language), and I was absolutely thrilled to be adding things to our home that we needed--items that would truly be used.
  • We went to a cousin-friend's house for Easter brunch and they gave Brylee an Easter basket. Later, I shared with them what I'm learning about minimalism and my progress in getting rid of stuff before our move. They joked that the Easter basket probably wasn't helping. But, that's okay. Because we had gone through Brylee's things, she now had room to add a toy. We'll get in the habit of ousting a toy of a similar size, and if at any point it's not used or played with, then it'll have to go.
  • Hearing about my attempt to get rid of the extra, a friend asked if we would like Brylee to have a movie she had an extra copy of. It's one Brylee would like, we have room in our DVD collection for it, and by being vocal about my desire to eliminate and simplify, my friend caught on and asked before giving.
And I think that last point is "the" point if I had to narrow it down to one thought. Simplifying and minimalizing is a lifestyle and should be shared with others--as a testimony to our current journey and perhaps with little undertones of boundary-setting.

If the people in our lives are accustomed to giving us things (whether it's gifts or hand-me-downs or anything in between), then changing this will take effort. While flat-out listing new rules to the relationship is probably rude at best, starting with sharing our experience will be enough for most in-tune people to catch on to the changes.

And for anyone that's not realizing what this change means for specific occasions (Christmas, birthdays, etc.), sharing our experiences will be an essential foundation to future conversations.

Find my other posts in this series linked >> here.