Decluttering as Disability Parents

A few weeks after Everett was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I started following some minimalist accounts.  In that time, I’ve learned a lot about minimalism.  I’ve also been slowly building a list of so many reasons we should simplify our lives because we have a child with a disability.

This list has immediate benefits, as well as some long term, and even life after we are gone.  Yep, I am going there because it is something parents of children with disabilities have to think about, and do think about more often than you realize.

minimalist entryway

What comes to mind when you hear the word “minimalism?”  Do you see white walls and no furniture?  Owning only one type of shirt?  Grocery shopping every 3 days to save pantry space?  I’ve been paying a lot of attention to minimalism for nearly the past year and these are all examples on the internet!

But there is another way for minimalism too.  It simply means less.  Less clutter, less stress, less to maintain.  It’s not living without, it’s living with the right amount!  And that amount changes depending on the person – and that’s okay!

Immediate benefits

Less decision fatigue

There have been studies that show a person with T1D makes about 180 more decisions a day than someone without.  Landon and I are making those decisions for Everett since he is so young.  I actually think it’s not a coincidence that I started following minimalist accounts about a month into his diabetes diagnosis.

By owning less stuff, there are simply less options, and therefore less decision fatigue.  I remember when we were planning our wedding.  I would narrow something down to 2 or 3 choices and then ask Landon for his input.  He did the same thing for me when we were building our house.  Instead of being overwhelmed with a million options, it’s easier to pick from only a few options.  If I only have one spoon to brown the taco meat, or one travel coffee mug, the decision of which to use is already made.  I have more ideas about this for clothing too, but that may need its own post.

Less cleaning

I know I’ve heard that decluttering reduces time spent cleaning by some 40% but I’m just going to reference personal experience here.  Have you ever needed to clean before people came over and instead of actually cleaning, you’re spending the majority of your time clearing off surfaces?  Going through the mail stack and throwing 80% away.  Taking xyz off of the breakfast bar and putting it where it actually goes.  Rinse and repeat.  So, if I have less stuff to move, then I actually have more time to clean which will in turn be less time spent cleaning since I don’t have so much to move beforehand.  Got that?

Less stress and overwhelm

UCLA did a study way back in 2009 that showed clutter caused added stress for women.  Landon and I both have noticed from experience that when things are picked up, we just feel calmer walking into our home.  I also believe that by having less, there will be less overwhelming in management of all our stuff.

More time for things we enjoy

This goes along with less time spent cleaning.  Americans spend an average of 2.5 days a year looking for lost things.  2.5 days!  If I have less, it’s less to track which has two perks: less to lose but also less to remember where things are so less likely to lose in the first place.  More time spent on things I want to do.

Leah and Landon golfing at dusk
More time to golf and teach Everett to golf too!

No need to worry about unexpected guests

There was a video years ago that circulated social media.  A man was pretending to be his wife and was cleaning their home before company came.  At one point, they say “There cannot be any sign of living in this house!”  Landon and I have joked about it.  I have an unrealistic expectation that my home should always look Pinterest perfect at all times or no one but us can enter it.  I think minimalism might be a good medium on that.

If you want to watch the video for a good laugh:

Can’t outgrow your house

We built our house assuming it would be our forever home.  And the floor plan we liked actually had very little closet space.  I remember thinking, well then, I’ll just own less stuff.  Ha!  While I know some people need to move for more bedrooms due to more kids, many seem to move to a bigger house because they outgrow the space for their stuff.  The average size home in the 1960s was 1,500 square feet and has only increased while the size of families has decreased.  It’s room for stuff!

Room full of furniture and baby items.
This was the in between state of turning the guest room into a nursery – there’s just so much stuff!

Long term benefits

I hesitate to write this part.  I came of age and watched many of my aunts lose their lives too soon so I have a different outlook on death.  It’s not something to “not think about” it’s more of “plan for it” because you never know when it will happen.  So, I hope I don’t make anyone too uncomfortable.

Right now, the average life expectancy for someone with Down syndrome is 60.  Now, that has more than doubled in the past 30 years so it’s very possible Everett will live a lot longer than that.  But for the case of being realistic and planning for multiple outcomes, he also has an 80% chance of Alzheimer’s which usually happens at younger ages for those with Ds.  Keep that in mind as you peak into my mind.

Scenario One

Let’s say Everett is able to live independently, gets married, maybe has a family, white picket fence, etc.  We’re also going to assume Alzheimer’s hasn’t been cured because that also seems more realistic than planning on it.  That means that Everett may need to move into a memory care facility in his 50s or 60s.  And let’s also say Landon and I take after all of our grandparents and live into our 90s.  It’s very possible we die when our only child is in a memory care facility.  Who goes through our stuff?

Remember my aunts?  There have been 4 who were robbed years off their lives.  One was not married and our entire extended family had to help my cousin go through all of her things and sell her house.  It was hard.  Especially hard given what lead to that extremely unexpected and young death.

I want to make sure that whatever extended family (sorry Landon’s siblings) is around to go through our stuff, that there isn’t as much to worry about.

Scenario Two

Another scenario is that maybe Everett can live and work independently but he is unable to live alone because he can’t manage his diabetes by himself.  So, he lives with us!  We’re the three best friends that anyone could have anyway so that’s fine by us!  But again, when we die, he will have to move somewhere with care and how easy will he be able to go through our entire house by himself?  Less stuff, means less to go through.

Scenario Three

There is also the possibility that we outlive Everett.  I’m not saying that because he has Down syndrome, T1D, or anything to do with diagnoses.  No one is promised tomorrow.  My grandma buried her 17-year-old son who was healthy and had a bright future ahead of himself.  Accidents of all kinds happen.  And if we do outlive Everett, then when we die, there really is no one to go through our things or pass them along to.

I promise I’m not trying to be morbid!  It just makes you think a little differently about hanging on to things.

room with many cardboard boxes.

Starting a declutter journey

Landon and I have wanted to declutter for some time.  But a sick pregnancy, grieving an unexpected diagnosis at birth, a diabetes diagnosis 8 months later, and then my parents moving in with us for 8 months, well, decluttering hasn’t been a top priority.  My parents are now settling into their new home much closer to us and we are ready to “trim the fat” on all the things we’ve accumulated.

We are taking a different approach than most declutter stories.  We won’t be spending entire weekends tackling entire rooms or closets.  Diabetes does not give us that time.  We’re taking a slower approach.  Kind of like eating an elephant… one bite at a time.  Think one drawer, one cabinet, one shelf, one category at a time.  No more than 15 minutes, hopefully at least once a week.

Why am I sharing any of this?  Because I want you to hold us accountable!  I thought it would be interesting to give a monthly update going forward on what we decluttered.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from the other minimalist accounts, it’s that you often learn more about yourself when you declutter.  I don’t know how far we will take this minimalist thing.  We’ll see what feels right.  But it will be long journey, like peeling back an onion, decluttering layer by layer.

If you’d like to stay informed with blog post updates, you can sign up for my email newsletter below.  I only plan to send the once a month update as of now, so no spam emails.  And feel free to declutter along with us if anything above has inspired you!


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