An Early “Aha!” Moment

Sometimes my stories paint a picture-perfect family life of my upbringing in Hawaii. However, for the record, we had our share of conflict, as well as blame-shifting, finger-pointing, name-calling, and all the rest.

Believe it or not, we also had a messy house. From time to time, of course.

When I was a little girl, my dad would call out, “Who used the cup?” Who used the pencil?” Who drank the can of juice?” How did he know anyone of us (my brother, my sister or me) used anything and why wasn’t he included in the question?

Simple, my dad is a creature of habit and practice. For example, if he used the cup. It would’ve been washed, wiped and put away. Had he used the pen, it would not be left on the counter. He would’ve placed it back in the drawer. And if he drank a can of Hawaiian Sun Passion Orange juice, the can would’ve been rinsed/washed and placed in the tub to be repurposed for beer covers.

Those habits are part of my DNA and is the practice of kuleana and lokai.

My parents worked hard to instill in us the values of “kuleana,” which is responsibility, and “lokahi,” which refers to harmonious cooperation in unity. These are the fundamental qualities required for effective teamwork. When everyone in the family embraces his or her responsibility to work together in unity, the home runs smoothly, like a team working as one to paddle the canoe.

But that’s not only true for relationships. It also applies to keeping the house tidy.

“Kuleana” (responsibility) and “lokahi” (harmonious cooperation in unity) are the fundamental qualities required for effective teamwork.

Decluttering: A Family Affair

Transforming a cluttered space takes a whole household working together. Ideally, this happens proactively rather than reactively. Instead of waiting for the mess to get out of hand, it’s much easier to maintain a tidy home when everyone knows and embraces his or her responsibility, and does his or her small part, day in and day out.

Thankfully, this isn’t rocket science. A good ol’ fashioned to-do list is almost always enough to easily keep everyone on track. You know: make a list, assign tasks, carve out a little time each day for chores…nothing to it, right?

The hard part is embracing the kuleana and the lokahi—the responsibility to work together for the good of the family. When that happens, magic is on the horizon and the house is well on its way to becoming a clean, comfortable, welcoming, inviting home.

Tidying Up to Reduce Tension

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Alice Boyes lists several of the benefits of a decluttered room, including a sense of confidence and competence, revitalization and reduced anxiety, and—wait for it—reduced tension in family relationships.

In other words, clutter itself might be a major reason why it’s so hard to get the whole family onboard the declutter train. It’s not only a sad irony, but a vicious cycle!

Do certain family members push back against the idea of daily chores? If so, it’s going to be important to help them understand that an untidy home is actually a cause of disharmony, and that cleaning up will help them feel more like cleaning up!

When everyone in the family embraces the responsibility to work together in unity, the home runs smoothly, like a team working as one to paddle the canoe.

6 Practical Questions for Decluttering

Once the family has embraced a sense of responsibility toward each other, it’s important to have a simple, practical approach to decluttering. Here are six simple questions to help you decide what should stay and what should go:

  • Do I have one of these already, or is it an unnecessary duplicate?
  • Is it unusable or broken, or do I just not like it anymore?
  • Did I forget this existed?
  • Does this make people feel uncomfortable or overcrowded?
  • Does this take the focus off of people in this space?
  • Is this a hindrance to happiness, health, or safety?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions about any given item, it’s probably time to throw it out or box it up for Goodwill.

A Happy Home

When the whole family realizes their responsibility to contribute and that their contribution matters, we have embraced kuleana and lokahi. When that happens, things get returned to their rightful place, cleaning up becomes part of life, “that mess” becomes MY mess, and our home is filled with freedom, independence, and love.

How does your family keep the home tidy? What are some of your keys to decluttering? Let us know in the comments.


Regain Your aloha.

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