At heart, I am a minimalist and like a neat and clean home. I have even dabbled in Feng Shui which bears out my intuition that a clean and clutter-free house reduces stress and increases one's sense of well-being.
I am also an unschooling dad and recognize the value of the concept of strewing. To expose my daughter to new interesting things, it is helpful to have these new and interesting things close at hand and readily available so she can choose to explore them. Even if she doesn't choose to explore them it's still good to have a variety of things available to spark her interests.
So, I have to work at resolving the tension between these two values. I sometimes wonder if other unschoolers face a similar tension. I have read about some families who have solved the dilemma in either of the two obvious extremes. On the one hand, are cases where the family simply refuses to give any ground to the impulse to have a clean and regimented home environment. On the other, the families which forgo, temporarily or permanently, home organization in favor of all-out strewing.
To add to the dilemma for me are two other factors. I am a professional educator (teaching philosophy in college) so I recognize the validity of the educational benefits of strewing. I am also an aspiring professional organizer and hope to one day turn this into a side-line where I offer various organizing services to residential clients. Given these factors, I cannot really justify either extreme solution to the problem.
The solution our family has opted for which honors both my need for order and our daughter's need for access to various items contains several elements.
First, we have a designated playroom where my wife has sewing and craft material and my daughter has plenty of toys, games, puzzles, and books. We have also devoted much of the basement to the craft and play area. The rule for these areas is pretty much "anything goes" as long as there is an area where you can safely walk and get from one part of the room to another.
Second, we have a few designated areas where order reigns supreme. Our formal living room has built-in bookshelves and so is "the library." This room also serves as my music studio where I have my iMac computer and keyboard. Here there is no clutter and no strewing.
Third, bedrooms are clutter-free zones which is in accordance with good Feng Shui principles. Bedrooms are for bedroom activities and nothing else. We have no electronics in the bedrooms. Our daughter's bedroom has several bookshelves but items kept there are kept neatly on the shelves and returned when we are through with them. Toys are replaced in the toy chest. The room is very restful and relaxing as a bedroom should be.
Fourth, we have the "hybrid" areas of the house which can go either way. We strew things in the kitchen and family room but we can also quickly clean these rooms up for other activities.
All in all, this system seems to work well for everyone. I am happy to sacrifice a little of my need for order to benefit my daughter's need for a variety of easily accessible items to play with and explore.
Have you had similar issues with reconciling a need for order and a need for strewing? How have you resolved them? I'd love to hear your ideas!
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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