Motherhood is messy. In all the ways, motherhood is messy. It makes a mess of our emotions, our expectations and our home. These tiny humans enter our lives and hearts and they challenge us every day to grow and give and bend. And although we’re totally exhausted, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Except maybe it would be nice to not have so much laundry. Seriously, where does it all come from?!
And we are busy. Modern moms are so busy. Many of us work outside the home, we often don’t have help in the form of nearby relatives and our communities are so spread out that we are constantly driving long distances to activities. At the end of the day, something’s gotta give and my vote’s on the housework. After all, life’s too short to fold fitted sheets.
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Know Your Limitations
Unfortunately, there will always only be 24 hours in a day, so I believe the key to managing a home within those hours is to be realistic about what can be accomplished. Tiny humans can somehow trash a house in under 3 minutes. I don’t know how they do it, it’s some kind of childhood voodoo magic. So how can you attempt to keep a clean home when a) you’re a busy, tired mama, and b) there are toddlers following you around creating destruction in their wake?
For me, knowing my limitations means knowing what level of mess I can live with. I don’t need every square foot of my home to be spotless all of the time. Clutter collects, seasons change, toys don’t always have a home. That’s what embracing the chaos is all about. Motherhood means our homes are well lived in. There are handprints on the walls, there’s a rip in the curtains and the pictures never hang straight because someone’s always jumping around. The days are long but these years are short. One day we’ll look back fondly on the handprints and the jumping and the shredded curtains.
Know Your ‘Why’
I’m not a person who can handle a really messy home. Some people are, and power to them. I would love to not feel stressed at the sight of a dumped out toy box. But that’s just not me. What helps manage the stress is knowing my reasons for wanting a tidy home.
1. Tidiness helps life run smoothly. I know that if I don’t get the kitchen totally cleaned up at night, then breakfast the next day will be extra difficult.
2. I can’t relax when the house is a bomb. My husband can sit among piles and piles of laundry and be totally at ease. Not me. If I want a few peaceful moments in the evening, then I need to make efforts during the day to keep the mess under control.
3. What if visitors show up? I rarely have people just drop by unannounced (who would do such a thing?!) But sometimes plans get made the night before and there’s simply no time to fully clean the house by morning. Staying on top of it on a regular basis makes it much easier to have last minute guests arrive.
These things motivate me. But don’t get me wrong, if you were to drop by my house right now you would see that it does not sparkle and shine. There are trucks on my living room floor, boot prints in the hall and cheerios glued to the table. There’s just a base level of cleanliness that I require, and the rest of the chaos can be lived with.
(Seriously though, are dried up cheerios not the strongest substance known to man?! I’ve had to chisel the stuff off my dining room table. Like with a real chisel. No joke.)
Make the Best of the Chaos
There are a few things I do that make the chaos seem a little less … chaotic. These systems help keep me from feeling totally overwhelmed by my own home.
- Own less stuff. Less knick knacks = less dusting. The other day I dropped a little ceramic pot of flowers and it broke. I was secretly so happy! One less thing to tidy!
- Use small bins for organizing. I have small, clear containers like these that keep my bathroom and kitchen drawers organized. It makes a world of difference. I can still just dump makeup or utensils into the drawers without too much thought as long as they land in the appropriate containers then I’ll be able to find them again. And I can fit so much more into a single drawer this way. Again with the magic.
- Don’t keep all the artwork. My son produces volumes and volumes of artwork, and each piece is precious to him. I know there’s a sentimental urge to keep every scribble, but it can really pile up. There’s only so much room on the fridge. Wait till the artist isn’t looking and try to dispose of the art.
- Prioritize. Decide which areas of your home NEED to be tidy in order to maintain your sanity and then don’t let yourself get stressed over the other areas. For example, I like my main floor to be tidy but I let the kids have control of their rooms. I make their beds in the morning but then I don’t spend another thought on the carpet of toys covering the floors. I have to pick my battles.
- You can have nice stuff when they move out. There’s no point in owning nice things if all it does is make you anxious about keeping them clean. Our sofa is covered in a variety of stains (mainly beverage related) but I have zero intention of replacing the sofa until the kids are past the age of many spills. (What’s that, like 28 or so?). I don’t want to have beautiful things that no one is allowed to touch. That’s no way to live.
- Don’t keep toys with many small pieces. They are the work of the devil and should be gotten rid of. I have no patience for picking up all zillion pieces of Perfection every day and trying really hard not to lose any. Mama ain’t got time for that. We try to only keep toys that are large/easy to pick up. I’m trying to get my sanity to last me another 16 years or so.
- Try to clean as you go. I do my best to pick things up as I see them, rather than leave it all for the end of the day. I also try to blitz the kitchen after lunch so that dinner prep isn’t a nightmare.
- Don’t let the laundry pile up. I know, easier said than done. But I think it makes a huge difference to not have piles of laundry on the furniture. We only own one laundry basket which forces me to keep up with the laundry. (This is me, disappearing into the pit of unending laundry.)
9. Close the doors. When the entry way is an explosion of shoes and mittens and coats, sometimes I just need to close the door and forget about it. There will be days that the mess just gets away from you and you need to be ok with that. Or you can kiss your sanity goodbye.
And when housework seems to be tightening it’s grip on you, just remember this mantra: “Life is too short to fold fitted sheets”. Or better yet, print it off and hang it in your laundry room.
What are your tricks for maintaining sanity when everything feels like chaos?