How I Gained Time & Energy Back as a Busy Mom
Have you ever been at a place in life where you looked around and wondered how did I ever get to this point? I had that realization while I was nursing my son a little over two years ago. My life seemed like a blur, an endless parade of duties. It was like I was juggling eighteen balls in the air and if I got sidetracked everything would come tumbling down. I had as much energy as a battery-operated toy that starts to sound funny right before the batteries die. Days flew by and my time seemed to disappear with nothing to show for it.
I put so much pressure on myself to be an amazing mom, prepare healthy meals, keep a clean and tidy house, volunteer at church, and the list goes on. But I knew I wasn’t measuring up. Dirty dishes lived in my sink and loads of laundry were always needing to be folded and put away. Walking across the living room floor was like walking through a mine field of toys, shoes, and who knows what.
All my time seemed to be spent on cleaning and it seemed like a new mess would magically reappear right before my eyes. Was I wasting my time? I longed to play with my kids and do more than just the mundane tasks.
I started to play a mental rewind of my life. Why was I spending more time keeping my home clean than being present and interacting with my children? Am I doing something wrong? Does everyone struggle with this or am I alone? What I owned was taking up all my time and energy. I wanted my time and energy to be focused on my family and what I truly care about. How did my priorities get so twisted?
When I looked back at my life, I started to pay attention to how much stuff I actually have and my ability to maintain it. I realized that I’ve never been tidy. I never made my bed, and I couldn’t even keep my house clean before having kids. Rewinding even further back, my roommates in college put all of my water glasses that I left around the house in my bed once. They were so tired of finding cups everywhere. I was so oblivious to my mess that I had no idea that I was frustrating my friends. Needless to say, I can’t put all the blame on my kids for our messy house, I’m a large part of the equation.
Fast forward to married life, the first home my husband and I bought in 2010 was a giant undertaking. Inviting guests over was the only motivation for me to have a clean home. Once our friends left, the house turned quickly back into a mess and the sink filled with dirty dishes in a blink of an eye. The five bedrooms for the two of us seemed empty when we moved in, and so it became our job to fill them. The accumulation of more and more was happening at lightning speed without us even noticing. My home wouldn’t be featured on “Hoarders,” but what I owned was weighing me down. And when we found out I was pregnant, we had to ‘make room’ for our daughter. Instead of decluttering, we just rearranged our stuff from one room to the other.
Through a big move into a smaller home in a new city, we were forced to let go of quite a bit of what we owned. Downsizing was AMAZING for us! I can’t recommend it enough. To read all about that transition and the benefits of downsizing, read “3 Benefits of Downsizing Your Home Even if You Have a Family.” But even a smaller house didn’t keep me from keeping more than I should’ve.
I still struggled keeping my smaller home clean and tidy, but it was so much more manageable than our larger first home because it was almost half the size. But after having my second child, I dealt with pretty bad postpartum depression. I never experienced it with my daughter, so I was completely taken aback.
I was so frustrated with myself. My house was in utter chaos and I had absolutely no motivation to do anything about it. I felt like I was absolutely failing as a mom and a wife. So many women out there have way more kids than me and a put together house, what was wrong with me? Maybe those fictitious super women are only on television, but I just didn’t understand how no one warned me about this.
Going from zero to one child was a smooth transition for us, but from one to two was harder for me than I ever imagined. To read the whole story, check out my article, “Motherhood’s Dirty Little Secret: Postpartum Depression.”
This was my breaking point. You could call it my point of self discovery all while nursing my son. This is when I asked the question how did I ever get to this point? And that led to a transformation I would’ve never expected.
Desperate for Change
To be frank, I had had enough. I was sick of being miserable. I longed to fully enjoy those early months of my son’s life, but I was so exhausted that they became a blur. A drastic change was necessary. I needed to tackle what was driving me crazy, and one of my biggest stressors was the state of my house. I couldn’t be present with my kids, because I was working so hard picking up after them, doing laundry and the dishes. Looking back, I wish I would have slowed down and listened to my body and followed what I longed for: those sweet newborn snuggles.
After finally getting more sleep and a whole slew of other things, the postpartum depression started to lift. The depression was a mental battle of unmet expectations and unrealistic assumptions of what I should be doing. I wish I would have been brave and spoke up to my friends, family, and church that I so desperately needed help. Normally I’m the one who helps others, not the other way around. I was too proud to admit that I needed a village to help me out.
Thus my research adventure began. I had read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Art of Decluttering” in 2014 when it came out. I knew about Minimalism and dabbled in it. Deep down, I knew that I need to do a serious purge of what I owned. My husband flew out of town for work, giving me more time in the evenings to tackle our stuff. So, this time I listened to the audio version of Marie Kondo’s book while I decluttered my home. If you want to read all about what “Marie Kondo Taught Me” click here. Then I listened to more books on decluttering through the free Hoopla App from my library while I purged.
The extra motivation I got from listening to the books was insane. I truly believe that decluttering is addicting. Seriously. You get a taste of freedom and you want more of it. Until I started to really assess what I owned, I never realized how much my possessions were impacting me. Once I did my first purge of my home, I felt lighter and freer. If I could rewind time, I would have decluttered like crazy ten years ago.
Even though the decluttering took some time, that time spent paid dividens. I had so much more energy because I wasn’t spending all my time cleaning my stuff. When you have less stuff to clean and maintain, you have more time.
Creating New Habits and Routines
I had less to clean and maintain, but I was missing a crucial element. I needed to create habits and routines to manage what I own. My bad habits were making me work more than I needed all while keeping me frustrated.
The little researcher in me turned to books, blogs, and podcasts for the secret remedy to my ailing home. At the time, I would have never in a million years thought I would ever write the articles: “5 Steps to a Tidy Kitchen” or “4 Tweaks to a Clutter-Free Home.” But ya know what, I did and I’m pretty proud of myself for taking some needed drastic changes. Just by adding simple new routines into my life like making my bed, I felt more accomplished and my home looked better. By adding some good routines in, I spend less time cleaning giving me more time to focus on what I want to do.
The Big Aha Moment
One of the biggest takeaways from all my research was that clutter attracts clutter. I wish I could remember where I heard this from, but man, this phrase changed my life. Once I cleared the clutter from my bathroom sinks, they rarely get cluttered. But when I have an area with clutter, it breeds more clutter. This was my big aha moment. It gave me more motivation to not have clutter anywhere.
My home isn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t what I’m going for. Amazingly, my house is more tidy and put together with less work, ah- that’s the power of Minimalism and some good routines.
I don’t believe any home is completely purged in one fell-swoop. Decluttering is a process. It goes in waves. My ability to let more go increases every time I purge my home. I’m currently in a challenge to declutter everyday for a month. And I can still find enough to declutter. I’m learning that less is more. Less stuff equals more time, less cleaning, and more money in my wallet. And I’m down for that!!
So if you’re struggling with keeping up your house, there’s hope. That’s the truth. If I can break my bad habits and live with less, so can you. If you’re thinking, oh you just don’t understand, I’m in a different boat than you. Let me tell you a quick story. Someone came over to my house and told me that they were putting off having kids for a while because they saw what it did to my house, and they weren’t ready for that. If that’s not a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is. Ouch! But, that isn’t my story anymore. I hope my house isn’t so messy that it alters someone elses future plans!
I’d just want to encourage you that if you feel overwhelmed by your stuff, do something about it. Take drastic measures, so you can experience drastic results. Coral a support team to keep you accountable, learn what you need to, and don’t get caught up in perfectionism. You can do this!