Keep it Simple: The Power of Getting Rid of Stuff
Do you feel like the only mom who can't get it together? Between laundry, dishes, toy clean-up, household duties, and work, motherhood (and parenting) can be overwhelming.
If you find yourself laying in bed with a pile of laundry next to you, sitting on the couch surrounded by a pile of toys, or piling up dishes in the sink, you're not alone. It's challenging to motivate and re-motivate on a daily basis!
Struggling to keep up on a daily basis is one of the most universal experiences of new parents, especially for stay-at-home moms and dads.
The days fly by, kids seem to be growing up while you are missing parts of their childhood, and you are stuck constantly cleaning up after their experiences!
Just when you finished doing the dishes you realize that your little one just spilled grape juice all over their white shirt, and by the time you're doing treating the shirt with stain remover you leave the laundry room to find her tracking mud all over the living room!
Parenting never ends, and never gets easier. But it does get different, and you will undoubtedly learn new strategies for flexibly adapting the its constantly changing demands.
Parenting is a Never-Ending Mess!
When you think about your days and weeks, and how you spend your time, it might be a little depressing.
A messy home is usually a good sign that your kids are having fun, taking healthy risks, and experiencing life in crative ways!
A seemingly endless mountain of laundry, constantly scattered toys, open markers on the couch, shoes in bedrooms, half-empty lunch boxes left in backpacks, and empty water bottles randomly throughout the home.
Nevermind the house itself, which seems like it needs a deep clean on a weekly basis!
The good news is that a messy home is usually a good sign that your kids are having fun, taking healthy risks, and experiencing life in creative ways!
The bad news is that you're still expected to clean up after it all.
The Cost of Constant Cleaning as a Stay at Home Parent
When a mom or dad chooses to be a stay-at-home parent, they assume it means they are going to have the unique advantage of spending quality time with their kids and getting to know them.
Some parents choose to stay-at-home because they truly feel like home is where they should be - with their kids - and it feels right to them. Watching developmental milestones unfold first-hand can be one of the most rewarding experiences a parent can have!
But many parents realize that simply being under the same roof, in the same car, or within proximity of their children doesn't always translate to being truly with them.
They have to maintain the schedule, keep everything prepared for the inevitable disaster, and constantly prevent the household and day from completely collapsing.
When stay-at-home moms or dads finally press pause and spend quality time with their children, they end up paying the price of catching up on everything around them that was being neglected.
Is this living your life, or is this living in the constant aftermath of your child's life?
When you end up regretting spending time with your kids because you need to frantically catch up for the next few hours, it starts to become less rewarding to spend quality time with them.
You'll be okay, you'll get through it, welcome to parenting!
It's not that you're too focused on cleanliness, it's really just to keep the house barely functioning!
And even when you've finished cleaning up for the day and lay down in bed, you may feel little satisfaction or joy, and even dread waking up the next day and doing it all over again!
While friends and family will tell you "you'll be okay, you'll get through it, welcome to parenting!" you know it's hardly reassuring and certainly not helpful in any practical sense.
We all realize this is a problem, but few parents know how to even begin addressing it!
The Power of Simplicity and Decluttering
Have you ever considered how much easier laundry would be if your children only had a few sets of clothes?
How simple dishes would be if your household only had as many dishes as it had people?
How easy it would be clean up the toys if there were only a small handful of them?
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, to some it is, but for those who have realized the benefits of this lifestyle change it's a no-brainer!
Research at UCLA shows that the more clutter a home has, the more stressed and depressed the mother tends to be.
Try it out! Head into the playroom, that disorganized mess of toys and art supplies, and make three piles: definitely keep, put away for a month, and donate.
Try to keep only about 3-4 options per child. Put away 3-4 options per child per month, to last for about 3-4 months (so put away about 15 things per child). Those are the toys you will rotate into the playroom on a biweekly or monthy basis.
All the other things you've been afraid to get rid of because "they might want to play with it again some day" - get rid of it! There are so many children who would love and cherish every single one of those toys, so find your local donation drop-off and pay it forward!
Now do the same in your kitchen. Your primary kitchen cabinets and drawers should only have enough bowls, plates, cups and utensils as you have people in your home.
Two parents and one child? Three bowls, three plates, three forks. You get the picture.
You can't pile up dirty dishes when you don't even have enough to fill the sink and you need them available for the next meal. Of course, keep a stash of extras far enough away (try the basement) that you won't be tempted to grab them in a pinch, but easy enough to retrieve when friends or family come over.
Then get to work on the dresser drawers and closets. You can't pile up mounds of laundry if you don't even have enough to fill the washing machine! Keep three outfits that are weather-appropriate, do laundry on the weekends and in the middle of the week, and rotate through other outfits as needed.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by something you spend too much time cleaning or organizing, go through this cleansing process!
The Sweet Relief of Simplicity
You might be wondering why a website like Mommyhood101, which spends hundreds of hours every year finding the best baby products might suggest this sort of lifestyle change?
Psychologists have known for centuries that stuff doesn't make us happy!
Because it works! New parents are especially vulnerable to the societal push to have more of the best, most innovative, most stylish, and conversation-starting toys and gifts, clothing, and kitchenware.
The unfortunate side effect of our indulgence is the constant accumulation of stuff, filling the toy bins, cabinets, closets, and drawers.
But psychologists have known for centuries that stuff doesn't make us happy. Especially when it's stuff that we can never seem to keep clean or organized, and when it seems to detract from spending quality time with our children or spouses.
In our household, we have seen four primary benefits of cleansing our home of extra stuff.
- More quality time with kids. This is really the heart of the issue - getting away from constant cleaning and tidying up the home, to spending more time engaging with your child. The fewer things there are to constantly get disorganized and dirty, the more time you can spend doing what you wanted to be doing while at home: truly interacting with your child, asking and answering real questions, and learning more about their hopes, fears, and experiences.
- More creative play. Nothing is more frustrating than having a playroom full of toys and your child coming out after 15 minutes and saying they're bored. Too much choice is never good for children or adults, and almost always leads to unhappiness. You know what happens when you minimize the number of toys available? They find more creative ways to play with those few toys, and find new games and toys that you didn't even know existed. Creative play will increase, as will social time outdoors. You might feel like you've suddenly unlocked their imaginations and creative energy!
- Time for yourself. You know when your significant other tells you to go relax, that they will take care of the toddler? If that's usually your prompt to to do "your favorite chore" then you're not spending enough time taking care of yourself. When was the last time you read a book, went for a walk or run, talked to a friend, got a latte, took a bath, or got pampered? When there are fewer home responsibilities occupying your mind and day, you can suddenly find some time for yourself. Never feel guilty for taking me-time, it's just as important for you as it is for everyone around you.
- Better relationships. As a stay-at-home parent it is a struggle to keep up with the kids and home, but you will also inevitably feel a strain on your relationship with your partner. Ever feel resentful that they get to spend the day chatting with other adults, find some peace and quiet, eat a meal alone, and then come home and be the center of attention? You're not alone, and you're not wrong to feel that way. Usually when they get home you can transfer some kid duty onto them, and go frantically try to clean up the house and start preparing dinner. Fewer things to clean and straighten up means more time to talk to your spouse, not feel resentful, and ultimately have a happier marriage.
- Shifting the focus. Modern parents and children place too much emphasis on what they have and don't have, and too little emphasis on learning about themselves and others. Simplifying your life can help you shift the focus away from your stuff and onto your partners in life - children, family, friends, and neighbors. Check out our list of questions to ask kids, to get some good conversations started.
Instead of being frustrated, depressed, and resentful, you now know that when you are cleaning up, you are only cleaning the things that matter the most to your lives. The dishes you truly need, the clothes you truly wear, and the educational toys and outdoor toys that your children truly enjoy playing with.
It's much more rewarding to clean up things you actually appreciate having!
Your stuff was slowly stealing the joy of parenting and motherhood, making you constantly feel like you're barely getting by, barely surviving, and likely feeling like a bystander rather than active participant in your children's lives.
Simplifying and decluttering your (and your child's!) life will help you become a parent who can finally focus on their children, play with them, understands and truly know them, and spend less time cleaning up. You know, the parent you wanted to be, and the things that will ultimately make you happier.
You know what happens when those negative feelings become less frequent and intense? The positive ones have a chance to be noticed and make a real impact on your well-being. Give it a chance and tell us how it goes!