This post is important enough to share yearly. The holidays are a difficult time of year, especially if you have recently suffered a loss or are in a transition period, like divorce.
Please remember, if you ever do feel hopeless, help is available, whether it’s through IAmAlive.org, 1-800-SUICIDE, 211, or reaching out to a friend. You and your loved ones are worth making that effort. This was originally published on August 18, 2011.
Dear Home-Ec 101,
I am a slob. My house is a disaster area most of the time, though I’m starting to realize a lot of it is clutter. My husband hates coming home to this chaos, and while I thrive in some forms of chaos (my desk will never make sense to anyone but me), it’s even starting to get to me. We have two young children, a 2-year-old and a 5-week-old. About this time last year, CPS was involved because of the mess, and it’s not an experience I want to repeat.
Do you have any advice on slob salvation?
Living in Chaos
- You are living in one of the busiest and most stressful parenting points of your life.
- You are sleep-deprived. Your hormones are out of whack.
- You have not one but two tiny, irrational dictators controlling your every move.
- New babies are hard. Toddlers? Hard.
- A baby and a toddler? That, my friend, is very hard.
I’ve been there twice. My kids are all just two weeks shy of two years apart. (We’re in birthday season right now, they are now 7, 5, 4 -and 16, but I wasn’t around for her earliest years). I started this site while I was pregnant with my youngest, and the chaos of life after she arrived made me feel like a hypocrite.
This part is very important, more important than anything else I will tell you today.
If you are fighting this feeling of being completely overwhelmed and that feeling is winning, you MUST talk to your doctor.
He or she is there to help you, and post-partum depression is serious, as is antenatal depression.
When my depression and anxiety are creeping up on me, I have a very hard time making even the simplest decision or focusing. Simple things like, what do I want to eat can take me forever to decide and that can completely ruin the short break you get when one or both kids naps. From there, it’s a downward spiral. Yes, I’ve cried because I couldn’t decide between a bowl of cereal or a sandwich.
Will it make you feel better to know that my desk is a mess, too? I stay on top of the rest of the house pretty well, but my work area is a constant battle of paperwork and school books, pencils, pens, and cords.
When you read this, I want you to do a household triage.
Today we’re not worried about clutter. Today we are only worried about the things that would cause child care services to be concerned. Today—and all of the hardest days—we are working around the clutter.
Here are your have-tos. Do these and tell yourself you are doing your best and that is good enough.
- Feed, bathe and dress the kids.
- Make sure no dirty diapers are sitting out.
- If there are animals in the house, all of their waste must be removed immediately.
- Take out the trash, especially any food waste that may be on the counters/coffee table.
Empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher. If this doesn’t take care of all the dishes, fill the sink with soapy water, and soak the rest.
If you do not have a dishwasher, rinse, scrape, and stack the dirty dishes neatly. Begin washing as you can.
Gather it in a place that makes sense. It’s ok to be behind on the laundry. You just have to appear to be making an effort.
These are your mandatory things, and on some days, even they will feel nearly impossible.
One thing at a time, with the baby and toddler coming first and you coming in a close second. You need sleep and probably a lot more of it. The world will not end if you go to bed at 8 pm for the next few weeks. You’re probably getting up at 2, 4, and 6 anyhow.
TMI personal side note:
My kids were all terrible sleepers. Six months after my second kid, I was so sleep-deprived I was hallucinating. I thought I was headed for the psych ward -and scarily was looking forward to the idea of 72 hours of peace- and called my insurance’s hotline. I sat shaking in a psych’s office, dreading who knows what kind of diagnosis to be told, “You know there’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as torture.” I’m a very light sleeper by nature, and my body just conditioned itself not to fall deeply asleep. I ended up with a prescription for sleeping pills that fixed everything in less than two weeks. I can laugh now, but at the time, I was utterly terrified.
Please do me a big favor and email me your mailing address. I’m going to send you a copy of my friend Tsh Oxenrider’s book Organized Simplicity and one of my books Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living; between the two of us, I’m sure there’s an approach to getting out from under the weight of your clutter.
Weekly Chore List To Keep You On Track
In the meantime, do you see that yellow sticky note in the upper right-hand of this post? Right-click it and open the link in a new tab. That will bring you to a breakdown of the weekly chore chart.
Each day of the week has a major chore and a minor chore. If you attend to these consistently, your house will slowly become cleaner. These two chores are outside the bare minimum, which includes:
- Do the dishes and sanitize food preparation areas.
- Wipe down the bathroom sink and toilet
- Sweep or vacuum as needed
- Put your stuff away
- Check your schedule
Currently, you have well-baby visits, well mom visits, etc. Do not miss those.
And please, listen closely when I tell you that life will get easier.
At the moment, your life has shrunk to pretty much what goes in and what comes out of your babies.
It will expand again.
When you have a moment where you feel good enough to really start cleaning, here’s a strategy for when you’re overwhelmed by the mess.
I know a lot of you have been in her shoes. Please share with this reader what helped get you through.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.