I do not ever remember in my previous life ever being distressed by mess.
The truth of the matter is that there probably was not that much mess to worry about; but the memories of piled up clothes on my teenage bedroom floor and of beer can strewn carpets after student parties never created any internal panic inside my soul!
The stress all started after the birth of my first child. He struggled as a baby to keep any milk down as he had really bad reflux up to the age of one. This resulted in severe sleep deprivation for us both and many tears as we tried to find the best medication and methods to cope. One of which was for me having to sleep sitting up with my baby under one arm as he couldn’t be laid down.
I remember a frosty February morning stuck to the sofa and baby glued to my boob. All I could think about was the tiny bit of paper on the carpet. In fact, I had probably hoovered several times already but I could not bear to sit and leave it. I physically could not relax. I hadn’t slept for days. I knew it was stupid, but there began a spiral of tiredness, new parental strains and OCD. The more the stress, the more any mess angered me. Although it comes and goes, I still find it hard not to become angry when I am under pressure about dropped food, cupboards being emptied, neatly piled clean washing being bounced off previously made beds! (A truly ridiculous thing to worry about when you have four small children!)
General anxiety hit me hard after the birth of the twins, it manifested itself in other ways. Panicky ways. I will talk more about this in a later blog post. Strangers around me praised my calm ways and asked me how I coped. In fact I felt like a Swan on the motorway. (This I might add was something a previous boss had referred to me as but I will come back to the Swan on the motorway another day ……)
I truly know whatever challenges you face during the early months and years of parenthood you can overcome them and will definitely grow, change and be better for it. As parents we dedicate every hour of our lives trying to do the best we can.
The arrival of the first child seems to bring copious amounts of baby ‘stuff’ but that’s only the beginning. Now the daily confliction of trying to get things out of the house verses more things coming in is a never-ending battle. I have drawers of tiny bits of plastic from unknown toys, piles of puzzle pieces awaiting reunion with their friends and a miscellany of cracker and party bag items. Ebaying could become a part job if I had the time or patience for it but at the moment cleaner certainly feels like my full time profession!
Time is the one thing us parents seem to moan over the most. Lack of ‘me time’ lack of ‘couple time’ ‘lack of family time’ but actually we have no less hours in the day then before we became parents. We may have more demands but what we do with our time is our choice; and my problem with the child related clutter is that it takes up so much flipping time to organise!!
SO if you can sympathise; my advice for staying in control and not letting it take up too much mental and physical time are quite simple.
REDUCING THE MESS STRESS WORKLOAD – because let’s face it there are better things to do
- Ask yourself if you really need something before an impulse purchase.
- Once a week choose one area for a quick declutter.
A quick sort through the bookcase, a child’s clothes drawer or rummage in the toy box.
Don’t spend long but take out anything no longer used/worn or grown out of.
- Have a large shopping bag or plastic storage box- somewhere to dump all the things that are collected during each little sort.
- Once a month process the box of items and clear. Organise things to be sold second hand/given away or recycled.
- If you are asked what a child may like for their birthday or Christmas and stuck for ideas -consider maybe asking for vouchers towards a day out or money towards a family day trip somewhere.
- Reserve a little area somewhere to have a bit of clear and calm. I try to keep a corner worktop clear for my diary and notebooks free of toys and clutter.
- AND most importantly learn to live with the mess. Let children play and be free to explore and make believe with pots and pans and cut up pieces of paper into a million tiny bits because this is what they love to do. One day I know I will look around my home and in nostalgia miss the little shiny stickers up the walls and tiny chairs and table covered in scribbles.
This post has been submitted by our Survival Squad member Joanna Lloyd. You can follow Jo’s family life on her instagram page.