Being a mother is an incredibly rewarding experience; as you look at your little bundle of joy you are usually overwhelmed with feelings of love and protectiveness, on a level you may never have experienced before. Yet having a child can also be stressful; it changes your daily routine, it impacts upon your finances and it affects your relationship with your partner.
The Juggling Act of Motherhood
All mums have a lot to cope with and are frequently rushed off their feet with childcare, all the extra household chores generated, trying to find time for their partner, and possibly going back to work as well. Mums are like jugglers, trying to keep all the balls in the air and feeling like they may drop one at any moment, and yet enjoying the game all at the same time.
Your Secret Enemy
You wouldn’t want anything to make your life harder at this crucial time, but there is something that is impacting upon your time, your energy and your feelings of well being like a secret enemy; and that thing is clutter.
Clutter might appear to be lying around innocently, not doing anybody any harm, but I beg to differ. When you are rushing around, trying to get your child to the doctor, nursery, school, or even just to the park, it can take you ages to even get out of the house.
Many things can be responsible for this; a dirty nappy, a sudden hunger attack (you or your child!) your child being uncooperative, or you being tired. But all too often the difficulties are aggravated by a missing shoe, mislaid keys, or buggies and car seats clogging up the hall. Clutter in other words.
The Harmful Effects of Clutter
However clutter doesn’t just make you lose things, or be late for appointments, (as if that’s not bad enough!) Clutter also affects your mood. When you can’t move around without tripping over something, when you waste time looking for things, when you miss or are late for appointments, when you’ve got no space to put things, it makes you feel harassed and out of control.
If you feel embarrassed to invite friends around for coffee because of all the mess but you can’t face clearing it away; if you want to hoover but can’t face picking up all the toys off the floor first; if you have a big pile of dirty washing but haven’t had time to empty the washing machine of yesterdays wash yet; you feel stressed and irritable. You want to be on top of things, but you don’t feel as though you are.
What Causes All the Clutter?
Having a cluttered house is common when you have children because of all the equipment, toys and extra clothing which enter your life. See my previous blogs on this topic Clutter Control for Children and How To De-Clutter Your Children. At the same time you have less time and energy to deal with all these extra possessions in your life, so things don’t always get put away or given away. Who has time to sort out all this stuff when life is a merry-go-round which you never have time to step off?
However the fact is that if you did make some time to deal with the clutter, then you would save time and feel better. Ask your partner, parents, or a friend to look after your children for an afternoon, or better still a day, and spend the time tackling your clutter. It may not seem like a fun way to spend your day off, but trust me, it will make your life a whole lot easier.
Where to Start
Tackle the worst areas first. Clutter tends to build up in the hall, living room and your child’s bedroom, so deal with these areas first. The hall has is the centre of the house and deals with a lot of traffic, so begin here. Find somewhere to keep coats, shoes, umbrellas, buggies and car seats, so that you’re not tripping over them in the hall.
If you have a cupboard under the stairs then make sure there is room in there to keep these items by getting rid of anything you don’t use. Sell, give to charity, or put stuff in your loft if it may be useful in the future; but make space for today’s needs. If you don’t have a cupboard under the stairs, then a sturdy wall rack would be useful for coats, bags and even your buggy to be hung up. The important thing is to get all this stuff out from under your feet.
Living Room Clutter
The living room needs to be kept reasonably clear so that you can invite friends around, and so that you and your partner have somewhere to relax when the kids are in bed. A big wooden chest that could double as a coffee table is useful here so that you can quickly scoop up all the toys and get them out of site. If you have a bay window, then a built in window seat would also provide a good hideaway for toys. Don’t allow your hall or living room to become clogged up with tricycles or ride-on toys. Only allow one of these items to be out at a time and keep the others in a cupboard or shed. Wheeled toys are large, never stay in one place and can trip you up very easily, so they have a very high annoyance factor.
Children’s Room Clutter
Children’s bedrooms look so lovely when they are tidy, but so awful when your children have actually been using them. Children love to get toys out, but somehow don’t display the same enthusiasm when it comes to putting them away again! You must have plenty of storage in a child’s room or you can’t expect them to keep the room tidy. If the storage is at the child’s level then it will enable them to tidy things away themselves, however you may want certain delicate items stored out of their reach. Ideally you will need cupboards with shelves for games and boxed toys, a wooden or wicker toy hamper for cuddly and loose toys, shelves for ornaments, and pegs for bags, aprons, hats etc.
The most important factor, however is to insist upon a daily tidy. Before bed is good, but any time of day which suits you will do. Everything should put away once a day, to contain the mess. If your child is reluctant to tidy up, or just gets it all out again straight away, then I suggest you rotate toys. Apart from a few real favourites, keep half of your child’s toys elsewhere in a place where they can’t get at them (in the loft if necessary) and then every month swop them all around. This will give you half as much mess, and half as much for your child and you to tidy away each day. It will also ensure that your child has a fresh supply of toys every month, as children get bored with their possessions very quickly.
Life is Easier Without Clutter
This may all sound like a lot of work, and it is. But if you do the work now then you’ll have less to do every day. With less clutter around you will have more time (and who doesn’t need that) because you won’t waste so much tidying up. You will be more likely to get to appointments and even visits to your mother on time, because of no more lost possessions. You will feel free to spend more time with your partner and to invite friends around, because you won’t feel ashamed of the way your home looks.
Most importantly of all, without clutter you will feel calmer and more in control of your life, and this will benefit you, your partner and your children. Being a mum should be the best time in your life, and with your clutter under control, it can be!
I initially wrote this blog post at the request of the website Mojomums.co.uk and it was published there in July 2012. It remains my copyright.