When my first child, Bella was born, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. It got so bad that it felt like there was a physical weight on me, I had the hardest time getting out of bed, and it ended up being heavy enough to erase my memories of Bella’s first year. When I think back on that time, it’s like a black hole – there’s nothing there. When I look at photos of myself during that time, it’s so weird because I just don’t remember being there.
I got better after about a year or so, but since then I’ve dipped in and out of depression as it pertained to my situation. What I mean by that is, when life got hard, it was almost as if getting depressed was my new default. I would shut down. We had our next two babies without any bouts with postpartum depression, but situational depression continued to have a hold on me as I was raising my kids.
I just felt like I was always cleaning up, like the purpose of my motherhood was clouded by the maintenance part of my role as a mom. My day was spent changing diapers (I had three kids age three and under, so that took up a lot of my time), washing endless piles of dishes, folding mountains of laundry, constantly trying to keep my house just somewhat picked up, as the kids ripped through like a mess tornado behind me. I did all I could to press pause and enjoy my kids during that hectic time, but it felt forced, and every time I spent time with my family or went to do something fun, I paid for it the next day with even more housework on my to do list. I couldn’t keep up. I was on a fast-moving treadmill that I hated. Is this really what being a mom was all about?
I had this day – this horrible, awful day – where I was emotional, and stressed out, and my toddler was throwing tantrums left and right, the baby was nursing every thirty minutes, my house smelled like a garbage truck and I couldn’t find the time to clean it, my husband was working ninety hours a week just to pay the bills (we lived in an unnecessarily huge house in Southern California), and I just didn’t know what the point was anymore. I ended up locking myself in my bathroom, sitting on the floor, and just crying out to God. “Is this really what you want for me? Is this really it? I hate this and I can’t keep up! There’s no way THIS is how You want me to live my motherhood.”
As I sat there and cried, I felt God turn my attention to what was taking up the bulk of my time. “Cleaning, of course” I said. “Cleaning what?” I felt Him urge me. I realized in one quick, life-changing second that I was always cleaning up STUFF. It was a life of picking up, and I’m not sure it was even stuff we needed! This lightning bolt idea hit me hard, and I immediately got up and went downstairs to the playroom.
This room was full of colorful toy bins and boxes, and those bins and boxes were stuffed with toys. It was all I could do just to keep this room from bringing CPS to our door! It was always messy. I would spend hours cleaning it, rearranging the toys, making it organized again, and my kids would come in and tear it apart in two minutes.
I sat down and worked through each bin and every box, making piles of what was really a great toy that my kids loved and played with often, and what was just taking up space or useless. I had the thought that if my kids were going to have a minimal amount of toys and only play with some of them, they should be the ones that inspire them to use their imaginations, not the loud annoying toys that light up and do the playing for them. What I ended up with was a very late night, lots of coffee, and an empty playroom.
I kept only the constructive play toys (trains and tracks, wooden blocks) and imaginative toys (my daughter’s baby doll and dress up clothes). It all fit in a few small bins, and everything else got bagged up and taken to the local donation center that week.
What happened next is what led me here, to writing this course and inspiring you to make this same change in your life. Everything got better!
All of a sudden my kids weren’t wandering into the playroom, only to come out after five minutes whining of boredom. They were going in there and actually playing! For hours!
I noticed I had so much more free time! I wasn’t spending the bulk of my week picking up toys, so I was able to better manage the rest of the house. At this point I still felt overwhelmed by the piles of laundry and dishes, but I definitely had more time to tackle those things because the kids were busy playing and I wasn’t having to maintain the playroom.
I noticed my kids’ relationships with each other started getting better. They were playing together, creating imaginary scenarios in the backyard together, and getting along!
I was loving how this one simple change was transforming our kids and our home life, so I decided to keep it going.
I thought about the things that took up most of my time (dishes and laundry) and decided to get in there and purge like I did the toys. I got rid of all the extra dishes aside from our main set (just enough for our family and a couple guests), and donated all the clothes my kids and I owned that didn’t fit, were stained or damaged at all, or just weren’t my favorite. At this point my husband, Brian wasn’t on board with me de-cluttering his stuff, so I stuck to what belonged to me and the kids.
All of a sudden I didn’t have to do a load of laundry every day, and I wasn’t spending hours standing at the kitchen sink either. Now I was experiencing so much free time, that I was finally able to play with my kids and enjoy them! We took up daily walks to the park, we went on little hikes, I sat in the backyard with them while they played, I started blogging more and following my dream, my marriage even improved because I wasn’t such a stressed out basket case anymore.
Once the house was under control, I started figuring out that what I was doing was already a thing, and was called minimalism. I implemented its philosophy into other areas of our family life too, like the kids’ tech time. The less TV they watched, the better they got along and the more they played outside. I was watching their imaginations blossom, their relationships grow even closer, and I started to notice this lifestyle was causing them to grow up different than their friends around them. It was like they were growing up with a vintage childhood instead of a modern, tech-obsessed one, and I loved that.
Listen to me friend. I know things are so overwhelming right now, and I know how you feel. It doesn’t have to be this way for one more day.
You can take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and move forward in action. You can live free, focused, and intentionally, no matter how chaotic things are at home right now.