Hi, I’m Karen. I like boxes lined up in neat rows, tidy drawers and label makers. I like peace, calm, and order. I like to be organised and feel in control of my life.
Then I had four kids.
Yes, go ahead and laugh. Because I know you can just imagine what my life is like right now.
I do get peace. For approximately 40 minutes per day from 8.30pm until ten past nine, at which point I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open to enjoy that glass of wine I’ve been hanging out for all day.
As for the order and organisation part, well.
Apart from three chronically messy children, I have a baby who’s latest mission in life is to pull every single piece of Tupperware that I own from my cupboard and strew them artistically all over the kitchen floor….
… then as I’m putting those away, he’s pulling ice cube trays from the freezer…
… then as I rescue the melting ice, he’s already managed to empty the Tupperware cupboard again.
Don’t worry. This week I baby proofed.
Now our cupboard doors are fastened so tightly that we can’t access them without a screwdriver, a tungsten drill, a blowtorch and a safe-cracking manual. I don’t even know what’s in them any more.
Look, life around here is usually chaos, alright. I will not lie. Kids have an uncanny ability to create chaos out of thin air. And this superpower increases exponentially with each child.
There’s even a mathematical formula for it using the universal scientific unit of measurement for chaos, the K.Os. It’s really fancy. Where x is the number of your offspring, K.Os = x x (1 + x). So:
1 child = 2 units of K.Os
2 children = 6 units of K.Os
3 children = 12 units of K.Os
4 children = 20 units of K.Os
5 children = 30 units of K.Os
In short, as a K.Os expert well up there on the scale of home craziness, I feel well positioned to share with you my top ten tips for how to create calm and cheat your way to a semblance of order in your home… when EVERYTHING feels like chaos.
1. Go for the quick win
The bad news is, you can’t do everything.
The good news is, you can do something.
Don’t overcomplicate things and decide you’re going to declutter your entire home while simultaneously building a new garden shed with your bare hands, scrubbing down every wall from ceiling to floor, creating enough freezer meals for a whole year and homeschooling your children in Latin and Greek.
Just do one small thing that will give you a big emotional pay-off.
Choose one, and one only.
Give yourself 10-15 minutes and then stand back and admire your prowess. YOU just did that. You are a take-charge, get-it-done kinda girl.
Every time you see your shiny sink or clean car mats, give yourself a little pat on the back. You created order out of chaos, just like that.
2. Create an oasis
Toys are like a virus. They spread and multiply and take over everything and then you die.
Wait. That might be a bit overly dramatic.
But anyhow, let’s declare a quarantine on toys and keep one part of the house that’s just for you.
Ban toys in the master bedroom. Stick a big “STOP!” sign on the door if you must. Or lock yourself (and everyone else) out and break in with a butter knife and a balaclava once the kids are in bed.
Then switch off the overhead lights and use lamps instead, put candles beside the bath and a book on the bedside table. Make it like your own personal day-spa. Free of charge. Opening hours: 8:30pm-6.30am. It’s your own personal bubble of calm.
Sign off from social media and have a date with relaxation instead.
3. Do a brain dump
I am easily overwhelmed. I’m the one who wakes up at 2am thinking about everything I have to get done, and then I can’t get back to sleep, and then the next day as a result I’m too tired to do any of it.
My brain’s natural tendency is to chase after each task as if it’s a rabbit disappearing into an underground warren.
That one thing I have to do turns into five, then my brain takes a sharp left hand turn as I spot another rabbit speeding down a different tunnel, then before I know it I’m overwhelmed with a myriad of to-do’s and I really musts and don’t forgets all piled on top of each other in a mountain of mental chaos.
The absolute BEST thing you can do if you’re anything like me, is a brain dump.
Get a blank sheet of paper and write down ALL. THE. THINGS.
Everything you need to do. Everything you must not forget.
Just having it all down on paper will take a huge burden off your mind.
Either that, or you’ll crack mentally and set fire to the paper and then run around the house screaming like a madwoman.
If you’re lucky enough to have a Dreams by Design planner, there is a dedicated fold-out page each month JUST for brain dumping, where you can list everything you need to do by category and automatically feel super organised and in control of your life.
If you’re unlucky enough not to have one, go get one. You’ll love it. Everyone else does. #problemsolved
4. Remove your labels and judgements
Okay, this might sound a bit airy-fairy, but bear with me, ‘cos this is a biggie.
The truth is, our stress as mothers comes not from the circumstances we face, but from how we react to them.Our stress as mothers comes not from the circumstances we face, but from how we react to them.Click To Tweet
I’ve experienced some stressful situations with my kids. From being told my daughter might have a brain tumour; to going through two eye surgeries with her – first as an 18month old, and again at age 3; to dealing with a special needs son whose behaviour is often extreme; to having 3 kids aged 3 and under with no family support; and all the everyday stresses in between.
So believe me that I don’t say this lightly.
But it’s true.
Stuff happens. We observe it. Then the internal monologue starts up. We worry and fret about what the future holds. We blame ourselves for not having it all together. We wonder where we’ve gone wrong for our kids to be this out of control. We tell ourselves a big old story about what is happening to us and why it’s so terrible.
It doesn’t even take a crisis to switch on our destructive inner monologue. We do it every day in the most common of situations.
Have you ever walked into a room that was filled with clutter and immediately started thinking, “Ugh! What a mess! This place is a pigsty. Why can’t those kids ever pick up after themselves? I have to do everything around here! If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times…” and on, and on, and on.
What’s really going on here? We’re slapping labels and negative judgements on everything we see. Words like “mess” and “pigsty” are labels. You may believe they’re true, but they’re not helpful – they just create stress that wasn’t there before.
The toys and clothes on the floor don’t have the power to make you stressed. You do that all by yourself.
Here’s how to break the habit.
5. Take a mini-break
You don’t need five thousand bucks and airplane tickets to Tahiti to take a holiday from reality. You can do it anytime. Right now, even.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this:
Stand still. Feel how your feet are connected to the floor. Take a few really deep, slow breaths. Visualise yourself breathing out the stress and breathing in calm.
- Three things you can see
- Three things you can hear
- Three things you can feel
This helps you get out of your judgemental mindset (the part that’s slapping on labels and telling yourself a big story about how crazy stressed-out you are) and just observe what is really around you, with no words attached.
It’s ridiculously calming. You should try it.
6. Make a plan
What areas of your life are stressing you out the most right now?
You might be tempted to yell, “EVERYTHING!” and tear your clothes and lock yourself in the pantry with a bottle of Scotch.
But don’t do that. Try to narrow it down. Chances are, there are a few main things that are causing you the most stress in your home at this moment.
Is it the behaviour of your kids? The clutter in every room?
Narrow it down even more. If it’s your kids behaviour that’s bothering you, is there a particular time of day that you’re struggling with the most? If it’s the clutter in your home, is there one area in particular that is like a thorn in your side? Maybe the way paperwork collects on your kitchen bench, or the pile of kicked-off shoes in the garage that resembles a jumble sale in a slum?
Pick your top three home stressors, then make a plan. Sit down and at the top of a piece of paper, write,
“THE PROBLEM IS: ________”
Underneath that, write, “THE SOLUTION MIGHT BE:”
… and then brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of. Being solution focussed instead of problem focused will help you feel calmer and more in control.Home in chaos? Being solution focussed will help you feel calmer & more in control. See all 7 tips: Click To Tweet
Instead of wringing your hands in the pantry about everything that is wrong with your life, you’re now taking charge and showing that chaos who’s boss.
7. Gather resources to help you
This year has been tough for me on the parenting front. Whenever I’ve been feeling super overwhelmed with my middle son’s behaviour (ie. most days in 2017), I jump onto a forum for mums of kids with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Then, I just read.
It makes me feel less alone to hear other mums venting when they’ve had a bad day or celebrating a win.
But most of all, these mums share ideas with each other. If someone on there has a problem, another mum has a solution. I’ve picked up SO many tips and ideas just from listening to other mums who’ve been in the trenches and survived.
The worst part of parenting and home-making chaos is simply feeling like it’s all out of your control. Like you’re helpless to do anything to change it.
Believe me girl, I get it. I’ve been there and felt that many times.
But now, instead of staying stuck in that horrible place where everything feels out of control, I access as many resources as I need to in order to get help and move me forward. I gather books, tools and courses, learn as much as I can, and try new things.
Some things work. Some don’t. But instead of feeling helpless, I feel empowered, motivated, and excited to be making change.
Here’s to finding our calm amid the chaos.
I’m cheering you on, girl. We can do this!