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The One Piece of Advice I Keep Going Back To

A week or so after my first child was born, the home-visiting midwife gave me a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten. It wasn’t about feeding or settling, or the ubiquitous ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ mantra.  It was something totally different and it has stuck with me ever since. Sitting at the dining table that day, surrounded by trail of clutter that had woven its way across all the surfaces of our open plan living area, the midwife looked at me and said, “When you feel like your home is a total mess and out of control, focus on keeping just one part of just one room in order.”

In those early weeks with a newborn baby, I was pretty much stationed on the lounge, feeding and pumping around the clock.  So for me, the one place to focus on was coffee table in the lounge room.  It held the items that I needed on hand – water bottle, remote controls, pumping equipment, a stash of snacks – and in optimistic moments -newspapers and magazines.   As long this part of my world was tidy, everything else instantly felt more manageable.  The advice was simple and it worked.  Even though my daily life had been turned upside down, I felt that I had control over at least a small part of my environment.

Fast forward four years, and that tiny baby is now a bright and busy preschooler.  As craft is a favourite activity, we are often surrounded by pipe cleaners, crepe paper, sequins, and glue.  Fun to use, but not so much fun to clean up.  Added to this, the preschooler has since been joined by a little brother, now a wobbly-walking toddler.  Being an enthusiastic explorer, his main areas of interest are shoes, books, and anything from the freezer.  With the toddler constantly on the move and getting into things, I’ve found that the chaos is starting to creep back in and so I find myself going back to that advice from the midwife.  In the midst of the mess, I focus on restoring order to just one area.

I choose a part of my world that gets a lot of use throughout the week, so that I get the best return for my efforts.  Now that we’re out of the newborn phase, we are out and about a lot more, so the areas that I tend to focus on are my everyday handbag or the inside of the car.  It doesn’t take long to sort the clutter into three piles – items straight for the garbage, items to be put away elsewhere, and those to go back in to the handbag or car.  It’s amazing what random items turn up.  Stapler and half a banana, anyone?

A tidy coffee table, a mess-free car, or an organised handbag can make such a positive impact on my overall impression of the state of my world.  Sure, I may still be surrounded by chaos, and the kids may be working hard on brand new messes for me to discover, but I feel that at least some parts of my life are in order.

When you feel like things are getting out of control with mess, chaos and a backlog of household tasks, know that you are not alone.  It’s all part of raising kids, and there will always be something that we don’t have time to do.  Start by choosing just one area to tackle. 

And the rest?  Well, the rest will just have to wait.

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