Organised {Chaos}

People often comment how tidy my house is considering I have three young children.

But the truth is, it’s not that my house is ALWAYS tidy {anyone who’s come round at feeding time can vouch for this} but more that I’ve put methods in place to make it EASY {or easier} to tidy. I like to think of it more of an “organised {or at least contained} chaos” kinda home.

When you have kids mess is inevitable. Toys come out, drinks get spilled and food gets EVERYWHERE. In fact almost everything is fair game when the boys want to play games such as “roads” aka get anything and everything out on the floor. Fun times.

This level of chaos can send any laid back wannabe-be perfect housewife into full meltdown mode and I’m the first to admit I’ve found it incredibly hard at times to accept. But {as with most things} a level of compromise is required. I like an organised house. The kids need to be able to play. So we make it work.

An orderly home makes me feel relaxed and in control. Subsequently chaos makes me anxious and feeling overwhelmed; making finding ways of organising {for me} a priority. But if I’m not careful I can spend a lot of my time attempting to keep some level of status quo and get a bit obsessed. So I’ve tried to find a balance between my own need for tidiness, letting the kids be kids and spending quality time with my little family rather than spending all my time cleaning up.

Our home is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not a show home or Mrs Hinch worthy but I like to think we keep it nice-enough for us. And actually since the twins came along I think it’s much more homely and welcoming.

So how do I attempt to keep on top of our own little corner of chaos? Here’s a few twintastic tips:

1 / Simplify

Keep.It.Simple. You can’t organise mess. I’m a HUGE fan of Marie Kondo {if you haven’t watched Tidying Up on Netflix or read her book do it NOW!} and even after numerous trips to the charity shop and local dump I’m still shocked by the amount of STUFF we have. I’ll do a separate post about the KonMari Method but in summary – the simpler the better. You don’t need to buy your kids hundred of toys or have everything out at once {see point 3 below}. Your shelves don’t need to be full to the brim and every inch of floor space taken up. More stuff = more to tidy and clean. What do all those home posts you like on Pinterest or in magazines have in common? They are usually relatively simple. Ditch the clutter and embrace simplicity.

2 / A place for everything and everything in it’s place

I aim for every single thing in my house to have a home. This makes it easier to tidy up and put things where they belong {as long as everyone knows where that place is!} If something doesn’t have a home it’s usually because we don’t need it. This mindset also helps curb random buys – where is that item is going to live in your home? Is it useful and/or brings you joy? If not. Ditch it.

3 / Remove ‘high stress’ objects/toys

Lego. The boys love it but clearing up a million tiny pieces drives me potty. Add to that the fact we now have a little person who likes to put everything in her mouth it has became an important issue to tackle. Attempts at getting them to tidying up or keep these tiny bricks of mischief in one place have been pretty fruitless and if it’s kept in their bedroom they’ll end up staying up late into the evening. Therefore {for now} Lego lives out of the boys’ reach as an ‘under supervision’ or ‘get out and put away’ activity. The same goes for play dough and any kind of arts and crafts. It’s just not worth the stress. Similarly if sand {for example} drives you potty don’t buy a sandpit; instead find a local park or cafe that has one. Problem solved.

4 / Think about storage

When it comes to storage {again} simplicity is key. I’m a huge fan of Ikea’s Kallax shelves {you can also get versions at B&Q and Argos} which can be fitted with boxes, shelves, doors or left open. I currently have 6 Kallax; three with four squares and three with eight and find them so useful for storing everything from toys and books to office equipment and even as a TV stand. I use pretty boxes and baskets and try not to clutter things together too much. I also use Pinterest for both storage and design inspiration.

5 / Designated rooms for toys

We try to keep the living room, our room and the spare room generally toy free {apart from a few of Penny’s things which can be easily boxed up or put to the side} and designate specific rooms for toys {the conservatory, kids’ rooms and we are lucky enough to have a playroom}. The boys can play in any room but those are the rooms the toys are kept in and if all else fails they contain the chaos keeping our ‘adult’ rooms free to relax in and basically ignore the mess/current in-progress or abandoned game {ha!}

6 / Finding a cleaning/tidying routine that works for you

I’m a huge fan of The Organised Mum Method {#TeamTOMM} designed by Gemma Bray who has created an achievable cleaning plan based on 15 minute ‘level 1 jobs’ and 30 minutes of focused cleaning 5 days a week. All of which can be downloaded for free on her website! Gemma also has a book coming out in the autumn now available for pre-order. Whatever method works for you – little and often helps keep the chaos at bay.

7 / Target dump areas

Similar to ‘high stress’ objects try to find a way of getting rid of ‘dump’ areas – the place everyone puts unread mail, shoes, bags or just random stuff. To tackle these types of items I have a basket under the stairs for the boys’ shoes which they can kick them off into; I also have a basket for my bags and have fitted hooks for the kid’s backpacks and coats which they can reach themselves. I try to keep on top of the dump area in our kitchen and by following Marie Kondo’s tidying method I find it a lot easier to either dispose of or file paperwork straightaway. I’m still working on my ‘current’ pile as I usually end up just moving it around the house instead of dealing with it.

8 / 15 minute sweep up

I spend 15 mins every evening {usually whilst the boys are winding down} putting things away, doing the final bits of washing up, sweep the floors and prep for the next day. I use a ‘bung it’ basket to collect up and re-distribute anything that doesn’t belong and try to prep a wash to put on first thing. Then when the kids are {finally} in bed I can put my comfies on, have a cuppa and relax or get some work or a project done in a tidy, uncluttered space. It also means we can start a fresh each day ready for the next round of chaos.

9 / Give your kids responsibility

Now the boys are nearly 4 I feel like they can start to take responsibility for some simple actions/chores {like put your coat and shoes away, tidying up their toys or even a bit of dusting!} and for them to have the opportunity to have responsibility for their own things – these are YOUR toys and this is YOUR playroom and therefore your responsibility to keep it tidy. It also never dawned on me that kids may need you to show them HOW to tidy. My boys now quite enjoy arranging the cushions on the sofa {!} But I also think it’s important to give them the chance to have things as they want them. You may like all the cars sorted into separate boxes but they may like them to be with the farm animals. Try to give them the opportunity to decide how they want THEIR stuff.

10 / Don’t try to be perfect

Your children won’t stay little for long and your house will one day be toy-free. I really try not to clean up whilst the kids are playing but sometimes I just can’t help myself {!} If they’re happily engrossed in something, I’ll do a quick tidy up around them just to help keep on top of things {and because I’m a crazy person who likes tidying}. Find a level of organisation you can cope with and try to accept that kids = some level of chaos. Let them play, get muddy and build dens. They’re only little once and all that.

Obviously we have times when tidying up just isn’t a priority but I also won’t apologise for trying to be house-proud. These methods help me keep my mind and our home ‘homely’. They mean a room can go from complete chaos to some level of organisation with relative ease. I don’t always go to bed with or come home to a tidy home but that’s ok 🙂 But when I do I can think clearly, ready to face what’s next to come. Until the house needs tidying again {ha!}

The one exception to all of this is if we have a play date – all rules go out the window and you just have to embrace the pandemonium! {When you know you know!}

How do you attempt to organise you’re own personal corner of chaos?

The Big {Pink} Jumper

Truth be told I’ve not been feeling particularly pukka lately.

Big changes are looming; with the end of my maternity leave playing heavily on my mind and an overwhelming list of jobs I’d hoped to complete before going back to work paralysed by procrastination/mummy life {see The Art of {Completion}}.

On Saturday I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to leave the house {Mr H had hurt his back so was off work}. So like any wild-at-heart mum I left the boys at home and took P to Tesco {ha!} Wandering around at our own pace was blissful. P is now big enough to sit in the trolley and Tesco’s free fruit for kids policy meant she could happily munch on a banana – thank you free entertainment!

And there it was. On a random sale rack by the biscuit aisle. A big pink jumper. My interest was sparked. It was bright and loud. Everything I was not feeling. But I liked it anyway. And quite frankly for a tenner it was an absolute bargain.

Back home and on it went. I instantly felt self-conscious and slightly blancmange like. But oh wow it was sooooo comfortable and perfect for lounging around the house in if nothing else.

{Living it large amongst the playroom chaos}
 
{The pink jumper}

Later that day my friend popped round and we took the kids for a walk to the park. I was planning to change but couldn’t be bothered and that’s when I thought f**k it. I love my big pink jumper. I’m comfortable and it makes me happy so who cares what anyone else thinks. {Self-conscious thoughts be gone!}

The next day I wore it again to the garden centre. Then again this morning and now snuggled up in bed {it probably needs to go in the wash}.

I’ve still got some work to do on my self-confidence and getting to a place I feel happy both mentally and physically but for now I shall wear my big pink jumper with pride 🙂

The point of this post? To say wear your ‘pink jumper’, don’t let your perceived thoughts of what other people think deter you from being you and doing/wearing what makes you happy. I may not always feel bright, but in my big pink jumper maybe I can fake it ’til I make it right?

 

 

 

Back to {me}

A friend shared this post on Facebook today which really hit home:

Parenting is a selfless act.  The act of putting those you care about most before yourself.  You spend so much time tending to their needs that it’s easy to forget your own.  And it’s also easy to feel like you’ve forgotten part of yourself. You wouldn’t change being a parent for the world but you can also feel like you’ve lost who you were before you were mummy.  Before your day revolved solely around the needs of others. Before you could put yourself first guilt free.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve lost my sparkle.  I’ve produced three beautiful children who bring me more happiness than I could ever imagine but somewhere along the way I’ve lost sight of myself.  

With P now 7 months old, the boys more settled and me starting to plan my return to work, now seems like a good time to start putting in some much needed me time and self-reflection.

Standing in front of the mirror it’s hard to recognise the reflection staring back at me.  Grey hairs, sore skin, milk filled breasts, mum tum. No definition. Too much excess. The crashing waves of defeat and self loathing come strong.  The urge to change. To do better. Look better. Feel better.

But then my perception changes.

I remember to be kind to myself.

I look again and change my terminology to soft, curvy, womanly, voluptuous.  My children would see the the person who makes them feel safe and loved. The person who gives the best cuddles and tells stories in silly voices. I asked them what they liked about mummy and they replied “you”.

This is the body that created and nurtured three children.  The body those children cuddle up to and seek comfort and strength from.  The body my husband fell in love with, The body my friends and family accept.  My body. This is me.

I thought becoming a mother had made me lose my sparkle but what is my perception of “sparkle”?  I’m not actually sure this “sparkle” actually ever existed.  A figment of my imagination of what I “should” look like. How I should feel and act. This perfect image of life.

I’ve probably spent the best part of 30 years thinking {worrying} about body image.  Trying to change or will myself to change how I look. Never quite comfortable with how I am or accepting myself.  And to be honest I really don’t want to spend another minute {let alone another 30 years} feeling like I need to change myself, feeling guilty for not giving up chocolate or deprived from living my best life.

What I do want is to be healthy and happy and respect my body.  I want to work on my mental health and have a healthy relationship with myself.  I want my children to grow up with a positive body image and see me comfortable in my own skin so that hopefully they will be comfortable in theirs.  I want my sons to love and respect women of all shapes and sizes and my daughter to feel confident and secure. I don’t want them to feel shame or to shame others.

I want to enjoy life and know I’ve not only given them the best start but also that I’m going to do my very best to be around for a long time to see them grow and flourish.  

To know that I can sparkle at any time.  That this is who I am and I should embrace it rather than shy away.  

Time to sparkle 🙂  

Daddy {Daycare}

Hands up who has had a moan about their husband/partner recently? ✋

A recent Instagram post by mother of all adventures {Our Men – see below} got me thinking.

Quite frankly Mr H drives me potty {!}

He can be is so annoying , knows how to press my buttons and delights in winding me up {can I get an amen}. After 13 years together you’d think I’d have him sussed but nope I still take the bate and get more wound up than a tangled slinky.

Mr H is not Mr Romantic. Remembering anniversaries and birthdays and lavishing gifts is not his thing. He’s more of a “I bought you two cans of Rio because I know you love it” rather than a “look darling I’ve booked a weekend away in Paris” kinda guy. And you know what that’s ok by me {I do love a can of Rio with my chicken shish kebab}.

He’s not a morning person and his first response to most things before 10am {aka coffee and something to eat} is no. You have to pick the timing of requests or general conversations carefully if you want to get a positive response.

His parenting style is very different to mine. He’s quick to anger but also quick to forgive and forget. He’s all bark and no bite. He will play with the kids for hours. Putting in quality time over housework. I’m definitely guilty of coming in from work and seeing the house turned upside down before seeing happy children.

I see him sitting on his phone whilst I sort breakfast, the washing, getting everyone dressed and bags packed for the day when actually he stayed up late to pre-cook tonight’s dinner so we can eat as soon as we’re home {and did the washing up}.

I see an untidy house when he sees a home {and he sees a poorly organised fridge when I see somewhere to shove food}.

I see unsociable when he’s actually fiercely private.

I see lack of family time when he’s working all hours to provide.

I wish for weekends away when he carries our financial burden.

I see nit picking when he’s just trying to have an input.

I expect him to read my mind, understand what I want and preempt my mood. When actually a simple request for help or to say I’m not feeling great would give him a heads up and the opportunity to step in.

He’s loyal, kind, generous and has stood by and supported me through everything life has to throw at us. And I him.

He’s changed his life to suit us. He chose family over a social life. Sometimes I wonder if {and actually know that} I’ve tamed him too much. He has a wild spirit and adventurous heart whereas I’m naturally cautious and risk averse. But as he reminds me, he chose to change.

He trusts me without question. He has never said I can’t do something, go out, spend money. He has never tried to tame my independence. If I told him I was going away for a week with the girls he wouldn’t bat an eyelid. He’d probably forget I was going but he’d never question it or ask me not to go.

We are so different in so many ways

He’s figuring it out like the rest of us.

He drives me mad but my goodness that man makes me laugh, makes me feel safe, loved and desired and I wouldn’t change him for the world.

He works hard to provide for us and ensure we want for nothing.

I’m guilty of putting my own mental health before his. Forgetting that he also needs the opportunity to take some time out, offload and feel supported.

Daddy Daycare 2 - A Life Twintastic

My boys have the best role {with some tweaking from mum} and are being raised as gentlemen {who can probably pack a punch}.  They are loud. They are grumpy. They are kind. They are fiercely protective of each other and of us. “Mummy I’ll come with you to look after you.” “Mummy hold my hand and I’ll help you.” “My favourite part of today was daddy chasing me with a baby dragon” {aka Penny}.

I read a comment on a post about someone’s dislike of the use of the term “daddy daycare”. A phase I use all the time. Not because he’s “babysitting” but because in our personal case I’ve taken maternity leave {as opposed to shared paternity} and have taken on the bulk of childcare before going back to work at which time we will share it. I am also a bit of a control freak and like to take on the role of family organiser. Not because he is any less a parent but because that’s what I’m good at and enjoy.

I get up to the baby in the night because I chose to do so. If {heaven forbid} I got hit by a bus he’d be fine. So yes I use the phase “daddy daycare” and will continue to do so, as a lighthearted name for the day’s daddy goes it alone. When we’re both home we both parent. The fact of the matter is he works longer hours than me and therefore I am home more. If it was the other way around we’d call it “mummy daycare”. {Was that ranting? It felt like a rant, my bad}.

Anyway it’s now 5am and I’ve been nursing P since 3am so should probably try to get some sleep. Between us I think we’re doing ok.

 

The Art of {Completion}

Do you ever feel like you have a never-ending to-do list which feels impossible to complete?  

I find myself looking forward to the day I can sit down with everything in place.  My to-do list done. Projects on track. The house clean. Cupboards stocked. Wardrobe organised.  Everything ready to for the next day. Everything complete. Wine in hand. Food in belly. Bliss. Finally able to fully switch off and relax.

But alas that’s not how life works.  Food gets eaten. Houses get dirty. Children need attention.  It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed in the endless need to keep on top of everything.  Something which can affect both adults and children alike – from parental guilt of never doing or giving enough to children feeling overwhelmed by endless projects and social anxiety.  

For many tasks completion in its simplest term is near enough impossible.  But re-defined it can become empowering. You will never ‘complete’ housework.  However, by sticking to a schedule {such as TOMM} you can rethink your definition of completion and tick that endless job off your list.  YOU can decide what ‘completed’ looks like. For example – if I put a clothes wash on every weekday morning then that job is completed.

I’m a typical to-do list writer and thrive off ticking things off but with that I am also guilty of being highly skilled at the art of procrastination and spend more time writing lists than completing them  I also tend to have lists everywhere; on my phone, in notebooks, on scraps of paper, in my diary and on Alexa. Alas my attempt at being organised suddenly becomes a contradiction in terms and very little, if anything at all, gets done.  

Whilst clearing out our office space I found an array of lists which I piled up with a plan to condense into one.  I kid you not, some of these lists contained the same repeated items from over two years {or more} ago which STILL haven’t been ‘completed’.  I realised that these things are either a) no longer necessary/a priority b) too big a project that need breaking down into manageable chunks or c) ongoing activities which don’t have an obvious endpoint .  For example one of the things which regularly featured on my geriatric lists was ‘sort the garage’.

IMG_5428
{Exhibit A}

Our garage has a door into the house which makes it a prime place to dump stuff and can easily build up a mass of all sorts of rubbish interspersed with useful items which have gone MIA (see exhibit A >>>}.  To this day the garage remains to be sorted and therefore it continues to be on my to-do list. But what does sorted look like? What does completion look like? In my idealistic mind I envisage a Pinterest perfect set-up cleverly organised and accessible. Is this likely to happen? Is it a priority? How committed are we to getting {and keeping} it organised? Are we content with a vaguely organised garage  or can it be pushed to the Spring when the kids are in daycare and we can tackle it properly?

My view on this example is that yes I do want to organise the garage, no it probably won’t look Pinterest perfect and yes I expect it will continue to be used as a convenient dumping ground but having started the Konmari Method on the rest of the house I feel like I’m in a good mindset to Marie Kondo the crap out of it 😉  then stay on top of the chaos using the TOMM.  So my plans is to to a) move ‘sort garage’ to a project list and set aside some time probably in the spring to have a proper sort out using the Konmari Method then b) add ‘quick tidy of garage’ to my weekly TOMM, probably on a Wednesday to tie in with the entrance and hallway cleaning.  That way, once the initial clear out has been done, and by ensuring it has a regular tidy up I can be satisfied the job has been ‘completed’ and it will no longer haunt my to-do list 🙂

Other ideas when it comes to windling down that never-ending to-do list:

  • Create a weekly or daily braindump and from it a comprehensive list for immediate/priority jobs – Some days {especially if I’m tired} I like to write down a really extensive to do list even down to getting dressed. Which may, or may not, get completed 😉 but I also know that I don’t need to add things like washing to my to-do list as it’s part of my usual daily tasks anyway making the things that are on their more prominent
  • At the end of the day/week review your list and anything left either gets moved or ditched {be ruthless}
  • Separate larger, non-priority jobs onto a project list which can be done as a sort of hobby, like sorting out your photo collection
  • Allocate deadlines or timescales.  Then if, for example, you haven’t listed those clothes on eBay by the end of the month resolve to take them to the charity shop
  • Factor in help/support – get the kids involved – if I sort and fold the washing they can put it away or they can make their own beds every morning.  
  • ‘Just do it mentality’.  Some jobs just need to be done and got out the way.  
  • Top 3 tasks – Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
  • Limit the number of places you log your lists – I may use my phone or Alexa for shopping lists but I use one notepad for daily tasks. Reminders are kept in my diary.
  • Book it in.  Want to decorate the bathroom but never seem to get around to it?  Send the kids to your parents/friends for the afternoon and book it into the diary
  • My old favourite – delegate!

And remember to be realistic.  If a job has been on your to-do or project list for a long time chances are it has become irrelevant and can be ditched. Maybe now isn’t the right time for particular tasks.  Just started a new job? Have a young baby? Take the pressure off yourself and ditch non-priority tasks. If something is that important it will come up again later when the time is right.  

By creating little routines or a plan of action hopefully you will feel the satisfying sense of completion, life will become a little less stressful and everyone will benefit from a new found sense of harmony in your home.  Sitting down with that glass of wine, having a hot bath or spending more time with your kids guilt free. Whatever your completion looks like, relax and enjoy it!

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