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How I Finally Conquered Mommy Overwhelm with 4 Kids (Ages 5 and under)

Even thinking back on what life was like just a short time ago brings up feelings of anxiety, overwhelm and just utter helplessness. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with anything – the house, spending quality time with each kid, homeschooling, and forget about self-care. Then I was supposed to maintain friendships and remember to nurture the relationship with that other adult human that lives here…what’s my husband’s name again?

Seriously, our house was out of control and our kids showed it.

Our finances reflected it in late fees and massive food expenses.

Basically everything came down to poor planning.

Even that is generous. Absolutely no planning.

I can honestly say we didn’t get into this predicament because I’m lazy or don’t care. It was the opposite.

I cared so much about every single one of the balls that I was trying so desperately to keep in the air that I didn’t want to short-change one, so I waited to tackle it until I had a foolproof plan.

Until I had researched the issue enough or come up with the perfect meal plan to tackle the food budget, Until I had finished reading that parenting book before I started trying to correct my kids’ behavior or (gasp) address how my husband and I contributed to their behavior issues.

I fought my husband every step of the way toward our solution because in my mind, he was one of the biggest parts of the problem.

His expectations were too high as far as the cleanliness and organization of the house, at least I thought so, because we have so many young kids! How can anyone keep an organized house with young kids?

Actually, this deserves a whole section of it’s own…

Can Your House Actually Be Clean and Organized with Young Kids?

It turns out yes, it can’t, but the solutions aren’t what you want to hear.

The thing is, everyone has stuff, and most of us have lots of it.

You can’t expect to have kids, have a clean house, and have a ton of stuff. Your stuff takes time.

Your kids drag it out of place and you have to put it back.

Every single thing in your house is another thing you have to either manage, or keep out of reach of your kids so it doesn’t require management.

There are constant toys, toys we thought were a good idea, toys that were a reward for some great behavior, toys we thought would help correct some seeming educational deficiency or would help solve the problem (looking at you Melissa and Doug cleaning tower)!

I went to the store and bought bins.

I ordered these really cute chalk labels on Amazon.

During a fight with my husband about the house and our food expenses, I stormed off to Target and bought an adorable chalk calendar sure to help us stick to a meal plan and a woven basket for the living room to dump toys in at the end of the night so every day would start without clutter.

I bought and I bought and I bought. I spent us into a corner packed with plastic and wooden storage organization crap that had no real intentional purpose.

Case and point – when we moved, I had a box labeled “Dollar Tree Organization”, one labeled “Organization bins”, and THREE labeled “Random Shit.”

I wish I was kidding.

When you have literal boxes of “random shit” it means you’ve just about given up.

Finally, after another huge fight with my husband caused by the complete disastrous state of our lives – our house was a mess, our kids were disrespecting each other, us, and their toys… I had had enough.

I brought out some of those organization bins.

I packed three 18 gallon totes to the brim with kids’ clothes. 

Not clothes they’d outgrown. Clothes that still fit that were hanging in our packed closet.

I donated SEVEN lawn and garden garbage bags full of baby and toddler clothes.

I took away just about every single toy our kids had.

If I was going to fix this, we were going to simplify down to bare bones and then slowly start adding things back in as we could handle it.

When I realized I was being a little crazy about the toys, I brought out the Duplo. That’s it.

Our four kids, ages 5 down to 9 months, play only with Duplo right now.

I minimized our kitchen. You can see my list of everything I kept in this post. Spoiler alert – it’s not much.

My point with all of this is, if you want to stop being overwhelmed, you simply need less to do.

Since you’re probably not going to be getting rid of any of your kids any time soon, you need to take away just about everything else.

Don’t even get rid of it if you don’t want to. 

Pack it into boxes and take it one day at a time. What do you miss? What do you actually need?

When you cut your life down to the absolute bare bones, the magic starts to happen.

Suddenly, you’re not putting your kids in front of the TV so you can get 10 minutes to load and unload the dishwasher.

You’re not stepping over piles of dirty laundry to get to the clean laundry that sits in bins – never to be put away.

When did we decide we needed all of this crap?

What is making you keep it? 

For me, it could be boiled down to guilt.

Guilt about getting rid of a perfectly good toy or outfit that my kids could use.

Guilt that other kids don’t have things like this. 

Fear that one day we may not be so lucky to be able to get things like this for our kids. That I may one day have to feel guilty that my kids have nothing and I’ll suddenly remember this one toy I’m contemplating getting rid of and regret it.

Guilt when I think about the person who spent their hard-earned money on this thing for us…

You get the picture. Also, it’s totally okay if at this point you’re feeling REALLY bad for my husband. I do too.

I’m giving you permission in this moment to get rid of that thing. To pack it away in the garage and forget about it. To donate it or throw it away if it can’t be given away.

Let me put a spin on this if guilt is your thing…

Instead of feeling guilty about the things you’re taking out of your home and away from your family, I want you to remember the thing you’re taking away by not simplifying your life…

Right now, if you’re anything like I was, you’re taking time away from your kids and spouse to manage all of the stuff in your house.

You’re rushing to get things done in what little spare time you do have instead of focusing on self-care and filling up your own cup.

You’re actually costing your kids the one thing you can never buy them with any amount of money later. They’ll never get another childhood or time to play hide and go seek with your young kids.

You can have a house full of crap later.

The time to enjoy your kids and to manage your stress-level is now.

If you take nothing else from all of this rambling, please just pack up all of the stuff. Put away the extra dishes, the toys, the clutter. 

Simply your house to a ridiculous extent and when you think you’re done, simplify some more.

Send me hate mail if you truly hate it, but I highly doubt it will ever come to that. 

I hated the thought of doing this and fought my husband every step of the way toward “minimalism”. I hate labels, but I can tell you that as I sit here today, I’m thinking of simplifying even more.

The time with my kids and the patience it’s given me is worth all of this and so much more.

Don’t just take my word for it. Give yourself the gift of a simplified, far less overwhelmed life!

solutions for overwhelmed moms