In this day and age, with so many more responsibilities, and clocks that seem to spin faster and faster, how do you keep your house in order with while raising kids? I met with someone the other night for a free consultation. She is an intelligent, warmhearted woman, wife and mother of three. She has a lovely, older home filled with character and charm. She would tell you that her home is just “filled.”
As I stepped over the threshold I heard a child playing a piano and I was instantly hit with nostalgia. I remembered our children practicing the piano. I loved the sound of their little fingers plunking out chords, arpeggios, scales, and songs. I also remembered the struggle to find time in our busy schedule to get them to lessons and the even greater battle to get them to agree to practice.
Similar to ours, this home was filled with children’s artwork, imaginative crafts and fun toys. As we walked from room to room, I felt this woman’s angst and was transported back to our own parental struggles for balance. We sought to encourage free-thinking and imagination, like when we showed our kids how to hook up sheets and blankets to make multi-roomed “forts.” We advocated mixing sets of toys and games to create new and exciting stories, and we even allowed messes inside and outside the house. All this, while being the disciplinarian, housekeeper, girl scout leader, PTA mom, homework helper, chauffeur, laundress, and “chief-cook-and-bottle-washer”, as my father-in-law used to say. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, and wife. It was hard to find time to be alone with my spouse through all of this mayhem.
As the kids got older, it was in-the-car, out-of-the-car, in-the-car, out-of-the-car, a never-ending loop of motion that seemed like it would never stop. Each day, after getting the kids to bed, my husband (who was a huge help when he got home from work, assistant coaching and helping out with boy scouts and girl scouts) and I would drop onto the couch and stare at each other through glazed, bloodshot eyes.
I was blessed to be a mostly stay-at-home mom who worked during school hours. Still, it was hard to keep everything in order. Although my husband and I made sure the kids cleaned up everything at the end of each day, pieces of toys and games still migrated throughout the house. I used to blame it on living in a rancher. With no stairs to separate living and sleeping space, I swore that playthings silently crept around from room to room as we slept. If I’d had the stamina, I might have hooked up video cameras to prove it.
It took an immense amount of energy to periodically scrutinize the old crafts, outgrown toys and clothes. It sometimes took an entire weekend to get it under control, only to repeat the process in another three months or so. Even with the kids pitching in, it was one of our most dreaded chores. Back then, I would have appreciated having someone to keep us on track, to work with us and teach us a process that kept all the junk from accumulating again.
There is so much more involved than when our kids were little. Back then, we only had gaming systems that hooked up to our TV. Now there are games connected to the computer, the iPad, and the phone. There are more sophisticated games, and although there are still Legos and Barbies, there are so many more pieces to corral. There are also more play dates and many more birthday parties and other celebrations than I remember attending. How do parents carve out time for self-care and home maintenance, let alone down time with all of this activity?
As we walked through the client’s home, I felt empathy for this mommy who wanted to balance the artistically-inspiring ambiance of her home with one that produced a more serene, orderly feel for her husband and herself, even for her kids. We discussed the potential use of each room, their ideas and wish lists. I asked a lot of questions and so did she. When we arrived at the last room – the basement – she admitted that this was the room that created the most stress for them. We talked a bit longer while we were physically in that space to flesh out just how much strain she and her husband were feeling about the house. We came up with plans to make the transition to a leaner, more organized home a slow, easy process for her, starting in the dreaded basement where we stood. Starting where it hurts the most will produce the biggest bang and sense of accomplishment. Since she has limited alone time during the week, we came up with a tentative twice-weekly schedule.
Of course, this mother of three knows she really can straighten out the house on her own, but the idea of taking up the project each day during her limited alone time is enough to make her want to flop in front of the TV and turn on Netflix. Here’s the thing. Just because you can do it on your own, doesn’t mean you should. That’s why Lighten Up exists.
She mentioned that she needed someone to keep her on task while she decluttered, to assign her homework, to be held accountable. I told her that, although Lighten Up is many things to many people, most often that’s who we become to most of our clients: the one who motivates them to continue with the process when it’s difficult to persevere.
We show up on time, we pick up where we leave off, we sort through items, we help our clients make decisions about what to keep, what to bag up and then we haul it around to the trash or donation pile. We keep everything on track, making inquiries for storage solutions, trash removal and donation pick ups as needed. By taking care of tedious and time-consuming logistics, our clients are able to physically observe progress while riding the thrilling wave of momentum.
If a homeowner wants to move fast, then at the end of our allotted time we leave them with some homework to accomplish before our next visit. If someone can’t imagine spending any more time than what we spend together, we ask them not to focus on the lengthy process during their down time, but instead to just keep their eye on the prize.
The prize is a home with balance, one that all family members can enjoy. If you want to strike a balance so that your home can be a place for childlike exploration as well as a dwelling of restfulness, contact Lighten Up. It’s what we do.