It happens to every parent. You’re going about your day when you suddenly notice the massive pile of clothes in the middle of the floor. And then you see the juice on the counter because someone didn’t bother putting it away. And then, it’s the chewed up pen that the dog got to, and the baby is screaming, and you have to make dinner but there are no pans, and, and, and. And suddenly, you snap.
“That’s it! I’m done! Do your own dirty work from now on,” you say, stomping off to your room and slamming the door.
Okay, maybe not. Maybe you manage to keep your cool, let the annoyance simmer under your skin, and get things moving. I know for a fact that I can’t, though, because when I talk about sanity, I mean dictionary definition of sanity. In my world, days like this can mean a full swing into a depressive state, and if my environment doesn’t get better, that can turn in to weeks of depression. Even worse, a chaotic environment tends to ratchet up the anxiety, which means I get really irritable and end up isolating for the sake of everyone. It’s a terrible cycle, all around.
So, how do I keep sane? Well, there are a few different things I’ve found that help.
1. Stave off what chaos you can.
Now, this comes with the understanding that some things you really can’t control. Others in the house are bound to put their stamp of mess on the public spaces, but you can focus on keeping your own personal refuge tidy and comforting. In this way, if you do end up with an explosion in the rest of the house, you have a safe space to retreat that doesn’t add to the stress.
And on that topic:
2. Have a personal refuge!
I know for some this is easier said than done, but it is really helpful if you can manage it. Your refuge doesn’t have to be anything big, even. I personally have a bedroom of my own right now, but in the past, I’ve had a corner of a room, a walk-in closet, a utility room, and even a fort under the table. Okay, that last one was a little more temporary, but it worked! In the end, it’s about having a space that is all your own where you can take a deep breath and regroup.
3. Enlist help.
Guess what. If your kids are the ones leaving clothes and stuff all over the floor, it’s totally fair to make them clean it up! Likewise, if the spouse is sitting around and there are dishes needing doing, get them on it! Most of the time, I’ve found family members are more than willing to help with the workload if they know what to do. As much of a pain as it can be, teaching them what to look for can help in the long run. And in the short term, you get an army of helpers!
4. Pick a small thing and attack it.
Maybe for tonight you just wash the one pan you need most. Or maybe you just focus on moving the clothes to wherever they belong. Whatever it is that you can do, go ahead and do it. Even the little things can make a huge difference and sometimes the little things add up to big things!
5. If all else fails, get a baby and dog sitter, pack up the rest of the household and run away.
Okay, maybe don’t run away… Still, keep in mind that it’s okay to pick your battles. Sometimes that means you leave the dishes until tomorrow and get food somewhere else. Or, if that’s too expensive, let the kids make sandwiches. Either way, people get fed and you get a little less fed up.