I can feel it creeping in.
That feeling that has become so familiar since becoming a mum.
TOO. MUCH. TO. DO.
You’ve spread yourself so thinly you’re translucent, your breath thin. It’s a bit like being on a treadmill – always moving forward, never stopping. But you’re not really getting anywhere…or at least not feeling like you’re doing anything well. Eternally treading water, wondering whether you’ll be able to stay afloat because any minute you might just sink into the abyss.
This is me. Most weeks.
And sometimes OVERWHELM becomes something worse.
It started with stuttering. Something I’ve never done before. But I just couldn’t get words out – this usually hit me at highly stressful times. Like attempting to leave the house. Not very helpful when trying to delegate tasks to the husband.
It culminated in an apres-bedtime moment.
Stumbling downstairs after feeding babe and settling toddler, I was greeted with the usual bombshell of a house. With no energy reserves to deal with the mess, let alone face the to do list (we were about to move house) and the over-riding feeling that I needed to keep going – not sit down – or else I might be buried alive in the chaos, I noticed my husband flop onto the sofa and turn on the TV. TV FFS?
I exploded. A row ensued. And I found myself doing something that can only be described as interpretive dance around the living room.
I sung out my overwhelm. Opera seemed to help.
My husband and I are not sure whether to laugh or cry at the memory of this little episode. But it did hit home that I needed to STOP. BREATHE. GIVE MYSELF A BREAK.
Download a box set. Book a massage. Have a bath with a magazine. Yady yady ya.
It makes perfect sense in hindsight but when you’re in it, it’s very difficult to do.
My close brush with insanity taught me an important thing: to outsource.
When you haven’t got enough hands, you simply need to find more. You are not super woman. There is no such thing as super powers.
But in Devon there is Jo.
Jo is a rather marvellous woman. She has an aura of serene, controlled calm about her.
Based in Exton, Jo runs a business called The Organised House. And she is here to help organise my house, and well, my life.
We survived the move. Although the most stressful part is done, there’s still the unpacking and settling.
This is my boys’ sock draw. Actually it’s a basket shoved into a linen cupboard. (A year on we still haven’t managed to buy much furniture).
This is the boys’ laundry basket…on a good day.
This is my book case.
You get the idea.
Jo is a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (UK) – who knew? And a declutter genius. She is also an experienced work-from-home mum who understands my plight.
So I wanted to share some of her tips with you.
Socks cause me an unnecessary amount of stress. Just when I was about to give up on ever finding a matching pair again, Jo came along and educated me on the Sock Cycle.
The trick is to keep the socks together. Although this sounds bleeding obvious but completely impossible – it isn’t. Thanks to a few little gems from Lakeland (or anywhere you can find them).
Instead of lobbing socks into the laundry bin, pop them into dedicated sock laundry bag. (White mesh laundry bags, from Lakeland, from £5.99)
These socks need to stay nestled together. Wash them in the bag. Hang them up together on these clever Pressa hanging dryers from Ikea (£3).
From foot-to-basket-to-wash-to-drawer-to-foot, they must never part.
And that odd sock pile. “Throw it away” says Jo. Do. It.
Golden rule: never buy the same socks or pants for siblings. Make them completely different so they don’t get mixed up.
Stay on top of things
The key is systems and routines. If you can create systems and routines for you and your whole family, you’re onto a winner.
Get into daily habits of dealing with the post immediately. Sort into recycle, a ‘To do’ pile and a ‘To file’ pile. At the end of the week, file the file pile.
Take photos of newspaper clipping, or rip them out and pop them into a folder. Or be ever so modern and use Pinterest boards to file them. That way you aren’t left with piles of papers having forgotten what you were meant to be keeping.
Run regular monthly audits on the kids rooms. Clear drawers and cupboards of anything too small, damaged, dirty.
Go in prepared. Have 3 boxes/bags/piles: out-of-season, recycle, charity.
Keep everything labelled with seasons and ages.
Put the charity stuff and recycling straight in the car. So you are forced to deal with it on your next trip out.
Photograph – there and then – what you want to sell online.
Do bigger seasonal sort outs and pop out-of-season clothes in the loft.
The stair basket
At the end of the day – when energy is low – I loathe the end of the day tidy up.
But Jo’s stair basket could make it less hideous.
Keep a basket on the stair case and regularly collect up all the things left lying around, brushes, toothbrushes, clothes.
Then each night empty it out.
If you want to get kids involved in the tidying, give every member of the family a special tray/crate/basket. They collect up all their bits and then sort them out into their own rooms at the end of the day.
The hallway drawers
Look at this little beauty. Easily accessible, the hallway cupboard is the prime spot for all your useful bits and bobs. The trick is to organise it: keep keys, stationary, chargers, you name it – and of course, the essential ‘random shit’ drawer for all those extras that don’t belong.
This is just a little taste of Jo’s declutter genius, and enough to be getting on with for now.
It has to be said, I’ve taken on board a lot of Jo’s tips but I still need to buy a sock drawer. Doh.
Disclaimer: Jo kindly gave me a morning of her wisdom for free – she wants to let local mums know about her Devon business, The Organised House. As well as offering a decluttering services, Jo also helps you move home. She can take over all the admin and make it happen, from getting your house ready for sale, to moving you to your new place. Amazing. If only I knew about her this time last year.
If you don’t live in Devon – you can find other Declutter experts here: http://www.apdo-uk.co.uk/declutterers.php