What My Kids Taught Me About My Anxiety

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The truth of the matter is I don’t know exactly what started my anxiety.  Whether it was predisposed, the situation, exhaustion, my physical pain or spiritual.  All I know was that it was real.  It was suffocating.  I swatted at it from every direction (physical/mental/spiritual), just to be safe, and it left me feeling defeated.

Living with pain for over a year taught me a lot.  I went from a mom who yelled too much to a mom who yelled all the time.  I went from a laid back mom with normal issues to a mom whose life was falling apart and felt I couldn’t control anything.  It was 1 car accident on 1 morning.  I couldn’t control my house, my kids, or myself.

For a long time I just tried harder.  That, and I was angry, sad, all the feelings.  I would double down and attempt to push through.  I consulted doctors, nutritionists, and my counselor.  I yelled all the time because I was dealing with pain all the time.  I was failing, and I was mad that I was failing.

My kids showed astonishing resiliency through all of this, at least the first few months.  They maintained their childlike laughter which also made me mad.  It was too loud, or too rowdy.  They could never leave me alone for just 2 seconds.

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Housekeeping Hindsight

Many of you followed my KonMari journey these last few months.  I wrote about it here (where I talked about throwing the book across the room several times), and here as well within the context of my clothes.  I’ve also written here about the app I use for keeping track of house cleaning, based off of the FlyLady system.  Phew.  You reach a desperate point, people.  You get so sick of surviving your days and become determined to find a way to thrive.

I do not believe the two systems (KonMari and FlyLady) are in conflict, and as a homemaker I still use both.  KonMari does not focus on getting dirt out of stuff.  She deals with clutter.  She deals with just piles of stuff everywhere.  She deals with stuff never being put away.  FlyLady does work with clutter, but not nearly with the philosophical thought of the other.  Actually, not even close.  However, she does have a good rotation system for cleaning the dirty stuff in your house.  So I used KonMari to declutter and completely transform the way I think about my stuff and how to organize it, and I use the Wonderbear app based off of FlyLady to keep track of what needs to be cleaned next on rotation, and just do the thinking for me there.

It has been a beautiful pairing.

The KonMari system suggests you don’t go through her system gradually.  She does not believe in gradual change, because you never see success, or experience what it will look like as things gather faster than you get rid of them.  She suggests you go through her steps in no more than 6 months.

(Please keep in mind, this system is not merely decluttering.  It’s a philosophy of managing stuff.  Really, reading the whole book is necessary and I won’t lay it all out here.)  

I ended up going through it faster than that because I had an opportunity to contribute my stuff to a friend’s garage sale, and because I just don’t have 6 months to apply to this project.  I just wanted it done.  The last thing I need is a huge project going on during gardening season, or worse, harvest season.

So now that every closet, every dresser, every toy has been brought to a place of order, and I have pushed literally dozens of large garbage bags to various locations from the dump to goodwill, to the garage sale…

this is how my life has changed:

I’m running out of laundry to do.

I used to try to get a minimum of 2 loads of laundry a day for our family of 7 people.  When I washed diapers it was 3 loads a day to stay afloat.  I have it programed in my cleaning app to put a load in after breakfast and after supper.  I’m having trouble some days coming up with a load big enough to wash in the evening.  It’s skipped often.  I hang clothes on the line to dry more because I have time.  Why not?  We just don’t do as much laundry.

I treat my clothes differently.

Now that I have less clothes, and love them all, I treat them differently.  I wear my apron more in the kitchen, because I don’t want them washed too much.  I fight to get stains out more.  I pick them off the floor more, because I shudder to think that they’d wrinkle.  I’m more likely to mend them carefully and quickly.  Instead of being this disposable nuisance, they are something that I care for with more thought.  They hold more value in my mind than they used to.

I look put together more often.

I used to blindly grab a shirt and a pair of jeans, or yoga pants, and just get through my days.  Now I put together an outfit, even wear jewelry from time to time (gasp!) and think about what shoes match.  As a stay at home mom, this has been huge for my frame of mind.  I know studies have been done on how what we wear effects our performance, and it’s true.  It’s not that I don’t wear comfortable stuff anymore.  It’s that I feel beautiful more.  I’m caring for myself more.  It changes how I think.

I’m open to time with friends more.

Our house is never 30 minutes from being “company ready” now.  Having people over is less stressful.  Also, Knut would often want us getting together with friends, but I have spent some years being overwhelmed at home and worried if I went out with friends, I’d lose the slim edge of progress at home that I had made when someone is watching them, or I’d get behind not doing what I should be doing to keep up.  I didn’t want to go places because there was just so much to manage that if I left it alone for even a few hours, it would be unmanageable for days.  I couldn’t handle that possibility.  So I’d always push to just stay home.

I see my friends more.

My kids don’t whine about chores as much.

The lifting of the stress is trickling down to the little people.  Since we homeschool, and there are so many of us, we have to clean often to manage the mess that naturally happens.  Mess often means they are playing.  It means they are learning.  I don’t want them always being afraid of making a mess.  But we do need to manage it.  We each have a chore to do after each meal, and those chores rotate.  The most common chores that are in kids’ rotation are: dishes, clean up and vacuum the dirtiest room in the house, or fold and put away a load of laundry.

“The dirtiest room” is no longer that dirty.  The kids are excited when they get that on their rotation.  There’s just not as much fight to it.  Also, sometimes in the evening there just isn’t enough mess to justify all those categories (note the less laundry above).  So I made a deal with the kids.  If they do their breakfast and lunch chores without 1 complaint, and with a cheerful attitude, I’ll do their supper chores for them.

Really, there’s very little to do in the evening.  Dishes basically.  So it’s been a win-win.  They still whine out of habit from time to time out of sheer habit, but with an extra chore in the evening as a consequence, that is quickly stopping.

My bedroom has been clean.

OK, I know my whole house has been cleaner, but this room in particular has been the test of sanity for me.  My bedroom is the room I shove all the clutter from the rest of the house when company comes over.  It’s the room that has stacks of boxes that I need to “go through” or have no idea where to put.  My bedroom has really never been continuously clean at any point in my life.  It’s my “dump” room.

Now I make my bed every morning and have for maybe over 2 months.  Not because it’s on my app, or some list.  I do it because it makes me happy.  My room is spotless all the time.  The worst it has gotten in the last few months is I once left a pile of 4 pieces of clothing on a chair for 48 hours, and that was when we got back from a vacation and I was dealing with unpacking and stuff.  I know…what a slob, right?  I love walking into my bedroom.  Everyday.  I can’t even…

Packing is transformed.

Speaking of unpacking for a trip, guess how long it took me to pack my 5 kids and myself for the trip?  (Knut’s a big boy and packs his own bag.)  It took me 1 hour.  That’s from getting out the suitcases, going to each dresser, picking out some cute things, zipping them up, and picking toys for the road in the backpacks.  We don’t go places often, mostly because of our animals and just life and the farm needing us home.  But packing used to be a days-long ordeal.  It took me an hour this last time.  I didn’t have to track anything down.  I knew where everything was and it was clean, folded, and ready.

All in all, this whole process of getting my stuff in order has made it so my life doesn’t revolve around my stuff.  As a homemaker, it has been burden lifting.  My stuff isn’t so oppressive.  My mind can wander to things like reading or playing games with my kids without the guilt that I should be putting out some messy fire somewhere.

I’ve learned to live within my means.

I’ve learned that living within my means doesn’t just mean not spending money you don’t have.  It’s not buying stuff you don’t have a place for in your home, and not bringing more things into your life than you can manage. When you don’t have time to spend with the Lord, you don’t have time to dream, you don’t have time for people…then something has to go, and I think a lot of the time that something is stuff.  In this “1st world” we live in, we are blessed with abundance.  Mismanaged, these blessings become a curse.  This system has allowed me to focus on what I really want to prioritize.

Anyone else trying to simplify your life out there?  What have you found helpful?

Dependence

IMG_3249There’s a thought that’s been circling around in my head the last few weeks, perhaps longer, about dependence.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess this is an especially big problem in America.  I think it’s rooted in the idea of charity or welfare, and our destain for it.  We don’t mind giving charity as long as it’s temporary, with measurable improvement.  We don’t mind welfare as long as we are certain that the recipients are worthy, and it’s temporary.  (Emphasis on “temporary.”)  We want them to be working to get out of welfare.

And yet, this post isn’t about welfare or charity.  Though I could easily follow this rabbit trail for a few thousand words.  This post is about how we let our view of them effect our view of dependence on a very, very personal level.

I was sitting on my porch the other day, looking out over our yard and watching the kids ride bike and chase the dogs.  I was thinking about how I’ve needed God so much these last few years since my car accident.  I’ve been so very dependent.  I haven’t always been able to get food on the table, and God provided.  I didn’t always have childcare for my doctor appointments.  God provided.  Sometimes I would walk into an appointment, not knowing what my kids would do in the waiting room by themselves but I was literally left with no other choice, and one of my friends would be waiting for me there at the office, saying she just felt I needed her that day.

My work ethic, patience, pain tolerance, teaching ability has essentially been broken and I’ve been left with no other choice to depend on God for very, very practical needs.  As my strength has been improving these last months with some physical therapy, and continued treatment, I finally see light at the end of the tunnel that it won’t always be this way.  I will be myself again.

I won’t need God so much.

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Finding Joy

 

I am pretty sure that I said “no” to pretty much all activities this summer to make it free for playing and family time.

IMG_3113 IMG_3121 IMG_3122Then I got fed up with my kids lack of desire to do anything fun besides sit in front of a box with pictures that flash in rapid succession, and we took a June challenge to stay off the computer and television, and you know, do other stuff.

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