We left our friends and family in California and moved to Seattle with a two-year-old and a six-month-old in tow. Without family and friends, I was lonely. Nighttime feedings made me perpetually exhausted. I was hormonal, overwhelmed and foggy with mommy-brain. I left a corporate job without so much as a look back – I’d always wanted to be a stay at home mom. Now, I felt mired in the daily drudgery of laundry, dishes, food prep, naps, diapers, and baths. With no girlfriends nearby and a husband who worked long hours, I felt stranded. I felt guilty about feeling unhappy because I understood that I was very fortunate to be able to stay at home with my babies. I felt like I was being ungrateful for a life I always thought I wanted.
All day long every tiny task I completed was undone minutes later. Toys always littered the entire house, there was always more laundry, more dishes, more diapers, and more meals that needed preparing. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. I craved the feeling of finishing something tangible. I wanted to enjoy the result of my work. I wanted some semblance of control.
During this time, the only thing that fulfilled this need for control was organizing my new home. I took pleasure in small projects such as organizing the linen closet. Neat stacks of towels and sheets were visually pleasing. I bought clear plastic drawers and organized all our toiletries and medicines.
I labeled the bins: First aid for Band-Aids and ointments; Baby medicine for the boys’ items; Eye care for saline solution and extra contacts; Oral care for floss, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. This was a quick project I completed while my boys napped. Once finished, the linen closet looked awesome and it was very functionally organized. The boys couldn’t undo this. This small space was my domain, and I controlled it.
I did a little organizing every time I got a chance. I organized food items in our pantry. I filed all our paperwork. I organized all our office supplies in labeled drawers. In our laundry/mud room I had neat bins with extra supplies from Costco. I organized our closets and dressers. I kept toy baskets in every room, so that at the end of the day, we could do a quick sweep through each room and contain toys and books.
When I had three minutes to get out of the house with two boys in tow, I always found all the supplies I needed quickly. When my son woke up crying with a fever in the middle of the night, I found the baby Tylenol exactly where I’d put it. Being organized improved our lives in small but palpable ways. Amid all the baby chaos, because I was organized, our household ran smoother.
I survived that first bleak winter in Seattle and made new friends. I joined a book club and a gym. As time passed, my boys slept better, and I started re-emerging from the baby haze. When the boys spread out and played with their toys or when Lego littered the floor, the rest of the house remained uncluttered. It was easier to restore the calm at the end of the day. All those little projects, completed in stolen moments when I wasn’t taking care of my boys, helped get me through that first winter. They helped me get control of my house and by extension – control of my life.