What you can learn from your most embarrassing mistake

Do you have a recent really embarrassing moment?  The following story is probably the most embarrassing mistake of my entire life.  I still cringe when I think about it.  And I am no stranger to humiliating moments!  But this one takes the cake!  However, it was also one of my greatest learning experiences, and I hope I can avoid doing something this stupid ever again!

A Simple Project Goes Very, Very Wrong

I’m on the Parent Advisory Council for my son’s Early Childhood School.  Essentially, it’s a slightly different version of a PTA or PTO.  For the two years I had been involved, our school’s administrator had been this amazing woman, but now she was retiring.  Via email, our group planned a small party for her, and we all agreed to take a task.  My task was to make a dessert for everyone to enjoy at the party.  That’s it.  Just one dessert.  Easy, right?

Ah, Hubris

I like to consider myself a bit of an amateur baker.  It’s something I really enjoy doing, although my laziness gets in the way of being a true baker (I will, for example, probably never buy a scale on which to measure my ingredients, even though any baker worth his salt insists this is the only way to really get the right amounts).

So, I have a small cache of untried recipes that I like to keep handy for just this kind of occasion.  For this party, I was choosing between two different cheesecake recipes.  One of them was a no-bake, full-sized cheesecake with strawberries and rhubarb.  The other was a cheesecake tartlet recipe that did require baking, but only needed strawberries.  I headed to the grocery store with both recipes in hand, deciding to look for the ingredients to both and let the availability of rhubarb (and perhaps the price) decide which recipe I would actually make for the party.

The Day Of The Party

I chose the tartlet recipe.  I bought all the ingredients I needed (a few days beforehand) and brought it all home, so I would be ready to “simply” throw it together the day of the party.

In those few days, between the grocery store trip and the actual party day, something happened to my brain.  I still don’t really know how, but I got mixed up about which recipe I had chosen to make.    So, on baking day, I put the kids down for a nap and got started on my tartlets.  The recipe required two separate “stop-downs”, in which you had to simply let ingredients rest before you moved on to the next step.  At the end of the second “stop-down”, I put the tartlets into the fridge to chill.  Though I had read the recipe all the way through when I was planning to make it, I neglected to read it all the way through on Baking Day, and was simply reading one line at a time.

Big Mistake

At this point, I was running late, and I had to shower and get ready.  So, still thinking I had chosen the no-bake recipe, I stopped following the recipe just before the last line, assumed I was done, and cleaned up my kitchen and raced to get ready for the party.  Towards the end of my shower, my timer went off, indicating my tartlets had chilled for the required period of time and were now ready to go.  I pulled them out of the fridge… and noticed how “gloopy” they still looked.  So, with a little time left before I had to leave, I put them back in the fridge to chill a little more.

Still Not Looking Quite Right, But I Had Run Out of Time

With no choice but to bring my dessert as it was to the party and hope that a least the middle of the tartlets were chilled, I threw them and myself in the car, not even thinking to consult the recipe to see if I had missed a step, so sure I had chosen a no-bake recipe and wondering what had gone wrong.

At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering just what the heck is wrong with me.  Because first of all, who the heck doesn’t read the directions all the way through?  Especially with a new recipe?  And then, when things are going wrong, why wouldn’t I simply go back through my directions and figure out what had happened?

I Don’t Have a Great Answer For You

In my defense, I was a little short on time.  Which was making me panicky, and feeling even more scattered.

I was also in a bad place in my mental life.  I wasn’t planning things.  I was disorganized, and I was probably suffering from depression, and not really allowing myself to acknowledge this.

But really, the fact is, I was just trying to do too many things at once.  I was showering, cooking, putting on makeup, doing my hair and getting ready to go somewhere.  That’s just too much!  Add to this my lack of planning and unhappy mental state, and I was dooming myself to failure without even trying.

The Horrible Truth

I brought the dessert to the party.  A few people skipped it, and a few people ate it.  Including our administrator whom I admired so much.  I was hoping to impress people with my simple, delicious recipe.  Instead, I was apologizing for its “weirdness” and only eating it myself out of a desire to see just how badly it had turned out.  Luckily, it did still taste pretty darn good.  Imagine what it could have tasted like if I had made it correctly!

The people who ate it were all really polite.  They said don’t worry about the runny-ness, and complimented the taste.  It wasn’t until I was driving home from the meeting, reliving my regret at not having made “the perfect dessert”, that I had the horrible, sinking feeling that I had been very, very stupid, and skipped an important step.

Humiliation and Utter Panic

I walked into my house, and without even saying hi to my husband or my kids, I headed straight for my kitchen and pulled out the tartlet recipe.  I read the last line.  I don’t even remember exactly what it said, but a bake time and temperature were definitely included.

I felt sick.  I realized (why did I only realize this now?) that there were raw eggs in the recipe.  My anxiety, combined with complete humiliation, spiraled.  What if I made everyone sick?  What if someone had to go to the hospital because of my stupidity? On top of which, I just felt so dumb.  

I Had To Do The Right Thing

Even though it was the very last thing I wanted to do, I wrote an email to the group that had attended the party.  Feeling like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, I admitted I had neglected to read the recipe, that I had made it wrong and skipped an important step (one might even say THE most important step), and I apologized many, many times, as profusely as I could.  I hit send, and went to bed, feeling like the dumbest human being alive.

Before I Could Learn My Lesson, I Wasted A Lot Of Time

I cried.  I beat myself up.  I called my mom and told her how stupid I felt (she was really nice and comforted me, but I still didn’t feel much better).  In hindsight, this was the most unnecessary part of the entire learning process.  It did nothing except make me feel worse.  Everyone experiences this, and in some cases, maybe it’s just a part of life.  But I tend to be a touch on the dramatic side, and I can tell you for sure that I should have brushed off the dirt and gotten over myself much sooner than I did.

What Can You Learn From An Embarrassing Mistake?

Well, what did I learn?  Obviously, I learned (or, rather, re-learned) that when I’m cooking an unfamiliar recipe- or honestly, any recipe- to read the directions! All the way through!  Heck, even a couple of times!

But there is a much deeper reality and lesson here.  There usually is.

You see, I often have to come to terms with my own obsession for perfectionism.  I was so concerned with how much I was going to impress people with my “professional dessert”.  I wasn’t taking a deep breath, calming down and focusing on the much more important parts of my project: doing something nice for a woman I admired, and enjoying baking a fun new dessert.  There didn’t need to be some crazy “WOW factor”.  If, unintentionally, I did manage to impress some people, then fantastic.  But my desperate desire to seem like “THE MOM WHO CAN DO IT ALL” had led to a ridiculous, embarrassing mistake.

Everyone Is Human

I got lucky, and no one got sick from my error.  Thank goodness.

I received two really kind email responses to my embarrassed email- one from our administrator, saying she thought the dessert was delicious the way it was, and she didn’t worry about raw eggs because she had eaten plenty of raw cookie dough in her life!  As true as that statement is for most people, I recognized that I was pretty lucky no one at the party had an allergy or some other negative reaction (although you would always hope that people would safeguard their own health if they do have allergies or food sensitivities, you can never be sure!).

The other email was from a mom I found particularly intimidating.  She was a literacy expert, very tall and beautiful, and clearly an excellent mother.  She could not have been more gracious.  Her kind words included a hope that I wouldn’t beat myself up over this mistake, that anybody could have made it, and that the dessert was very tasty no matter what!

The Most Important Lesson Of All

This email from that mom was the blessing, and grace, that I needed to try to forgive myself and move on from this incident.  So thank goodness she sent it!

I had spent so much time being miserable, worrying about the other moms in the group.  Worrying about what they thought of me after learning about this embarrassing mistake.  Worrying they thought I was stupid.  Obsessing over their opinion of my cooking, my abilities, and wondering if they were angry with me.

It’s entirely possible some of the moms who didn’t reply were angry, or at the very least annoyed.  But without confirmation of that fact, and since I was unable to take back my mistake, the only thing I was able to do was say sorry, and express my hopes that everyone was going to be fine.  Anything that happened after that was pretty much out of my control.  Worrying about their perception of me was a complete waste of my time.  It’s a complete waste of anyone’s time.  This is something that’s easy to understand, and very difficult to do.

My Hope For You

The next time something like this happens in your life, I want you to do your best to skip the unnecessary steps that I took- beating myself up, crying, worrying about what those other moms thought- and skip right to the most important part.  “OK, I made an embarrassing mistake.  What did I learn?  And how can I prevent this in the future?”  Allow yourself to feel the embarrassment.  That’s a valid feeling, it’s unavoidable, and every human experiences it.  But don’t let it spiral into an unnecessary mental abuse session.  You’re human, you’re allowed to be human.  The next step is solving the problem (what should I do differently next time), and the step after that is self-love, which is forgiveness.

Next Time, Try This:

I made you a flow chart to fill out for the next time you need a reminder that you’re human, and to practice self-love.  You can download it below.  I hope it will help you to remember that anyone can make an embarrassing mistake (see above!), and the best thing to do is take the lesson with you, and move on to the next thing!

Fighting the battle against perfectionism

Where does the pressure come from?  That feeling that we just don’t have enough time in the day.  Is it because of the commitments we have made?  It is difficult to get everyone to school and classes, and fit in food shopping, household chores and meals.  There’s no question.  Life is demanding.

But I’m talking about a different kind of demanding.  The kind of demanding that involves feeling like you have to be the perfect mom all day.  That yelling at your kids makes you a failure and you’ve doomed them to a life of low self-esteem.  That you have to be constantly educating them, because if they were in daycare, they’d be engaging in learning opportunities all day, and you can’t provide those same benefits at home.  And every time you turn on the TV, you might as well be zapping their brains with a “stupidity” gun.

I know these feelings well, and they can really haunt you.  I remember going to a parenting class at our Early Childhood school and hearing the teacher talk about the “expectation to be PERFECT” in parenting.  I realized how true that felt!  There are so many studies available now, with important information about how to optimize your child’s development.  It makes me feel like I should be constantly reading, studying, and putting those methods into practice.

Internal Pressure And Perfectionism

I had this discussion with my therapist one day.  I explained that I felt that all the keys to being the “perfect mom” were out there, that the “perfect parenting method/s” had been found by some expert or another, and that all I had to do was search it out, find it, and use that method.  She looked at me for a second and said, “well, that’s the definition of anxiety, right there.”

What she meant was, anxiety is a constant search for answers, and a constant questioning of yourself.  If you have anxiety, you know what I mean.  You spend hours running in circles over the same questions, the same scenarios.

So, our mission now, since we know that our anxiety fuels a lot of our pressure towards perfectionism, is to simply recognize when we’re feeling that way, and realize the hard truth: there is no such thing as “the perfect mom”.  She doesn’t exist.  That mom you know, who you think is perfect?  She is not.

Outside Influences Can Be Excessively Frustrating

That feeling of envying the “mom who has it all together” is a horrible one.  I have it all the time.  So many of my mom friends were teachers before they had children.  “They must teach their kids new things all the time,” I think to myself.  “How lucky their kids are to have such learning opportunities right at their fingertips.  They will be so far ahead of my kids in school.”

We all experience these kinds of thoughts, especially with perfectionism.  Anxiety can cause you to look out at the world and see your own inadequacies reflected back at you tenfold.

There is nothing you can do except recognize these feelings, acknowledge them, and try to sort them into the right place: inaccurate.  Because they are, in fact, incorrect thoughts.  Not only do they cause you to simply feel badly about yourself, but they don’t give you any opportunity to change.  They are damning words, and they leave you permanently in a disadvantageous position.

Instead Of Those Thoughts, Try These

It takes practice, patience and courage to break out of your negative thought cycles.  Perfectionism is a cruel way of life, because it’s perpetually unattainable.  But, at its heart, what are you actually seeking?  You don’t want to be perfect.  You want to give your kids your best.  The reason why you want to do well as a mother is entirely for their benefit.  There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself to be better next time.  There’s actually nothing wrong with the good intentions that you feel deep down.  You love your children, and that makes you want to give them the greatest gifts of your spirit.

Instead of perfectionism, I challenge you to see your thoughts as good opportunities for self-improvement.  If you’re feeling bad about something, how can you change it?  How can you take that feeling of not being good enough, and use it to encourage yourself to improve?

Move On To The Next Step

Whatever the thought is, it probably has a practical root in something.  You’re feeling bad about the fact that you don’t feed your kids organic everything all the time.  OK, what’s actually at the heart of this problem?  You wish you could improve your family’s diet?  Add more vegetables, take out some of the fats?  OK.  That you can do!

This process can be applied to anything.  Your expectations have to shift, but you’re a mom, and you have tons of common sense, so that’s very much in your favor.  The real problem is not that you aren’t a gourmet vegan chef!  The real problem is that you feel bad if your kids have mac and cheese too many times in a week.  Rejecting your unrealistic expectations of perfectionism requires rationalizing your true expectations of yourself.

As With Everything, Breaking the Trend Takes Practice

No one gains momentous amounts of self-esteem overnight.  And you’re not going to stop having unrealistic expectations of yourself just because you’ve realized there are a few simple solutions to some of your problems.  Perfectionism is sort of a chronic disease; I still beat myself up all the time because I’m not working on teaching my kids to read every single day.  Patience, momma.  Mindfulness will help.  Being in the moment, and realizing when your thoughts are taking you too far down a path, will happen the more you practice recognizing it.  To start, take some of the most common negative thoughts you have about yourself (as a mom or as a person), and think about why.  What are you actually seeking?  What small, simple steps can you take to feel better?  Leave a comment and tell me how you’re going to help yourself- or your family- tomorrow.  I would love to help you if you’re stuck, too, so drop a comment and I’ll do my best to help!

Making time for books: creating a reading routine

Do you feel guilty because you don’t read anymore?  It’s so much easier to curl up with the remote and watch “Twin Peaks” on Netflix for the 300th time.  There is an important time and place for TV watching, because that’s also a pleasurable, relaxing activity.  I will never tell you to feel guilty for watching TV.  What I will do is encourage you to branch out, vary your self-care routines, and find new and exciting ways to give yourself enjoyment and rest.

The value of a reading routine is immeasurable.  Reading will allow you to practice mindfulness, self-care and continue your mission of lifelong learning, all at the same time.  For a long time, I lied to myself, as you may be doing now, that I “didn’t have time to read”.  Forgive me, because I don’t curse often, but it’s called for in this situation- that is horseshit.  I didn’t want to read, which is something entirely different and a problem that’s ridiculously easy to solve.  Beginning with the important first step of choosing a book.

Finding the Right Book

The key to beginning a maintainable reading routine is all about book selection.  You can read whatever you want, and you don’t have to read a book from start-to-finish if you decide it’s not the right book for you at the time.  My shelves are full of book I have not read.  I used to stare at them and feel such guilt; now I don’t.  I know I will get to them, because I will actually reach a point when it’s time to choose the next book, and those books will be the right one!  If you’re not reading at all, those books will forever go unread.

If nothing is standing out to you as an obvious first choice for your reading routine, here are my recommendations:

  • Choose a beloved book you have read many, many times and think you might want to read again.  It’s OK if you change your mind, the key is just to pick one to start with.
  • Ask friends to recommend last book they read “for fun”.  You can ask for recommendations for things like “beach reading” or “vacation books”.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more serious book that could really draw you in, ask for a good “thriller”, or “action-adventure” book.  Pick a genre you have traditionally really enjoyed.  And absolutely no judgment if that genre is romance!  You need to feed your soul with what it actually wants, not what you think it should have!

The Sometimes Insurmountable Challenges of a Book Club

About two years ago now, my best mom friends and I decided to start a book club.  We had the best of intentions.  We would meet monthly at someone’s house, take turns choosing a book, and provide light snacks and refreshments for a fun discussion. 

And then we did absolutely nothing.

In-person book clubs are incredibly difficult to maintain with small children.  Someone has to host, which means that person also has to clean, they might have to cook OR you all have to figure out what to bring… Plus, you have to actually read the book in preparation for the discussion, and then you have to get out of the house yourself.  Even sharing these responsibilities and taking turns can be simply too difficult to arrange.

A Fantastic Solution To That Problem

A friend of mine who started a Facebook Book Club, and she maintains it, and she does a great job.  I’m very grateful for it.  But I need to be clear that this genius idea is someone else’s, not my own, and I can’t take any credit for it!

How to start:

  1. Ask your Facebook friend group (use one of those fancy posts with the background colors or add a picture so it gets everyone’s attention) if they would be interested in being in an online book club.  When people say yes, start a group, and invite all interested parties- and let them invite their friends, too!
  2. Decide how often you’d like to read- we do a book a month. If you’d like to read less, every other month would also be totally fine.  I wouldn’t do any further out than that, because then it becomes difficult to keep people engaged.
  3. You can use all the awesome functions of Facebook to keep people active in the group: create a poll to choose a genre of book to read.  Then, everyone can make a suggestion of a book in that genre.  They can post in the group with a short description of the plot (obviously, no spoilers!), and a photo of the cover, to give everyone an idea of what the book would be like.
  4. At the end of the suggestion period, use the poll function to choose one of the suggested books.  The other book suggestions will always be in the group’s history for future reference!
  5. When it comes time to “discuss” the book, post discussion questions in the group and give everyone some time to respond.  Some people may not have read the book, or finished, so be careful to put spoilers in comments sections and avoid questions that outright give away the ending.  The luxury of the online book club is that you can read the book at your own pace, and keep up with the group as much as you can.

You can be the one to curate the group, or you can share “admin” duties with your friends.  You don’t need to post very often, and always encourage others to post as well!  The fun of an online book group is that your friends from all over the country- or the world- can all participate.  They can “Go Live” to give their response to the book, you can share pertinent YouTube videos or book reviews, and there’s much less time-bound pressure to participate.  It’s a great, relaxed, casual way to share your love of reading with fellow readers- as well as get fun and different perspectives on books.

Reading When You Don’t Want To

The hardest part of creating a habit is maintaining it when you just don’t feel like it.  You may realize how much you love reading, and how much you’ve missed it, and dive right in to book after book without ever experiencing that “blah, I don’t want to” feeling.  But, if you do, here is my very best suggestion for combating that sensation and sticking to your reading routine:

Set a timer for five minutes.

When I started this habit, I had to do that for the first couple weeks.  There were so many other things I wanted to do, because I read at night after the kids go to sleep.  It’s a part of my evening self-care routine before bed.  I wanted to check Facebook (not my book group, just my feed), play an iPad game, listen to one of my podcasts, or just plain go to sleep.  So, the way I bargained with myself was that I had to read for five minutes.  Then, I could do whatever I wanted.  If I was tired of reading, and wanted to stop after my timer went off, I was allowed to do so.

Guess how many times I stopped at the five minute timer?

Never.  I always wanted to keep going, even if it was only for a few more minutes.  Five minutes was the perfect length to get absorbed in whatever it was I was reading.  Now, I read for much longer than five minutes at a time.  I have even had the experience of forcing myself to stop reading because I had to go to bed!  I read every single night, and sometimes I read during nap time, too.  Because it is finally my reading routine, a pleasurable habit that I have created to nurture my mind and be restful, all at the same time.

The Awesomeness of Audible

This section contains my Amazon affiliate link- if you used this link to purchase an Audible membership, free trial, or audiobook, I would make a small commission.  It is not paid by you, it is paid by Amazon affiliates.  For more information about my privacy policy, disclaimer and affiliate links, feel free to visit my legal page

I can’t recommend Audible enough.  This is the key to my reading routine that has made it so accessible and easy for me.  The reason why I enjoy audiobooks so much is because I can use every extra little second I have for reading.  Driving in the car on those rare occasions when I am running errands by myself.  At night when I am feeling very tired but still want to do my reading.  In the bathtub, when I don’t want to risk getting a book wet.  I still get sucked into the world of the book, and sometimes- as in the case of my current favorite book of all time– my experience is enhanced by a thrilling performance of the many different characters by an accomplished voice actor.

You can sign up for a free trial, and there are a couple different levels of membership.  I highly recommend the Gold membership, because you get 1 credit to use each month, which means you can get a new audiobook every month, for only $15 (plus tax).  This is almost always a significant savings from buying audiobooks individually, because most of them are $30 or more!  Audible has made me so excited to keep reading.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about bookmarks or losing my place in my book, and I always have a book with me, wherever I go, because I use the audible app on my iPhone!

Switch Around, Go Slow, Make it Work For You!

Your reading routine is yours, and you should do whatever makes it most fun.  Listen when you are most relaxed, read for short bursts when you are tired, switch books if you get bored with your current one, and if you just don’t feel like reading one night, skip it.  Associating pleasure with reading is key to maintaining your reading routine.  And, of course, leave your favorite book recommendations in the comments, so I can add them to my Audible Wish List!  Happy reading!


Easy ways you can teach chore sharing in the kitchen

Do you and your husband have a good arrangement in the kitchen?  By that, I mean, do you help each other with chore sharing?  The daily give-and-take of meal prep and serving and clean up?  If you’re hoping for a little more backup, asking for help is a crucial component of relieving your stress.  Often, people don’t know how dire our situation is until we tell them.  My suspicion is that right now, a good deal of your focus- and frustration- is in the kitchen.

Maybe The Most Demanding Room In Our Home

There is no avoiding the kitchen in a day at home.  There are three meals and two to three snacks that have to be prepared in there.  If your home has an open concept, like mine, there is a good chance that your kitchen is visible from other rooms as well.  That means if it’s messy, the mess is on display.  Not only to you and your kids and husband, but to any potential visitors as well.

In the movies, kitchens always look so untouched and perfect.  Pristine bowls of gorgeous fruit, tons of cabinet space, sparkling stainless steel appliances, and not a dish out of place.

Boy, a definite case of life not imitating art, huh?

Your Family Needs Your Kitchen

I think there’s an important thing to remember about the kitchen.  If you’ve been taking charge of that room, and doing all the meal planning, shopping, prep, serving, and cleaning, you need to stop.  You need to delegate.  You are missing some important opportunities to let your family learn and help you.  This goes way beyond eschewing the passé notion of the kitchen being “the mom’s job”: the simple fact is, everyone in your family has to eat.  Instead of piling so many burdens on yourself, this is a great opportunity for you to instill some equality and chore sharing in your whole family.  We all have to use the kitchen, so we all have to keep it in working order.  It’s a simple, practical, and really functional way to live.

Easy Ways To Begin Chore Sharing

For small children, this concept can be introduced, though of course it will be hard for them to really help you execute it.  My four-year-old takes his dishes to the sink after every meal.  And setting the table is a great opportunity to practice counting (how many of us are there?  OK, how many forks do we need?  Can you pull out and count the forks?), as well as how to set a table. Again, this is an introductory concept and you’ll probably still have to help your kids put everything in the right place.  But even if they only help you at dinner, that’s six or seven times a week to practice.  They’ll pick it up very quickly at that rate!

For the really little ones, like my two-year-old, simple concepts can still be reinforced.  If my little one gets antsy at the end of a meal, and dumps out his water cup or throws his plate of food, he has to help me clean it up.  He can wipe spills, carry small items to the sink, help throw away trash, and push in chairs.  For really, really little ones, simply having them watch their older siblings practice their chore sharing, and using that opportunity to reinforce language (or sign language), is still valuable.

Chore Sharing and Husbands

Our husbands want to help us.  A lot of the time, they just aren’t sure how.  The kitchen is such an easy place to start chore sharing, and ask for help, because there are so many things that need to be done there.  For me and my husband, it took a while to find our rhythm, but now that we have it, life is so much more blissful.  It’s not perfect- I need to keep stressing this point, no household system ever is- but our kitchen is so much more manageable because we’re both participating.

What do you really like to do?  For me, that’s a no brainer.  I love to meal plan, and I like the challenge of grocery shopping (most of the time).  So, I happily take those tasks.  I don’t enjoy cooking a lot of the time, especially dinner, unless it’s a crock pot meal because then I can make it at the same time that I make lunch.  By dinnertime, my energy is at it’s lowest point, and the last thing I want to do most nights is get in front of the stove.  Luckily, my husband loves to cook.

Wiggle Room and Detail Cleaning

It’s harder to establish a chore sharing routine if neither of you particularly likes or dislikes particular tasks.  Neither I, nor my husband, enjoy cleaning.  But I’ve found he is much more willing to do the dishes after dinner if I have emptied the dishwasher for him.  And I’m happy to do that.

Then, some nights, I’ll treat him to a break and do the dishes.  That arrangement is beneficial for a number of reasons- he gets to just relax after dinner and hang out with the kids, and I get a chance to really clean my whole kitchen; wipe appliances, mop floors, clean spills from cupboards, clean my glass stovetop, etc.  Because there’s actually someone to watch the kids, I can take the time to attend to the details.

We all benefit from arrangements like these; the trick is to make them, and keep communicating about what’s working and what isn’t.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it may take some adjusting to really find a system that works.  But you need help, and he wants to help you.  Start working together in the kitchen, and so many other things will follow.

A Quick Word About The Dishes

Sometimes big life changes come in small packages.  One of my summer projects last summer was the free online course 90 Day Budget Boot Camp.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I feel like I’m a pretty darn good budgeter and I still learned so much.  PS- I’m not paid to recommend that course, I do so because it’s just a great course!

Probably the biggest, most beneficial takeaway of the whole camp was the “do your dishes” assignment.  The rules were simple: at night, after dinner, you had to clear your sink.  Run the dishwasher, do the dishes by hand, use paper plates… just get your dishes done.

I got my husband in on the challenge.  We tracked our clean sink on a calendar, and we got them done 28 of the 30 days of the challenge.  And now, almost every single night, the dishes get done.  We were not nearly so perfect before this challenge.  But that month was long enough to create the habit, and we discovered exactly how much easier it is to take care of a kitchen when the dishes aren’t piling up.

If your kitchen is seemingly out of control, and you’re feeling desperate, the dishes challenge is an awesome way to start.  You will have to work together to make it happen every night.  And then, you can continue the conversation about chore sharing, because it’s already happening!  You will both fall in love with having a system and not worrying about the dishes so much.

Doing the dishes is a great way to practice chore sharing.
Clean Dishes, Healthy Habits

A Game Of Averages

And now, the all-important disclaimer!  My husband and I are lovely people, but we’re a tad on the sloppy side.  We don’t have the kids clean up after themselves every single night.  And I don’t get to all my share of kitchen chores every day, either.  Our chore sharing system isn’t perfect, and I don’t push myself to be perfect, either.  I’ll talk a lot more about perfectionism at some other point.  For right now, this is what I want you to think about, and start practicing: asking for help and balancing your needs with your perceived obligations.

Some days, that is all we can manage.  If your husband has the energy to do his chores and yours, then you can make sure to give him a big thank you hug and kiss!  But if he is not, then your chores will live to see another day.  Take that precious evening time and read a book with the kids, give them an extra long bath, take a family walk, or play a game.  Re-energize yourself, give yourself the gift of patience and kindness, and nurture your family.

Why you should stop multi-tasking

It’s my personal opinion that multi-tasking was the death of my attention span.  At its worst, before I started practicing mindfulness, I was so impatient and easily distractible that I was unable to sit still and read a book.  I couldn’t just watch a show on Netflix, I had to also be playing an iPad game or checking Facebook or reading my email.

If you’re feeling particularly scattered and disorganized, my very first suggestion would be to stop multi-tasking.  If you’re afraid it’s going to prevent you from getting enough things crossed off your daily to-do list, let me be the first to reassure you, that fear is misplaced.  Multi-tasking prevents you from doing anything effectively.  I like this article from Health.com, it really breaks down sensibly all the big reasons why multi-tasking is counter to productivity.

I Used to Love Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking used to be a crucial part of my daily life; when I was a barista at Starbucks (almost a decade ago now), we were trained to be doing as many things at once as we possibly could.  And I got pretty good at it.  However, before the end of my employment with them, they were already beginning to change their training and routine procedures to encourage single-tasking and focused efficiency.  They were responding to the (then-emerging) research about how ineffective multi-tasking is.

Frustrations and Forgetfulness

In my case, multi-tasking, on top of making me feel terrible, caused me to double-book myself for appointments and playdates, because I had a poorly managed calendar system.  Maybe my greatest frustration was the number of times I would warm up my coffee in the microwave (while doing a bunch of other things like cleaning, cooking or feeding my kids), and completely forget about it in there.  Perfectly good coffee!  That I could have enjoyed!

I understand why you think you have to multi-task.  With a few kids underfoot, sometimes it feels so necessary.  And you might be worrying (or even dreading) what a hard habit it’s going to be to break.  It takes a lot of effort and patience.  But those feelings of panic and confusion when you’re trying to manage your day are completely avoidable.  I remember always feeling like I was flying by the seat of my pants.  The second you slow down, you’re going to have a noticeable sense of control, and calm.  It feels great!

Anxiety and Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking seems to have a negative affect on anxiety- at least it did on mine.  I think it fueled my negative, frenzied thoughts, and impacted my ability to slow down and process them.  I’ve been trying to find some scientific articles or studies to support my personal feelings, and they’ve been surprisingly hard to find!  But this article from Psychology Today has a lot of helpful points that seem to indicate my suspicions are correct.

If your anxiety levels are high right now, I think slowing down could help you enormously.  I obviously need to mention that I am not a doctor, and if you are feeling particularly anxious, depressed or any combination of those two feelings, please please please consult with your doctor to discuss solutions.

Mindfulness- The Opposite of Multi-Tasking

My therapist was the one who suggested mindfulness as a solution to my lack of attention span.  It seemed overwhelming at first to try to be totally focused and in the moment for any length of time.  But it doesn’t have to be any massive commitment.  The simple act of completing one task at a time is a great way to begin to practice mindfulness.

If you’re feeling particularly unsure of where to begin, these are a few basic activities to try:

  • Sit and have a cup of coffee.  Don’t do anything else.  Just taste the coffee.
  • Empty the dishwasher.  Enjoy the feeling of putting the dishes away, without any added pressure to also cook, clean or eat.
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook.  If your attention span is short, you can set a timer for as little as two minutes.  If you want to keep reading after the timer goes off, by all means, keep reading!  If you’re bored, you can be done.  Slowly extend your timer as you feel more and more comfortable.
  • Watch a show or movie you really like.  Don’t do anything else, don’t even be near your phone.  If you lose interest, turn it off and try again at another time.
  • Sit and watch your kids play (this can be for as short as 60 seconds).  Your only goal is to experience the simple joy of watching them play.  If they say or do something particularly cute, you can write it down, to remember later when you need a smile.

Slow and Steady Wins the Day

There are still times when we are going to have to multi-task.  With multiple kids, we are pretty much always multi-tasking because we have to watch all of them at the same time!  Don’t put pressure on yourself to feel perfectly at ease, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t sit still for long, or you find yourself doing two things at once.

As my therapist said to me, “even buddhist monks are not mindful and present all hours of the day.”  It’s impossible.  That’s not the goal.  The goal is to stop the feelings of unhappiness and mental clutter, in favor of focus, intention and clarity.  This will come slowly, with practice and a positive mindset.  Give yourself the gift of time, and self-love.  Each day, look for the opportunities to take things one step at a time.  The transformation might be so gradual that you don’t even notice how far you’ve come, until suddenly you have sat at peace for an hour, watching a movie or reading a beloved book!

How to assess your life and start finding fulfillment

From Unbalanced to Balanced

After a lot of reflection and consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that being a balanced mom, having a balanced life, and finding fulfillment has a specific shape and formula.

The “More Than Mom” Life Triangle

This image helps moms see their personal fulfillment "big picture"!

If it looks complicated, it’s actually not at all.  Essentially, I believe that finding fulfillment comes from a good solid base of Reflection and Re-Evaluation (the very bottom of the triangle).  The things on which you are reflecting and re-evaluating are all the other things in that triangle.  They are the things that make you you.  Any mom knows we are not one thing.  We spend our days chasing after our gorgeous kids, feeding them and playing with them and cleaning up all manner of bodily fluids; but if you look up the word “Mom” in the dictionary, you wouldn’t see our picture next to the word.

We’re Much More Complicated and Beautiful Than That

That’s why “mom” is at the very top of the triangle.  Our identity as “mom” is undeniable.  And we love playing that role.  But just as in any other job or skill, there are other things we need to be cultivating to be at our peak (get it?  the peak of the triangle?).  It’s sort of a corny play-on-words but it’s apt, as well.  To be in top “mom” shape, to feel our best and comfortable at the apex of our life triangle, all the other building blocks need to be in place.

What Are The Other Building Blocks?

I’m glad you asked!  They are, in the diagram, as follows:

  • Self-Care
  • Relationships
  • Personal Peace
  • Hobbies

I don’t give any of those things more importance than the others.  They are fluid, they change as our priorities, projects and goals shift.  They should all be treated like flowers in a garden- some need more water, attention and pruning at times than others; and from one season to the next, they will bloom and grow quite differently.  But they should all be present in our gardens always, and we should have an idea of how much focus we are putting into them at any given time.

What Needs Attention in Your Garden?

I’ve made you a worksheet so you can see where you are now, and decide where you would like to be.  Notice, I haven’t put any deadlines or action steps on this worksheet.  This is simply a chance for you to reflect on what finding fulfillment, your “Big Picture”, looks like.

On my last visit to see my midwife, for a well-woman physical, I was caught by surprise by a lot of her questions.  They were about my lifestyle, and until she really had me reflect on my actual daily routines, I hadn’t realized how much farther I still had to go in terms of self-care and whole-person wellness.  That’s my intention with this worksheet.  Go ahead and download it now, and I’ll clarify a few items.

A Word About Self-Care

For the purposes of our triangle, Self-Care is the term I chose to cover a lot of ground.  I think people pigeonhole self-care into a restrictive box reserved for things like hot baths, lotion massages or aromatherapy.  While all of those things do indeed fall within the bubble of self-care, that’s not really what I’m restricting my definition of self-care to be.

By self-care, I mean whole body health.  Exercise, diet, sleep, water, hygiene- as well as any extra “treats” you give yourself on a regular basis.  I’m doing this for a reason.  You need to be considering your entire body’s health every day.  You need to be thinking about the small measures you can take to preserve your well-being.  In my case, this was the area of my life- far more than any other- that I was neglecting.

We pretend we “don’t have time” to take care of ourselves.  I am going to write much, much more on this subject.  For now, to keep this post on topic, I need to stick to a brief admonishment: challenge that thought.  Challenge it each day.  Finthe time.  Don’t think about what you need to do instead… there isn’t anything in your life you should be doing instead of practicing the basics of self-care.  Period.  There won’t be a test on that material but there WILL be questions on your worksheet!

Personal Peace

I used this term to cover a lot of meaning as well.  If your journey towards finding fulfillment includes practice of a religion, or deepening your practice, this is that category.  Otherwise, feel free to choose any activity that you think might help you connect better with yourself.  It could be absolutely anything, from the study of philosophy, meditation, journaling, etc.  Anything that could allow you to spend time with yourself, maybe exploring further into aspects of your personality that you haven’t in a long time.  There are a lot of different ways to do this.  I will write more about them in future posts.

Take Your Time

This worksheet doesn’t need to be completed in one sitting.  It can be something you take a few days to consider, and maybe that’s a wise idea.  Spend a couple days being mindful of your daily routine.  What do you do for everyone else in your life?  What are you doing for yourself?  It can be hard to realize what’s missing until you really stop and look for it.  

The Most Important Thing To Remember

Don’t panic if you start to realize you have a long list of personal habits you’d like to change, or things you’re not doing that you want to be doing.  Take a deep breath.  This is not a to-do list.  It’s a thoughtful exercise about where you are in your life right now.  It shouldn’t be used to make yourself feel bad.  Exactly the opposite, actually- this is a great sign that you’re investing the time and energy to begin to search for more.  The long path to finding fulfillment begins with an understanding that the balance isn’t where it’s supposed to be.  Then, you begin the long journey towards the happy medium you’re seeking.  Practice patience and self-love, and you’re already much farther along your path.

Again, if you need it, here is the link to subscribe to my newsletter and download the worksheet:

Why you need personal fulfillment to be your best mom

When did you figure out you had lost yourself?  How long did it take?  When did you lose all sense of personal fulfillment?  How many months did you focus all your efforts on being “(your name here) The Mom”, before you finally woke up and realized you were neglecting every other part of yourself?  Did it make you sad?  Or angry?  How long have you felt that way?

I’m really sorry that you’re feeling so down. I know exactly how you feel. I don’t really remember how I got to feeling so low, because it was such a gradual change; I slowly let go of all the things that made me me, and all that was left was Heather the Mom.

And for a while, I was OK keeping all my eggs in that basket. I was mastering the art of having two kids, I was still breastfeeding- which took an extraordinary amount of time and effort- and we had moved into a new house.  I had a whole new household management system to create and figure out how to maintain. That’s a lot of projects!  Plus, I had quit my part-time job so I could have weekends at home with my husband and kids, figuring out how to be a family of four.  And, I had stopped working my direct sales business- my side hustle- for lots of reasons, but mostly due to a perceived lack of time.

But the problem with putting all your eggs in one basket is, eventually, you look at all the other empty baskets in your life, and you say, “hey, what happened?”

Wise Moms Create A Happy Medium

In my early twenties, I was a nanny.  I worked for this really smart, efficient and sassy woman in California. She was a trauma surgeon, and on-call almost 24-7. Which, of course, meant that I was on-call almost 24-7.  However, she worked hard to give me time off whenever she could. She knew that I would be a better nanny for her kid if I also had some free time to pursue personal fulfillment. “Happy nanny = happy kid”, she used to say. Well… guess what? “Happy mommy = happy babies.” There’s really no difference. Being a mom does NOT mean you have to give up all those other things that you used to do. Some of them become a lot more difficult to maintain, there’s no question.  And maybe some things have to go on the back burner for a while.  But creating a full, happy life is something you can always be striving for; it doesn’t have to wait until your last child is off to college, and it really shouldn’t wait that long.

Do Unto Yourself as You Would Unto Your Children!

If you’re still not quite with me on this, turn the tables: what do you want for your kids, more than anything else? I can answer that question without even having to think about it: their happiness. I want them to have a wonderful, happy childhood. I want us to create memories now that they can carry with them forever. I want to make them feel loved, protected, fulfilled and appreciated. I want to give them absolutely everything I possibly can, because I love them.

Guess what?

All of those things I said above, I also need to be striving for, for MYSELF. Why? Because I deserve personal fulfillment. We deserve it!  I don’t feel deserving every day, I’ll bet you don’t either. One of our first steps in this journey is to let go of the guilt, and give ourselves a place at the table. It is going to be hard work. Why?

I run the risk of being a little sexist when I make this next statement, so hear me out: I don’t think it’s necessarily the most natural trait for women to take things for themselves. Or do things for themselves. I think it is easier for us- especially us mothers- to put our kids, our families, our friends, or our husbands first. Of course, that’s a generalizing statement, and I don’t mean it as a hard-and-steadfast rule to be applied to our entire gender. But I know that statement is true of you and me, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

To be honest, I still find it far easier to put my kids before myself. There’s all kinds of logic surrounding that idea: my kids are small, they need me, they can’t do things for themselves… they- and their needs- are more important.

False

Your kids can be as important as you. But not more important than you. Parenthood, inherently, involves a tremendous amount of sacrifice. If your child is up vomiting at two a.m., you’re not going to roll over and keep snoozing because you don’t feel like getting out of bed. You’re going to do just the opposite. You’re going to rush out of bed as if you hadn’t just been deeply asleep, go to your child, and try to help him or her in whatever ways you can. That’s being a mom. And it’s absolutely necessary. To an extent, it’s counter to what you need to give yourself- because you would function better on a full night’s sleep!

So, in other words, I’m not talking about the daily demands of motherhood. Those change every day. They challenge us, they push us to new limits, and sometimes, many times, they leave us spent. Crawling into bed- surrendering- just a few seconds after we have tucked in our children.

Simultaneous Self-Care and Personal Fulfillment

So, what can we do for ourselves, in tandem, as we are also doing things for our children?  Are we showering and gently washing our own hair, lovingly, as we do for our precious babes? Are we feeding ourselves carefully prepared, lovingly crafted meals with at least some nutritional value (I realize this easier some days than others, but we’re definitely trying to feed our kids as healthily and heartily as possible!)? Are we carefully, lovingly, brushing our own teeth and hair, washing our own faces, discerningly picking out a cute outfit we can run around, maybe get a little dirty, and have fun wearing? (I’m guessing the answer to many of these questions, for you, is no, because I know it was for me). Are we letting ourselves have some fun? Where in the day is the time for our play-based learning?!

We have to find it. We have to make it. It will not happen on its own. But the most important point here, the thing that you have to know, is that you can and should fulfill your own personal needs, too. Not just your children’s. No one else is going to do that for you. That’s probably the most difficult part of being an adult, and a parent to boot- no one else can look out for you with the same understanding and compassion as you can do for yourself. That’s just how it works. We have to learn how to balance the demands of our whole selves and our children’s. Have I mentioned yet that this is difficult? Well, not to belabor the point, but it is!

I Would Love To Help You

That’s where I come in. I’ll share everything I can with you about my own journey back to personal fulfillment. Spoiler alert- it is still ongoing. But I’m so much happier, so much better, so much more at peace than I was even just a few months ago. I’m so excited to help you get to this point, and further along.

A Life Lesson Applied on an Airplane

This post has kinda perfect timing, because we were just discussing this topic in the Early Childhood class I attend with my children once a week.  Our Parent Educator asked us why, when you fly, are you told before takeoff, if you need an oxygen mask because of a sudden drop in pressure, ‘please secure your own mask before helping small children’?  Why would they say this?  And I even had the thought in my head, “of COURSE I would secure my kids’ masks before mine!”  But, she pointed out (and I had a real duh moment), here’s the problem with that: what if I pass out due to lack of oxygen before I am able to finish helping my kids?  Who will help them, then?  I have to breathe if I am going to help my children do the same.

Though this analogy is slightly dramatic, the basic principle is still true.  I can’t be a good mom if I am not attending to my basic needs.  And some of my more sophisticated needs as well!  If I am totally unfulfilled, I can’t possibly fulfill my kids’ needs!  Balance, balance, balance is key, and we are going to work hard to find it every day.  Some days will be more successful than others, but that’s life.  Self-love is complicated, it fluctuates, and it doesn’t come naturally to nurturers like us.  But it is so worth it!

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Menu Planning

Simple tips and tricks to make menu planning less stressful and more efficient!
Mom Improvement Presents: The Busy Mom’s Guide to Menu Planning

Is Menu Planning a Chore For You?

I have a love-hate relationship with menu planning and grocery shopping. Sometimes I am excited to try new recipes I have found, or we have special events planned and I get to do some special cooking. Other times, it feels like I’m trudging out the same tired old recipes, the stress of trying to reduce our grocery budget is exhausting, and I just can’t imagine dragging myself and the kids to the grocery store!

If you share any of those feelings, I’m sure you can relate! These are the best tips I have found to help bring mindfulness and stress reduction into my grocery and cooking habits.

Make Menu Planning less stressful and more straightforward!
What’s on the Menu?

Tip 1: Make a List of “Backup” Meals

This was yet another tip from the amazingess that was the Budget Boot Camp. But it’s really, really helpful. You just make a short list of meals that you pretty much always have the supplies/energy to make. The quickest, easiest dinners at your fingertips. My family uses something off this list about once a week; my husband comes home late from work, I’ve been too tired and busy with the kids to bother cooking, we’re in a time crunch before bedtime and we need to get a meal on the table. We take a deep breath, and we consult our Backup List. To give you some inspiration for yours, here is ours:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Chicken breasts, a vegetable and a starch (bread, potato, rice, etc.)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Macaroni and Cheese (from a box)
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Soup and bread, salad or sandwiches
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and fruit
  • Eggs and Toast
  • Breakfast for Dinner

(Obviously I need to make sure that I stock up on the ingredients for these meals when we are running low, so I have this list on the fridge so I can reference it when I’m preparing to go grocery shopping)

When Menu Planning, try doing an ingredient search to find new recipes and use up what's in your cupboard!
Quinoa

Tip 2: Search for Ingredients for New Ideas

Right now, in my cupboard, I have not one but two bags of quinoa. Presumably, I bought it for a recipe I never made, then forgot I had it and bought another bag the next time I decided to make a dish involving quinoa. I make unfortunate mistakes like this on a relatively frequent basis. The first and easiest solution to this problem is to keep a good inventory of your pantry and cupboards somewhere that you can reference when you’re making your grocery list. I still need to do this! Let me know if you have a good system already in place, I would love some tips!

There’s an easy way to solve this problem of too much quinoa, however, and that is to search a recipe website for quinoa. A bunch of interesting recipes will pop up involving quinoa and I can pick something new to add to my menu planning that will use up my extra ingredients! You can do this with anything in your cupboard, and sometimes some really unexpected things will come up! I have a terrific recipe for a dessert made with garbanzo beans that I never would have found if I hadn’t had an extra can of garbanzo beans in my cupboard and decided I needed to use them up! You can use any recipe website you like, really, and don’t be afraid to go looking for new recipe sources. Let me know if you’d like me to write more about that, too!

PepperPlate has made my menu planning SO much easier!
PepperPlate App

Tip 3: PepperPlate (or something like it)

One of the best investments of time I have ever made was to manually upload my recipe collection to an app called “PepperPlate“. It’s really easy to use and it has a built-in menu planning Calendar. You can also add ingredients from your recipes right to the built-in shopping list in the app. It’s been a really big time-saver, because all of a sudden, all my recipes are in one place. Building a menu is only a couple of scrolls and clicks!

Plus, if I happen to be out and about, and decide to pick something up for dinner, I have the recipe and ingredients list right on my phone, so I know I won’t accidentally forget something. It took a long time to set it up initially, but it has been completely worth it. It helps me rotate through a much larger selection of recipes. This helps prevent us from getting bored with eating the same foods over and over again. It also helps me avoid some of the pitfalls of menu planning: over-planning and over-buying (hence, overspending).

There are probably a few different apps like this one, so pick the one you like the best and take the time to get all your recipes in one place. You won’t regret it! Plus, then you can store your cookbooks wherever you want (and they don’t have to take up space in your kitchen if you don’t have the room!).

If Menu Planning has you overbuying your groceries, try planning fewer meals for the week!
Try not to overbuy your groceries!

Tip 4: You can be a little under-prepared

You don’t need to plan a meal for dinner for every night of the week. Especially if you are well-stocked with items from your backup menu. Things happen- we get invited to eat dinner with our in-laws, maybe a conflict comes up or the kids don’t want what we planned to eat and we need to improvise a little. I usually plan about five meals (for dinner) in a week. Those extra two nights can be taken care of in lots of different ways, including eating leftovers, as well. It saves money on our grocery budget, it allows for flexibility and improvisation and it keeps me from buying too much food.

Remember your backup list- it’s important to stick to it, especially if you are like us and you have a very slim budget for eating out or ordering in. It takes a little bit of extra willpower sometimes, but sticking to a strict grocery budget is a major contributor to our monthly financial discipline and planning, so we make it a priority, my husband and I talk about it a lot, and we strategize how to keep everything running smoothly.

What do you do to make your menu planning easier and less stressful? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Reason Why I’m NOT Making a New Year’s Resolution

I am NOT Making a New Year's Resolution this year!
Mom Improvement Presents: The Reason Why I’m NOT Making a New Year’s Resolution

It’s January!

I took a bit of a break at the end of last year, to refresh and get over a terrible illness!  But now I’m back and ready for 2018!

Don't make a New Year's Resolution. Just start the New Year.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

This post is the beginning of a new experiment!

I’m going to try a few new things this year, a few new types of posts.  I’m still a very new blogger, trying to find my style and voice.  A lot of the posts I have written so far have been project or goal-based.  But I’m also looking to explore and write some more prosaic and theory-based posts.  I’d love to share some of the amazing parenting lessons I’ve learned from the ECFE classes I’ve been taking with my boys.  I’m also really interested in exploring some of the philosophies behind some of the anxieties and sadness that I feel- in a way that could help all of us moms out there relate to each other better.

Right now, though, I have a question for you.

Are you sick of New Year’s Resolutions?  I have been grappling with this question all week, actually.  I was trying to figure out what the best kind of post would be for this blog for the new year.  My goals of mindfulness, minimalism and living life at a slower pace are somewhat out of sync with the New Year’s Resolution.  I don’t want to adopt any new behaviors or radical changes.  I definitely don’t need to add any new stress into my life!  And I’m working so hard to appreciate a simpler, more modest approach to a day, to a to-do list, etc.  I want a daily routine that has more peace, less panic.

What is your New Year's Resolution?
?

How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions?

It can feel like you’re not doing your “homework” if you don’t have a New Year’s Resolution.  It’s such a standard small-talk question at this time of year.  “Do you have any resolutions?”  And don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying they are a bad thing.  The optimistic approach of starting with a clean slate, making positive change or sticking to a behavior can be really refreshing.

For me, personally, I just don’t think it works.  I’m the type of person who views life through a pretty hard-and-fast filter.  If I start a new habit, and miss even one day, I feel the entire experiment is a failure and I give up.  So a resolution, at the outset, is an opportunity for me to challenge myself to do something at which I know I’ll fail.  And then I do, and I prove something silly and untrue TO myself ABOUT myself.

If this is true of you as well…

I still think you could make a New Year’s Resolution if you want to.  It would require a daily chat with yourself.  An affirmation that you’re on the right track, that you can make slow change, and even if you miss a day or two, it’s OK!  And you would probably have to set yourself smaller, “trial run”, time frames.  I talk about that idea in this post (look for the part about time).

I'm trying something very new and different this year! I'm not making a New Year's Resolution!
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

However, I’m trying something different this year

And you’re welcome to try it with me.  It’s very, very simple.  We’re a few days into the New Year and we have more than three hundred days of opportunity ahead.  What if our “New Year’s Resolution” doesn’t involve making a big transformation?  What if we already have all the tools in front of us to be our best selves?  I realized the other day that, five years ago, if I’d told myself what I was doing with my life today, I would have thought I made it.  I am living the life I dreamed I would be living.

But in actuality?  This doesn’t feel anything like the dream!  There’s stress, bills, boredom, messes… Most days, it feels like hell, not heaven.  And certainly not the stuff of dreams.

I’m looking at my life through the filter of “what’s missing?”  

My New Year’s Resolution doesn’t have anything to do with making change.  I have everything I need already- just ask Five-Years-Ago-Me!

So what is missing?  Anything?

What if the answer is NO?

My goal for this year isn’t a goal at all.  I mean- I do have things I want to accomplish.  But I don’t have a New Year’s Resolution.  I have a deep desire to feel differently about my life.  A need to see the best in everything.  I want to greet each day with joy, cherish these precious moments with my children.  I do want to grow as a person… through very simple actions- reading some of the many books I have on my shelves!  Enjoying the possessions I already have instead of shopping for more STUFF.  Journaling.  Blogging.  Regular date nights with my husband!

Life is just waiting to be lived.

I realize I’m not saying anything groundbreaking.  I’m not intending to make waves.  The fact that these ideas are so obvious is exactly my point!  We have all the tools we need at our disposal to live our best lives, be our best selves.  We are already here, in this moment, bursting with promise!

Let's try this Non-New Year's Resolution Together!
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Don’t make a New Year’s Resolution.  Just start the New Year.

I can’t wait to share it with you.  Let’s go!

Road to Minimalism: Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

Practicing Mindfulness and Minimalism to create the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe!
Mom Improvement Presents: Road to Minimalism: Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

The Road to Minimalism

Every once in a while, I’m going to write about de-cluttering.  I’m calling it “The Road to Minimalism”.  This is because I hope to achieve a minimal amount of belongings by the end of my journey.  I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who could count all my possessions on one hand or anything like that.  I would never try to convince you to live like that, either!  But my personal feelings about ownership have been shifting lately.  Maybe you share some of my feelings?

My new motto, inspired by my journey towards mindfulness and minimalism!
Have nothing in your home that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful!

Mindfulness and Messes

A great source of stress (for anyone) is clutter.  When stuff is everywhere, we tend to feel a little claustrophobic, no?  Plus, I realized that I would rather have a few nice things than a bunch of crappy, cheap things I don’t really like or use!

I decided to start with my wardrobe because it seemed like a practical, essential place to start.  If I had a small amount of nice clothes, that went together, that I also liked to wear… well, that would be perfect!

Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

I am not fashionable.  Not one bit.  My shopping habits can be described as “erratic”, “random”, and “quirky”.  I tend to just choose single pieces that I like, and assume they will incorporate in with the rest of my wardrobe.  SPOILER ALERT: More often than not, they do not!  And especially after a friend of mine started selling LuLaRoe, my wardrobe became full of things that couldn’t possibly be paired together, because they were unique or crazy prints.

So, time to purge… and wait quite some time before I start replacing.

My Main Methods and Philosophies

There are a lot of articles out there already about how to create a “capsule” wardrobe.  I think this method is a little different than the usual ones.  How?  It’ll be slower.  I’ll be honest, I don’t have the money to buy a bunch of new clothes, so if you’re in that boat, too, try my plan!  The goal is to figure out what we already have.  And figure out how to put those things together in as many different combinations as possible.  So here is the basic plan for creating our perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe:

  1. Go through your wardrobe once each season.
  2. Pick things you know you’re never going to wear again.
  3. Sell them on ebay if they are in good condition
  4. Or donate them*
  5. If you can fit it into your budget, GYPO (see below) can help us figure out as many combinations for outfits as possible
  6. Keep track of what you wear and how often.
  7. At the end of this season, purge yet again, removing the items that just didn’t get used.
  8. Depending on the balance in my paypal account after my ebay sales, I may be able to invest in some new pieces… but that remains to be seen!
Creating the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe with minimalism and mindfulness!
A well-ordered closet!

Getting Started: Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe Style

To make outfit planning easier, create a “hanger system” in your closet.  I moved all the summer clothes, dresses, and everything else to the back of my closet (I have a walk-in).  If you don’t have enough room to do this, put everything you don’t need away somewhere.  Then put everything you want to incorporate into your seasonal wardrobe on hangers.  We want to see it all together.

Start Removing!

You know what you don’t need anymore.  Get it outta there and decide what to do with it!

*My neighborhood participates in this awesome local recycling program called “Simple Recycling”.  We can leave out bags of clothes and other household things and they get collected right along with our recycling every other week!  It’s a great way to get things out of the house.  If you need suggestions on where to give your stuff, this is a great article.

Creating the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe... with a LOT of help from an expert!
Photo Credit: Get Your Pretty On

Get Your Pretty On: *Affiliate Link*

If you used my link to sign up for a style challenge, I would make a small commission- not paid by you, paid by the affiliate.  Feel free to refer to my Privacy Policy, Disclaimer, and Terms and Conditions if you need any more information!

Even with all my clothes laid out in front of me, I am not good at putting together outfits.  I need help.  So, I turned to “Get Your Pretty On”.

It’s a pretty awesome “Style Challenge”, created by this adorable woman named Allison.  I loved getting an email every night telling me what I was going to wear the next day- and I didn’t even buy anything, I adapted every outfit suggestion with stuff I already had in my closet, so it was a major savings.  Plus, I put a lot of my clothes together in a way that I never have before!

This is what you get when you sign up:

  • A capsule wardrobe shopping list (you’re free to shop where you want and spend as much or as little as you want; I spent nothing!).
  • Links to shop for recommended items online or in store.
  • A daily outfit idea- created from pieces on the shopping list- sent to your inbox, so you know exactly what to wear every day.
  • Plus, a beautiful, printable outfit guide so you can see all the outfits in one place!

If you are interested…

This is the GYPO website so you can check it out.

And here’s my affiliate link if you decide to buy: The Stay-at-Home-Mom Capsule Wardrobe is $29.  I know that’s a little steep, but it came with so many wonderful outfit suggestions based on just a few pieces, and I already had most of them (or things similar enough) in my closet.

If you don’t think this is the right idea for you, I know that next month, Allison is releasing something called “The Big Book of Outfit Formulas”, and I think it’s only going to be $29.  For a big book full of outfit ideas.  Yes, please!  I can’t wait to get it.  I think it will be the perfect way to look for inspiration in the pile of “blah” that I feel like I have going on right now.

Also, GYPO does a capsule wardrobe for each season of the year, as well as a yearly subscription that comes with access to all the seasons.  If you’re in the market for something like that, I definitely recommend it!  She sends awesome weekly emails with outfit inspirations, and she has a fantastic eye for how clothes go together.

Putting together outfits is just not one of my skill sets, so I am so glad I decided to get some help.  I genuinely feel like I am using my current wardrobe so much more effectively, and it’s way, way easier to get dressed in the morning.

Look for Other Resources

Don’t worry if you don’t want to spend for a program like that!  Pinterest is chock full of wardrobe boards and outfit pins (you can check out mine here).  Or, call a friend who dresses well!  People love to share their knowledge.  Maybe she can come over sometime after the kiddos are asleep and help you go through what you have.  Sometimes a fresh eye can help you see things differently!

Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe using Minimalism and Mindfulness, plus some well-organized hangers!
A hanger system helps me track what I’m wearing how often!

Use Your Hangers to Help You Keep Track

If I wear something multiple times, it is getting moved to the very front of my closet.  Things I’m not wearing are getting rotated to the back.  You could also take a selfie of your outfit to help you remember what you’re wearing.  Figure out a way to keep track of your most “popular” items- these are the things that are getting heavy rotation!  For sure you will want to keep these clothes and maybe find other ones like them in different colors/cuts.

It’s really up to you how you want to keep track of this.  Using a Pinterest Board, a Polyvore account, or just a list on paper.  Just try to track 2 things- what you’re wearing a lot of (like blouses, t-shirts or black pants), and what you would like to look for in the future to help you make more outifts.  For me right now, I am jonesing for a good pair of brown riding boots!

Start Price Shopping

I’m not going to do any buying until the end of the season, because I want to really get the most out of what I already have before I add more (remember the minimalism thing?).  I’m going to start making clothes-shopping decisions at least a week-long process.  This will just help me make sure that I really want that item.  If I’m still thinking about it a whole week later, then I’ll start looking for it.

I want to keep an eye out for things that will last me a long time, too.  If I find something at a higher price tag that’s going to give me a few years of good wear (like a good, high-quality pair of winter boots), then I’m definitely going to factor that into my clothes-buying budget.  I won’t know how much I’m going to be able to spend until I’ve sold all my ebay listings.  I’ll let you know when I figure it out!

Great New Year’s Project

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, this could be a great one!  A cleaned-out closet, a carefully-planned Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe… Happy New Year to YOU!

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