Being a working parent is no joke. When I first went back to work after having my son, the struggle to manage it all definitely hit me hard. There was stress at work, stress at home, minimal sleep, and so much to do! I barely made my way through that first year, and I knew something needed to change. I needed to find calm in my life as a working mom.
Since I wasn't able to do too much about the stress at work, I decided to look at what was causing my stress at home. And then I realized that the house I was coming home to was not set up for providing wellness. It was actually hindering my and my family's health and happiness.
What Needed to Change
Every day I would come home from work and walk into a living room that had stuff everywhere. Our 800 square foot abode did not come with an entryway so we always entered into the living room. We are by no means hoarders, but there were toys in every corner, a rouge shoe always seemed to block the front door, a perpetual pile of mail lingered on the coffee table, and dvds that hadn't been watched in years scattered the tv stand.
And the stress didn't stop at the clutter in the living room. The kitchen was small and difficult to work with. There was no kitchen storage and minimal counter space. Cooking was a pain. There was no space in the house to get in a work out. There was barely any storage in the house. And it was not well equipped with heating and cooling systems, so I was always cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
All of this was taking a toll on my overall wellness. I wasn't working out because I had no place to do so. Cooking dinner was long and tiring, and the idea of prepping meals seemed unattainable in such a small space. The uncomfortable conditions were distracting, zapping my energy, bringing down my mood, and affecting my sleep. All of this negatively affected my productivity at work and my time with my family.
How I Brought Calm Into My Life
Plants have this amazing power of being able to enhance your mood and fulfill your need of connecting with nature. They can also improve your home's air quality. I placed plants in the living room, kitchen and bedrooms.
All the lights in our house were very bright, which was messing with our internal clocks (circadian rhythm). I switched out the regular bulbs with color changing smart LED bulbs so that we had cool, blue light in the morning and orange, warm light in the evening. This helped transition my mind to a calmer, more restful state, and got me ready for sleep.
Decluttering the living room
Walking into a house that was clean and organized changed my mood immediately.
- First I picked up all of the loose toys and other random floor bound items and hauled them out of the room.
- Then I rearranged the furniture so that I could create a space for sitting, a space for toys and play, and a space for working out. None of these spaces were overly large, but they gave enough space for each activity.
- Next I went through all of the 'stuff' in the room and weeded out items we no longer used, felt connected to, or had a purpose.
- And finally I brought back in all the essentials and gave them a designated home.
Storage shelf for kitchen
I found a nook in the kitchen where I was able to add a storage unit with counter space. Just by the purchase of an inexpensive unit, I had enough space to cook meals without loosing my mind. I actually had enough room to do weekend meal prep, which made weeknight dinners so much less stressful!
Quick and Healthy Recipes on Repeat
I have always had a habit of wanting to try new recipes all of the time. If you do this too, then you know it is a really inefficient way to cook. It always takes the longest the first time you make something, and if you don't make it again, you don't perfect it and get quicker at it.
So, with some restraint, I started making the same few recipes over and over again, and my evenings got so much more enjoyable. Dinner wasn't taking 45 minutes to prepare, and I wasn't stressed about the idea of cooking something new.
Plus, creating my weekly meal plan and shopping list took a lot less time since I didn't have to think too much about what to make. I have no idea why it took me so long to discover this move.
I got a space heater
I know this one seems like an obvious change I should have made long ago, but I was a bit anti-space heaters because of the wasteful energy. Then I reminded myself that it is all about balance, and knew that the benefit of comfort for my family and me was worth the responsible use of energy.
I was learning more and more about the dangers of chemicals in our household products, and it was really stressing me out! So I started making the switch to non-toxic alternatives. It can be expensive and overwhelming to switch out all household products at once, so I slowly swapped products out over time. I even made some DIY cleaners! (Admittedly, I did not make very many because I just didn't have the time.)
It took me a while to get on board with the idea of mediation, because like most people, I thought I could never calm my mind enough to sit still with no thoughts running through my head. Once I realized that mediation is a practice, and that NO ONE starts out meditating in complete lack of thought, I gave it a try. It was a game changer!
I started meditating by using the HeadSpace app, which slowly teaches you helpful meditation techniques. I love the app and eagerly recommend it to EVERYONE. (I have absolutely no affiliate connection to this product, I just really love it.)
The best part about the practice is that it does not need to take hours of your day. I meditate for 10 minutes a day because I know that is what I am able to fit in my life right now. And that 10 minutes is enough to find some calm and clarity in my life.
what happened when i made these changes
- The first thing I noticed once I made these changes was how I felt walking into my home. There were no piles of clutter. The living room was softly lit with vibrant plants livening up the place. I immediately felt calm upon entering my home. I would come home and breathe a sigh of relief after my stressful day at work because my house brought me back at ease.
- I started sleeping better at night. Since we had a baby, there was still never the perfect night's sleep, but I felt more rested when I woke up most mornings. This was from a combination of calming the house down at night with lighting, meditation, getting in even a short workout during the day, and having a more comfortable sleeping temperature.
- I was no longer stressed about the products my family was exposed to since I was switching out household and bathing products with non-toxic alternatives. This helped put my mind at ease. It's amazing how one less thing to stress about, especially when you are a new parent, can really affect your mood.
- I was less stressed at work because I didn't have so much weighing me down in my home life.
- My time with my family was 1000x better. Walking into a calm home allowed me to leave my work stress at the door, recharge, and start a calming, happy evening with my family. There was no pressure of me having to cook dinner the moment I walked in the door. My husband and I had time and a space to get a work out in. Our son was (usually) happily playing in his toy area. We all had more time to be together, and we got to spend that time in a space that brought us health and happiness.
These changes did not happen over night, but over the course of a few months I slowly felt like my life was more in control. I was calmer at work, calmer at home, sleeping better, and generally enjoying life better. I eased into making these changes which created a stress-free process of upgrading our house to a healthy home.