Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Simple Home: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too {with giveaway!}

Maybe you've heard the catchy little phrase:

"Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids"

Maybe you're remembering hearing when I quoted it in a post two years ago.

At first glance, it's a pat on the back and an encouragement for those incredibly hard days when you somehow find yourself with 5 minutes before dinner and choose to damn the mess and sit down to eat the plastic food so lovingly prepared by the 2 year old "restaurant lady."  At the heart, it is a reminder about our priorities as mothers.  And, just to be clear, I'd rather have happy kids in a mess than screams and sobs amidst a page from a decor magazine.

But here's the thing (I always have a thing in these posts, you know?): all of the kids in Better Homes and Gardens are smiling.  What about having the cake and eating it, too?

I know, I know, that's so trite.  They probably took hundreds of photos for the magazine, and there's a chance that the one that made the page is the only one where little Johnny isn't pulling little Susie's hair.  I don't actually think that those picture-perfect rooms make for angelic smiling children (but then again, it might make me smile for a few minutes to walk into a space like that, huh?)

However, there is something about that sticky floors quote that just doesn't sit right with me.  It just seems so flippant to dismiss all of home management for the happiness of kids.  I start to get visions of a spoiled Veruca Salt (ala Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) riding a magical carousel over a garbage dump that was once the living room.

Ultimately, I think the quote is true for small moments but not for the big picture.  In the instant when you're in the middle of scrubbing the bathroom floor but the baby starts screaming in her crib, having woken early from her nap, yes, chose the baby over the spotless floor.  And abandon the laundry folding for the toddler who has stubbed her toe.  Or the vacuuming for a sick child who just wants to be held.

You're probably thinking (because I am also thinking) that, therefore, in the course of a day, nothing will get done but loving and comforting and, well, making happy.  There are days (and seasons of survival mode) when that is true.  But we cannot lose sight of the forest for the trees (how many cliche's can she fit in one post?!) and focus exclusively on the short-term, emergency type needs of our families.

I really do think that our environment affects our moods and our outlook.  Think about a spa - a cluttered reception area would turn away a lot of clients who came in for their relaxing and peaceful afternoon.

I literally breathe easier looking at the second picture than the first (and this is just a tiny example of a 5 minute tidy in the kitchen!):

It affects us as adults to be living in a constant state of clutter and mess.  We are more overwhelmed - by the mountain of obvious undone tasks, by the panic of not knowing where the water bill is that is probably due this week, and by the unpleasantness of not having a clear space to rest our eyes.  I think it is foolish to assume that this same stress doesn't affect our children.  If nothing else - if, say, they're personally unaffected by the clutter and not being able to find their favorite toys - it affects them in that the adults in their lives are constantly responding to them from a place of stress.

So we've established that you can't do it all, and yet you need to do it all.  Where does that leave us besides despair?

The key is - we can't do it all the way things are now.  We can't keep up with everything with over-packed closets and overflowing cabinets.  We can't win against the clutter monster, the verifiable beast threatening to permanently overtake any surface the second after we turn our backs.

But it IS possible to reach a state where things are more manageable, and where the whole family is happier - both in the moment when you're able to abandon the tidying to give a cuddle - and in the long term from having an environment that exudes peace instead of stress.  Yes, it will never be perfect.  And there will be stages when it is impossible to do anything but sit on the couch with a nursing baby and watch the dishes pile up.  Maybe the oven will always be dirty.  But the point is that the baseline of your home can be better than it is now.

And that is why today I'd like to introduce you to my friend Rachel from Efficient Momma.  She has two young children (very close in age to each of mine), so she is no stranger to the frustrations of young motherhood or the speed at which toddlers can make a mess.  However, she has discovered some key successes in simplifying her home and possessions, and has written an ebook to share all of her secrets with us!

Minimize the Mess: A Mother's Guide to Simplifying Your Home

I have to admit that when Rachel first asked me to review her book, I was skeptical that it would have that much to offer for me, given that I'm in the midst of a big organization/simplification kick.  Was there anything new about purging unnecessary belongings that wasn't covered in the New York Times Best-seller that I just read?  

It turns out that Rachel had me hooked in the introduction.  It was refreshing to hear the voice of a mother in my shoes, rather than a fancy organizational guru.  Rachel is honest and real (see again, no promises that everything will be perfect, just that they'll be refreshingly better than they are now), and her ideas and tips are practical and do-able.  She offers poignant questions to ask yourself as you consider keeping or donating items, as well as ideas for ways to make improvements on a small budget.  And, perhaps best of all, she has prepared a master checklist that you can download to help guide you through the process.

Rachel's book is a great resource for anyone who wants to declutter and reclaim a manageable home, but I especially recommend it if you're feeling overwhelmed and just don't know where to start.

You can buy the ebook on Amazon or on Rachel's blog HERE.  It's only $2.99 and you can get 25% off on sales through her blog until May 22 with the code launch .  And, *drumroll*, she's offering a free copy to one of my readers!  Use the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a PDF copy of Minimize the Mess by Rachel Kratz.  Good luck!

I received a free copy of Minimize the Mess in return for my review, but all opinions are my own.


  1. You are so sweet! Thanks for the kind words :-) Love that kitchen by the way! And it's so true, I think the kids do pick up on the tension in a messy house. Even if it's just picking it up from Mom feeling that way, you know? :-)

  2. Hey Em- I wonder if Rachel's book would apply to cat moms! The constant vacuuming, wiping up spilled water, the toys everywhere, the crooked lampshades, the kitchen towels being dragged down the hall, etc, etc. Like I told you before, I live in a feline frat house! Love ya, Aunt Kelly

  3. Hi Emily - Nice post dear. I have always tried through the years to do at least a 5 minute pickup each day before the hubby comes home or in the evening before heading to bed. It makes one 'calmer' to be uncluttered..and waking up to a mess is not fun. It really is amazing what just 5-10 minute can do to tidy up a home! Hope all is well with you and your beautiful family. God bless.

  4. My craft room is too cluttered. I definitely need to focus on taming that area. The only good (perhaps bad???) thing is that I can close the door and pretend it's not there.

  5. I think the most stress causing area is the clutter in our bedroom (craft room, sitting/reading area and bedroom...) Just too much stuff. Working on it, little tiny bits at a time, but still just so much left!