Growing up, my home was a collection of other people’s things.
My parents bought plenty of things new, but many of the biggest items in our home didn’t come from a store.
My dad made some of our furniture—the dining table of my early childhood, some side tables, and the patio furniture out front—on his woodworking bench in the garage.
Our couches? The white ones with oddly bright pastel stripes? Or how about the glass table and wicker-backed chairs? My parents took those off someone’s hands, and come to think of it, I don’t even know whose.
Even now, a tour of their home might highlight artwork from an old neighbor or china and decorative objects from my grandparents who have now passed away. I don’t remember where our piano came from, but I know it wasn’t ours first—and my parents still have and use it to this day.
My parents’ home reminds me that our belongings are never really gone.
Once we’ve decided we’re done owning them, they don’t magically cease to exist. They may find their way into a loved one’s house or to a donation center. Belongings that go unsold at Goodwill may eventually make it as far as an underdeveloped country… or a landfill.
This brings me to my first hard truth about clutter, but it’s only one of many. I believe that clutter is keeping too many of us from living well. Let’s change that.
9 Hard Truths About Clutter You Need to Hear
1. Nothing you own is ever really gone; it will continue to exist… somewhere
I remember searching for a piano on craigslist. It turns out, there are pianos all over the place. Old pianos in people’s back rooms, sheds, even their gardens.
This truth is motivation for me to be judicious about what I buy.
2. The best way to clear clutter is to reduce what you bring in
It really is. Never start a decluttering journey without giving real thought to your consumption habits. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself right back in the same spot, over-cluttered and weighed down.
Set a goal to not only get rid of more but to buy less.
3. Are you shopping to escape your feelings?
Most of us have an unhealthy way or two (or three or four) of hiding from our feelings. We eat, drink, watch TV, or shop so that we don’t have to feel our truth in a given moment. We crave the dopamine hit we get from eating something sweet or making a purchase online.
Masking our feelings sounds so much more appealing than sitting with them. But I believe that real freedom comes when we begin to practice experiencing our humanness rather than running from it.
Shop less, allow yourself to feel your feelings, and live with less clutter.
4. There’s a dark side to donating
If the above weren’t reason enough to limit your consumption, how about this—
“By one estimate, used clothing is now the United States’ number one export by volume, with the overwhelming majority sent to ports in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes, Slate
“African textile industries are closing their factories and laying people off because they cannot make clothes as cheaply as those American items found in the bend over markets.” The Truth About Where Your Donated Clothes End Up, ABC News
5. Everything you own is something you have to take care of
A friend recently told me what it was that started her on a path to minimalism. She read a single paragraph in Zero Waste Home where the author said that every decorative item sitting on a table is nothing more than something you have to dust.
She realized in that lightning-bolt moment that everything you own is something you have to take care of, so she immediately cleared off most of the surfaces in her house and instantly felt like she could breathe.
Our time is so precious; who wants to spend it cycling mountains of laundry from washer to dryer, replacing dead batteries or buying replacement parts, and shuttling items from room to room?
“The things you own in life end up owning you.” Tyler Durden
6. Clutter has been linked to depression
Women, in particular, suffer under the weight of our family’s belongings. UCLA researchers—who conducted a nine-year, rigorous study of how 32 families interacted their belongings—found a correlation between high cortisol levels (read: stress) in women and a high density of household objects.
Clutter accounts for a significant, unseen portion of your mental load.
7. The longer you keep something, the more attached you become
I recently heard Gretchen Rubin say this on the Happier podcast, and it rang so true for me from my own experience.
One by one, as my sisters and I approached adulthood, our parents gave each of us a cedar “hope chest,” a place to store sentimental items. I remember my older my sister jokingly warning me to be careful what you put in there, because if it’s there long enough, it starts to feel special no matter what it was.
It turns out, she was right! I now have a stack of papers (notes, quotes & letters) from my high school days that didn’t feel particularly significant at the time, but now that I’ve had them for 15 years, they feel hard to part with.
So… Consider yourself warned.
8. Eventually someone will have to decide what to do with every item you own
Whether it’s you or one of your loved ones, every non-consumable item will eventually be handled, sorted, and kept, sold, or donated. Everything you buy increases this burden on yourself, and someday, you may well pass this burden on. Is that what you really want?
Less is more.
9. Your stuff is getting in the way of the best stuff
While many of these truths are a little scary, like living with depression or dying and leaving your children to sort through your stuff, the one I actually find most compelling is the most hopeful.
Imagine what it would feel like to walk into your home and be greeted by belongings you love—and nothing more.
Imagine what you could do differently with your time if you’re spending a fraction of it managing your stuff.
Imagine yelling at your kids a lot less because they have half as many toys cluttering up your living space.
It feels good to imagine, right?
I promise—It feels even better to live it.
Need some support on your decluttering journey?
If this was the gentle kick-in-the-pants you’ve been needing, leaving you all fired up about decluttering (wahoo!), I have a new resource to help!
100 Things to Get Rid Of—To Simplify Your Home
Whether you’re relatively early on your de-cluttering journey or are a longtime proponent who just needs a few new corners to look in, I hope this list helps you live with less.
After women join my email list, I often send a simple email welcoming them to our community and inviting them to share with me anything they’re struggling with. As soon as I began reading Treva’s reply, I knew more people needed to hear her message, so I immediately asked her if she’d let me share it here, and she agreed.
Thank you, Treva, for your courage. I am heartbroken for your loss, but I’m grateful for this window into your world…
From Treva B., wife and mother living in Nashville, Tennessee
I’m struggling with the death of my daughter.
I’m struggling with her not being here and part of our lives. I’m struggling watching my oldest son grieve her and not being able to take away the pain.
I’m struggling with my own heartbreak as a mother… I will never hold her, brush her hair, buy her ribbons and bows or beautiful gowns. I’ll never play with her or dress up in costume. I will never hear her voice or see her do a school play. I will never see her lose teeth, get hair cuts, bake and decorate cookies, play a sport, dance, run, play, graduate, marry or become a mother.
I will never see her… breathe again.
Living without one of your children… is a messy and heartbreaking part of motherhood that very few understand. You never get over it, you never heal, you just learn to carry the burden along with you daily while trying to “live” life, even though you are stuck at a particular moment in time.
You pray for courage, strength and the wisdom to keep moving forward with God’s plan for your life, but you don’t understand the journey.
You try to share your heartache, and sometimes others put a deadline on your grief and make ugly statements about how you should be “over it” now that a certain amount of time has passed or now that you have another child.
How can you help?
You can pray for us, shoulder the burden of loss in motherhood. You can be an advocate for our hearts on days when we don’t have the courage to face the world. You can remember that though our child is in the arms of Jesus, we are still mothers and they are in our hearts and minds daily as we share our life with others.
Please don’t be afraid to speak about our lost children to us as we mothers long to hear our child’s name—to know that we aren’t the only one who remembers them and to know they impacted this world, even if their time on earth was short.
You can listen without trying to give an answer or find a cure. In the loss of a child, there are no silver linings nor are there any words that will make it all better or take away our pain. Forget the statements that begin with “At least…”, because while it may sound good to you, nothing good comes after a statement beginning with “at least.”
Do not try to label our grief or put a time and date stamp on it. We may learn to live life again without our child, maybe even smile again, but by no means are we over it or do we move on from it. We all grieve at our own pace. There doesn’t have to be an end, because there never really is an end to grief.
As we raise our other children, there are milestones, achievements, and precious moments—moments that warm our hearts to the core but also break our hearts because it is something we will never share with our child in heaven.
Most of all, be a friend. Don’t allow our loss to make you so uncomfortable that you run from us like we are bad luck or have the plague. It is our life and child and we will want to talk about it, share it with others, because unlike the rest of the world who attended a memorial or funeral service and moved on, we cannot move on like our child and their life never happened. We still love them, yearn for time with them. Time to touch their faces, hear their voices, and say their name. We want to remember them, and we want you to remember them too.
So you asked what can you do to help. Please pray for and remember us.
This is an older post that continues to be read and shared often, so I hope you don’t mind me brining it back up to the front! Thanks for being here!
From down the hallway, I could only see his feet. I could tell that my husband was kneeling down, and I heard his voice as I dabbed on some concealer.
“Do you guys know how much we love you?” he said to our kids. “We love you more than anything. We love you no matter what. If someone isn’t nice to you at school, or if you make a poor choice, we will always love you.”
I imagine he gave them each a quick hug, and then he was off to work, closing the front door quietly behind him.
When the kids make up a game at recess and won’t tell our son the rules, we want him to know that we’ll always tell him how to play.
When our daughter doesn’t get asked to a dance, we want her to know that she can always dance with us in the kitchen.
We’ll make up dorky handshakes and wear retro family t-shirts and show our children that we will hold their place at the family dinner table—forever.
We’ll do everything we can to make sure our family identity seeps into every corner of their souls, so that they know without a doubt that they always have a place where they belong.
42 Ways to Make Your Kids Feel Absolutely Loved
2. Tell stories from your life. Childhood adventures and youth run-ins with the cops. :) What you thought the first time you saw your spouse. What you felt on your wedding day and the day your child learned to ride a bike.
3. Kiss them goodnight.
4. Let them climb into bed with you. (Sometimes.)
5. Print pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents and tell stories from their lives, to help build your child’s sense of family identity. Every year when I pull out our Christmas decorations, I also bring out a stack of beautiful black & white family photos I had printed as polaroids. I tuck them around the house and try to share stories about those faces all season long.
6. Pick them up from school or childcare. (It’s the little things.)
7. Teach them to do something. Read, tie their shoes, shoot a bow and arrow. (My husband has never looked more attractive than when he taught our boys to rainbow loom. :)
8. Refer to your family as a team. (Team Braverman, anyone?)
9. Create a family password or handshake. When I was growing up, our family password was our last name spelled backwards. We thought it was the coolest thing ever.
10. Use the words “no matter what.” I love you no matter what.
20. Make a meal or a treat from your childhood and tell them all about it.
21. Spend time in nature together. Camping, hiking, biking, boating, bird watching…
22. Put down your phone.
23. Over the years, create traditions for each child’s birthdays. I know a family who floats a cake on a kickboard in their pool for their daughter’s birthday. We take our oldest to Panera because that’s where we went the night we learned we were expecting him.
24. Create with them. Bake, craft, construct, experiment.
25. Eat something you grew from the ground.
26. Teach them how amazing their bodies are.
27. Have stay-up-late nights, where one kid gets to stay up an extra 15 minutes (or more, depending on their age) and do a one-on-one activity of their choosing with Mom and Dad. I suggest doing it on your child’s birthdate every month. That way you—and your child—are less likely to forget and more likely to look forward to it.
28. Work together to create a family cheer. OR borrow this one, like we are. It’s perfect for families with young kids.
29. Set goals together.
30. Have a weekly family night. We don’t manage it every week, but we when we do, we try to answer the three questions Bruce Feiler recommends in The Secrets of Happy Families: What did we do well last week? What didn’t go so well? What can we do better this week?
31. Let them lose track of time. (And learn from it, as you try to carve out more room for timelessness and play in your life.)
32. Explore the stars together.
33. Watch them when they’re sleeping and then tell them about it the next day.
36. Get interested in their interests. (Even if that means learning the ins and outs of Minecraft.)
37. Do a fun run together.
38. Love your spouse.
39. Share your faith with them.
40. Listen with empathy when they’re hurting.
41. Watch out for their natural talents.
42. Say great things about them to your spouse when they don’t think you know they’re listening.
It came as no surprise that twice that day, long after his daddy had stood up and closed the front door, my oldest son brought up what he had heard.
“Mom? Do you remember what Dad said this morning? I do.”
I do too, hon. Never forget.
If you’d enjoy more inspiration for building a family—and a life—that’s full of love and belonging, I’d love to have you sign up for my monthly newsletter. With it you’ll get access to my Top 16 Resources—4 TED talks, 4 podcasts, 4 blogs, and 4 books to help you live *all in.*
I shuffle in my seat, chatting a little with a friend next to me, and then glance up and realize Rachel is teaching today. A small smile begins to spread on my face. It’s Rachel’s turn to teach the women’s class at my church again, and I instantly feel glad to be there.
She stands at the front of the room in her cute box-pleated dress and shoulder-length, strawberry-blonde hair. You’d never know she is only 19 years old. Wise beyond her years—which is what makes me so fondly intrigued by her.
Rachel always has a good story to share, and today is no exception. With an innate love for animals, her story is not surprising, yet completely striking all at the same time.
She tells us of her chicken Una. Una was born missing one leg. I don’t know much about chickens, but I would assume that many people who raise chickens might not appreciate one lacking a limb. But not Rachel. She found beauty in this little chick from day one, and she loved and nurtured it to full health.
She said this of Una:
“Una is doing very well. Most chickens don’t use their wings, but Una has learned that her wings are there, and she’s learning to use them to get around. She uses her wings more than any chicken I have ever seen.”
This story hit me hard. I couldn’t help but think that maybe we’re all a little like Una.
We feel like we’re lacking in one way or another—that there’s something defective about us.
But what if we have strengths that we simply can’t see, but they are there and they carry us through? Maybe if we stop looking at our imperfections, our wings will show themselves. Maybe we’re a little more whole than we think.
“Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and be who you are.” Brené Brown
21 Ways to Celebrate Who You Are Right Now
1. Spend time with those who uplift and inspire you.
2. Make a list of things you like about yourself. (I know this can be hard, but that’s the point. Learn to appreciate your good qualities.)
3. Ask your spouse or close friend to list things they appreciate about you. (Getting a trusted outside perspective of ourselves can be incredibly refreshing.)
4. Read that book or start that television series you’ve been thinking about.
5. Create something beautiful. (For example, try a new project or tidy up a room you enjoy.)
6. Write a journal.
7. Do something—outside of your norm—that makes you feel happy. (Do you usually catch up on housework when your child is at preschool? Try meeting up with a friend instead. Do you rarely treat yourself to a manicure even though you love them? Get one on the books!)
8. Get in more photos with your children. (Then admire them.)
9. Look through old photos/memories. (It can bring the perspective that amidst the stress of life, things really are good.)
10. Practice words of affirmation. (Right in the mirror if you need to, or mentally each morning.)
I knew I needed this post when I googled the words, “Is it possible for introverted moms to love motherhood?”
An hour earlier I had stood at the stove, flipping quesadillas and telling children to—for the love—please get out of my personal space.
“Guys, I can’t make dinner with you right under my feet,” I say, tripping over a little body while I reach for the cheese. “Go! Go play by the couch!”
A minute later, I notice that the reprieve only lasted about ten seconds. I’d had ten precious seconds to take a breath before my agitation jumped back up to the level it had been at when the kids were bouncing at my heels.
“Inside voices!” I remind them. “If you want to yell, you can go outside! This is a home.”
Naturally, my reminder falls on deaf ears, because three young children only play at one volume, which is why half an hour later, after brushing three sets of miniature teeth and shooing three heads to their beds, I find myself at the computer typing in a question I would never in a million years have thought to ask—before becoming a mom.
The Question Too Many Introverted Moms Are Asking Themselves
Can introverted moms love motherhood? Can we enjoy it? Or are we fated to trudge our way through it, loving our children fiercely while trying just as fiercely not to resent them for stealing away the quiet we’ve relied on all our lives.
I think We Can
I’m here to tell you this:
You’ve spent enough time thinking of your need for quiet as a weakness.
You’ve reeled at how other mothers seem to roll with the yelling, the jumping, the arguing, the clutter, and the nonstop chatter that come with raising children.
You’ve taken refuge in your closet, in the backyard, in your bathroom, in the pantry.
You’ve found yourself insisting that the kids take their antics outside of your immediate space. It’s just too much.
On good days, you manage it all by alternating between low engagement and high. On worse days, you send the kids to bed an hour early—because you just can’t handle it anymore—and you figure you’ll deal with their early wake-up because at least it means you won’t completely lose it tonight.
Motherhood is intense for introverts and highly sensitive people.
And in case you could benefit from definitions of those, let’s go with these:
If you find yourself retreating when you need to recharge, you may be an introvert.
If you’re easily overwhelmed by noise, smells, busyness, and your own thoughts, you may be a highly sensitive person.
New eCourse for Introverted Moms
It’s for you and for me—the highly-sensitive and introverted moms—that I’ve written an eCourse called Talked Out, Touched Out: Learn to Thrive as an Introverted Mom.
The lessons will take you through topics like—
Structuring Your Days to Accommodate Your Needs
Learning to Quiet Your Alarm Center
Playing to Your Strengths as a Parent
And more. :)
New to eCourses?
Not long ago, I took my first online, personal development course and was blown away by how good it felt to dive into a topic in such a focused way. It’s so much different than following a blog or an inspiring Instagram account. There’s no extraneous noise; it’s just you and the material (with the instructor just an email away). I think this format helps the content really sink in—so I hope you’ll consider signing up!
The registration window won’t open for a month or so, but use the signup box below or this link to be first to hear. :)
Here’s to HAPPY introverted moms!
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