Take the Pressure Down...
I blame genetics.
Coming from a long line of women who worshiped at the altar of all things domestic, it was no surprise that I too inherited the desire to live in a house with display home standards of cleanliness.
And while it is no crime to want that, the trouble that has bubbled to the surface is that I still have the same set of stringent pre-parenthood standards for myself. Plus there is the not so insignificant fact I am a control freak who is predisposed to despise disorganisation and mess.
It took a friend to bluntly point out the (dirty) truth, after one too many whinges on my part about the anxieties that arose trying to maintain an organised home
“You have 2 kids to care for; one of which is a tiny baby. You have a husband who works long hours. You really ought to cut yourself some slack!”
She was right; ironically, in direct proportion to my free time became more scarce, (ie. I became a Mum) my criteria for a clean house skyrocketed. Without realising, I’d begun to think that as I was not rushing out the door to work every day anymore it equated to oodles more time on my hands to keep it all sparkling clean. But most of all, in my mind a neat and tidy home showed the world I had it all under control.
So, in order to take the pressure down I asked parenting expert Pinky McKay to give some guidance on how to manage my sky high standards.
“It’s really hard for some people,” she acknowledges, telling me of a friend who shares the same fanaticism as I for an ordered home. “[She] gets really stressed out when it isn’t all nice. She has 3 kids now and her house is lovely. However, she actually feels stressed when it’s messy or disorganised”.
The solution, Pinky says, can be obtaining assistance. “You have to call in help – not everyone can take it down a notch.”
But fear not if you are faced with financial constraints or have no family on hand to help; Pinky advises you need to put your own system in place so that a happy medium between household spotlessness and your sanity is achieved.
“Find a few shortcuts, work out a way to find a balance you need so that you don’t feel even worse,” she says, as well as planning to be realistic with your expectations by only tackling one room a day.
She also recommends you nominating a particular area in your home to be your sanctuary, the haven you can escape to when you feel completely overwhelmed by the clutter.
“You need a patch where it’s organised; and when the rest of its all falling apart you can go to that place,” Pinky says, as a way to reinstate your composure. “It’s quite easy if you have just got that one space you can go to if it’s a bit overwhelming everywhere else.”
Taking these wise words on board, I stopped and surveyed the chaos surrounding me at my home. And then I spotted it – me
The Mental Health Association of NSW can be another resource to turn to when trying to alleviate the anxiety of high household standards. Each October, as a part of Mental Health Month, they launch a 10 Tips to Stress Less health campaign. “They can be used by anyone to help lower stress and improve mental health,” Madeleine Fabian, the Senior Project Officer of Mental Health Promotion, explains.
The tips, such as “offer and accept help”; “do one thing at a time” and “let go of what you can’t control” 3 of which really ring true when trying to find that all importance balance between expectation and reality. (The full list can be viewed here)
The final thought goes to Pinky, with one last wise word of counsel.
“Surrender is a big word,” she says. “Otherwise you are chasing your tail and getting stressed. Really, bottom line, will any small children get hurt if it doesn’t get done today? And mostly they won’t! It’s all about us!”
Authored by Donna Webeck