I love the kids, not the chaos. Those were words, or something like them, that I shared a couple weeks ago as I introduced myself at our table-reading for the Listen to Your Mother show. I love simplicity. I need simplicity, and the last 8+ years of motherhood have felt anything but. Messy, chaotic, cluttered, overwhelming. Those are words that too often fill my thoughts and slip out of my mouth to the sweet and innocent ears of my mini-bystanders.

That’s also the very reason I have a desire to write and speak. There’s this message I need, and I know others need it, too. That motherhood and raising kids is messy. Some of us go about it entirely imperfectly and full of #momfail moments. But there is still some calm, joy, and even peace to be found in that. Even when I have a deep desire to throw away all of their toys. Even when these mini-mes are the chaos to my simplicity. And I don’t have to wait 10 years to find that calm, joy, peace when they start leaving the house.

I’m learning about finding calm in the chaos now. It’s still sometimes a messy and imperfect process that leaves me feeling overwhelmed some days. But there’s also joy and peace to get me through the hiccups. Following are some things I remember and do to help create a calm home even in the chaos of raising kids.

Help for When Home isn’t Simple

We don’t have to wait until the kids leave the house to enjoy a calm home. Here are a few tips for changing our mindset and even a couple practical ways to have a physically cleaner house.

This is just a season that might be missed.

When people told me the kids’ tiny months wouldn’t last forever, I knew and I believed them. But I didn’t fully understand until our “baby” was 7 and holding our new 3rd baby. I realized how quick 7 years can fly by, and before I know it she’ll be… well, she’ll be doing what every kid does: growing up. That little bit of perspective helps me embrace the good seasons and persevere through the hard seasons. And when I look back on the last 8 years, do you know what I think about it? It’s not the times our home was messy or cluttered. I think about my sweet little girl’s blond curls bouncing as she dances around the living room to “See See My Playmate.” I think about my cute, cloth diapered little chubber perfectly lining up our pantry items and playing oatmeal-container drums. I think about our smiley third baby’s squish face and his obsession with sports before he turned 1. This is just a season. Good or bad, enjoy it or just get through, because it will change.

Each season lasts but a short time, so find the good.

Some seasons feel like they last for-ev-er. Like the first year of both my sons’ lives–they woke up 3-4 times a night and I was flat-out exhausted and incapable. Homemaking barely existed. Those seasons seemed to go on and on. Once they passed, I realized how short they really were. Wrapped in those long hard days was their fleeting infancy. This might seem sad for days gone by. Really, it just gives me encouragement and hope to find the good in the present while it’s here.

Employ the 10 minute clean.

This is a more practical tip for dealing with the mess of kids. Anytime we’ve been complimented on our clean home, it is 100% thanks to the 10-minute-clean. We do it when I’ve had busy days and haven’t gotten a chance to clean, or the house is a mess and we’re about to have company over, or it’s just Friday and time for a weekly cleaning. We all have jobs: I’m usually the pick-up, do-dishes, clear-counters person. My husband organizes the kids and vacuums (something I rarely ever do). And the kids pick up the living room and their bedrooms. We often set a timer for the kids, but it’s helpful for us, too. Cleaning isn’t fun, but a lot can get done in 10-20 minutes. Do it everyday and you’ll have quite the well-kept home. Do it at least once a week or before you have company over, and no one will know the difference.

Drop the shoulds, and address what bothers you.

When you finally have a moment for homemaking, don’t obsess about what you should be doing like making meals from scratch or deep cleaning showers. Instead, take care of your family’s and your home’s and your sanity’s most pressing need. For me it’s the dishes/kitchen counters and that spot where our middle guy keeps missing the toilet. Doing those items first and regularly keeps me sane and feeling like an (almost) competent homemaker. The laundry on the other hand, it kind of drives me crazy, but I just don’t care enough to stay on top of the folding. Plus, it’s easily hidden in our walk-in closet.

Make a calming retreat, or several.

I started simplifying almost 9 years ago when I was pregnant with our first baby. I wanted our whole home cute, simple, welcoming. To start, my top priority was our bedroom. I needed a place I could feel calm. A place to retreat to when I wasn’t feeling calm. I simplified our bedding and used a white duvet cover to brighten things up (since our room was small and the bed was the biggest thing in the room). I hung a simple focal point over the bed and took extra items off the dressers. I stopped dropping things to be hidden here. I made sure whatever I looked at from our bed (where I would be relaxing) was inspiring and calming instead of cluttered and messy. Slowly, I made these changes in our whole home. Every room now has some calming, simple focal point. Every room now has some element of aaahhh, now I can relax. It started with our bedroom–a necessary retreat from the hard or chaotic days of parenting and homemaking.

Give the kids (and yourself) the gift of simplicity.

Reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne inspired me to put all of the kids’ toys away for a month. Well, not all. But I followed his tips of only keeping a few selections out and focusing on toys that employed their imaginations and creativity. We also limited tech/tv time, and filled in time with reading (or looking at books since they couldn’t read), artwork, free play, getting outside, and visiting friends. (You can read more about that experience in my ebook Simplifying Home.) That confirmed for us the importance of simplicity for kids. Fewer toys, open space in their rooms, laxer schedules. It reduces their stress and resulting instabilities. Subsequently reducing our stress and resulting instabilities–especially relating to the chaos of parenting. In the process of giving our kids a “magical” childhood, we’re missing our chance at a magical motherhood and robbing them of the beautiful gift that is childhood. Simplicity truly is a gift–for our kids and ourselves, and this whole homemaking/motherhood thing would be a little easier, and a little calmer if we embraced that.

Read more about our simplifying journey with kids in my ebook Simplifying Home. Specifically related chapters include Seasons of Simplifying and Life, Simplicity vs. Kids, Messy Home Messages, Pausing on Purpose, and more. Available in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle for 6 days only.

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What helps you on the hard days of motherhood and homemaking? Where do you find pockets of calm and simple? I’d love to hear in the comments below. ↓ And sign-up to receive the free 8-month simplifying email series >> here.