Do You Know Your Mommy Bandwidth?

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Bandwidth: “The energy or mental capacity required to deal with a situation.” Oxford Living Dictionaries

I don’t need to write about all the different demands on a mom’s time and energy. You already know all about that. You are deep in it every-single-day-of-your-life, just like all of us. After all, you are the person keeping the family going. Sometimes things go along relatively smoothly. Other times, well, things can get a little crazy.

For example, I left the house today to go to an appointment and two blocks from my house I realized that I had automatically started driving to the kids’ school. A few minutes later I made another wrong turn, my inner autopilot taking over once more. This hasn’t happened before. Sure, I’ve opened the pantry and then stared inside wondering what it was I was looking for. Sure, I’ve gone to the grocery store and then couldn’t remember what was on my list. Today was different. Driving around today, I realized, I once again exceeded my bandwidth. The kids had a different schedule because of finals, my husband and son were sick, I had work, yadda yadda, I got thrown off my game.

Let’s face it, we do have limits. The other week, my girlfriend had exceeded her bandwidth after spending all week coordinating nightly sports practice car pools for her three children, who play two sports each. She realized that on the coming Saturday she would have twelve sports games to attend. She adores her children and adores watching sports, and wouldn’t change anything, but still it all pushed her limits.

Often, when we are close to reaching our limit, we are so entrenched in our lives that we don’t even realize what is happening. I may not notice that I am a little bit snappier toward my husband, less patient with my children, that my shoulders are hunched up and my back hurting. Well today, I did realize that I wasn’t functioning at 100% when I spaced out and took two wrong turns.

Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve had that fried brain feeling? Maybe you’ve taken to napping in the car while waiting for your children? These are some clues your current load is near your limit. There is no shame in this. You are not weak; you are not broken; you just might have too much on your plate.

As a fellow mom, if you have gone past your bandwidth, I hope you will get a break soon. If there is anything you can take off your plate to simplify your day, do it. Do not take on any more responsibilities, not out of guilt, not because you think it would be nice of you.  Delegate if you can.  Go to bed early. Go for a walk with a friend and tell her about it. You know your bandwidth; you will make it.  Mom’s just do.

Author: Vlasta Hillger

View this article on Red Tricycle

My Personal Definition of Minimalism

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Many years ago, when I first heard the term “minimalism,” I pictured a loft style space with high ceilings, tall bare windows, stark white walls and sparse white leather furniture. Surely, no one with children could lead a minimalist lifestyle. Families and minimalism were mutually exclusive in my mind. I firmly believed that you couldn’t be a Costco shopper and a minimalist at the same time. I was wrong.

Minimalism isn’t a harsh decorating style or a strict lifestyle regime.  It’s a big picture value system about the volume of stuff we “need” in our lives. Minimalists have “stuff,” they even have cozy family homes, but they like to keep things pragmatic and simple.

I live in a typical eastside home with my husband and two boys. Each of my sons has a bedroom, we have a play room, and a guest bedroom. We have stuff in our attic. I shop at Target and at Costco. Yet, I still consider myself a minimalist. Here’s why:

·          I am not a collector. I don’t have lots of back-up or duplicates of any one type of item. I have t-shirts, but they all fit into one drawer nicely. I have two sets of sheets for the beds in our home.  

·          I don’t give myself a hard time if I find something I haven’t used in forever. There is a reason I haven’t used it – I didn’t need it or I didn’t love it. I feel no guilt in letting it go. Apparently, I had enough without it.

·          If I replace a household item, I donate the old version pretty much right away. I don’t like old coffee makers or lamps hanging out in my garage collecting dust and encroaching on my parking space.

·          I re-sell things on Craigslist. My son played the French horn in fifth grade band and now he’s into guitar. The French horn can go to another aspiring elementary school musician.

·          I shop at Costco, but only for things we’ll use up quickly. I will buy toilet paper and paper towels, meat, veggies, but not a three pack of barbecue sauce which we don’t use frequently and would last us 8 years.

·          I love clear counter tops in my kitchen. It’s way faster to wipe them down if you don’t have to move ten different appliances and boxes of food.    

·          You won’t find high school prom dresses in my closet. Or anything from college, or from before I had children. You might not find much in my closet that I don’t wear regularly.

·          I have very few emails in my inbox. I do save emails in folders if I feel I might need them in the future. I send all subscriptions like coupons from retail stores to a separate email address. If I need a coupon, I look there.

·          I work with my boys to clean out their bedrooms at least once a year. We pass down clothes, and donate toys.   

·          If I don’t know where I would store it, I don’t buy it. We considered getting a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, but when I saw the size of the box we would have to store for 50 weeks out of the year, I changed my mind.

·          I love books, but I only hang on to those I know I will read again. I give most books away. I am making more use of the Kindle app on my tablet.

My version of minimalism works for me. It helps my home feel calm. I can stay organized. It reduces my housework. I can find things easily. I have more than enough. I have exactly what I need. 

Author: Vlasta Hillger

View this article on Red Tricycle

My Son Might be a Mad Scientist

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Remember Doc, the white haired, mad eyed inventor from Back to the Future? The scene where Marty goes to visit Doc in his workshop and walks through a cluttered kitchen where a complex Rube Goldberg machine is set up to feed the dog?  My twelve-year-old son is a modern-day younger Doc.

My son’s recent projects include: Various robots made with Makeblock; An Arduino powered laser pointer mechanism designed to entertain our cats; a Lego EV3 cobra which slithers around and threatens to bite the cats (they love pouncing the silly snake); taking apart Nerf blasters and “modding” their functionality; an Arduino powered, soda bottle pontoon style boat; a robotic arm; and a Raspberry pi powered version of Amazon’s Echo (Alexa).

All these projects require a lot of bits. Little LED lights, servo motors, resistors, transistors, battery packs, bread boards, and wires, lots and lots of wires. Then there are tools. And Lego pieces. All these things exist in a messy jumble on my son’s desk (and floor).

His inventiveness and creativity are lauded in our family, but as his mother, and as one who hates clutter, I silently cringe when I see his workspace. You see, visual clutter stresses me out and overwhelms me. I can’t focus and get anything done if my environment is chaotic. I simplify, I declutter frequently, and tidy up before I go to bed. It truly keeps me saner and makes me a more patient mommy.

My son has ADD. This means that he struggles with focus and organization. He wants to play and invent, but he sees little reason to put things away. In his closet and around his room are many half complete, abandoned projects. My mad scientist invents and loses interest as soon a new idea pops into his mind. I know this is typical of the ADD brain. He is doing well at school and home with a predictable weekly schedule and routine.

Part of his normal routine is learning organizational skills. He and I declutter his entire bedroom a couple times a year. We give away toys he has outgrown and we toss some of his abandoned creations. He has become quite good at getting all the Lego put away into shallow bins that fit under his bed. We store his multitude of tiny wires, servos and lights in a hardware storage box with 24 small labeled drawers. Putting away these tiny bits is the hardest, so we often work on it together.

My son loves when his room is roomy and clean. He tells me so. It lasts a couple of hours and then he begins working on another project. I know that learning organizational skills is a long-term process for someone with ADD. My hope is that by the time he creates his first famous invention, his workshop will be a bit more organized than Doc’s.

Author: Vlasta Hillger

See this article on Red Tricycle

Organizing Saved me When Babies Ruled my Day and my Night

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 We left our friends and family in California and moved to Seattle with a two-year-old and a six-month-old in tow. At home in CA, we counted the rainy days on our fingers. I was not accustomed to taking the kids to the park when it was cold and wet out. I didn’t know that for months there would be overcast skies where 2pm feels like twilight. I was a California sissy, and the Seattle weather made me feel house bound. The daily gloom made me feel sleepy and depressed. Without family and friends, I was lonely. Nighttime feedings made me perpetually exhausted. I was hormonal, overwhelmed and foggy with mommy brain. I left a corporate job without so much as a look back – I’d always wanted to be a stay at home mom.  Now, I felt mired in the daily drudgery of laundry, dishes, food prep, naps, diapers, and baths. With no girlfriends nearby, and a husband who worked long hours, I felt stranded.  I felt guilty about feeling unhappy, because I understood that I was very fortunate to be able to stay at home with my babies. I felt like I was being ungrateful for a life I always thought I wanted.

All day long every tiny task I completed was undone minutes later. Toys always littered the entire house, there was always more laundry, more dishes, more diapers, and more meals that needed preparing. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. I craved the feeling of finishing something tangible. I wanted to enjoy the result of my work. I wanted some semblance of control.

During this time, the only thing that fulfilled this need for control was organizing my new home. I took pleasure in small projects such as organizing the linen closet. Neat stacks of towels and sheets were visually pleasing. I bought clear plastic drawers and organized all our toiletries and medicines. I labeled the bins: First aid for Band-Aids and ointments; Baby medicine for the boys’ items; Eye care for saline solution and extra contacts; Oral care for floss, toothpaste and toothbrushes. This was a quick project I completed while my boys napped. Once finished, the linen closet looked awesome and it was very functionally organized. The boys couldn’t undo this. This small space was my domain, and I controlled it.

I did a little organizing every time I got a chance. I organized food items in our pantry. I filed all our paperwork. I organized all our office supplies in labeled drawers. In our laundry/mud room I had neat bins with extra supplies from Costco. I organized our closets and dressers. I kept toy baskets in every room, so that at the end of the day, we could do a quick sweep through each room and contain toys and books.

When I had three minutes to get out of the house with two boys in tow, I always found all the supplies I needed quickly. When my son woke up crying with a fever in the middle of the night, I found the baby Tylenol exactly where I’d put it. Being organized improved our lives in small but palpable ways. Amid all the baby chaos, because I was organized, our household ran smoother.

I survived that first bleak winter in Seattle and made new friends. I joined a book club and a gym. As time passed, my boys slept better, and I started re-emerging from the baby haze.  When the boys spread out and played with their toys or when Lego littered the floor, the rest of the house remained uncluttered. It was easier to restore the calm at the end of the day. All those little projects, completed in stolen moments when I wasn’t taking care of my boys, helped get me through that first winter. They helped me get control of my house and by extension – control of my life.

Author: Vlasta Hillger

View this article on Red Tricycle

 

The 7 things that are true for Yoga and Organizing

The other day in the middle of my fifth sun salutation I realized yoga is really similar to home organizing. Hear me out, I know it sounds far-fetched. If you think about it, both are really hard work, both are very repetitive BUT both also bring about a lot of wonderful, awesome results. What do you think?

 

Practicing Yoga Organizing your Home
Clears your mind Clears your mind
Nurtures happiness Nurtures happiness
Every effort makes a difference Every effort makes a difference
Promotes a healthier lifestyle Promotes a healthier lifestyle
Repeated effort yields improvement Repeated effort yields improvement
Brings forth calm Brings forth calm
Is a life-long practice Is a life-long practice

 

Author: Vlasta Hillger