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Maybe you've been there—when you stop and think: Our house is out. of. control.

If only we were more organized, less tired, less lazy, more together, more creative, or maybe if we made more money or had more help—you name it—we could get a handle on this.

There is so much to do, so much stuff, we just don't know where to begin. We are defeated before we have even begun, and we are cranky. Instead of the calm we want in our heart so we can be the mama we want to be for our family, that heavy feeling we have drains all our good and sullies us with blame and shame.

We blame ourself and our perceived inadequacies for this mess, and when that gets too painful, we start to blame others. And we are ashamed of having others see the effects of our inability to cope.

This can be paralyzing. But when we know what kind of a mess we really have and give ourselves an ounce of self-awareness and a pound of self-compassion, we can set upon a diet of reduction and maintenance of the excess that threatens to consume us, mind, body and soul.

Mess leads to stress

"Clutter is largely in the eyes of the beholder," says Margit Novack, president of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. "Different people are comfortable with different degrees of clutter," so if having a notebook, pen, or a photo of our dog on our desk doesn't feel like clutter to us, then it's not.

Steve Jobs famously lived in an austere home, yet pictures of his office reveal he had a messy side. Julie Morgenstern author of Organizing from the Inside Out, believes that, "If you can find what you need when you need it, are happy in your space, and don't feel like your clutter is getting in your way, you are sufficiently well organized."

Disorganization is defined as the absence of organization or orderly arrangement.

According to Agile Living Life Design Coach, Ariane Benefit, there are two different types of disorganization that can lead to clutter. We can find ourselves in a state of situational disorganization when normal times of transition and life events, like getting married, having a baby, moving or dealing with grief, create a certain amount of chaos, clutter and disorganization.

When we do not recover or restore order after these life events, we find ourselves in a state of chronic disorganization, where our order does not improve, may worsen, and clutter continues to accumulate.

We are chronically disorganized when:

  • Disorganization and clutter often disrupt our marriage, relationships, work or health
  • We can't seem to let go of items, even when we no longer need them
  • Clutter prevents us from using areas of our home as we would like to
  • We've tried to get organize many times but can't seem to maintain it
  • We've purchased organizing books and containers but can't apply them to our situation
  • We feel there's something wrong with us because we continue to fail to organize

This is a slippery slope. Our emotional state can become greatly affected and we can find ourselves so defeated and depressed that we cannot seem to muster the heart or strength to start the process of decluttering. Some of us can become almost numb to our situation so we don't even realize the chronic pain we are in, except for when something triggers us and we flare with frustration and anger, or overwhelming grief and sadness for what our life could be like.

There may come a point where our daily life becomes overwhelmingly stressful, and clutter's ugly sister, chronic procrastination, shows up to further taunt us and leaden the load. This is when we employ other addictive or compulsive behaviors to help us cope—like shopping, eating, self-isolating, working too much or binge watching Netflix—and escape our feelings of disappointment and self disdain.

Do we clutter or do we hoard?

Most of us live with some sort of mess but our home is safe to move around in, and it is relatively easy for us to straighten up enough to feel comfortable having guests. Rooms are used the way they're meant to be, and the things we collect have value or personal meaning and bring pleasure, pride and good memories—not the shame or sadness that often comes with hoarding. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding.

For many, not being able to control clutter is an annoyance, but for others it can be a sign of a far deeper problems and psychiatric disorders, like depression, ADHD, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). About a quarter of all people with OCD are also compulsive hoarders.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), states that people with hoarding disorder have a conscious, ongoing compulsive urge to acquire unusually large amounts of possessions as well as corresponding feelings of anxiety or mental anguish and an inability to voluntarily get rid of those possessions, even when they have no practical usefulness or real-world value. Defined in part by clutter that so extreme that it overtakes the practical use of living, dining and sleeping spaces, hoarding harms quality of life and also can lead to safety issues in the home.


Answering yes to any of these questions may mean our clutter is a problem for us and others, and we may need to seek help:

  • We buy many of the same things over time, because we can't find what we already have
  • Our stuff prevents us from having people over or having enough money
  • We are late paying bills because we can't find them
  • We have trouble getting dinner ready on time
  • We feel out of control or bad about ourselves when looking at our piles of clutter
  • We feel a euphoric high when accumulating stuff
  • We have narrow trails throughout our house so we can walk between piles of stuff

In a survey conducted by About.com, pollsters found that, "one-third of respondents admitted they avoided spending time at home so they didn't have to deal with their mess."

If you are ashamed of your home, avoid going home, or feel stressed about your home, these are signs your clutter is problematic.

Remember: What we have is not who we are

It's hard to comprehend why hoarders are unable to throw things out. But research shows that a hoarder's brain reacts differently to decluttering than that of a normal person. In a study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine, researchers using brain scan technology discovered that the same area of the brain that lights up when you feel physical pain, like bumping your head, also shows greater activity in the brains of compulsive hoarders when they were faced with throwing out something of personal value. By comparison, people who didn't hoard showed no extra brain activity.

Although most people don't experience heightened brain activity to that degree, we can all identify with the angst we feel when tossing those old college t-shirts or that broken bike in the garage. And with good reason: Items like these may be tied to emotionally significant memories and may represent a piece of our identity.

10 tips to toss clutter

  1. Commit to toss, recycle or donate that which isn't used, wanted or needed.
  2. Focus on one area at a time and get started with an area that is most bothersome, even if it's an area as small as a drawer.
  3. Set a timer and work in concentrated bursts with a popular concentration hack, called the Pomodoro technique.
  4. Tackle de-cluttering as a family. "Start with a room everyone uses and making each person responsible for a section," says Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout, who specializes in the area of women and stress.
  5. Sell unwanted items in a yard sale or on Craigslist or eBay. This takes extra time, so check prices to make sure it's worth it.
  6. Deal with unwanted gifts and family heirlooms. Despite the love with which they were given, or what they meant to our dead relatives, in the end, they are just things. Removing these items from our life if they aren't precious to us, and letting go of any object—however lovely or sentimental—is crucial if looking at it disturbing or depressing.
  7. Donate clothes and shoes that have not been worn in the past year.
  8. Limit the time we are willing to store something for someone else.
  9. Realistically look at our stuff and toss whatever our "wishing self" is hanging onto.
  10. Take stock of all our projects currently "in process," then be willing to let go, clean up and move on.

It is very important to get unwanted stuff out of the way by dropping off donations, trash, and recyclables before we start to reorganize and our decision making becomes muddied with regret, or we spend valuable time and energy moving bags and boxes around while we continue on our quest. And if there seems to be a constant flow in to our home, sustaining a constant flow out is critical to maintaining any newfound order.


And 10 more ways to stay organized

  1. Consciously decide what goes where and make sure it is where it should be.
  2. Set a limit on how much stuff can be tolerated, and where.
  3. For every item we bring into our home, take one out.
  4. Designate spaces for frequently used items. Store any overflow in an easy-access see-through bin in the garage.
  5. Create an action folder to help clear workspaces and make pending projects and bills easy to locate.
  6. Go through papers as soon as possible, tossing what isn't and storing what is needed in their proper place.
  7. Make decluttering a habit—make 15 minutes of every day time for upkeep.
  8. Streamline routines to increase the likelihood of sticking to them.
  9. Seek ongoing support via friends, or self-help groups like, Clutterers Anonymous, and Messies Anonymous.
  10. Minimize digital clutter by setting a limit on how many people to follow on social media, books to buy, or apps to own, allowing more time to do things that matter.

Little things add up

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, author and KonMari Method founder, Marie Kondo, famously recommends turning your home inside out when you finally decide to declutter. By literally dumping everything you own on the floor of one room, Kondo says it becomes quite clear which of your possessions spark joy and thus are worthy of space in your home. For some, upending our lives in one fell swoop is exactly what we need to be able to see what really is valuable to us. But for most of us, just the thought of it can stop us in our tracks and leave us feeling more overwhelmed, depressed and anxious.

So start small.

In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist Dana Gionta, Ph.D., says, "The more control we perceive we have over our lives translates into less depression and anxiety down the road." We can carve out little victories of order for ourselves each day that may encourage us to keep working towards our decluttering goals. And little things like checking smoke alarm batteries, changing the heater filter or cleaning out sippy cups from the car, may just give us the momentum we need to get the bigger ball rolling.

And we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves in the process. "By being kinder and more forgiving of ourselves, we use the energy that would be spent on feeling bad for actually moving ourselves in the right direction," says Benefit.

Fewer, better and more beautiful things make for a cozy and welcoming respite that provides the peace and comfort we need to nourish the souls and strengthen bonds of our family.

Where to get additional help

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) is devoted primarily to providing education and training specifically to help people with chronic disorganization.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help hoarding patients reduce their clutter dramatically.

Others may need to work with healthcare professionals who can treat any mental health conditions that are co-occurring and contributing to cluttering and hoarding. Medications to reduce anxiety, obsessive thinking, impulsivity and/or depression may be indicated along with counseling.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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