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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.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Over six million women in America struggle with infertility, and yet its a journey that can feel so isolating.

That's why we find Google's short video, "Becoming Mom," to be so powerful. Through anxiety-driven web searches, vlog clips, and calendars packed with appointments, this video gives a brief peek into the all-consuming reality of struggling with infertility.

Watch "Becoming Mom" here:


Candace Wohl, a fertility advocate featured in this video, writes of her experience:

"For seven years, Mother's Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one."

As Candace and her husband felt their private life had been invaded by fertility specialists, they also felt that the outside world didn't understand what they were going through. So she found solidarity online.

"I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn't as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It's a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation."

Through her years of personal experience, Candace has since become an advocate for infertility awareness, and hopes that speaking up will help break down the barriers surrounding infertility. She was excited to see Google using their platform to further this message.

"I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they're not alone."

FEATURED VIDEO

We love how this video is helping to spread awareness of a struggle so many women experience, and importantly—how it highlights the virtual communities that help many women to find a path forward. It's a powerful reminder that there are others out there, typing the same fears or curiosities into a search bar.

We applaud Candace and the other brave women who shared their stories in this video. Their openness is helping to educate people and elevate the conversation surrounding infertility. 👏

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We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village

Sure being a mom of three totally rocks, but it comes with its fair share of demands, too. Singer-turned-lifestyle-entrepreneur, Jessica Simpson is learning this first hand, as she recently admitted to People that mothering three children can be difficult.

"Three is challenging," says Simpson. "We are trying to get into the groove and make sure all three kids are getting equal attention … it's more than a full-time job right now."

Simpson is a mom to daughter 6-year-old Maxwell Drew, 5-year-old son Ace Knut and little Birdie Mae who is just 5 weeks old. Birdie was born via C-section on March 19, and Simpson admitted on Instagram that "recovering from a C-section is no joke!"

While in the recovery period, the new mom of three is determined to live in the moment and enjoy hugging her new baby. "We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she says. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is."

But being a mom to multiples can often be overwhelming. A recent survey found that motherhood isn't just equivalent to a full-time job, but actually equivalent to working 2.5 jobs. And we know three kids is one of the hardest ratios for moms: A survey found moms of four or more are less stressed than moms with fewer kids, but moms of three are way more stressed than moms of two.

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Simspon is totally feeling this.

She tells People: "The other night, all three kids were crying at the same time, so I just joined in!" She's joking about it, but feelings of sadness after a new baby are not a laughing matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), postpartum depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. (If you're feeling overwhelmed, seek help, mama)

No matter how many kids you have, the fact is that statistically, parents are more stressed than people who don't have kids. It makes sense. We have less free time and more responsibilities, but it is so worth it. And it won't feel like a full-time job forever.

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News

I've always felt a weird kinship with Prince Harry. We are two different races (he's white, and I'm an African American), so we're definitely not related, and technically, I've never met him, but because my mother was pregnant with me at the same time Princess Diana was pregnant with him, I feel strangely connected to Harry.

It's almost like we're distant cousins in some bizarre way. So, imagine my delight when I discovered he was dating, and later married, an American actress of African-American heritage?

"Finally, there's some color in the royal family!" I texted to a few close friends on Prince Harry's wedding day, who later joined in my delight with smiling emojis. She's a beautiful 37-year-old American divorcee with a relaxed California girl sense of style. Naturally, I want her to win.

But as much as I'm team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, I understand that having a black woman in the monarchy doesn't change much. Let's reflect back for a moment: Shortly after the world learned Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments. "Duchess Difficult" is a mainstay in the news that particularly stands out to me. "Oh, great another black woman deemed aggressive, ill-tempered and hostile," I remember mumbling to myself.

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The trope of the "angry black woman" has once again re-emerged and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, isn't excluded from it. According to NBC News, some British journalists say Meghan has been treated differently from other members of the House of Windsor, citing a difference in attitude towards Kate, the wife of Harry's elder brother Prince William.

Realizing this reminded me how former First Lady Michelle Obama was treated shortly after taking on the title. Michelle has spoken about the racism she faced as the first lady, noting that when a West Virginia county employee called her an "ape in heels" it cut deep.

And speaking of cutting deep, it pains me when society labels Meghan as "our black hero" because it's damaging to other black women who don't have straight, long hair, light skin, and a narrow nose. Does this mean that if you don't look like Meghan, an "acceptable" version of a black woman, then you don't quite matter? Is her version of black the only type that counts?

But even with the racism and wanted (or unwanted) labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, I'm thrilled to learn that her baby (whether a boy or girl) will be seventh-in-line to the throne and the first baby of African ancestry to have such a title in the history of British royalty.

I love birthing stories, and this one is extra special. This, to me, is more magical than Meghan being in the office because it means a new breed of royalty is here. It's a symbol of change, new beginnings and it disrupts white British bloodlines. I couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know the baby won't be excluded from racist remarks, but their mere presence will acknowledge that mixed families are breaking age-old boundaries of white people dominating the royal family, and creates new histories. And, that gives me a beacon of hope for not only the Brits but Americans, too.

Just like Meghan, I too am expecting a child any day. Just like Meghan, this baby won't be granted the title of Princess (unless it's a girl, who by default will be seen as such through her daddy's eyes). And, just like Meghan, I'm hopeful yet unsure of the world my little one will live in. But, I'm positive they will break their own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of black women who have come before them.

And that, strangely enough, makes me feel even more connected to the Harry and the rest of the British Royal Family.

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News
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