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The psychology of clutter: Why we hold onto ‘stuff’—and what that may be teaching our kids

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It’s been a long day. And whether we have just walked in the door from work, or we have just braved a poorly timed late afternoon grocery store run with three tots in tow, the feeling is all too familiar and the same each time we get home.


Instead of walking in the door and exhaling into relief, the calm we hope for is met with even more stress as our eyes set upon a garage stuffed with mega-store mega-items, current and stale sports equipment, and boxes full of I-have-no-idea-but-I’ll-get-to-it-later.

We feel our stomach tighten as we walk through the door and our eyes are met with piles of laundry, magazines we don’t have time to read, a constant rotation of dishes on the table, on the counter, in the sink, in the dishwasher, and toys—so many toys—on the floor.

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It’s all. too. much. And we wonder, "Is it just me?”

Just as working in an environment that is crowded, messy, too loud and full of artificial light has been proven to affect mood and health, so too does living in a space that is stuffed with things that bring us neither joy nor use.

With a modicum of knowledge of why we clutter and what it does to our psyches, plus a little self-awareness, we can learn to set the limits that can liberate us from the tyranny of the “too much” that prevents us from having the home we desire and the freedom to be our best mama.

We are not alone

Being overwhelmed by and in one’s own home is not as singular a situation as one might think. According to a study by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) the amount of stress we experience at home is directly proportional to the amount of stuff we and our family have accumulated.

In the study, a team of professional archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists conducted a systematic study of home life in 32 middle-class, dual-income families with 2-3 kids of ages 7-12 in Los Angeles.

The scientists examined the amount of their stuff and found that women who feel their homes are cluttered tend to:

  • Be less happy with their marriages
  • Have unhealthy patterns of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Have difficulty managing every day tasks
  • Feel ineffectual
  • Have a harder time transitioning from work to home
  • Get increasingly depressed throughout the day
  • Having greater fatigue in the evenings.

The study also found that those unfinished home projects fall into the category of clutter and generate the same kind of stress that clutter does. Housework and home repairs compete for the attention of time and resource-strapped parents, turning home into more a place of increased demands than a haven from stressors.

Wives were found to be more affected by these stressors than husbands. Other research has shown that wives assume more of the responsibility for maintaining a home than husbands do, which may be more closely linked to how they see the home environment, and so they are particularly stressed out by the presence of clutter.

What about the kids?

If creating for ourselves a more restful home environment is not a big enough reason to declutter, perhaps the knowledge that our habits can be passed along to our kids will be.

"Our ability to organize begins at a young age through the modeling and messages we receive from our parents," says professional organizer, Regina Leeds. "Being raised in a home where we weren't taught the skills to maintain order, we inadvertently may fall into the habits of disorder and unfortunately pass along these non-serving habits to our children, rendering them incapable of organization until they take it upon themselves to learn the essential organizational skills, to eliminate, categorize, and organize."

Our stuff adds up

In our materialistic society, we are exposed to ads all day long that tell us what need to have to be healthy, handsome, happy, and successful. This can make it easy to accumulate all sorts of stuff we don’t really need and difficult to get rid of it due to the associated emotional baggage.

For many reasons, we can find ourselves emotionally paralyzed when it comes to deciding what to keep or get rid of, and that stuff winds up controlling us rather than benefiting our lives.

We can have sentimental attachments to things, or we may believe our things have hidden monetary value, but the main reason we hang on to things is fear. However misguided, we can fear the loss of security, status, comfort, and love when we throw things out.

Additionally, our possessions embody our memories, our hopes and our dreams, representing who we believe we are now, and who we believe the better version of ourselves will be in the future. So it comes as no surprise that it can be difficult to let go. "Tidying lets you stare in the face all of your core beliefs and what you’re living your life based on,” says Sue Rasmussen, a Minneapolis life coach and decluttering professional.

Others propose that discarding things we’ve purchased can be an admission of our failings, and holding on to them can also be toxic reminders of what we have not accomplished.

“You hold onto things based on hope,” says June Saruwatari, author of Behind the Clutter, a book that looks at not just the physical stuff that takes up room in our lives, but the mental clutter that keeps us from feeling productive and happy. "We hope to lose weight, hope to catch up on reading, hope to finish that abandoned project. But when we don’t, it’s hard not to feel like a failure about it…how many items do you need to hold onto before it starts controlling your life?”

Or, we may feel guilty for wasting money on things, so we hold onto them to justify our purchase. And especiallly, we are afraid of regret. We have all tossed something, only to wish we hadn’t later. But holding onto stuff by rationalizing we may need it one day is a recipe for just. too. much. stuff... Eventually everything piles up and cannot be ignored.

In a vicious cycle, the clutter that results from a reaction to feelings of emptiness, fear, guilt and anxiety can cause us to clutter more and can "compound into the reactive emotional pain” of more guilt and shame, fear, anxiety—and ultimately result in preoccupation and depression.

If clutter is the physical manifestation of emotions, then decluttering, believes Saruwatari, isn’t simply about getting our desk and closet in order, "It’s about relieving yourself of all the stuff you’re hanging onto from past careers, relationships, and unfinished business."

Our clutter tells a story

Just as our stuff can signify different emotional messages, it can also represent our identity. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the things we struggle to get rid of the most are likely tied to our self-worth, as evidenced by the findings that, "People struggle the most to part with possessions that lack monetary or functional value."

This is why we may mourn the loss of our possessions from a fire but not necessarily their monetary value. The study found that parting with possessions that make us feel worthy can cause us to experience real loss and real grief—even depression.

Some of us find self-worth in our physical appearance, while others find it in approval.

Usually, whatever we hold onto the most represents what defines our self-worth. For instance, if we place a lot of value on success, it can be hard to let go of the things that comprise tangible evidence of our achievements, like awards or college transcripts. Tossing these things might make us feel less successful.

Or, if we value our relationships above all, it may be more difficult to get rid of gifts from people. Tossing unwanted or unused gifts can make us feel like we are being disloyal to the giver. This can apply to birthday and greeting cards as well, which can represent to us that we are loved and appreciated, proving that we mean something to others.

Clutter is not just a representation of our emotions, memories, worth and identity, but it also can be distraction from tackling deeper issues—and a buffer from pain.

"In addition to what we keep,” clinical psychologist Noah Mankowski says, "where we put our clutter usually corresponds to different emotional events." According to Mankowski, clutter in the attic or the basement might indicate an inability to let go of the past.

Or a cluttered bathroom might reveal body image issues, since this is where we’re most likely to be standing in front of a mirror naked.

And clutter in the living room might suggest blockages in our social life, while a cluttered bedroom might relate to issues surrounding our sexual self, fears of intimacy or gender roles. “When you clutter things, … you can’t see the surroundings. Which actually allows you to not deal with it—it’s a way of coping.”

It’s not what we have, but what we do

Decluttering can be hard to begin when we are at the end of a long day or the end of an even longer week. So, approach it with an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful that we can give to others our unused belongings—especially those in good condition—not only benefits others, but can help us rewrite the story of who we are.

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Marketing, researchers tested ways to help people donate items that were meaningful to them. They discovered that people would experience less identity loss from donating a cherished item if they photographed it.

Echoed in another study by Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, associate professor of marketing Rebecca Reczek and her colleagues found that, "People are more willing to give up possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory."

The results of the study demonstrate that, "It may be relatively easy to break old habits of clinging to possessions with sentimental value by photographing items to preserve the memories associated with them, making people more likely to donate those items by keeping the memories they represent intact."

In related experiments, other researchers confirmed that it wasn't just the memories associated with possessions that were keeping people from donating, "it was the identities linked to those memories.

For example, older parents may still feel connected to their identities as new mothers and fathers so not want to part with their infant’s clothes, the memories of their child’s infancy being connected to the clothing that helps to define who they are. “It is this reluctance to give up a piece of our identity that is driving our reluctance to donate," Reczek said.

So taking pictures can help us part with all those boxes of old baby clothes we no longer need, not to mention all the preschool artwork that comes home and stacks up. Even better, this strategy can also be implemented to help our kids pass along toys and books they have outgrown.

Our stuff in control

More than 75% of families use their garages solely to store the overflow of possessions (Arnold & Lang, 2007). Understanding the gateways of accumulation and the thinking behind them can help us recognize useless stuff when we see it, making it so much easier to get rid of it before it becomes clutter and a problem.

  • Set boundaries. Storing other people’s things can be a signal that we need to be more assertive about our space and set appropriate boundaries to not allow other people to clutter up our home with their stuff. This includes holding on to family heirlooms. Keeping dear Aunt Lillian’s china set might be sentimental, but it just becomes clutter if it is not going to be used and we don’t really want it.
  • Let go of the past. It’s okay to be nostalgic, but hanging onto dusty dried corsages from our high school proms or our too-small jeans from pre-baby days can be unhelpful reminders of the past and can prevent us from taking responsibility for creating a better tomorrow and moving forward in our life.
  • Trust in the future. Shelves of unopened or unused items can signal “just in case” thinking and a lack of trust in the future. They can also signal an aspiration to do or be something we’re not. Donating these items can free up space in our homes, hearts and heads and help us move on.
  • Tame the unfinished. 
Incomplete projects and half-finished remodels can suggest an unsustainable perfectionism, provoking a sense of failure. Prioritizing completion or scheduling removal of the abandoned helps us respect and accept who we are here and now, which can be empowering.

Home, sweet, neat home

The more we declutter, the better we get at it and the more aware we become of choosing what to keep, dump and seek in our lives. A little empty space helps makes room for a new way of living that enables stronger relationships and a stronger us through better physical and mental health.

Think of it this way: Getting rid of clutter is the ultimate form of self-care.

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Easter meals bring the family together in ways that few other meals can. Spring is finally in the air and the feeling of new beginnings and hope is all around. But we know it can be hard to find the time to make delicious meals, and even harder to find recipes your little bunnies will agree to eat.

But fear not, mama! We've searched around the internet and found some of the easiest, most delicious and, yes, kid-friendly recipes out there that will take your entire family from morning until night. So happy cooking and happy Easter!

Here are our 13 favorite easy + kid-friendly recipes:

1. Easter bunny waffles

easter_waffles

Fork and Beans

Waking up on Easter morning is a pretty magical experience as a kid. Add to the fun with these adorable, easy and actually kind of healthy waffles!

Ingredients:

  • frozen waffles
  • strawberries, sliced, for the ear, mouth and bow tie
  • banana slices, for the eyes
  • blueberries, for the eyes
  • raspberries, for the nose
  • shredded carrots, for the whiskers

Instructions:

1. Toast 3 waffles.

2. Slice one waffle in half and use it for the ears. Slice another waffle in half and use one part for the shoulders and then cut out two circles for the cheeks.

3. Add the strawberry slices and place them on top of the ears to fill in.

4. Assemble the face and bow tie.

Recipe from Fork and Beans

Baked French toast

french_toast

The Pioneer Woman

Breakfast meets casserole in this delicious make-ahead dish. It's perfect for prepping the night before a busy day, especially if you have overnight guests.

Ingredients:

French toast

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 loaf crusty sourdough Or French Bread
  • 8 whole Eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • warm syrup, for serving
  • butter, for serving
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, for serving

Instructions:

1. For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store it in the fridge until needed (overnight, preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away—it's delicious no matter what!

2. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

3. When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture.

4. Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with blueberries.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Hashbrown egg cups

hashbrown_eggs

Life Made Simple

If you're craving something savory, these hashbrown egg cups will absolutely hit the spot. Just consider leaving out the cayenne for those littler taste-buds.

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces refrigerated hash browns
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk or half and half
  • 4 sliced cooked bacon, crumbled
  • chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Generously spray a standard size muffin tin pan with baking spray, set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the hash browns, 1/2 cup cheese, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Press the mixture into the bottom, creating a nest.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, eggs, milk, and bacon. Pour into the baked hash browns, then return to the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes or until fully set.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing.
  6. Garnish with a pinch of salt and pepper and freshly chopped parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Life Made Simpleife Made Simple

Cucumber sandwiches

cucumber_sandwiches

Cherished Bliss

If your littles will be off hunting eggs, these quick and easy to grab sandwiches will be just what they need to keep them going.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of extra thin sliced bread
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ of an English cucumber
  • 3 tbsp finely shredded carrots
  • ½ tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp garlic and herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. With a bunny and Easter egg cookie cutter, cut out an equal amount of bread for each sandwich and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add cream cheese, shredded carrots, fresh chopped chives, fresh chopped parsley, and seasonings.
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  4. Cut an English cucumber in half and slice thin slices of your desired amount of cucumbers.
  5. Spread the carrot and herb cream cheese on both sides of a sandwich. When spreading the carrot and herb cream cheese on don't forget to do the mirror side of the bunny.
  6. Place your desired amount of cucumber slices on each sandwich and top with the other the matching bread cut out.

Recipe from Cherished Bliss

Ham and cheese crescents

crescents

Six Sisters' Stuff

This is the perfect recipe for a busy lunch. It only has three ingredients, and is so yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent roll dough
  • 16 deli ham slices (you can use carved ham leftovers)
  • 8 slices cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate dough into 8 equal pieces (they usually separate into triangles).
  3. Place 2 slices of ham and 1 slice of cheese (folded in half) on the larger end of the triangle.
  4. Roll the crescent up with the ham and cheese inside, and place it tip side down on a baking sheet (you can use a baking mat, or line it with aluminum foil for easy clean-up, too).
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff

Bunny veggie dip

bunny_dip

The Nesting Corral

Eating veggies has never been so fun… or cute!

Ingredients:

  • Bread loaf

Dip:

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 container (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

Veggies for dipping:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery sticks
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower

Decorations:

  • olives

Instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients and chill for about 2 hours.

2. Carefully cut out a circle from the top of the bread loaf for the bunny's head. Then, cut the opening bigger so that dipping was accessible.

3. Using your hands, hollow out the rest of the shepherd loaf so that it can hold the spinach dip. Save the chunks of bread that you pull out for chowing down on with your dip.

4. Cut the two ends off of a baguette and situated them as the bunny's ears.

5. For the face, used black olives cut in half as the eyes, and quarter a half of a black olive to make the nose.

6. Make the whiskers from thin strips of celery, and the mouth is a cross section piece of celery. Put a little dip on the back of each of the facial features to keep it adhered to the bread.

7. Pour the dip into the bread bowl, arrange the veggies, and serve.

Recipe from Nesting Coral

English muffin bunny pizza

english_muffin

Kid Friendly Things to Do

These little bunny pizzas are perfect for serving your kids while the grown-ups eat their fancier dinner (though we totally get it if the grown-ups decide they just want to eat these, too).

Ingredients:

  • English muffins
  • Pizza sauce (jarred is great)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella shredded cheese
  • 2 black olive pearls, sliced olives
  • 1 piece of sliced pepperoni
  • 1 stick of mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 breadstick

Instructions:

  • Spread some pizza sauce onto the English muffin (a few tbsp should be enough).
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the sauce.
  • Add 2 sliced olives for eyes.
  • Cut the piece of pepperoni into 1/4 pieces and position a piece for the nose.
  • Bake the breadstick according to the package directions.
  • Bake the pizza at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is turning a little golden on the ends.
  • When the breadstick and pizza are done, slice the breadstick in half.
  • Grab a plate and place the pizza in the middle, add the halved breadsticks for your bunny ears.
  • Pull some pieces of mozzarella off of the string cheese to make whiskers and serve

Recipe from Kid Friendly Things To Do

Instant Pot leg of lamb

leg_lamb

Simply Happy Foodie

Is there anything the Instant Pot can't do? The answer is a definitive no—including the fact that it can make your Easter dinner a complete (and easy) win.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves garlic, divided
  • 4 lbs boneless leg of lamb (or bone-in)
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar

(Optional) to thicken, mix together:

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Instructions:

  1. Slice 4 of the garlic cloves lengthwise. Pierce the lamb in several places and push the garlic slivers into the cuts. Then sprinkle 2 of the tsp of salt and the pepper over the entire roast.
  2. If the roast is coming apart from the bone being removed, tie it together with butcher's string.
  3. Turn on the pot's sauté setting. Wait for it to get hot, then add the olive oil. Place the lamb roast in the pot and let it brown for several minutes. Then turn it over and brown the other side. Remove it to a plate.
  4. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot, using a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the wine and continue to cook, still scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot (called deglazing).
  6. Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs, remaining teaspoon of salt, remaining clove of garlic (minced), chicken broth, and the red wine vinegar. Stir well. Then turn off the sauté setting.
  7. Add the lamb roast back into the pot.
  8. Press the pressure cook/manual button or dial. Then press the +/- button or dial to select 70 minutes (20-30 minutes for a rare roast). For a bone-in roast, select 85 minutes. This will yield a nicely fork-tender leg of lamb. If your roast is larger than 4 lbs, increase the time by 5 minutes.
  9. The pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure. When the cook time ends, let the pot sit undisturbed for 20 minutes (20-minute natural release, 10 minutes for a rare roast). Then turn the steam release knob to the Venting position to manually release any remaining pressure/steam. Turn off the pot.
  10. When the pin in the lid drops back down, open the lid. Carefully remove the roast to a platter and cover. Remove the herb stems from the pot.
  11. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid in the pot, or use a fat separator to defat the liquid.
  12. OPTIONAL: Return the liquid to the pot and turn on the sauté setting. Mix up a slurry of 1 tbsp cornstarch to 2 tbsp cold water. When the liquid is simmering, whisk in the slurry and stir until it thickens.
  13. Serve the roast sliced, with some of the defatted sauce over it.

Recipe from Simply Happy Foodie

Slow cooker ham with brown sugar glaze

ham

This Delicious House

Ham is, perhaps, the most quintessential of Easter meal choices. And with the ease of a crockpot, this recipe will become your go-to favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless ham
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Remove ham from packaging and place in a slow cooker set at low heat.
  2. Make the glaze by combining the brown sugar, dijon, and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over the ham. Cook ham at low heat for 5-7 hours or until thermometer reads 140 degrees F.

Recipe from This Delicious House

Brown butter garlic honey-roasted carrots

carrots

Rasa Malaysia

These carrots are so good you won't have to convince them to eat their veggies before dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 dashes ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme or parsley

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat an oven-safe skillet and cook the butter on medium heat until it starts to form and turn into golden brown. Add the garlic and quickly saute before adding the carrots. Stir a few times, then add the salt, black pepper, honey and thyme or parsley.
  3. Transfer the skillet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots become tender. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Rasa Malaysia

Birds nest cookies

birds_nest

Dinner at the Zoo

These no-bake treats are the perfect easy Easter dessert (and oh-so-cute)!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces butterscotch chips
  • 12 ounces chow mein noodles
  • 36 candy eggs

Instructions:

  1. Place the milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add the chow mein noodles to the bowl and toss until coated in the chocolate mixture.
  3. Spoon 2 tbsp of the cookie mixture onto a piece of parchment and shape into a nest; top with 3 candy eggs. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie mixture and eggs.
  4. Let nests set until firm, then serve. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Dinner at the Zoo

.

Easter egg fruit pizza

fruit_pizza

Persnickety Plates

For a dessert that is delicious and healthy, this Easter egg fruit pizza checks off all the boxes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package sugar cookie mix (1 lb 1.5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted & cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup strawberries chopped
  • 3 cups fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) sliced

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 13″ pizza pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the cookie mix, melted butter, and egg and mix with a spoon until a soft dough forms.
  3. Press the dough evenly onto the pan.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool completely, about 45 minutes. Cut into an egg shape (I just used a butter knife).
  5. In a food processor or blender, add the softened cream cheese, ½ cup chopped strawberries, powdered sugar, and vanilla and pulse until fully combined and smooth.
  6. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the cooled cookie.
  7. Decorate with the cut-up fruit.
  8. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve.

Recipe from Persnickety Plates

Easter chocolate lasagna

chocolate_lasagna

Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts

There's really no explanation needed here. It's chocolate layered with more chocolate. Done.

Ingredients:

Oreo crust:

  • 36 Oreo cookies
  • ½ cup unsalted butter-melted

Cream cheese layer:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter-softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup Cool Whip

Chocolate pudding layer:

  • 2 (3.9 oz.) packages chocolate instant pudding
  • 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk

Topping:

  • 2 cups Cool Whip
  • 1 ½ cups crushed Oreo
  • Peeps bunnies, Easter egg candies, and other fun toppings

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, finely crush Oreo cookies into fine crumbs. If you don't have food processor, place Oreo cookies into ziplock bag and crush the cookies with a rolling pin.
  2. Using a fork mix crushed Oreo with melted butter, then press the mixture into the bottom of 9 x 13 inches dish. Place in the fridge to firm.
  3. Beat cream cheese, softened butter, sugar and vanilla until it's light and creamy. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread the mixture over the crust and place in the fridge.
  4. In a medium bowl mix chocolate instant pudding with 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for a few minutes until the pudding starts thickening. Spread the pudding over the cream cheese layer. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  5. Spread 2 cups Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with crushed Oreo. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  6. Garnish with Peeps and Easter egg candies.

Recipe from Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts.

Lifestyle

This is a trying time for all parents as schools are closed nationwide to protect children, teachers and families from coronavirus. As a special education teacher for 17 years, this is new territory for me as well. I get daily emails from my supervisors and district leaders on what to expect and what is happening, and I'm keeping in touch with all my parents, too. Luckily, I have great parents to work with and I want to support them and my students as best as I can.

Here is my advice on 5 things parents of special needs children can do to help your child through a school closure.

1. Get + read the most recent IEP for your child.

In the Individual Education Plan there are two key items you should be aware of:

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Goals: You and the teacher of record as well as any service provider should have worked together on goals for your child. These are important guides for what you can be doing with your child at home.

For instance, if one of the goals was to learn about reading a clock and understanding elapsed time, that could be a skill you can work with at home. If a goal was for your child to pick from a field of three options for a cause/effect reaction, have your child pick lunch from three options. I know there are many different abilities, so there are going to be many different goals. Focusing on your child's goals in their IEP can make it easier to decide what you want to teach and review with your child.

Provisions: Be aware of what services your child usually gets and how often as part of their IEP, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy. Depending on where you live and how the decision to close school was made, your school district may have to compensate for these lost services.

If your school district is closed by government order the school district will not have to compensate for that lost time (or for any time covered by already-scheduled school vacation days). It is only when a school district has closed by their own decision without permission to waive the school day, while still providing education services for the general-education population that special education services would have to be counted in the provisions.

2. Ask for a basic daily schedule.

Contact your teacher of record to ask for a basic daily schedule. You are not required to follow it completely, but students like consistency. If you can create a schedule with some pieces of what your child was used to, it will be helpful. Everyone can do some kind of calendar time, math center time or reading time. Work with what you have at home.

3. Explain the disruption with care.

If your child is asking every day, "is it time for school?" or is starting to have meltdowns because they're not on their usual schedule, think about what you can say to your child that meets them where they are. If they can understand school is closed because of a sickness, then share that, and use a calendar to show how many days you have been staying home. If your child is confused and unable to process, tell them the school is on a break. Focus on talking about what the experience of having an extended break from school is like, instead of trying to explain contagious disease and social distancing.

4. Lower your expectations.

This is an extremely stressful time for all Americans—parents and kids. Your family's focus should be on staying safe and healthy. If you don't have every assignment done, if your child spends more time on a screen than usual, believe me, it's fine. There may be regression, and there will be less progress than you wish, but your child will be safe from getting sick and you will be safe from fearing for your child's health.

5. Use the resources in your community.

It's inspiring to see how many communities and organizations have rallied to offer support and resources. Many school districts are offering food pickups, online educational platforms are offering free programming, and across the country, community shelters and services are ramping up to help people. Use your school's website for information about your child's school and to learn what plans are being put into place to deal with closures. The PTAs at many schools have online groups on Facebook, Konstella or other digital community apps where parents are connecting and sharing information, including ways to support your school and community.

Stay safe and healthy. Enjoy the time you have with your child and family. We'll see you when the schools reopen—and we'll greet your kids with the biggest smiles.

Learn + Play

Does the coronavirus outbreak have you in the mood for fresh movies and tv shows? Of course, we love our go-to Netflix and Hulu favorites, but sometimes we just need a change, right?

While there's a healthy stream of shows and movies leaving (gosh, we were really hoping My Best Friend's Wedding could stay a bit longer), there's a bevy of new material to dive into, including new seasons of 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After and Insecure. Below, see the full lineup of what's coming and leaving from Netflix, Hulu and HBO in April.

Here are all the TV shows + movies coming to Netflix in April:



April 1

David Batra: Elefanten I Rummet

How to Fix a Drug Scandal

The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show

Nailed It!: Season 4

Sunderland 'Til I Die: Season 2

40 Days and 40 Nights

Bloodsport

Cadillac Records

Can't Hardly Wait

Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke

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Community: Season 1-6

Deep Impact

God's Not Dead

Just Friends

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Kim's Convenience: Season 4

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Lethal Weapon 4

Minority Report

Molly's Game

Mortal Kombat

Mud

Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon: S3: Sun & Moon – Ultra Legends

Promised Land

Road to Perdition

Salt

School Daze

Sherlock Holmes

Soul Plane

Sunrise in Heaven

Taxi Driver

The Death of Stalin

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Hangover

The Matrix

The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Revolutions

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Roommate

The Runaways

The Social Network

Wildling

April 2

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll

April 3

Coffee & Kareem

La casa de papel: Part 4

Money Heist: The Phenomenon

Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy

StarBeam

April 4

Angel Has Fallen

April 5

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

April 6

The Big Show Show

April 9

Hi Score Girl: Season 2

April 10

Here are all the TV shows + movies coming to Hulu in April:

April 1

Kabukicho Sherlock: Complete Season 1

60 Days In: Narcoland: Complete Season 1

90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?: Complete Season 4

Alone: Complete Season 6

Breaking Amish: Complete Seasons 2 + 3

Bring It!: Complete Season 5

Chopped: Complete Season 36

Cutthroat Kitchen: Complete Season 12

Dance Moms: Complete Seasons 2 + 6

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Complete Seasons 27 – 29

Dr. Pimple Popper: Complete Season 3

Fast N' Loud: Complete Season 13

Fixer Upper (How We Got to Here: Looking Back on Fixer Upper): Special

Forged in Fire: Complete Season 6

Gold Medal Families: Complete Season 1

Hidden Potential: Complete Season 1

House Hunters: Complete Season 120

Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole: Complete Season 1

Little Women: Atlanta: Complete Season 5

Little Women: L.A.: Complete Seasons 7 + 8

Love It or List It: Complete Season 14

Married at First Sight: Complete Season 9

Marrying Millions: Complete Season 1

Property Brothers: Complete Seasons 10 + 11

Taken at Birth: Complete Season 1

The Family Chantel: Complete Season 1

The Food That Built America: Complete Season 1

The Kitchen: Complete Seasons 16 – 18

Til Death Do Us Part: Complete Season 1

TRANsitioning: Complete Season 1

The Ant Bully

Bangkok Dangerous

Bend It Like Beckham

Blazing Saddles

The Book Of Eli

The Boost

The Chumscrubber

Diary of a Hitman

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who

Dr. T. and the Women

The Eternal

Free Birds

The Full Monty

Fun in Acapulco

Gator

Get Smart

Gods and Monsters

Gorky Park

Hud

Kill Bill: Volume 1

Kill Bill: Volume 2

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Let Me In

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

The Mexican

Misery

Moll Flanders

Phone Booth

Repentance

Risky Business

Romancing the Stone

The Jewel of the Nile

The Sender

Shirley Valen

Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story

Victoria Gotti: My Father's Daughter

Who Let The Dogs Out

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Zombieland

April 3

Future Man: Complete Final Season

Siren: Season 3 Premiere

April 6

Too Cautious Hero: Complete Season 1

April 7

No Guns Life: Complete Season 1

April 8

Parasite

April 9

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life: Complete Season 2a

Little Joe

April 10

Real Housewives of Potomac: Complete Season 4

April 12

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Complete Season 9B

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic en Español: Complete Season 9B

April 14

The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart

The Baker and the Beauty

Songland: Season 2 Premiere

Vault

Unlocked

April 15

Mrs. America: Series Premiere

The Masked Singer: Sing-Along Spectacular: Special

A Teacher

The Messenger

April 16

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2

Harry Benson: Shoot First

April 20

Paranormal Activity 3

A Kind of Murder

April 22

Special-7: Complete Season 1

April 23

Cunningham

April 24

Abominable

April 29

Footloose


Here are all the TV shows + movies coming to HBO in April:


April 1

Alpha and Omega

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

American Pie

American Pie 2

American Wedding

Becoming Jane

Clockstoppers

Daylight

Die Hard

Die Hard 2

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Drop Dead Fred

The Family Stone

The Flintstones

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (Extended Version)

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

The Judge

The Kids Are All Right

The Lovely Bones

Loving

Monte Carlo

The Nice Guys

The Pacifier

The Predator

Slumdog Millionaire

Something Wild

Sophie's Choice

Team America: World Police

Ulee's Gold

War Dogs

Water for Elephants

Xanadu

X-Men

April 3

High Maintenance

April 5

Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children

April 12

Insecure: Season 4 Premiere

RUN

April 19

Entre Hombre

April 20

The Plot Against America: Series Finale

April 23

We're Here: Season Premiere

April 25

Bad Education

April 28

Autism: The Sequel

Here are the TV shows + movies leaving Netflix in April:



April 4

American Odyssey: Season 1

April 8

Movie 43

April 15

21 & Over

April 16

Lost Girl: Season 1-5

April 17

Big Fat Liar

April 19

The Longest Yard

April 24

The Ugly Truth

April 29

National Treasure

April 30

A Cinderella Story

A Little Princess

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

The Craft

Crash

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Harry

Driving Miss Daisy

Friday the 13th

Good Burger

GoodFellas

The Hangover

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Police Academy

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment

Police Academy 3: Back in TrainingPolice Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol

Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach

Police Academy 6: City Under Siege

Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow

Rosemary's Baby

Rounders

Scream 2

Scream 3

The Shawshank Redemption

Space Jam

Spy Kids

Step Brothers

Strictly Ballroom

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

True Grit

Here are the TV shows + movies leaving Hulu in April:


My Best Friend's Wedding

American Buffalo

Cinderfella

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Golden Gate

The Bellboy

The Patsy

The Tenant

Unforgettable

Buffalo 66

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Still Smokin'

Earth Girls Are Easy

Judgment Day

Lord of War

National Lampoon's Dirty Movie

Here are the TV shows + movies leaving HBO in April:


Bruce Almighty
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Cyborg

The Darkness

The Day After Tomorrow

George of the Jungle

Good Boy!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

The Ladykillers

Mary Queen of Scots

Men of Honor

The Mule

Mr. Bean's Holiday

My Soul to Take

The Object of My Affection

Out of Sight

Puss in Boots

Religulous

Rush Hour 2

The Parallax View

Upgrade

Welcome to Marwen

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Lifestyle

Kids are naturally super active on their own, of course but with no playgrounds, no physical education at school and canceled sports, it can be tough to get in daily movement.

Experts recommend that 1 to 4-year-olds need three hours of physical activity per day, and that older kids need movement, too—not just to have healthy bodies, but to make good grades. That's because physical education (PE) classes and sports practices do more than just get kids to run around—they reinforce a variety of important gross motor skills like balance, coordination, strength, flexibility and reflexes.

So does this mean you should feel obligated to set up a full PE curriculum for your child during this time? No! But anything that gets the kids moving and playing, and hopefully acting a little silly together, is a win right now.

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Here are some creative ideas to encourage physical activity beyond "go play outside"—including activities and exercises you can do together with kids.

Indoor movement ideas for kids

If you're having a bad weather week or you live in an urban area without easy access to a backyard, letting the kids run around outside might not be an option for you right now. But kids can still get in plenty of physical activity without leaving the house—it just takes a bit of creativity.

1. Twister
Twister is fun, encourages flexibility and balance, and is perfect for a rainy day or if you don't have an outdoor space available right now.

2. Dance + freeze
Adding a "freeze" element to a living room dance party makes it more fun for kids while also encouraging them to practice their balance.

3. Yoga
Practicing yoga together is a great way to challenge balance and coordination while also getting some much needed zen time as a family.

4. Beanbag toss
This super simple activity is great for kids of all different ages and abilities as you can easily make it more or less challenging. Set up two baskets, one full of beanbags or soft balls. Your child can practice throwing a beanbag from one basket to another to work on coordination. Move the baskets further apart as they get the hang of it.

5. Jump rope
Jump rope is the perfect indoor PE activity because it uses up so much energy, requires very little space and is excellent practice for coordination.

Outdoor movement ideas for kids

If you have outdoor space available, encourage your child to get out there and play as much as possible. Free play is excellent physical activity—and if you play alongside your child, you just may get some much needed endorphins. Kick a ball around the yard together, play catch or blow up that inflatable pool to splash around in as soon as it's warm enough.

Here are a few specific activities to try if your kid needs some inspiration to get out there, or if you want to work with them on gross motor skills.

1. Hopscotch
Hopscotch is excellent for helping kids improve balance and coordination because of all of the rapid changes in movement required. Get out the sidewalk chalk and set up hopscotch on your patio or driveway and hop along with each other.

2. Obstacle course
Enlist your child's help in setting up an obstacle course in the backyard. Get creative with what you have available to make it fun and challenging. Use garden stones or an old 2x4 to create a balance beam, mark a pathway for them to run or ride their bike on, set up a big bucket for them to throw a ball in.

If you don't have an outdoor space, you can still turn a playroom, garage, basement, or even your kid's bedroom into an obstacle course. Set up different stations like pillows for them to jump over, a row of chairs for them to crawl under, or a line made from painter's tape on the floor for them to walk or run on while balancing a beanbag on their head.

3. Foursquare
Sometimes the simple, time-tested games are the best! Draw numbered squares on your driveway and challenge each other to bounce the ball to a family member standing in whatever number square you call out. (You do need four people for a traditional foursquare game, but if you have fewer than four people in your household, you can create a simple variation by drawing a triangle or a rectangle with fewer spots.)

4. Follow the leader
Line up single file and let each family member take turns being the "leader." The leader decides how the group will move around the backyard. Think crawling around the perimeter, walking backwards (carefully), hopping on one foot, going down the slide if you have one.

5. Red light green light
Ask your kids to stand along the fence in the backyard. Stand across the yard from them. When you call "Green Light!" they can advance toward you and when you call "Red Light!" they stop. Change up the type of movement they use, from jumping to tiptoeing, and make sure to switch roles so they get a chance to lead too.

Learn + Play

The text I was waiting for came at 7:59 last night. And even though I've been bracing myself for it these past weeks, it still felt like a punch to the gut.

"Breaking: SCHOOL IS DISMISSED FOR THE 2019-2020 SCHOOL YEAR. Please see your email for a message from the superintendent."

In all caps, no less. As though the words themselves weren't overwhelming enough.

I suppose I had been clinging to some degree of hope telling me that normalcy was on the horizon. That if we could just buckle down for the month of April, gritting our teeth through the inevitable algebra related breakdowns (mine) and the "Can we watch whatever we want NOW?" demands (theirs) we'd all emerge victorious as the balm of warm weather arrived.

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Consider my hopes dashed.

Dropping my 8th grader off to his final middle school dance, the one I would have threatened to chaperone if he didn't clean his room–canceled.

Soccer, baseball, field day, end of year class trips–all canceled.

Recitals, concerts, proms, graduations–canceled as well.

I underestimated the grief I'd feel settling into this reality.

I'm grieving for the loss of these rites of passage that guide our kids so steadily into the next phase of their lives.

I'm grieving for the kids who won't have the opportunity to take the stage and revel in their accomplishments of years of hard work and dedication.

I'm deeply grieving for the kids who are trapped in homes with parents who wouldn't have attended anyway.

Last week, elbow-deep in a box of photos (a quarantine-induced jaunt down memory lane had been more appealing than cleaning) I stumbled upon a grainy photo dated 1996. There I stood in my best friend's basement, a dELIA*s catalog-clad 8th grader dancing awkwardly with the boy I'd been crushing on for all of middle school. Others in the background were casually crammed onto the couch wolfing down snacks and soda. While exact memories of the evening have long since faded, I can still palpably recall the hormone-laced thrills of those first moments you feel grown-up. Older. Ready to take on the world.

What I never gave thought to until now were the parents upstairs.

I didn't think about how they must have felt knowing their basement was a portal from one phase of childhood into the next, running down the clock on innocence. How they must have been completely gobsmacked by the fact that suddenly these kids they'd known since preschool would be high schoolers in just a few months.

I didn't know how incredible it is to get a glimpse of who your teenager is becoming as you observe them with their friends.

I was unaware they were likely as nervous as we were.

Now I'm the parent. And right now, it feels like we've been tasked with so much more than our parents were. If we've collectively learned anything these past weeks, it's that regular parents aren't cut out to be teachers. And as it turns out, we're not cut out to be our childrens' peers either.

For the foreseeable future, I won't have a basement full of kids navigating that transition together. I won't snap that goofy graduation photo of my son and his friends—one they'd look back on and laugh at for decades. I won't transport a car full of loud, exuberant teenagers to roam the mall (yes, they still do that) crossing my fingers they won't irritate the food court patrons too much.

I guess I'm grieving for myself a little in that regard, too.

Of course, I know there's light at the end of the tunnel. As we navigate our way through it, we'll make do with virtual hangouts and celebrations. We'll pretend not to notice when they're up a little late playing video games with their friends. We'll brave this new "normal" together and allow them to find new ways to socialize and test the boundaries of growing up.

Maybe one day, a quarter-century from now, they'll look back and remember not the things they missed out on, but the ways they cultivated resilience while coming of age in a brand new era.

Life
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