I’m 30 years old and as I look at my life, it’s “the best of times and the worst of times.”
- We’re still (mostly) happily married 7 years later.
- We have two (mostly) happy and healthy boys.
- We live (mostly) debt-free (all that’s left is the mortgage).
- I’m able to stay home with my kids and home educate them.
- The war that has kept my husband away from home for over half our marriage and most of our children’s lives.
- The economy.
- My recurring bouts with depression and anxiety.
- Battling hoarding and squalor in my life every. single. day.
So as I look at my life, I try to see past the difficulties and see how good we really have it. Sometimes though, it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane tasks of life. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut where all I can see is the mess around me and in front of me and behind me. It feels like trying to swim in quicksand. I know I’m starting to get depressed when the routine starts to feel more like a burden than a blessing.
And I know that for the past couple of weeks I’ve been in that rut. I recognized it, and I immediately started thinking of what I could do to change it. Instead of asking myself, “Why is life so hard?” “Why am I so unhappy?” I asked myself an entirely different question: “What have I been neglecting?” Because the truth is that life hasn’t changed all that much. Things haven’t gotten any harder to do. But if you neglect something long enough it starts screaming to be done and that can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of control and overburdened and depressed.
So what had I been neglecting? Well, I had to start with the simple things.
“Did I shower this morning?” Being a stay-at-home mom who also home schools, there have been many days where I literally forgot to take a shower. I don’t have to leave the house every day and we often get up and start school in our jammies, so, it’s easy for me to neglect my self-care. Sometimes taking a shower, shaving my legs, and brushing my hair and teeth is all it takes to smooth the edges off of a rough day.
“Do I have clean clothes to wear?” This is another one that catches up with me. When I’m digging in the bottom of the drawer to find something to wear, usually something old or ill-fitting, it’s depressing. So for me, it’s important to recognize that if this is happening I need to take a day and just do laundry to wash all those things that I love to wear. Oh, and then I need to wear them! Also, I find that I don’t buy clothes as often for myself as I do for my children, so if my wardrobe is starting to look stained/holey or just old then I know I need to take the time and money and treat myself to something new.
“Have I been following my home-keeping routines?” Invariably if I’m depressed, the answer to this question is a big fat NO. Now, whether the disordered house is a symptom of the disordered mind, or whether the disordered house leads to the disordered mind, I really can’t say. It’s rather like the chicken and the egg. It’s a moot point. They’re both here now. So what do I do about it? Well, it helps me to revisit my routines and pinpoint which ones have fallen by the wayside. I don’t care who you are, a sink full of dirty dishes is DEPRESSING! So I pick one thing and I do it. I vacuum the floor or wash the dishes and I do the best job I can do. Then I sit back and re-evaluate my mood. I’m always happier having it clean than I was when it was dirty. Having a dirty home is doubly depressing. First, it’s depressing to live in clutter and filth. It really is. Second, it’s depressing to have a mountain of work ahead of you. By cleaning just one thing, you’ve gotten rid of some of the filth and reduced the total amount of work to do. It’s instant stress-relief. The important thing is to not look at how much there is left to do, instead sit back and enjoy the feeling of having accomplished the task and let that feeling motivate you to do more.
So these are the sorts of questions I’ve been asking myself to help me get out of the rut. And as I’ve thought about the answers to the questions, and the solutions to the problem, I’ve realized that part of my problem is that for most of my life I’ve lived poorly.
When most people imagine squalorous living conditions, their minds immediately turn to people in poverty. They often assume that people who live in squalor must be poor, uneducated, and just “not know any better.” For me, that’s not true at all. For most of my life I’ve either lived in squalor or I’ve been fighting it. I am a messy person. I was a messy kid. I have shelves full of books on how to clean. I have bookmarks of multiple how-to-clean websites. But when it comes down to it, my natural inclination is toward messiness. It has never mattered how much money we had or didn’t have. That wasn’t a factor at all.
So if our wealth, or lack-thereof, isn’t at issue, why do I struggle with squalor? I think it has to do with my own self-worth. For most of my life I’ve seen myself as somehow “less” than everyone else. I often feel unworthy. Even when I’ve been praised I’ve felt it was undeserved. I don’t often compare myself to others, but when I look at myself I tend to think, “I’m not good enough.” This is what I mean by “living poorly.” Because I tend to see myself as less valuable, less worthy, undeserving, I also tend to live like it. My family may or may not be poor by today’s financial standards, but I have lived most of my life poorly.
What I want is to live richly! It is going to take a lot of effort on my part to shift my way of thinking, but I believe that it’s important if I ever want to truly be free of burdensome, depressing living conditions. I have to change the repeating messages in mind. I need to believe that I am worthy. I need to believe that I am deserving. I need to believe that I’m good enough, strong enough, capable enough. I need to believe that I deserve better than to live in filth and clutter. I need to believe that I deserve to be pampered with a hot shower and clean clothes. These are things that most people take for granted that they deserve, and yet, here I am struggling with them. Why? It must be because somewhere deep down inside I don’t believe I deserve any better. That is what I want to work to change over the coming weeks and months.
Living richly isn’t about how much money you have or how much you spend. Living richly is about loving yourself enough to take care of yourself. Living richly is embracing your life as something that God has given to you because He loves you and He has a purpose for you. Living richly is believing that if God says you’re worthy, then who are you to question Him? Living richly is being a good steward. Living richly is caring for your husband and your children. Living richly is looking at all those people who you think are better than you for whatever reason and telling yourself that they are not. Other people are not better, they are just different. Living richly means recognizing that you are where you are because of the choices you’ve made. Life isn’t something that happens to you, it’s a series of choices. Living richly means recognizing that the choices you make today effect the life you’ll have tomorrow. Living richly means to stop coveting the life that others lead, and find ways you can create the life you want for yourself. Living richly means to stop living in the dreamland of “someday” and to start living the very best life you can today!