Why do I get a suffocating feeling when I try to organize?

Tiger_lily_scMarch 28, 2005


I'm a frequent flyer on several other THS forums, but am new here--however, I do recognize a few of you! Our house is in constant clutter and confusion and it's because of me. Being inside makes me feel confined and a little claustrophbic. I can work outside all day in a yard--and I mean WORK--organizing, planting, mowing, cleaning,etc.... But once I enter the house, I feel so suffocated. I put off doing everything-laundry, dishes, cleaning, you name it. I find other things to do, such as getting on Gardenweb, rather than do what needs to be done in the house. Yes, as DH points out, I'm glad when the tasks are acutally done (when I finally make myself do them) but it's all such a suffocating ball and chain. I mean it's an actual physical, unpleasant, distressing, suffocating feeling when faced with laundry (daily), kitchen duty (daily), bathroom cleanup and organization (daily), toy pick-up (daily)---the feelings are so strong that they are very hard to overcome so that I CAN get things done. Yes, the kids help out, but I'm a stay at home mom of 3, our house shouldn't be the way it is. And I totally agree with those who have written in other posts that the cleaner and more organized the home, the more pleasant everyone is.

So can any of you diagnose me? Anyone with a suggestion?



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I am so sorry.. that sounds so difficult... do you feel as much anxiety in other places ( as in inside other buildings?) Honestly before it get worse think about going to see someone about it before it becomes a full blown phobia. ( wife of a shrink talking)

If that is not an option all I can suggest is working on some calming breathing exercises and start with small bits at a time... and heck yeh get your kids in their to clean ( I have 5) they are able to do thier rooms at least.

I am a person who can just see a mess huge or small and know how to break it down and get it done.. my husband is not.. he sees a huge mess and for all of his other wonderful abilities he has no iea how to tackle the mess or get moving.. he is often paralized by it. We have come to an agreement that I just tell him what to do..and he does it. For him not being the "brains' of the deal is a nice lifted burden... he jokes that he is just my little pack mule.. which is good since I need his strength at times and I can see what needs to be done and work there with him to make it happen quickly.

I hope things get better for you.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 8:48AM
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I'm not sure anyone can diagnose a psychological ailment over the internet but I do think being at home with 3 kids can be quite difficult.

That said, everyone has their own particular difficulties -- especially those of us who were not born with the organizing gene.

I do suggest signing up with flylady at flylady.net as her gentle flywashings really help one turn one's psychological framework around so that all of those tasks I viewed as monumental and undoable became doable by following her plans. It's a mindset that gradually becomes internalized.

I do think objectively if you have 3 kids and don't have a doable system in place that your home will be physically unpleasant to be in.

I am a natural slob with no organizing abilities with horrible packrat tendencies to boot :) Through flylady, I've come to realize the joy of a more peaceful looking home.

I will never be able to eat off my floor -- I am capable of staring at dust bunnies for weeks - I have way too much stuff stashed away -- but I am never more than 15 to 30 minutes away from having a home that is peaceful for me to exist in.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 10:09AM
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I hate routine. I hate feeling that here I am, yet again, doing stuff I didn't choose.

So you're not alone, if that's part of it.

Is it the being inside, or the doing of those household chores?

For me, it's the chores--it's not suffocating, but I try to squirm out from under them. Mentally, they feel like a big thumb trying to press me down, and I try to get away from it.

I read once that in the traditional breakdown of chores (men outside, women inside), men find their chores less onerous, because they get to CHOOSE when or whether to do them.

You can decide to mow now, or tomorrow. You can figure out which day to take the car in to get the oil changed. But dinner has to be made at a set time, and dishes washed at that same time. Lots of indoor housework has the aura of inevitability about it, and it feels more onerous than outside chores.

Can you trick yourself into thinking of the laundry as weeds? and your children as young plants that need to be mulched?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 10:18AM
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Talley-Sue, I think you summed it up pretty good. I've never been one to relish a schedule or demands--I'm more of a free spirit. And just the time one thing or room is cleaned up, it's time to do it again--same with the laundry, meals, etc... I know exactly how the hamster in the wheel feels! And with "women's work", there are always others depending on everything being done. The car won't scream about the oil, unless you put it off for a very long time, but the kids will definitely let you know when they are hungry--which is ALL the time. Sorry to complain but I"m just so tired of doing the same stuff over and over and over, so much so that we live in a state of "almost done". I/we get just enough done so that it's bearable but never finished, if you know what I mean.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 11:27AM
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Tiger Lily, I have the same feelings about housewife work (all but the suffocation) It may be that you have your expectations too high and you are not willing to compromise them. As I realized a long time ago, not everyone can be Polly Homemaker! Some people have other priorities that a perfectly kept house, perfect meals, etc. COMPROMISE!! Find shortcuts for meals, if you hate pots and pans - cook one pot meals (that is my husbands answer). I don't know how old your kids are, but mine learned to do their own laundrey as soon as they could reach the buttons on the washing machine! There are lots of ways to survive housewife syndrome if you are willing.

My house is clean enough that hubby doesn't complain, same with meals - simple and quick. I deep clean once in a while and actually enjoy it instead of grinding away daily.

I know I'm not the norm on this board, but there must be thousands out there like me.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:14PM
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You say the house is bearable, so are you just feeling guilty that it's not perfect? Sometimes, bearable is quite acceptable, especially with 3 kids. I also don't work well with a set schedule. My big cleanups happen when company is coming (like today). If my kitchen counters are not cluttered, the bathroom counter is clean and the beds are made, then I feel I can "breathe". Perhaps you can find the few things in the house that really bother you and try to make them a priority.

My house was never perfect, especially when my 5 kids were at home. My sister, on the other hand was so opposite of me and she had 4 kids at home. I swear that you could eat off of any of the floors in her home on any day of the week. She commented to me once that she wished she could be like me and not be obsessive about cleaning all the time. I always felt that if I at least had a place to hide the clutter quickly and we weren't living in filth, it was okay. Time with the kids, I think, comes first.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:24PM
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Good gawd of course being home with 3 kids is difficult.. it's work.. hell I have 5 and I am with them all the time since we homeschool.

I think much depends on attitude, how you feel about staying home, about the things that need to be done. I mean I don't LIKE cleaning out the toilet, but it's something I do for my family to keep them healthy, it's my gift.. or service to them.

I feel blessed to be able to be at home. The laundry is endless but I do what I can to make it more manageable and enjoyable. In my case I listen to books on tape while I do the laundry and find it a nice distraction.. I actually enjoy it, now...mind you when I happen to be done with a tape and don't have another laundry does lag a bit!

I still stand my suggestion that if Tigerliliy is verging into panic attacks when she is in her house that talking to someone might help.. but I also like the suggestion about the flylady.. sometimes maching orders can be a real help.. sort of like taking it of your hands and just carrying out orders.

I really do understand the endless notion of it all... but honestly most things are endless... home is just so in your face that it's easier to see and let get under your skin. I perfer to think of it as circle.. and each time the obligation comes around.. be it daily or weekley I do my best to better the situation or at the very least honor it. Probably part of my Buddhist more than anything but I find it gives me a feeling of peace.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:28PM
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heck, talking to a pro about possible panic attacks would be smart, if only to find out there *isn't* a problem in that area.

A "no" answer can be just as useful as a "yes."

(says the woman who has been told she is NOT allergic to cats or guinea pigs, and only MILDLY allergic to dogs or dust mites, and may not even HAVE asthma--but who is finally being treated by someone not distracted by those things)

I often suggest people thing of laundry as a river, not a mountain. You don't get to the top and stop. it flows constantly, and your job is to keep it from damming up and creating a disastrous flood.

Now, can I *do* that? No.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 3:10PM
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Tiger Lily, I'll pray for you. I also would prefer to work outside. And when it rains, housework is still last on my list. I think you're being too self critical. I would start with one room to meet your expectations and be proud of and concentrate on that. Get a box in each room to scoop up nonlaundry into so you can get that uncluttered look. Take them outside to organize if you have to. I raised 4 kids while I worked fulltime+. WE cooked all meals but spent no longer than 30 minutes in prep, less was better. There were no slow cookers in those days so I fixed casseroles that could be popped in the oven by the kids or DH before I got home. Kids took turns with dishes and household chores. I quality corrected afterwards. We all cleaned house on Saturday morning, that was vacuuming and mopping, waxing, etc., and then we went to do something fun. It was the kids job to keep their clutter picked up and their rooms clean, own beds made before school. I did one load of laundry everyday, folded and put it away immediately. In total, that took all of 15 minutes of my time after we got a dryer. The kids never did their own laundry because I wash by types and full loads: bleachable underwear, kitchen towels, towels & sheets, light colors, delicate, dark colors, and more towels. Good luck to you and remember, DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 3:49PM
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You are not alone. As others have said, I think the first step is accepting that your house is never going to look like a sit-com, TV, Ozzie and Harriet, Cosby and family home. In real homes the floor has to be mopped over and over again. You have to take off the kids clothes and wash them, ( wash the kids and the clothes ) and then put them away and wash the bath tub. I used to live in fear that someone would come over and see my mountain of clothes on the sofa. We practiced stashing things away in 2 minutes or less, I used to think that was abnormal. It not, thatÂs why most do not want others to drop by with calling first. I am feeling you sister. I was traumatized the day my dear sister-in law told me she was in the process of cleaning under her refrigerator. How do you factor that task in? I would rather be doing, well almost anything else, but housework. The whole subject of cleaning makes me hungry. For me the first real step in dealing with the whole thing was reading these posts. You see, you are not alone. The second is following the good advice from Tally- Sue and all the others who have been there too. The third is accepting that, like brushing your teeth, it just bugs you until you deal with it and afterward you can forget about. I sometimes get up real earlier in the morning just to clean and listen to a movie. Even if I spend the time on the forum at least my day starts earlier and the work does get done, eventually. For me the real big change came, when I started replacing all the old things that I could never could get clean. When I felt the pressure from DH to do more, or to switch my concentration to some dismal task, I started throwing things out. I mean I went crazy and decided, I was not going to deal with the un-removable 15 minute scrub down of my toilet anymore so I threw the toilet out,( and got a new one )I did the same with the nasty uncleanable toaster and the smelly old microwave, then the wall to wall carpet. I only have things around me that I really love and are new and crisp. So when I spend time cleaning it looks clean. I want to keep things looking clean. Instead of bringing the mountain of clothes upstairs I leave it in the basement. I clean between commercial breaks now. When I get that creepy feeling that DH thinks I wasted my day doing "nothing" I leave the kids with him for a few hours and go to the library. Ususally when I get back, he "gets its". I hope you continue to enjoy your garden and your kids, and I hope you keep us posted on your plan of attack!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 9:22PM
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Right on, girlfriend.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 8:19AM
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Someone once told me that homemaking was comparable to making a pearl necklace. But the string is unknotted, so you are constantly restringing pearls onto it as they fall off the end, pick the pearls up and start the whole process over. To me, that is a depressing but true analogy, one that demands that I give myself a lot of credit just for staying home and raising my family even if the house is a wreck. It's hard, hard work. But here is a quote from Flylady that frames my purpose:

Flylady says: Your attitude has to change from "Why do I have to do this?" to "This is my home and I deserve to have a wonderful place to live. This blesses my home and my family and, most of all, me!" End quote.

Can you afford a maid once or twice a month? Even for a few weeks or months, it might get you jump started and regular maid service will motivate your family to put the house in enough order for the maid to work effectively. Also, be diligent about the amount of sleep you get. Try not to settle for less than seven hours a night. As the mother of seven, I can assure you that progress will barely happen if you are too exhausted to work hard. Because raising a family is hard work. Even in 15 minute increments, it's work. Please know that you have the admiration of all of us for what you are working towards. If you haven't read Flylady's book, "Sink Reflections" who might want to get a copy. Marla Cilley understands how hard this task is for most of us.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 11:46AM
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Tiger Lily,

Your children are growing up seeing you work to grow things and create a beautiful landscape. That probably means they are outside more than in. What a wonderful gift you are giving them!

This this thread has been very inspirational to me. Thanks for starting it.

(currently trying to do the Mission Organization thing on my home office/sewing room)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 3:59PM
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Gee, this thread really hit the spot. So many comments throughout that I could identify with, especially getting tired of doing the same old stuff day after day after day and then getting so overwhelmed that I can't figure out where to start or what the greatest priority is. I have two children and we homeschool as well so we are here day in and day out. However in recent months I have decided on a few new attitudes for me. First, I have to quit comparing myself to my friends that have their houses PERFECT all the time. I am who I am. We don't live in filth and DH isn't complaining. Secondly, I try to keep in mind how I am wired. Some days I can do the mundane without too much agony but other days I can't. I evaluate what I'm in the mood for and be productive in that. Some days it's cooking, some days it's gardening, some days I feel together enough to organize, other days cleaning is bearable. Third, I never give up. If I'm spinning my wheels too much trying to accomplish, I try to relax and wait until I am mentally strong enough to tackle the inside chores. Then I give another shot at trying, trying to find some joy in whatever it is that I must do, and be thankful that I am physically able in the first place. And fourth, I recently came up with something I find very helpful.....I think of our home as a workshop. Every now an then my 5yr old takes a look around and asks if our house is still a workshop. Wishing the best to you all in this endeavor.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 2:03AM
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My diagnosis: You just hate housework and prefer gardening. I'm the same way.

My cure: Check out FlyLady as suggested above. She breaks everything down so you can accomplish any task in 5-15 minute intervals. I once cleaned my basement (called the dungeon at the time) at her "room-rescue" rate of 5 minutes a day. Amazing how many times I went down there and stayed longer than 5 minutes because it seemed like fun! (OK, maybe fun isn't the right word, but I was seeing progress.)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 7:09AM
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When my house looks really bad to me, I go to garage sales or drive down the alleys in town. Things look messy in other peoples houses, too, and seeing the back side of someone's property gives a more realistic look at the imperfections that we all live with. When I get home again things look much better!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 9:59AM
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sus905, that's a GREAT technique--and a nice reminder that we all live with imperfections., etc.

(Though I betcha none of my neighbors' apts look like mine!)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 10:41AM
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someone really hit it right when the pointed out that you just hate the repetitive grind of house work. Some people dont mind it and others hate it, especially when one is stuck with the same chore over and over and over. There are times when I get something perfectly clean and organized and I want to scream when it gets used or touched, but that's what living is about isn't it?

Try not to be so rough on yourself and dtop judging yourself because you dont love doing the domestic grind. I dont mind the house cleaning but I HATE it, thats simply makes us different not better or worse.

So when you feel the suffocating feeling it's a cue that something needs to be expressed...either to the husband or a friend and that you need a break, it doesn't mean there is anything WRONG with you, it simply means you need a break, so take it, no one ever died from a messy home and kids not exposed to dirt never build up their resistance. (well thats what my mother said and my mother told me she was always right.)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 4:02PM
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