Need help re-learning

sheaviance1June 7, 2010

I have just come across this forum (usually hang out on the garden forums) and I have been impressed with some of the threads I have come across on here. I thought, maybe, this would be the right place to get some assistance.

I am 38, between my hubby and I, we have 5 children. My youngest son, 11, is the only one home full time. The oldest two are out living on their own, the middle two are in and out of the house all the time. I used to have the ability to plan meals (month in advance) make grocery lists, keep the house livably clean (even with so much traffic), maintain a veggie garden, help my mom (RIP) who was battling cancer (for 8 years), etc. I have really no good reason that I can identify as to what has happened to my lifestyle changes, but my house is a wreck, meals are on the fly, I can't get caught up, much less, keep up. I have more clutter than I have ever had to deal with. Our home is 80 years old, has no storage space to speak of. I used to find incredibly creative ways to create storage, but that has also gone to the wayside. I remember myself thinking that when my kids were grown and gone, it would be so much easier to keep my home clean. I am beginning to wonder if they were cleaning up after me.

I'm pretty sure that the problem with meal planning is having to relearn how to cook when you have no idea how many will be eating. Most nights, it's 3. My adult children really don't give me any idea when they will be eating at home. I have actually started the transition of cooking for three, and if they are there, telling them that there is a subway right down the road. They get a little miffed, and I have tried to explain that it is impossible for me to include them if I don't know they are going to be home for dinner and that by them not including me in their schedule, they have laid down the gauntlet of disrespect.

The housework, well, they are only home long enough to make the mess, not to clean it up. My life feels like a whirlwind, my laundry is taller than I am. I would really love some tips on getting things back in order. I have gone through the good habits thread, and will definitely work on incorporating some of those habits into my world. I would love some creative storage ideas (example: I visited a yard sale at a neighbors home, she recycles old glass lamp shades into hanging baskets and uses them to store items in. I am planning to make one for hair accessory storage in my bathroom. She also had some antique suitcases of different sizes that she uses right in her living room and stores winter clothing.

Thank you all in advance for your comments and suggestions.

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For starters, those 2 who are in and out all the time can do their own laundry. So can the 11 year old. It is good training for them. Separate your laundry and the husbands. Do that laundry. Then call in the children. Tell them to separate their laundry. Teach them about reading labels and sorting and measuring soap, etc. You could even make a chart about colors and temperatures to hang by the washer. Have them pick a day which will be their laundry day.

Each child is to pick up their things. If you have to pick it up they lose it. Period. Be firm.

Make a chore chart. I'm not kidding. Assign each child some responsibilities and make them stick to it. Living in your home is a privileged, not a right. You might have to remind them of that.

Be careful of spending too much on storage solutions right now. You need to declutter more then you need to spend money on solutions.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 4:12PM
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I would think that depression and un-addressed grieving for your mom can account for a lot, so please check into grief counseling in your area.

HOWEVER, having two adult ingrates using your place like a hotel can't help.

Have a discussion with your husband: you did NOT sign on to be running a hotel for grown humans. If they are old enough to come and go as they please, they are old enough to have some responsibilities ... pay rent, pay for the housekeeper, AND help with the household chores.

"My adult children really don't give me any idea when they will be eating at home." Ok, keep fixing meals for THREE. If the adult children show up, you say, "Hi, thanks for dropping by. Sit and chat while we finish dinner. If I had known you were coming, I would have cooked a bit more."

Let them go hungry when they do rude things like that.

The housework, well, they are only home long enough to make the mess, not to clean it up. That is also rude, and should not be tolerated.

If they still have bedrooms there, just toss their mess into their room ... even to setting their leftover pizzas, wet towels, dirty clothes, and dirty dishes in there. It took a few weeks of my doing that before the house-mate's (college age) kids got the hint. I think the final straw was when one of them had friends over for a pizza party, left the cartons and crusts all over the living room, and went out drinking. I stacked all the trash on his bed, and he didn't get back for a couple of days. The room and his things all reeked of stale pizza.

They were in the habit of stuffing wet towels and sweaty workout clothing into the hamper and not getting around to laundry for a couple of weeks. I got rid of the hamper and started tossing the wet towels into their rooms.

my laundry is taller than I am If any of that laundry belongs to the adult inhabitants, toss it in their room too. If they are old enough to leave the house alone in that clothing, they are old enough to wash and iron it themselves.

Our home is 80 years old, has no storage space to speak of. How much storage space could be available if the older two kids did some serious cleaning and pruning of their possessions? If they don't have room in their bedrooms or apartments to store it, why is it cluttering up your space?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 4:27PM
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Hi sheaviance1! I had a somewhat similar situation a couple of years ago. Only 2 dds, a year apart in school. They are in college now, but when my oldest was a senior, we barely ever saw her - out with friends, doing sports, working, etc. Even as a junior, she was out a lot. Then my younger dd followed the next year. We saw her more, but still not regularly, and work schedule changed all the time. Even before that, sports really wrecked any dinner time schedules! It was hard to plan, but the kids were happy, which was really important (had troubles in that area for a few years before). I finally realized that the best thing to do for meals was just have some frozen dinners that we could microwave if they were going to be home. Sometimes I would buy frozen dinners or soups, sometimes just make extra lasagna or whatever and freeze it. That was a lifesaver. DDs could also bring that to work for lunches.

As for the mess they never seemed to clean up. As they were growing up, I would refuse to clean their messes in the living room and would insist they clean up before we went anywhere. But as they got older, that was impossible as they drove themselves or would go with friends. I'd have had to set up camp in the living room to have known when they were around. So I got in the habit of every morning just picking up the living room. Throwing their stuff just inside their bedroom doors. Then I didn't have to sit and stew about it as I saw it all day, and they couldn't miss tripping over it & eventually cleaning up when they got home. A compromise, but it worked for me.

I had them doing their own laundry for a while until I found that they would do a whole load for 1 shirt. But when asked after that, they would help with laundry. Younger DD actually mentioned when she got home from school this year that some kids didn't know how to do laundry! Makes me feel like I did something right at least!

As for space, the advice of getting rid of stuff is a good one! We lived in a 150 year old farmhouse with 3 closets (and they weren't in bedrooms). It was hard to go through things while we were living there, but then we moved, and had less room. I got rid of a LOT of stuff! Would have been easier to clean if I hadn't had it around in the first place;)

Good luck! I enjoy having them back now, but they never seem to stay for long, so I enjoy just spending time with them when they are home.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 6:55PM
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When I was a kid, we had a family hamper, and everyone did laundry from that hamper.

So if you needed just a shirt, you *had* to do a full load, and the clothes to do it with were right there.

And my mom could say, "hey, go do a load of laundry," and all we had to do was go in and throw stuff in the washer, set a kitchen timer (dedicated to the laundry), and come back when it went off, in order to shuffle stuff into the dryer.

I also vote for some really serious decluttering. I know you have very little storage space, but if you were successfully "stored" a couple of years ago, then you really were at full capacity then. Now stuff needs to go out, before new stuff comes in.

As for dinner--absolutely. Be really rigid. Anybody who *signs the dinner sign-up sheet" by 11pm the night before will get fed. Anybody else is on their own. Unless they're lucky, and there happen to be leftovers, or something.

Also, you might consider deliberately making 5 servings of things that are easily frozen, now and then. Then you'll eat 3 and freeze 2 on some nights; on other nights, you'll eat 5. And on the nights when it's not a freezable meal and you make enough for 3, the suddenly-arriving eaters can eat homemade leftovers from the freezer.

It's time to get a little selfish, and a little assertive. And time to demand something from your kids.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 7:17PM
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Hi shea, my first question to you would be do you think you have a hoarding problem? do you find it hard to get rid of stuff and do you keep everything? I know from my own experience with hoarding that when your reach a certain level of clutter from hoarding that organisation starts to really become more and more difficult and Im wondering if that is part of the problem.

If you are able to get rid of stuff the decluttering is the first place to start rather than trying to organise it into storage. You have to get rid of the excess so that you can organise the necessary things in the house and be able to find them. The two who are out on their own, do they still have things stored at your house? I think that could be a good place to start and get them to sort through what they want and get rid of what isnt needed anymore.

cooking some meals to freeze will also help. when I cook up pasta sauce for example, I make extra and put the extra into plastic containers in the freezer. to cook a meal all it takes is boiling some pasta and heating the sauce in the microwave. things like your kids can cook up themselves when them come in late.

There is a lot you can do to get organised, but decluttering is an important part of it. Try not to look at just storage solutions but also having less stuff in the house to store

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 8:53PM
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Great suggestions!

I have a policy in place in my house that if it hasn't been used in a year, it goes away, so the clutter that I have is pretty much all used, almost daily, (and not put back). I already do throw the kids junk in their rooms, but I haven't done this with wet laundry, dirty dishes, etc., but I LOVE that idea and will do that ASAP. I can see them getting totally ticked, but also see it getting the point across and quick. Perhaps I should put my son's shaving mess on his pillow....

As far as hoarding goes, the only thing I allow myself to hoard is books as I re-read my favorites over and over again and cannot make myself get rid of them. I have scaled back from a 8 foot long x 6 foot high x 2 foot deep bookshelf to a very small 4 foot x 4 foot x 18 inches. Progress :)

I have had my children doing their own laundry since they were about 8, the problem is now that they are never here to do it. I have seriously considered taking all of it and putting it in their car so that they have to deal with it or move it somewhere else. It would make it a whole lot easier for them to get it to the laundromat and get caught up anyway....I do believe it would fill the entire car.

I agree that I need to be more firm with them. I honestly used to get rid of things that the kids fought over and things I had to pick up more than twice. I can certainly see that I have softened up in this regard.

I never really considered a mild depression being the case, but I have considered that at length today after I logged back in and read over these responses. I not only lost my Mom, I lost my best friend. And, around the same time, I "lost" my kids to their new lives. I have really examined myself this afternoon and, well, I don't have all the classic symptoms, but I do have an enormous stress level that I am trying to deal with, and I noticed today that the moment my life started to slow down (Mom passed, kids being gone), I piled on a ton more work. Makes me think I am a stress addict and cannot function without being at a certain level, or, if I slow down, then I will have to grieve.... I think I will go and see my doctor. Thank you for making me think about this.

The two that are out on their own do have stuff still here. I have seen it day in and day out for so long that I didn't even think about it. This one alone will free up some much needed space.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 10:52PM
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" and I noticed today that the moment my life started to slow down (Mom passed, kids being gone), I piled on a ton more work. Makes me think I am a stress addict and cannot function without being at a certain level, or, if I slow down, then I will have to grieve...."

shea I did exactly the same thing when my mom passed, I just didnt want to grieve so I threw myself into keeping so busy just so I wouldnt think about it. sometimes I think you have to do that if the grief is so overwhelming. After a long time though I was able to face it, it wasnt so raw and fresh and I began to grieve.

"The two that are out on their own do have stuff still here. I have seen it day in and day out for so long that I didn't even think about it. This one alone will free up some much needed space."

Absolutely, chances are they won't use any of it if they didnt take it with them. Even if you kept a single bed in their old bedrooms for overnight stays you could free up the rest of the room for some storage and it's not your job to store stuff they didnt want enough to take with them :)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 11:40PM
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I have two kids home for the summer--they each do their own laundry. If one's not going to be home for dinner, he/she has to let us know (text, phone, scrawled note), and I'll cook for whomever's around. I think you can relax a bit about sit-down, home cooked dinner. Bread, cheese and meats with a salad is fine. Soup, stew, pasta, are all expandable.

Rather than look for more storage ideas, I'd suggest having a yard sale and getting rid of stuff. If your kids haven't sorted out what childhood memorabilia they want, now's the time. I purged a bunch of stuff--crafts, fabric, needlepoint, etc., because if I haven't gotten around to doing it by now, chances are good, I'm not going to.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 11:46AM
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I have had my children doing their own laundry since they were about 8, the problem is now that they are never here to do it. So if you stopped doing their laundry, they would wear dirty clothes? Would time in their busy schedules be found to do laundry? Or would they decide that they don't need all those clothes.

The two that are out on their own do have stuff still here. I have seen it day in and day out for so long that I didn't even think about it. This one alone will free up some much needed space. Set a date. Collect it all, put it in the living room and let them know that it either leaves the living room with them, or it leaves to charity or the trash collector the day after.

My house-mates children were told SEVERAL times to collect their "treasures" and put them in labeled boxes so we could clear out the garage on a certain date. Things not in labeled boxes would be disposed of to charity or trashed. Well, several months afterwards, one of the sons suddenly remembered some cherished toy (probably for its value on eBay) and demanded to know where it was. Our answer, "If you valued it enough to put it in your boxes, it's still in them."

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 2:56PM
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Ditto ditto all the good comments.

I would like to add support and say that I have had a similar experience with 2 "young dolts" (young adults) not being enough help around the house and kind of enmeshing me in their issues. Plus, one of my children has been treated for significant depression and we are constantly trying to find our way through that, in terms of the boundaries between "illness" vs. responsibilities and choices.

I beat myself up for awhile that somehow I had not been consistent enough or strict enough in earlier years and also that it is my fault even now for not doing enough to "help" them see what to do, how to do it, maybe I did not express what I need, and all that bunko.

I mean, it's partly true, but at some point, doh--it's time to stop being seen in the role of sensitive maternal concern, but say, so sorry you are behind in the maturity curve--that seems like a personal problem to me! And to act as though it IS perfectly clear that crumbs from your toast need to be cleared up, microwave splatters need to be cleaned, glasses and plates cleared, and all that--and it's not satisfactory that I would have to ask/tell every day, dear, would you please....

So, I agree with seeing to your own needs right away--it may or may not be severe depression, but even more minor "being in the dumps" benefits from taking a pro-active approach. Just recognizing it may be there, as you were able to do in your reply, is a big part of the battle--so you can consider planning in a change of pace, a brisk walk, time with a good book, going out to dinner with DH. And with not beating yourself up about the kids. It is likely that they will turn out okay and so it is not necessary to be at war--too much bad energy-- but some good-humored distancing from their not-life threatening problems and going on strike--they'll adapt and survive! (Hey, it'll give your 11 y/o a heads up!). Plus you want to be able to find ways to have quality time with him (as much as budding adolescence will allow).

Support--my spouse has been great-- is helpful because, once you have gotten some pushback or unpleasant reaction to standing your ground, you get anticipatory gut-twist and that adds to the stress. That is part of the manipulation process--the manipulator tries to make it so unpleasant to resist him or her that you give in to reduce conflict and stress. And also will escalate to try to retain control. So it is actually a lot of work to start standing up to manipulation, and it can be helpful to have both a strategy for the "standing-up" and a kind post-conflict stress-relief plan. For me it turns out best for my strategies to not be too convoluted--whenever possible, I think it is best for it to be a simple, natural consequence--more something you don't do, rather than an elaborate undertaking on your part. (That won't work for everything--I think of kitchen issues as one of my greatest conflicts because I don't want to leave the kitchen dirty, so then have to get into, is the kitchen "off limits" or what. Whereas, things like laundry, groceries or meals, spending money-- are easier to handle as passive resistance.)

Your post is actually a good help to me and I am going to re-address some similar issues! So thank you for that.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:50AM
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I want to send a sincere thank you to everyone who responded. I plan to start putting into action some serious changes starting tomorrow (tonight, I'm just going to be LAZY because right now, I need that pretty badly). There are some really great ideas in this forum, and I plan to be a regular visitor. I am now 11 foot tall and bulletproof!!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 10:32PM
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Agreed with the above comments. The main bullet points I'll write out are:

1. Sounds like you had a routine & system before and it worked. Now with changes going on, your system has some weak links. I would stress to re-work your routine to reflect the people who live in the house.

2. Ditto about the older kids dropping in. Don't cook for them. They don't live there. Don't keep their rooms. They need to take stuff they want and get rid of the rest. I agree with the deadline. My mom did that to me. No feelings hurt or love lost. It's expected and it's fair. I remember having a "realization" and a brief "panic" when I was faced with clearing my room, but that lasted about a week and looking at the big picture...moving out and moving on is WAY MORE NORMAL AND HEALTHY than keeping my room at my parent's house. Mom will always have room in the house to maybe hold a box of treasures, but not a room of them.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:33AM
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I am so sorry that you lost your Mother. This can change a person's life. It will get easier as time goes on.

I feel that you need to set some bounderies with your older kids. They are taking advantage of you big time. For them to expect you to do their laundry and cook for them is not something you should be doing. They are grown and have made the decision to move out and be on their own. They need to be treated like adults. They should be made to feel welcome to come for a meal but no just pop in.

The laundry.. If I were you I would sort out what belongs to them, bag it up and send it along with them when they drop by. Tell them to go to the laundramat to get caught up then they can use your washer and dryer again. Don't allow them to pile it up again.. Personally, I don't think requiring them to use the laundramat from now on would be a bad thing..

Their rooms... The ones that are out on their own should come and go through their stuff. What they want to keep, they need to take with them. You are not a storage place. They might not like it but it is your house. They now have their own.. Stand your ground. Don't allow them to take advantage of you or your house anymore.. Show them you love them but enough is enough.. You could use this space for your own needs now..

Now for yourself... Start thinking of doing some things for yourself. Something special just for you... Even if it is just a nice walk by yourself or a special walk with your husband. Start the house thing slow. Plant a small flower garden, go the your library, go out under a shade tree and read a book -- do something just for you...

I know life can take some rouge turns along the way. Sometimes we just get lost in them. It takes some doings to get ourselves back.. You can do it. Stand up for yourself and keep to the rules that you want in your home.. I wish you the best... Let us know how you are doing...


    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 10:49AM
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My sincere sympathies for the loss of your mom. 38 is young to have lost one's mom, and although you don't say when she passed, your youngest is only 11. That was a rough time, if I am reading correctly that she(and you) battled for 8 years.

I took care of my mom for just over 2 years, bringing her into our home, even adding on rooms for her. When she passed, DH's father had passed just a few months earlier and grieving between us was strained as we tried to support each other.

I understand that what you did during that time was what was necessary and even though you feel that "all was in control", think that you may have let more slide than you realize especially confronting the kids to do their chores. It was probably easier on you stress-wise to "do it yourself".

If DH is supportive, call a family meeting. If all cannot attend, then approach with DH as possible. Tell them that you will not continue to do what you are now doing and they will have to help you by picking up and cleaning.

The advice given by other posters here have been helpful to me as well, even though I haven't any kids either living here or popping in. Although they have their problems, at least they are grown and out! LOL

Mostly I just wanted to give you moral support, that I understand how you feel, and to give you a cyber-hug.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 11:22AM
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