This isn’t working anymore.
How many times had I thought that in the last few months? We had recently moved to the Midwest, and life had become about survival. Every morning I woke up to the kids jumping on me, yelling for breakfast, and I survived (barely) until nap time.
When they woke up from nap time, I survived (again, barely, and not without yelling) until dinner. After dinner, I made it by the skin of my teeth until bedtime. I stayed up late every night just to experience alone time and space around my body that my children weren’t filling with their tiny hands and tiny demands. The next day, I forced my eyes open and did it all again.
During the week, I was on my own. My husband worked intense 16-hour days, six days a week, just so we could barely make ends meet. Months before, his company had presented us with a great job opportunity in the Midwest, but they were dishonest about a lot of the details. It had turned into a nightmare for our bank account, our marriage, our family, and my sanity.
This isn’t working anymore.
My home and my life had become an absolute mess. Everything felt heavy. I was depressed. I was stressed. I was gaining weight (food seemed to be the only thing that was constant and comforting). I felt miserable. I didn’t enjoy motherhood. I didn’t enjoy my marriage. I didn’t enjoy my life. Wasn’t I made for more than this? Please, God. Tell me there’s more than this.
I ran around all day doing all the things—laundry, dishes, vacuuming—and yet, my home barely functioned. My days became a random task list with no real purpose and no vision. I spent my time completing the necessary but experiencing none of the fun.
“I don’t have time; Mommy’s cleaning,” I’d say when my daughter asked me to play with her. My home was stealing precious moments. It was stealing my kids’ childhoods. It was stealing my life. And I was angry.
If only there were fewer things to clean. Fewer things to do.
In the back of my brain, a lightbulb switched on. An idea began to take shape in my mind. What if there were fewer things to clean? I didn’t know if it would work, but it was already not working, so was there really any way it could get worse?
I started counting down the minutes till bedtime, but this time I did it with purpose. I wasn’t just waiting for my kids to go to sleep so I could Netflix and chill out. I was waiting for my kids to go to sleep to see if I could change our lives.
I fed the kids chicken nuggets, skipped bathtime, and put them to bed early. Then I walked into the playroom. Veggie Straws crunched under my feet as I made my way across the floor. Forget pretending the floor was lava. There was no floor. There were just discarded toys, snacks, and food wrappers buried in the carpet.
I stood there feeling the weight of overwhelm. This isn’t working anymore.
Then I reached down and picked up a toy. It was cheap and plastic. A happy meal “prize.” I pushed my foot across the floor, clearing away toys.
White space. How long had it been since I’d had white space anywhere in my home or life? It felt symbolic.
I laid the toy down in the cleared space. Trash, I thought.
I picked up another toy. It was loud and flashing. Donate. I made another pile.
I picked up my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal. I held it in my hand and thought of her. She and I had had such a journey. Severe postpartum depression had stolen the first year of her life from my memories. And now, my stuff was stealing her childhood from my daily experience.
This isn’t working anymore.
The stuffed animal was light in my hands. In my mind, I could see the way my daughter walked around our home with it trailing beside her. The way she curled around it on the couch when she watched a movie. Not all things are bad. Keep. I made a third pile.
As I moved through the room, the piles got bigger, and the floor got clearer. More white space appeared—more room to breathe.
I breathed deeply.
All night I sorted. Keep. Toss. Donate. By the following day, I’d put the trash by the road, the donations in the car, and the toys (neatly-ish) on the playroom shelves. There were not many toys left, but there were enough. There was what they loved.
I’d always wanted to give my kids a childhood that felt more 1970s than today, so the toys I’d chosen to keep would engage my kids in what I hoped would be hours of creative play. I wanted their imaginations to flourish, and for them to spend more time outside than under a ceiling.
Will this work?
For the first time in a long time, I was already awake and waiting on my kids when they woke up. Mostly because I’d stayed up almost all night, but also because I wasn’t dreading this day. I was excited.
There was a feeling deep within myself that felt a lot like hope. Like abundance. The abundance of less in exchange for more. More time. More fun. More joy.
I fixed the kids’ breakfasts and waited with my coffee. I heard their feet hit the floor as they jumped down off the kitchen chairs. Yesterday that sound was like a wave crashing over me because I knew what I would hear next: the sound of bickering as they fought over whose turn it was to play with the favorite toy of the moment. Never mind the hundreds of nearly identical toys lying on the floor at their feet.
Will this work?
Then, “Wow, Mommy! It’s so clean in here! I can see all my toys!” They played for hours.
For the first time in my life, I began to feel a sense of purpose. The kind of purpose I’d always known I was meant to have but had never been able to take hold of fully. If this is what I felt like after clearing one room, what would happen if I cleared my whole house? My calendar? My limiting beliefs and the false stories I was telling myself?
A deep journey began. And it started with one moment of being completely honest with myself.
This isn’t working anymore.
That honesty changed my life.
Over time, this isn’t working anymore turned into what isn’t working anymore? I began to reevaluate my life.
Is this mom-meetup group I’m leading working anymore? No.
I called one of the other moms. “This isn’t working anymore,” I admitted. Honesty led to freedom. “No problem! I’ll lead it. And good for you!” she said. She stepped into the role and flourished.
It was a clear example of women supporting women. It may have been the first time I saw it lived out, but it wouldn’t be the last. And I didn’t know that I would play my part in the movement.
Is barely getting by, living on the dollar menu and prayers working anymore? No.
I wanted to help other moms, and other women experience the freedom of less.
I’d started a blog as I moved through my home, purging every item that wasn’t serving us or that we didn’t love. It had garnered a small following, and moms seemed especially interested. The sense of purpose I’d begun to feel started to expand. I could do this. I could help women. And I could turn it into a business.
My late-night Netflix sessions turned into research sessions. My Google search history looked like the how-to section of the library: how to build a brand; how to grow a business; how to start a podcast; how to create a course.
I began to believe I could do things. That I might just be created for more than motherhood. That I might have an identity beyond my husband and my kids. It was a scary belief to take hold of. I’d grown up in a very traditionally religious school where women taking the lead was considered wrong. And yet, this felt right.
Is the belief system I was raised with working anymore? No.
The traditions of my faith background felt like bondage. I sought God and began to build my own faith. Not the faith of my school. Not the faith of my background. Not even the faith of my parents. My own faith.
I let go of limiting beliefs. And I dug into becoming a business owner.
And it was freaking hard. My husband was still working insane hours, and I was still parenting solo most days and barely sleeping in order to build my business. I was beginning to crack under the workload. I didn’t want to give it up, but something had to give.
Is my husband being gone 16 hours a day working anymore? No.
I knew I could build something for us, but I knew I needed him to be home helping me if it was going to work. We had the hard conversation. We made the risky decision. We worked our butts off. And it didn’t work.
I spent hours creating a course, and it barely enrolled any students. I learned everything I could about writing a viral blog post, poured my heart and soul onto a Word doc, sent it out into the internet, and nothing happened. Even my follower count stayed low.
We went from being poor to living in poverty. We thought we’d made the right decision but the struggle had only intensified. One night, my husband and I went to bed hungry after feeding our kids all the food we had in the house.
We were terrified. We were confused. And we didn’t know what else to do.
Where are you, God? This isn’t working anymore.
The next morning I woke up and opened up my laptop. I had 15,000 new email subscribers. I had $20,000 in my Paypal account. I had interview invitations from Good Morning America, The Jenny McCarthy Show, Fox News, The Today Show, and ABC News. My blog had gone viral, and it had resonated.
I felt heard. Heard by the world, heard by God. Finally.
Women across the world were standing with me, admitting they were overwhelmed and not wanting to stay there. They were searching for purpose. Together, we have raised a vision for living and leading our individual lives and families. Women are supporting women.
Today, I run a multimillion-dollar online business. My first book, Declutter Like a Mother, releases this fall. I have created 17 jobs, most of which are filled by other moms, bringing them freedom and flexibility. Tens of thousands of women are enrolled in my courses. My top-rated podcast, The Purpose Show, has 8 million downloads.
I am living my purpose.
Sometimes I think back on the tired, overwhelmed woman I used to be. I look back with compassion for myself and my journey. I changed my life by being honest with myself.
This isn’t working anymore became my cry of empowerment.
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