Less than five years ago, I would have found a trip to The Container Store exhilarating. But since there wasn’t one in my neighborhood, I never got to experience the thrill when I would have appreciated it. Staples? An experience preferable to sex, especially in those days. Bed Bath & Beyond? Tantric. I would have done Sting and Trudie proud. My then-husband? Not so much.

He found me unbearable. But not as unbearable as I found him as he tossed the half-opened mail in a pile on the round table in our foyer, or left legal documents from work in haphazard piles on the desk even after they could have been thrown away. Each time he did, I felt my life spin further out of control, more so than it already was, despite thenexcessive orderliness of my house.

Not a paper graced the surface — any surface — of any piece of furniture in our house, ever. Every drawer, armoire, and closet looked like an ad for The Gap. Thanks to my brief work history in retail, coupled with the assistance of a nanny who, for years, enabled my habit because it likely fed her own, I stayed in control. Of what, if anything, I’m not entirely sure.

My nanny eventually left, but instead of me releasing the reigns, I held on even tighter, taking on many of her over-the-top, self-imposed chores, which included ironing the sheets and all of our clothing, including our underwear. Without my partner in crime to assist me, I tried even harder to keep the clutter at bay and, with it, the thoughts that cluttered my mind — thoughts of my monotonous marriage, resentment toward a workaholic husband, and an overarching sense of personal dissatisfaction.

On the morning of the day everything would change, I woke up earlier than I needed to as I usually did, readied my kids for school, and tidied my house in its entirety before leaving at 8:15 am. The granite sparkled, the stainless steel appliances shone, and the house looked like any neighborhood realtor at a moment’s notice could have showcased it.

Upon my return from the carpool line less than five minutes later, I embarked on my daily ritual, spending the day preparing for the evening, and the evening preparing for the next day, even counting my steps along the way. By way of example, though certainly not the only, I systematically raised the shades around the house each morning along a specific route to the laundry room so as not to waste any time or energy, wasting, instead, my life.

My husband left me that night, telling me over the phone from a London hotel room he was “done with our marriage.” It was a Wednesday.

On Thursday, I stopped caring. And counting. And organizing. The mail piled up. The kids’ graded schoolwork accumulated on the kitchen counter. Their toys were no longer put away each night where I had pre-ordained they belonged and were left strewn around the house. The clutter grew.

I, on the other hand, purged, vomiting uncontrollably each afternoon before dinner time the little food I had struggled to eat during the day as I dealt with my shock and, soon after, my depression. In less than three weeks, I lost 20 pounds, growing strikingly thin while the house grew fat.

During my marriage, I never felt like I had any time. During the throes of my divorce, and now without the will to constantly organize, file, and discard, suddenly I had tons. I began to travel, even if only for the day, from New Hope to New England and from Mexico to Germany, with my kids and without. I began projects — constructive ones — with a look to my future and the career I had put on the back burner while my husband built his own.

As it turns out, I like a little clutter around my house. Those piles of paper and clean laundry waiting to be put away don’t signal that my life is spinning out of control but, rather, that I have a lot of plates spinning. And so, too, do my children.

I know the trend today is to lighten up, to get rid of all the excess. I see businesses crop up each day to help accomplish this. I’ve watched reality TV shows that depict people changing their lives by becoming organized. Me? I changed my life, too — by becoming less organized.

That “clutter” on my desk and on my kitchen counter reminds me I’m living my life. Those piles of paper represent projects that I’m working on, that my kids are working on, and how we are living our lives both independently and together, as a family. And every time I see a little imperfection, I’m happily reminded that that not so perfect house of mine is home.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC.

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

Growing Slowly around the Grief of Losing Your Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman sitting on couch with folded arms

Everyone has heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Society often assumes the stages of grief happen in order, but those who encounter grief know that’s not true. Undergoing grief can feel like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded—disorienting and chaotic. There are numerous ups, downs, and twists you wouldn’t anticipate. Grief is like an ocean. When waves come crashing, it feels like you’re being swept away. Regardless of their size, waves are always rough. Despite everything, you also get pushed forward to the shore after every wave. Sometimes, you may feel like you are drowning...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

Dear Dad, Maybe You’re the Bird

In: Grief, Loss
Young girl sitting on father's lap, older color photo

Maybe you’re the bird. The one I see outside my door. The one who flies so low it seems you’re somehow weighted down. Like you’re carrying more than just yourself. Like you’re carrying a message. Just for me. Maybe you’re the rain. The sound I hear that reminds me so much of home. Of you. Of driving in your car as a little girl when you looked over and asked my opinion about everything. When you made someone so small feel so very big. RELATED: Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes Maybe you’re the butterfly. The one I...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Live Without My Sister, But I Must

In: Grief
Sisters smiling in posed color photo

I’ve spent a year of my life living in a haze. Holding my breath, afraid to exhale. Focusing on staying in this frozen moment where there is no reality. I pressed the pause button. Pumped the brakes. I’ll stay right here and wait for my life, life as I knew it, life as I loved it, to come back around. Where there is no future to mourn, thinking about the way it should have been and no torturous past to remember, recalling the horror of that day. The special occasions that will come are now outlined in sadness. Wait, she’s...

Keep Reading

6 Ways to Be a Friend to Someone Grieving

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends hugging

Grief can truly be such a lonely experience after you lose a loved one. The loneliness isn’t necessarily because you don’t have anyone around you. It’s because only you had your relationship with the person who died, and it’s hard to find anyone to replace that. I have first-hand experience. My mom died recently and unexpectedly at the age of 62 and I at the age of 34, and it single-handedly has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, having support from family and friends will help you navigate this difficult time. Without it, the loneliness...

Keep Reading

These Final Gifts from My Mom Are Hard to Let Go

In: Grief, Loss
Little girls boots with worn toes, color photo

My daughter wobbled toward me in silver, square-toed go-go boots, one heel dislodged and flopping against our hallway’s faux wood floor. On her opposite foot, a striped sock peaked curiously through the growing toe hole. “Mama,” she said. Her tiny voice raised another octave, “My shoe!” I sighed, then sat on the floor. Waves of grief washed over me as I contemplated what kind of glue might capably reconstruct the shoe’s sole. Elmer’s glue? Textile glue? Maybe Krazy Glue? I knew the boots should just go into the bin. And yet, they—along with a vibrant, overbearing cat dress that would...

Keep Reading

A Daughter Is Never Ready To Let Her Dad Go

In: Grief, Loss
Grown daughter hugging older man

I wasn’t ready to let you go. When I was a little girl, one of my greatest fears was that something would happen to my parents. If they had to go somewhere, I would nervously follow their route in my mind, mentally noting where they probably were and when they should be back home. If they hadn’t returned by the time I thought they should, my imagination would get the best of me as I pictured a thousand things that could have happened. But the day I sat having a late breakfast at my kitchen table and saw an ambulance...

Keep Reading

Memories of Mom Are Everywhere

In: Grief, Motherhood
Family campsite with bikes, tents, and totes, color photo

Two weeks after my daughter was born, my dad drove from Pennsylvania to our home in Florida to stay with me for the week. I was nursing my daughter on the couch when my dad drug in four humongous plastic storage bins and staged them next to the Pack ‘N Play in the living room. The bins were full of my baby clothes, baby shower cards, a silver spoon, plastic and probably lead-infused rattles, and two cellophane balloons neatly folded. A time capsule of my babyhood. I thought of my mom’s hands being the last to touch these items. Had...

Keep Reading