It can feel like such a huge weight can’t it?! That overwhelm when there are SO may jobs to do with renovating, getting a garden set up, doing paid work, caring for your family especially when they are babies, after all the day to day stuff still needs to happen like feeding everyone, making sure everyone is safe, well cared for, has a bath daily and clean clothes! The seasons changing and new jobs appearing can add to that feeling of burden. Plus once you create a garden you do need to keep maintaining it.
After a 40 hour birth, me having 40 stitches and when Lil was 10 days old we drove 6 days, crossed two state borders and shifted into our fixer upper, it was our first home to settle into homesteading. It wasn’t a new coat of paint and a nice kitchen re do renovation, it turned out that we had to gut every room and rebuild it when we had the time and finances. Let’s just say the seller may have stretched several truths about the property and left it in a shocking condition. Add shifting to a new state and my husband only being offered apprenticeship wages when he was a fully qualified carpenter. Master carpenter for that matter, he had experience working on renovating buildings the Romans had built, he knows how to renovate an historic building plus had new build experience in Australia, he had his safety tickets, qualifications and years of experience. We had invested in the property and would lose money if we sold, again and again the only solution we could find to get us out of this mess was to renovate. At the time, I felt so stretched, sometimes it felt like we were never going to get on top of things. I slowly slid further into Post Natal Depression, it was like watching it happen to myself in slow motion, my training qualified me to identify this in new mums, yet I myself recognised it when I was in the middle of it, trying to swim out of that deep depressing hole I found myself in. I couldn’t properly nest for our baby and it ate away at me. Michael could not have been more supportive, attentive or worked any harder than he did. When he wasn’t doing his paid job he was working on the cottage or garden. Together we worked through it.
I was messaging a friend today and was sharing my experiences. With our Lil turning 18 in mid February I have been reflecting on those early baby, toddler and childhood days. I am grateful that I chose to hug Lil more and show up for her more than I showed up for the laundry pile, it always got done, we always had clean clothes, towels and bedding, the pile was just higher than I would have usually liked it, you could apply that to everything.
I’m grateful that Michael and I made the choice to put our family first and work towards our goals. One of those decisions we both made was not to drink alcohol and for Michael not to do after work drinks on a Friday night which only involved the tradesmen he worked with, they stood around getting drunk and went home late. Yeh, he coped a lot of flack for it and a lot of peer pressure to get drunk, but in his subtle way in return asked them why they would rather spend non work time together instead of with their wives and kids! The money we could have spent on alcohol we spent wisely on our renovations and garden. We also had more quality time as a family together, no one was hungover on the weekend. Michael and I were talking about it this morning, adding alcohol to the stress would not have benefited anyone. I’m grateful that together as a family we kept talking and we kept creating easier systems for us that created solutions.
A big problem is often made up of lots of smaller problems. Focus on what you can do, work away at what is do-able the rest will usually fall into place and be achievable.
- Make a list of every single thing that needs doing. Oh gosh isn’t it normal to feel total overwhelm now. But here is the thing I have learnt over time, that list can always change, you are in the drivers seat. This list can actually help you see things more clearly.
- Now split that first lists into two lists and be honest about really needs to happen. The first list is a Needs to be done list. The second list is the what you Want list but not what you actually Need. The Need list is the priority list.
- Now put that Wants list to the side for now, it’s not discarded, your wants aren’t being dismissed, stick it on the fridge. Cross things off or add things. You need to acknowledge your wants and have them as goals after things on the Needs list are done. You also must identify when that Want isn’t actually going to benefit you, your family or robs you of family time. eg. there are plenty of things I could put on the Wants list but quite frankly I want to see my husband more than him having to work extra time to afford things on my Wants list. I want my husband to have as less stress as possible and not to feel burdened by debt, he would feel both those things if I overspent and insisted on everything on the Wants list. Neither of us would sleep well. Why would I deliberately want to put my husband and family under so much stress just because I wanted to spend money on somethings I didn’t really need.
- Focus on the Needs list and split those jobs into seasonal jobs and schedule them on the calendar. When you start working on when things need seasonally doing, you automatically open up the time frame to 3 to 6 month blocks. Less overwhelm. eg. We had outside painting to do so it was scheduled for Spring/Summer. (September 2020 to March 2021) eg. Preparing the property for fire season safety is scheduled for late Winter. eg. With the garden plant your fruit trees as soon as you can because they can take years to mature and fruit. And only grow what you have time for with everything else going on. Mulch where your future garden beds are going to be if possible, it will save mowing the grass and the mulch will be feeding the soil. There is no shame in supporting local farmers buying locally grown food or going to the supermarket while you have other more urgent responsibilities. And yes you are an urgent responsibility to take care of as well. There is no shame in not “doing it all”. Give yourself the grace that you deserve.
- Do a job once and do it to the best of your capabilities so it takes longer for the job to go back on the list of things to do. eg. Mulching is your best friend in the garden. Instead of mulching a 5cm layer, mulch a 10-15cm layer, that way you aren’t having to turn around and mulch again in 3 months time, it will be 6 months time before mulching again plus that thick a layer of mulch will suppress the weeds, no weeding and the mulch feeds the soil. Win. Win. Win. eg. Instead of doing the bare minimum of applying only two coats of paint, paint the 3 coats if it needs it, you won’t need to re do the job next year.
I’ll leave it here for now, this is the first blog post in a short series of three blog posts called Renovation Overwhelm. This post shared a very personal time for me in my life, I share it in the hope that it may help someone else going through something similar or help you gain a different perspective to a situation.
Take precious care, Jude x
Renovation Overwhelm #1
March 4, 2021