I still remember a simple, nugget of advice given to me years ago, and really, I wish I could have listened to it more then, rather than taking years for it to sink in. I was pregnant with my third daughter, and almost immediately I began having anxiety of where I would put this child. We were currently living in a small, three bedroom home with our two daughters, plus the part-time custody of my stepdaughter. The thought of squeezing another body into that space made me nervous, and I began talking my husband into the idea that we needed a bigger home.
“Do you have an empty dresser drawer? That’s all the space a baby needs.”
This was the comment from an older, wise woman in my church. It was her response when hearing my desire for a larger, at least four bedroom home. She had tried to explain the fact that I need not worry so much. Babies were small and didn’t need as much space as we thought. I smiled sweetly but ignored her advice.
Babies needed a nursery! Kids needed their own room! We all needed more space! For all our stuff! Babies required even more stuff. So the hunt was on for a bigger house, and by the time I was eight months pregnant we found it. A dream home with an upstairs and plenty of space for all our stuff! My oversized furniture could finally fit, my bookshelves of trinkets could spread their wings, and each child would have ample space of their own.
I learned a lot living the short two and a half years in that home that went by so quickly. For starters, the nursery was never used. The baby bed sat empty, with my nursing infant never going upstairs and leaving the comfort of our bedroom. It was a place to keep her many dresses and tons of tiny shoes, but she never graced the space. She spent her time in my arms, cuddling, rocking, and growing so quickly. A darling, antique dresser with crystal knobs sat in her room, stuffed full of outfits she never got to wear. I often thought about the drawer comment.
The rest of the upstairs served us about the same. My daughters’ own bathroom was rarely used. In the bedtime rush at night it just seemed quicker to bathe them downstairs. New, wrought iron, twin beds sat perfectly made with fluffy, matching, girly comforters that were rarely disturbed. Turns out our young daughters didn’t want to sleep upstairs so far away from us. We tried, but they always ended up back downstairs with us, either in our bed, or on makeshift pallets we created on the floor. We ended up purchasing a king bed to fit us all. Perhaps that purchase initially would have been cheaper than the extra square footage that ended up sitting empty.
In the years we spent in a larger home the entire upstairs served as a toy box and closet at best. It’s purpose was simply storage, not housing, and we all enjoyed being together so much that we spent the majority of our time in one room. It ended up feeling like such a waste of space! The extra room and nursery space I had desired only ended up holding furniture we never used. Any of her infant necessities we housed in our master bedroom where everyone slept eventually.
So what brought up thoughts for me of ensuring the perfect nursery space for my third daughter? I was recently scrolling through a social media site when I came across this picture.
My first thought? Stunning. Quickly followed by unrealistic. Gorgeous. Overboard. Beautiful. Too much.
This post isn’t a stab at anyone’s decor choices. It’s simply a question of motive and how it effects us.
Yesterday I looked up at the shelf above the TV in our rental cabin. Some of my husband’s items he didn’t want the children to touch rested there. Beside them sat a forbidden and forgotten bag of leftover Easter candy. Next to that some school papers, drawings, and a book or two. It was a chaotic menagerie of our scattered things. I laughed to myself. I laughed because I didn’t care. The unflattering way it all sat upon a shelf caused me zero stress, as it should be, but not as it had always been.
In our old house we had a mantel above the fireplace, and like other shelves, spaces, and areas in the home, I desired order, lovely decor, and a sense of perfection. It would drive me bonkers when my husband came home and emptied his pockets out on the entertainment center. We had a designated place for keys! Or when he utilized the mantel to place items up and out of reach. I would clean the area off, dusting and making it picture perfect, but it never stayed that way. Much like the rest of my home.
There was never enough time to dust all my shelves, to put away all the clothes, to clean the upstairs playroom, or to organize the overflowing toys. All the adorable, ruffled outfits for my girls that I loved to take pictures of and share on Facebook; they made their drawers difficult to close. Rubbermaid totes stacked up in the shed, full of so many little outfits that I couldn’t even find what I needed when the season came around. So many toys that the chore of cleaning their room was overwhelming to my young girls, and putting away their own laundry a mishap in the making.
I began to resent the “necessary” nursery I had created for our youngest. It was just another room to clean, another space for them to mess up. I enjoyed spending quality time with my girls, and I enjoyed teaching them at home. The extra time required to organize, clean, and keep tidy all our things was too stressful for me, and yesterday as I realized I didn’t have a mantel of knick knacks to keep straight I realized I was glad for that. In the end did a picture perfect nursery create true happiness? While decorating and making beautiful spaces in a home was a wonderful thing that made you feel happy and productive, if it was just done to share on social media then really where did our priorities lie? I’m not speaking from a place of judgment, but from a place where I’ve been. I’ve been guilty of creating something strictly out of the purpose of pridefully showing it to others. So I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone.
The second, and most important factor is how our desires to cover our surroundings materialistically effect us overall. Is it causing more stress than it’s worth? It’s a good question to ask yourself, and for me it was more stress than it was worth. I was doing too much, too much that didn’t matter, and I was letting the things that didn’t matter cause me angst. I was fooled into believing it mattered. It mattered what my children looked like, what people thought, and how I projected myself and our family. But what I began to discover was that the things I thought we needed, we really didn’t. What I assumed was important, was not. What I spent my energy on was only exhausting me further, and from it I was gaining nothing.
So now-a-days we find ourselves in a society where the outside, window-dressing is given much clout. We get the more expensive curtains that will show well on Instagram, we have the cake baked that will take a picture well for Facebook, and we decorate a nursery in a way that appears as if it fell from the pages of a magazine. As if a baby cares about chiffon. We buy the name brand clothing so our kids will fit in at school, we take token, Holiday pictures, newborn photo shoots, and half-Birthday sessions because that’s what everyone else is doing. Hey, I’m guilty as charged. I’m just wondering why we create a new normal because it’s what everyone else does, even if deep down we abhor the stress of it all? Keeping up with the Social Media Joneses has taken on a whole new life of its own in the past ten years. Half the time we don’t even realize we’re filtering life to the extreme and basing self-worth on something as nonessential as a thumbs up, like, or following.
My New Year’s resolution was to let go of my desire to please others, my subconscious happiness based on other’s approval, and my insistence on filling my life with things that didn’t matter. My purpose was to be more purposeful, less materialistic, less stressed, more patient, more loving, and more focused on the people I care about, not what surrounds us.
In closing there’s nothing wrong with a stunningly decorated home. There’s nothing wrong with a gorgeous nursery, stylish wardrobe, or a collection of your favorite things. There’s only a problem with motive and how it effects us. We need to do the things we do for ourselves and the people we love, not for faceless followers who wouldn’t recognize us in the local grocery store. And if ever the unnecessary choices you make begin to cause more stress than anything, more angst, and take priority over the people you love, then perhaps they’re not worth worrying about at all.
Do what brings you joy. The rest is inconsequential.