Seeking Motivation to Care for My Home When I Feel Burned Out


Finding motivation to organize and-2It was a long but satisfying day. My oldest daughter was in her final performance as Earthworm in a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. I attended the final show and cast party with her and two of my other girls. It was fun, but after an intense month of rehearsals and a long week of performances, I looked forward to a relaxing evening at home.

When I walked into my bedroom, though, what I encountered was anything but a relaxing environment. Instead, I walked right into a tent pitched in the middle of the floor. Inside the tent were three sleeping bags set up for a slumber party, and three children surrounded me, jumping up and down with excitement. My children had taken over my bedroom, again, and in a split second, I had to decide how to react.

Our master bedroom is located above the garage and is quite spacious. The extra-large room was helpful when my youngest was a newborn, and we set up his crib near me for convenient mid-night feedings. The space also has served as a cozy spot for a child to nap or take quiet time on any given day. I never mind sharing my room with my children, but I guess I do mind when they take it over.

As I decided how to respond to the newest bedroom takeover, my husband promised that it was only one night, and it would be back to normal tomorrow. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “it’s just one night, and they look so happy. There is no reason to squash those smiles.”

And with that, I looked down and told my three youngest children how much fun they would have at their indoor campout!

And they did!

Fast forward three days, and there is still a tent pitched in the middle of my bedroom, along with sleeping bags, a Hot Wheels race track, and a variety of other belongings that are not my own.

And this brings me to a bigger dilemma that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. It has to do with maintaining peace and order in a home with eight people. When I was a younger mom with fewer children, it was relatively easy to do. For one thing, there was simply less stuff! But I also had more energy and stamina to keep up with it all. As we added more children to our family, we also added more belongings, and I became worn out, trying to stay on top on it all.

For a few years now, I have lost my joyful motivation to maintain, organize and beautify my home. I guess you could say I am burned out. (A few health issues have not helped my energy level.) Take, for instance, my family room. I have a long table that I often display decorative items that change with the seasons. Well, after putting Easter decorations away, that table has remained bare for nearly two months! No motivation, no spark of creativity has inspired me to do anything with that table. It remains empty. Could that table represent my innermost being, the space in my heart that is experiencing this burnout?

Even when I find a spark of desire to beautify or organize my home, I feel so behind; could I ever catch up? Where would I even begin?

I still clean my house, but that is about all I have the capacity to do. What I struggle with is that next step of organizing, decorating, and managing some order and peace in my home.

My house is not the way I want it to be. I also know quite well that it is not supposed to look like a two-page spread in Better Homes and Gardens, and I am okay with that. But where is the middle ground?

This post does not have a solution. It is about an in-the-moment struggle. As I write this, I am beginning a 31-day challenge to a clutter-free life over at Living Well, Spending Less, with the hope that it will re-energize me to organize and beautify my home. I will report how I am doing in the comments, when this article is posted.

And I ask you, dear readers, how do you balance a tidy and pretty home with the realities of family life? Do you have a space in your home (like your bedroom) that is a childfree zone? How do you stay motivated to keep up with the clutter and even more so to decorate? If you were me, where would you even begin?


Copyright 2015 Sarah Damm.
Image copyright 2015 Sarah Damm. All rights reserved.


About Author

Sarah Damm is a Catholic wife and mother of six children, living in Minnesota. She spends her days running errands, cooking meals and helping with homework. She and her husband Greg strive to weave the Catholic faith into their daily lives as well as into their family celebrations. Sarah blogs at In addition to, she also is a contributor for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.


  1. You’re way ahead of me, (I can’t claim I keep my house completely clean, and that always has to happen before I think of decorating…) so I don’t have any tried and true advice, just this idea: as far as decorating, or even just doing something with that long table you mentioned, why not turn it over to the older kids? I bet they would have a blast.

    I don’t have any place that is a child-free zone, either. Even my tiny bedroom (about 1-2 feet surrounding 3 sides of the bed is all the space we have) becomes a recorder practice room so older siblings aren’t bothered. The most I can hope for is to get the musician to take her recorder and songbook out when she’s done. Still working on that.

    • Hi Monica, Thanks for your reply! I just wanted to clarify, in case you think my house is immaculate, which it’s not. I get it done, but barely and not every week … Keeping the house clean seems to be a relative term. What I consider clean is different than what my husband considers clean. (He’s much more realistic.) It stems back to what I think our home “should” look like. But I am learning that the fact that I don’t mop my floor every week probably makes my floor dirty, but it’s probably clean enough. Does that make sense? I absolutely love your idea to let the children help with decorating! It reminds me that I have done that in the past and have always been pleased with the results. It allows them to be creative and relieves me of just one more thing. God bless you and your family!

  2. I think having a kid-free zone is important. Not that the kids can’t ENTER, just that they can’t take over that space. That way you know you have your place to escape if you need it. Toys can come in, but they must go out when the play session is done.

    When it comes to decorating , ugh! It’s a source of sanctification for me – truly! I just bought a new house and am starting from scratch in many rooms. I find myself getting jealous and covetous of what I see in other homes and in magazines. I really have to take a deep breath and ask myself – why do you want this? What is really important?

    One thing that I’ve been trying to do is look back on spaces where I used to live and think about the stuff that I used to decorate. A lot of that stuff is long gone now, at thrift stores or even in the garbage. It sort of puts perspective on it. There is definitely a healthy middle ground. I think that starting by focusing on organization and tidyness is moving in the right direction. The fact that you keep your home clean gets a thumbs-up from me!

    • Hi Abby, Thanks so much for your comments! They have been so helpful! I tend to agree with your idea of a kid-free zone: Not that they can’t enter, but that they can’t take over. I will work on that, but it is hard to implement. I think that making sure the space is clean, decluttered and at least somewhat decorated could help the kids see that this isn’t just any room in the house … Also, reminding them that Mom and Dad don’t come into their rooms and make ourselves at home might be helpful. We moved 5 years ago, and I am *still* working on decorating. I can relate to your feelings of jealousy. We have neighbors who moved in after us, and their homes seem to be way more “put together” than mine. I don’t just want to accumulate “stuff,” though, which is why I need to get rid of excess and organize first. God bless you and your family, as you get settled into your new home!

  3. I try to do small things when I can. I have a to do list and I put even the most mundane tasks on that list because of the instant gratification of checking something off. It’s so funny I find myself having more energy and inspiration when I visit other people to organize and beautify their space (I found myself weeding at my parents house when my own yard needs it almost as much). So the to do list and trying to de-clutter have been my most effective means. The decluttering is hard, but once I get through stuff and remember stuff I have, it has inspired me to work a little harder. I also let go of the idea that I would ever be a Martha Stewart or Better Homes and Garden material. I try to remember that my son isn’t going to remember what the house looks like, but the time I spent with him.

    • Hi Meg, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I think you have hit on a key point: small steps toward reaching the goal. I tend to be an “all or nothing” person, and therefore, I usually end up with nothing … I just talked this through with a friend, and I think I have a game plan for focusing on 3, very tangible projects right now. And I’m not going to worry about the rest (yet). And yes, our children don’t care about the house as much as we do. They will remember time more than clutter. God bless!

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