when life feels chaotic

cultivating_peace_at_home-2cultivating_peace_at_home Sometimes as a parent I find myself chasing shadows in our home life, trying to repair or address symptoms––consistent sibling squabbles, whininess, regularly unfinished chores, meltdowns, etc.––without taking time to notice something fundamental is broken or hurt in the atmosphere of our home. I’m not talking about a single meltdown or hard day; I’m referring to the days or weeks or months when the abstract connections in the home feel weathered or possibly broken altogether.

The last few weeks have felt a bit like that here. I’ve found myself as the referee between siblings too often or noticing things scattered about carelessly on the floors or counters or tables more often than not. The TV seemed to be on more than usual. The attitudes lower than usual. Meals have felt hustled. And I was exhausted, red flags everywhere shouting pay attention. I talked with Mark about it and we opted to try a small process we used when our children were younger and I felt overwhelmed: set aside a few days for focused, intentional training. Training sounds like such an intense word, but all it is: reestablishing the order and peace of the home. The goal isn’t to lead perfect lives; it’s to heed the red flags as helpful guides letting us know some things need to change. Today always offers a fresh start and new mercy. When life feels chaotic, here is what we do to cultivate peace in our home again.


Clear your schedule for a few days. Set aside 2-3 days for full relational attention and care. No playdates or trips to the grocery. No friends over for dinner or answering emails or checking social media. Create space for full attention and care. If you work full-time out of the home, consider taking a personal day attached to a weekend. If you work from home, plan to keep specific and clear hours for a few days. Sometimes simplifying time restraints can immediately calm the emotions in the home.

Begin with tidy spaces. Clutter promotes stress and works against peace in the home. It just does. This isn’t a mantra or a flag touting a perfect home either, but sometimes when our homes become littered with little things on the surfaces and floors, it effects our home emotionally more than we know. I’m still learning the balance of living with my children (when all the things come out) and keeping things in their place, but I always find it helpful when we begin to feel disconnected emotionally, to begin with tidying our spaces. If this feels like too much, simply walk around the house with a box or bag, collecting things and put it into a closet for now. The goal is a quick clean-up to focus relationally, not to necessarily clean out your house. Mark that for another date. (Makes note.)

Limit or eliminate screen time for these days. Screen time can be a wonderful way to connect as a family, and also a way to buy a mother of young children 30 minutes of quiet. But it can become a slippery slope in our home, so when emotions are high, it’s easiest to eliminate screens from the equation for a bit. So instead of snuggle movie night, we’ll enjoy game night or playing HORSE on the basketball goal together. Instead of video games, we’re enjoying tether ball matches and skateboarding outdoors. This also helps heal broken bonds.

Offer heaps of affection. This seemed particularly important when my children were young and would become consistently whiny or throw regular tantrums. Many times, they simply needed more positive quality time with me, reminders of their safe place with us and at home. But older children need large amounts of affection from their parents, too, something I forget a bit as they grow and exert more independence. Holding time strengthens connection and also reassures children (of all ages) that they’re loved and safe. So during these 2-3 days I snuggle my children even more, and try to make space for alone time with each of them, a time for each to feel heard.

Hold value boundaries more tightly. Things can seem simpler in our minds or plans than they are when carried out. I can know our children need sleep and become distracted during bedtime routines, often prolonging them. I can know our children need more whole foods and yet still cave and offer goldfish or easy processed snacks. When there’s an argument or some harsh word exchanged between siblings, I can delay in addressing it because I’m busy doing something else. This is life. But during these few days, Mark and I focus to reinforce the boundaries we value. Bedtime routine begins a little earlier, allowing for a slower pace. Strife, harsh words or physical outbursts of any sort are addressed immediately. Eating becomes a little cleaner, and so on. This part work because of the heaps of affection being poured out at other times. One part establishes structure for them; the other part establishes the loving context. Since young children are really concrete, it is particularly helpful for them to have immediate consequences and rewards, and heaps of affection and snuggling for context.

Infuse the air with uplifting scents and sounds. It seems small, but turning on uplifting music and diffusing the air with essential oils can quickly help calm emotions and shift the mood of the home. On harder days, rubbing some right on your neck (or theirs) can help, too. Some of my favorite oils to diffuse are:

  • orange, clove, and frankincense
  • lavender and eucalyptus
  • bergamot and lavender
  • ginger, orange, and cedarwood
  • YL Stress Away or Peace and Calming II blends
28 replies
  1. Jessica D.
    Jessica D. says:

    Such a wonderful post with great tips! I have implemented some of these myself, and it truly makes a huge difference. With a house full of boys and the younger two as toddlers, well it can get quite chaotic almost daily lol ;p It’s a struggle to for me maintain the home, maintaining the “atmosphere” of balance and peace, etc. since I work FT outside of the home (daddy & the boys stay home…..and usually create huge messes for me to clean later haha)— but you are so right when a few days in a row can be taken to work on it all (family & household), wow it’s such an amazing blessing if done intentionally.

    Reply
  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing; I so love how you put this into such graceful words. This topic has been on my mind a lot! Along with calling out to the Lord for wisdom to bring peace to my crazy chaotic home. I feel very strongly that Im supposed to set everything aside and just focus on the character issues of my children. But it has been very difficult to let go if expectations of things needing to be done. I dont school and discipline well at the same time. And so I see my weakness in which neither are very fruitful. Home schooling brings a whole new level to discipline issues that summer/holidays dont have. I am wondering if you set your schooling aside during this time? And if so what were the pros and cons? Thank you

    Reply
  3. Staci King
    Staci King says:

    Sweet friend, this was exactly what I needed to read today. Picturing all of you as I read was an added bonus. Missing you dearly.

    Reply
  4. Alison Brown
    Alison Brown says:

    Such a great post… I love that you both join ranks as parents and press the reset button on all those areas at once …. Such wisdom…in my house less screen time always makes kinder siblings and more peaceful atmosphere… it’s so easy to slip into bad habits when things get stressful …. x

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I easily lean toward unplugging, too, although as they get older, we want to help our children to recognize how their soul feels when they’ve had too much, that they learn to pay attention. It’s such a challenging dynamic! And yes, it’s always so tempting to shut down and give in to the chaos. Thank you for sharing, Alison.

      Reply
  5. Esther
    Esther says:

    its such a wonderful post bethany with so much wisdom and insight.thank you for sharing.this talk to me so much and i’m glad we’re havving the privilege of going on a little family vacation for a week by tomorrow morning.its so needed.and i get back to you after about our email conversations.i didn’t forget it.i already started but did too many things at once and couldn’t finish it yet. but i like to….thank you for blessing me/us.esther*

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Thank you, Esther, and enjoy your mini-vacation! I had some quiet away this last weekend, and it was SO good. About the other things, anytime the following week is fine, too. Big hugs.

      Reply
  6. Pippa
    Pippa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I always love your posts, they literally alter my state every time. Looking forward to implementing some of these tips.

    Reply
  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thank you bethany! I have a home out of sorts lately! And this sounds like exactly what I need to do. Thank you , thank you for your wisdom & sharing it with the rest of us. <3

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Sometimes I become so preoccupied with what I am doing here, I forget to share the lessons I’m learning on this journey. I’m so grateful they’re encouraging you. x

      Reply
  8. Heather Legge
    Heather Legge says:

    I *just* posted on FB before reading this…about how to deal with my 10 year old and her ever growing pre-teen “attitudes”. You know my situation…so I can’t set aside time exactly as you describe, but I am going to ponder this and think on how to do something this weekend to help heal my little family. It’s hard because of my kiddo situation and because I am exhausted from my own illness. I default to letting them run the household more often than not because in the moment it’s easier.

    Reply
  9. Amy
    Amy says:

    Such wisdom here. I will stop feeling guilty for skipping my mom’s group yesterday morning in order to allow my children to get more rest. Today’s behavior was much better as a result. I love the way you parent!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      If parenting has taught me one thing it is my deep need to receive and give grace. It’s wisdom to delay something you love for a while for the sake of your home. And sometimes it’s wisdom to wreck routine to do something you love with your children just because you can, and that too can offer peace to a home. Best to you on this wild paradox of a journey.

      Reply
      • Heather Legge
        Heather Legge says:

        Wrecking a routine. So true!! I got overwhelmed by life one evening a few weeks ago and instead of all of us feeding off my frustration, we put on our shoes and sweatshirts and went out and had ice cream for dinner. It was so not routine (I had already even made dinner) but it was perfect!!

        Reply
  10. Erin
    Erin says:

    Oh man Bethany. I have felt like we’re wading from one chaotic moment to the next these days. Not enough time. Too much clutter. And I’m always craving more connection and peace of mind. I keep telling myself: cut out sugar, clear out the mess…but then exhaustion hits and all I want to do is pull my girls close and hug them before they’re too big to fit in my arms.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Erin, I hear and know every bit of what you’re saying. Your little is so little yet. Sometimes it’s appropriate to let the mess be. Just be encouraged, sweet mama, you won’t always feel the same level of fatigue and inefficiency. Give it time. Kisses.

      Reply
  11. Betsy berre
    Betsy berre says:

    Bethany
    Thank you for this reset. This easy to follow, easy to pare down formula for calming chaos in our home. Thank you thank you

    Reply
  12. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    I love the idea of restablishing everything at once. Each good habit will support the next.

    I’ve also heard it’s good to announce/talk with kids about what you’re doing so they know it’s serious and intentional (I.e. There’s no way out of it so don’t even try to argue).

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Haha! So true. I keep reminding my boys unplugging the TV is not a punishment or consequence, it’s simply a way to clear the periphery a bit to reexamine the heart of our family life. They still think it feels like a punishment. 😉

      Reply
  13. Jami Pyle
    Jami Pyle says:

    I really love this post. When a feed is as beautiful as yours it is easy to forget you and your family are real people with the same relational struggles as everyone else. I am a young mom with an almost 2-year-old and plan on trying for the next baby in December. These words will stick with me as my family grows! Personally, I plan intentional days to unplug but it’s nice to hear that this works in the larger family context. It’s all about working towards balance I suppose! Thanks for posting.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Thank you for your honesty, Jami. Yes, we have dirty bathtubs and sticky things on the floor sometimes. Our wash machine runs daily. And it seems clutter has a will power independent of us. There’s so much more to us than our squares in many ways, and so I’m glad that you have a peek at our humanity. And well done to regular unplug days. I have a personal one weekly, but I haven’t actually enforced one as a family. It might be just what we need. Thank you!

      Reply
  14. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    This is exactly what’s been happening here. Thanks so much for the timely and helpful advice. This is just what we need.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] From Cloistered Away: Training sounds like such an intense word, but all it is: reestablishing the order and peace of the home. The goal isn’t to lead perfect lives; it’s to heed the red flags as helpful guides letting us know some things need to change. Today always offers a fresh start and new mercy. When life feels chaotic, here is what we do to cultivate peace in our home again. […]

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