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Pardon our dust! (And, yay for changes!)

We’re doing a little spring cleaning here at The Happiest Home! Sarah’s been working hard behind the scenes to switch us to a new theme that will make it easier for you to navigate content and discover gems that have gotten buried over the years. We appreciate your patience while we roll out the new changes, and – whoops! – apologize if some older content somehow winds up in your inbox along the way. Want to stay up to date on what’s happening here amid all the changes? Fill out the box below and we’ll get in touch with you via email

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Looking for inspiration and real-life connection? Join me at the BEYOND Retreat next fall.

You know one of the biggest benefits of slowing down and doing less? When you step off of the merry-go-round of doing, doing, doing just because it seems like, well, the thing to do, you suddenly have all this “new” time and energy and brain space to pursue things that mean a lot to you. For years I’ve been dreaming of putting together an event bringing together awesome women in one place to dream, plan, recharge and get inspired. And now it’s time to make it happen. In October of 2015 I’ll be hosting a small but mighty group of women (is

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“Fun Parent” vs. “Boring Parent” – It’s Not Fair! But Is It True?

My husband made this lunch for my daughter last week. I know. I should have known it was coming when I caught him poring over Bento box tutorials on YouTube, watching a woman meticulously arrange smiley faces onto tiny rice-ball heads, then cap them off with pita-pocket hats. The very next day, Jon made a special trip to the grocery store for supplies. And that evening, he and Clara hovered over the kitchen island for a good half-hour creating The Lunch To End All Lunches.  Heart-shaped salami framed by heart-shaped cheese slices, people. A tiny little star cutout peanut-butter sandwich with honey and sprinkles

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Delegate Like Downton: A Strategy For Managing Home Helpers

Imagine this: it’s a Sunday afternoon. One child just got done shoveling the walk, and another is unloading the dishwasher. You, on the other hand, are reading a magazine, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the calm of a neat (enough) kitchen…that you didn’t even have to tidy up yourself. Sound like a fantasy? It’s not! It’s actually how my Sunday afternoon played out…and it’s a pretty common scenario around here. It hasn’t always been this way. Earlier in marriage and motherhood, I was surrounded by mess and chaos, and bogged down by resentment. Why didn’t other family members recognize

At Home with Meagan

5 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

I’ve been wanting to do a regular video series, like, forEVER. But when I had kids home with me during the day, I found it was just too difficult to find quiet pockets of time to shoot and edit regularly. A five-minute video may not seem like it takes much time to do, but there’s a lot of set-up and production involved, even in the most “candid” vids.  Now that my days are my own, though, I’m finding that I’ve got the space and quiet to take on some of those things I’ve been wanting to do! So, here it

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Whimsical Girl’s Bedroom Ideas

We’re moving! In less than two weeks my family is relocating to Southern California and we couldn’t be more excited. Our new house is ready and waiting for us and I’m itching to get into it and start settling in. One of the biggest differences between our current house and the one we’re moving into is the flooring. We have carpet now – lots of it – and we’re moving into a house with all hardwood floors. And while the new floors are beautiful, it’s going to be awfully echo-y in there until we get some area rugs down. One problem:

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Gardening with Kids, The (Really) Easy Way

I’ve always wanted to think of myself as the kind of mom who grows herbs indoors using a DIY seed-starting kit, turning toilet-paper rolls or egg cartons into frugal mini-gardens which nurture her child’s green thumb, creativity and resourcefulness. In reality, I’m the kind of mom who intends, every year, to start seeds indoors eight weeks before the ground is warm, or start a windowsill herb garden, but always forgets to gather the supplies or set aside an afternoon for putting together a system. So this year, I decided to skip all the usual “Oh man, I can’t believe I

The Secret To Keeping Your House Clean Is…There Is No Secret

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Recently I asked readers to tell me their biggest keeping-the-house-clean challenges. Although you each have your own most-hated household tasks (mine would be mopping the floor) a couple of broader themes emerged:

I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve experienced each of those four obstacles during my tenure as a mom, and I have heard hundreds of other mothers complain about those very issues many times. To that list, I’d add a few roadblocks of my own:

  • It’s boring
  • It’s lonely
  • It never ends (oh, I guess you all already said that, huh?)

So here’s the part where I share some disappointing news: there is no secret to keeping a cleaner house. No magic formula, no life-altering tool that will, as if charmed, get up and clean the room itself. In fact, if you haven’t already learned this hard truth, despite the suggestions made in the commercials, Scrubbing Bubbles do not actually fly around your bathtub on tiny brushes doing all the work for you. I know. Bummer.

I recently wrote an article on speed-cleaning tips for a parenting magazine, interviewing dozens and dozens of parents and homemakers along the way. While there were a few tricks that were new to me–like putting a bowl of water in the microwave to loosen dried-on spills and splatters–most of the tips I picked up were far less magical: Prioritize. Take advantage of five minutes here and ten minutes there. Train your kids to help out. Get rid of stuff you don’t need. Make sure everything has a home.

But there’s some comfort in that, too, isn’t there? There is no secret to keeping a cleaner house. That means there’s no reason why you can’t keep a clean-enough house, too.

First, I want to be very clear what I’m talking about when I say “a clean-enough” house. My house is definitely clean enough, most of the time, to keep me happy. However, there are cobwebs in my ceiling corners, dust on many surfaces, the inside of my fridge isn’t exactly company-ready, and I don’t even want to know what’s lurking under my bed.

In short? To me, clean-enough isn’t even close to white-glove perfection. Instead, it means:

  • Organized enough that we can usually find what we need without wasting a lot of time,
  • No visible spills, no bad smells, a bathroom that appears to be used by humans and not apes
  • Tidy enough that if someone knocks on the door mid-day, I don’t have to hide in shame.

And…that’s about it. If my house meets those criteria, I can concentrate enough to work, I can relax enough to play a game of Sorry! with the kids. If it doesn’t, I feel boxed-in, anxious and low energy.

So if there are no secrets to having a cleaner house, why is it so hard?

I believe that in order to have a peaceful relationship with the state of your home, you have to embrace these three principles:

“Clean enough” is good enough. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good-enough. You have to give yourself permission to keep things only as clean as they need to be, give your kids and spouse permission to complete household tasks differently than you might in your fantasy world, and most important, give everyone–yourself included–permission to live in your home, even if that means you mess it back up again.

You are responsible for seeking your own cleanliness happiness. I’m not letting spouses and kids off the hook or saying they shouldn’t have to pull their weight–far from it. But if you’re the one who hates the sight of a dirty floor, and you refuse to mop it because you’re waiting for somebody else to take the initiative, and then you’re miserable every time you see it…well, you’re just punishing yourself. There are smart, sane ways to delegate and divide household labor–including hiring someone to do it for you (no, it’s not just for the rich and famous).

Realize that it’s for your own good. It’s a lot easier to function when you know where things are, and it’s a lot cheerier to live in a relatively neat, tidy, and fresh-smelling home than a messy, dingy, funky-smelling cave. Keeping your surroundings nice is something you do for yourself, not something other people make you do.

Most importantly, moms have to embrace the endlessness. You know that funny quote about how trying to clean while children are still growing is like trying to shovel when it’s still snowing? So true! So we should just recognize how futile it is and stop trying, right? Well, no.

Swimming against the tide is frustrating and tiring and you might not make much visible progress, but it’s better than being swept out to sea. Look at it this way: every day you brush your teeth, and then you eat and they get dirty, so you brush them again–you probably don’t sit and think about how unfair it is that they went and got grungy again, do you? The fact is, life is made up of many series of endless, repeated tasks, and motherhood amplifies them. The quicker you accept that and try to work with it instead of rebel against it, the happier you’ll be.

Photo: CEBImagery, via Flickr Creative Commons


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