little trash bags of accomplishment


What I do, what I did, and what you do matters. It does. If all I ever did was feed, change, hold and burp a baby but I did it with love, it would be far more than enough. I know that. This is not about that bigger picture. This is about surviving the day in and day out with a tangible sense of accomplishment. I struggle with it.

You know that feeling of frustration when you have something you should or want to be doing but you find yourself negotiating with a fussy baby instead?

I find that not having anything else to do eliminates that frustration.

I mean, sure, there are things to do, but as long as I tell myself I’m not going to do any of them I am free! Right?

Unfortunately, no. Somehow evening always comes and after a day like that there’s this sneaking feeling in my heart of dissatisfaction. I remember that feeling from the first months with OBoy when I went from completing extensive itemized and prioritized task lists every day in the workforce to feeding, changing, holding and burping a baby.

Whoop dee doop.

When I told my mother-in-law (who is also a friend) about this feeling, she gave me some absolutely wonderful advice. As a new mom who also had two little boys in less than two years, she said she made it a point to “accomplish one thing everyday that [she] wouldn’t have to do again tomorrow.

I love this. I put it into action with OBoy, but honestly it had slipped my mind lately…until this week.

Out of a burning desire to de-clutter (WE’RE 25. HOW DO WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF?!) but a desperate lack of time, I took a trash bag – just one trash bag -into our closet and filled it with clothes to donate. (See also: two kids in two years) It was incredible. Just like that I started a task and completed it. I put the bag in the trunk of the car to donate when I had time. And what do you know, the next day came and I had time!*

*time being defined as: Already had everyone packed in the car out running errands, and our Goodwill has a drive up donation door so I didn’t have to do an extra two-child carseat hustle.

In two short days I packed up and donated a whole bag of clothing, and that was in addition to feeding, changing, holding, burping, changing, dressing, playing, bathing, doing toddler things…It felt so good! So good that I have every intention of de-cluttering all of the closets and forgotten storage spaces in our house – one trash bag at a time.

{{Have you found something that helps you feel accomplished amidst the daily grind of motherhood? I’d love to hear about it.}}

38 Responses to “little trash bags of accomplishment”

  1. Jenna

    I just did this about 10 days ago. Except I tackled my (finished) attic which had turned into a dumping ground for too small, unworn, out of season clothes. Two days of sorting and I ended up bringing six bags of clothes & one bag of shoes to Goodwill. *phew*

  2. Rachel

    Love this!! A great way for a new mama (or toddler mama – like me!) to feel productive! I’m going to try to do one productive thing a day too!! :) thanks for sharing this wisdom & encouragement!!

  3. K

    What a great post! I have kids about the same age as yours and I’ve really been struggling lately with accomplishing anything other than parenting and grabbing a quick shower before collapsing into bed at the end of the day.

    It feels SO GOOD to get something done and decluttering is at the top of my list. When you’re in the house all day every day (minus little errands and walks) you see all your stuff and it gets overwhelming.

    Good for you for getting something done!

  4. Hilary@BabyMooHoo

    i love that plan. on days when my little one is fussy, or life simply got in the way of accomplishing the lengthy list of stuff “to-do,” i end up feeling like i have failed in some way. doing one thing is *much* more reasonable, and still gives me opportunity to cross a line through something on that list.

  5. HeirtoBlair

    Oddly enough, trash bags are how I measure it, too.

    I get that same funny feeling in the office, feeling like I do too much paperwork & not enough for the big picture in life. Feeling like I run in circles all day long, doing the same thing over & over again. So I started de-cluttering my house & it is the most FREEING feeling ever. & it gives me a sense of accomplishment & growth as a person. It’s how I measure my baby growing (“Those pants don’t fit anymore!”) I’m growing or shrinking (depending on the year), & how far we’ve come as a family (we don’t actually need the twenty cookbooks on my shelves because we now have our favorites in rotation).

  6. Amanda

    Organized Audrey would be proud. :) And so am I. I’ve been meaning to donate a bag of clothes for months, and still it sits on the floor of our bedroom. I’m gonna do it this weekend, thanks to you!

    • AllisonO

      The first step for me is always getting it in the car. The challenge then, though, is not forgetting it in there. :) Good luck!

  7. Mo

    That is such great advice! Some days I feel like accomplishing the laundry and keeping the house clean doesn’t do it for me, because it’s something that has to get done daily (along with all the toddler stuff, and soon to be baby stuff). Getting out of the house is key, and getting something done is so important for my mental health too. Small tasks like starting to look for big boy bedding, finishing up getting Father’s day gifts, or finally getting to the bank. Just like you said, little things that you don’t have to do again tomorrow!

    One other thing I like to do is bake. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, you get a delicious treat in the end, and it makes me feel like I accomplished something. And nothing is greater than my hubby walking in the door from work to find out there are brownies for dessert, even if there is only half a pan left because the little guy and I have been munching on them all day :)

  8. Jackie s

    I LOVE decluttering our stuff! I already gave away most of my toddlers old clothes and toys to pregnant friends.. like over 10 pampers boxes worth. I saved my favorite shirts and bottoms and the sentimental ones, but the rest had to go!

  9. Stephanie

    There was a time, about 2 months ago, when we really started to spring clean. I dusted. I washed windows. I de-cluttered. It was glorious. But I too have found myself in that endless carousel ride of being a mommy these last months and your post has encouraged me.

  10. Whitney

    I’m a SAHM, too, and we have a 6 month old baby girl. I discovered my trigger for my “sense of accomplishment” in the first couple of days in the hospital: take a shower and put on makeup. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4 o’clock before I can finally get around to it; I feel SO MUCH lighter and more like myself once I can spend that little bit of time on *me.* And I love what you said about “one bag at a time.” I will make all of these lists of things that need to happen and I beat myself up for not getting them done. But there’s no way it can happen… unless you do it “one bag at a time.” :)

  11. Joie

    I’m not a mama, but I find these to be words of wisdom for every woman I know! Thanks for this. And now, to figure out what to do today that I won’t have to do tomorrow…

  12. Maggie

    I did this last weekend, too! 6 bags and a box (see also: not a mom yet). I felt so good about donating clothes and housewares to people in need!

  13. Melodie

    Thank you so much for this post! I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a blog before, but as the mom of five month old twins, I just had to let you know that this came at just the right time. There is a cherry pie in the oven, and that it my one bag for the day, and it is enough:)

  14. ashley c

    My dirty little secret? Vietnam Vets of America. They pick it up, FROM MY FRONT DOOR! They do 3-4 pickups a year and send reminders to sign up so I declutter a couple times a year and don’t have to leave my house to drop them off. It’s heavenly and the money they make goes to our war vets, like my Grandpa!

    • Emily H.

      We use Vietnam Vets too! The only part I’m bad at is picking up the darn phone and calling them (oh, and remembering to actually put the yellow bag OUTSIDE on the day of!) :)

  15. Cambria

    When I stopped working and had babies, my mom said “don’t try to get all your errands done in one day, break it up”. I know that is sort of backwards of what you are saying, however, it helped my “go go go” mindset to slow down and stop being in such a hurry.

    Also, ask for help. Hire it done. Get it delivered. Or drive through to do it (bank, pharmacy, coffee).

    I’m constantly amazed as to what I can get done with two kids. Mine are 20 months a part, and I remember very well what it was like with a child under two and a newborn, on my own. It’s the trenches and it does get easier (yet, harder at the same time).

  16. Laura

    Thank you. I needed to read this today. With a 12-month-old underfoot and another little one due in five months, I can always use a little perspective and insight on accomplishment in the day-to-day. Again, thank you.

  17. kodi

    Oh A! I could have written this myself. We are trying to list our house. I thought I could have it cleaned top to bottom in two weeks. Ha! Ha ha ha! I’m still on the laundry portion, BUT I’ve accomplished goals daily. So, that helps.

  18. Elaine

    On the subject of donating things, I just took THREE bags to the local thrift shop but then I also have one more kid and more than likely, more stuff. ;) If DOES feel good though! Yay for you!!

    And just getting a decent dinner on the table most nights makes me feel accomplished. AND? today I cleaned the shower! WHOOP WHOOP! ;P

  19. Tara @ Skippin' Rope

    Your MIL gave you some great advice! I like it, I will have to start doing that myself. Although it seems like all my chores are daily repeats. :/

    For my sanity! I try to go the bathroom twice a day BY MYSELF! Sometimes it doesn’t happen until my husband comes home, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all, but I try.

    I swear, I just want to be able to pee alone again. That’s all I’m asking for!

  20. Tanya

    I love this! My boys are grown and I have had 2 bags of clothes in the garage for goodwill for about 2 months now…. No Carseats, no burping or changing… These boys even feed themselves! I will drive them today and that will be my one thing! Thanks Allison :)

  21. Allison

    I love this little piece of advice – it does make you feel better.

    My husband and I are working diligently to get rid of paper in our house. You know the kind, mail piles, old bills, things you think you need to save forever just in case. It is going bye-bye slowly, but surely.

    Keep up the good work! All this decluttering will make it feel extra awesome when you move into the upstairs with LESS stuff.


  22. Wendy

    If only I could get my two year old out of his pajamas!
    But really, I need to get started on my 8 month old’s baby book!

  23. Katie

    Allison? this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today.

    I am finding myself home with a toddler for the summer after working the whole school year and our days are painfully…the same.

    This idea of accomplishing ONE dang thing for the day? Is glorious.

    I tend to have my expectations WAY too high so that during nap? If I choose to read a book or take a nap myself? I am crabby and hard on myself the rest of the day for not getting any of the millions of things I wanted to do done.

    But this idea? I can do while he is awake and playing.

    Thank you.

  24. Stephanie

    I know the feeling! Here’s what I do. Every day, after I put my daughter down for her nap, I do 15 minutes of decluttering or cleaning in a specific room. I work on a different room every week. Sometimes I am matching Tupperware containers and lids, sometimes I am washing baseboards, sometimes it’s just taking out the bathroom trash and wiping the sinks. Either way, I have been AMAZED at how much I can do in 15 minutes. Sometimes I’m really tired, but if I push myself through it, I am glad, and I have the rest of the naptime to rest myself or mindlessly surf the internert without feeling badly :)

    I’ve been thinking about this topic so much lately, and I thank you for writing about it and for your prologue :) Sometimes life is so mundane, but it is in these small acts that we can find holiness and trust that God turns the water of daily life into the wine of the heavenly kingdom for us.

  25. Christina

    I love this idea! My mom told me when I had my daughter, “The first year is the toughest. Just expect to not get anything done that year.” It took such a burden off my shoulders when I would spend the whole day breastfeeding and attempting to clean. About 6 months after I had my daughter I found out I had really severe hypothyroidism that made me feel EXHAUSTED all the time (and that’s ADDED onto the fact that I was taking care of a newborn). I’m so glad I remembered what my mom had told me or else I would’ve killed myself trying to get everything done while dealing with an undiagnosed medical problem!

  26. Steph

    Just wanted to say I feel the EXACT same way! I blogged about this same topic today, and included a link to your blog post. Well said!!

  27. Mag

    I completely understand! I have 2 girls, 5.5 and 3.5, and a 1 month old son (yay boy!) Besides dishes, laundry, feeding, dressing, diapering, calming, refereeing and loving them, I hardly get anything else accomplished. Even before boy was born, I found my oldest’s baby book… it’s from birth to age 5. I thought, well she’s 5 now. I can fill it all out and put it away until she gets married!

    My one thing today was to go for a walk with them all for the first time to the store 2 blocks away to get milk. And we made it there and back in one piece (well, 4 pieces really…)

    Keep it up! Even if all we do is take care of their basic needs and love them and pray for them, then we are doing the best we can.

  28. Jamie (@va_grown)

    Great thoughts! The only thing I would say, is be sure that your ONE THING can actually be accomplished in your timeframe–or you’re setting yourself up for more frustration.

    Sometimes this is about the task itself, and sometimes it’s breaking the task into manageable peices. Is the task to bag up the clothes, or to actually donate the clothes which means getting to Goodwill the same day? The theory only works if you keep the tasks small enough to be manageable in the time you have.


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