Hot Mess: Super Simple Steps to Escaping Survival Mode

Keep It Clean!

Some days, you just feel like a hot mess and you are ready to give up. Now, this option is a lot more popular in the current era. When you feel like giving up, you can almost always find an expert that can give you the justification to give up right then and there. Well, let me tell you that giving up is a want, not a need, and there are things you can do, even you are feeling your emotional worst, to take care of yourself and the rest of your family, too. I slide into Hot Mess Mode, too, and I have to work hard to pull myself back out of it every single time. It would be so easy just to stay in Hot Mess Mode — I could scroll Facebook and share anti-housewife memes! But I would rather work for my 1950s ideal, so here is the method I use to get out of Hot Mess Mode.

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Self-Care is Your Tool for Fixing a Hot Mess

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Don’t ever let anyone tell you that 1950s women didn’t know how to make themselves happy. They knew that the secret to being a good wife is taking care of yourself. They didn’t only dress up for their husbands, they also did it for themselves. Beautiful coifs, red lipstick, manicures, pretty and feminine dresses — they made sure that they looked — and felt! — pretty.

Of course, it wasn’t just the beauty routines that they had for self-care. There were bridge parties, coffee klatches, and lunch at tearooms with the girls. Vintage housekeeping books reminded housewives to schedule time each day for rest and recreation. Housewives had time to indulge in things like hobbies and clubs. When attachment parenting came into vogue, mothers were told that they needed to put their children first, that child-led parenting was the new “right way,” and that “good mothers” would sacrifice themselves for their children.

Of course, all that led to was a generation of young women who now don’t want to be mothers at all, because they don’t want to be their own overwhelmed, frazzled mothers. Rather than glorify “wine moms” or wallow in your hot mess yoga pants (Yes, there are hot-mess yoga pants. Not all yoga pants, mind you, but some . . .), try making yourself beautiful, putting on lipstick and a pretty dress (even high heels!), and putting on some upbeat music. It will go a long way toward making you feel better.

If you're a hot mess, then you can find out how to use vintage advice to escape survival mode.

Do the Most Important Things

Survival mode is your hot mess territory. You’re probably staring at squabbling kids and a living room that looks like a hurricane hit! I can always tell that survival mode comes along so easily when I have a bad day. Of course, with 10 people in a small house, it only takes a couple of hours to turn into a natural disaster anyway! So, every so often, I have to pull myself out of survival mode, and the best place to start is with myself, dinner, and tidying.

Make sure you are dressed and pretty

This really is important to getting things done! I have even been known to wear heels and a swing dress while I clean, just so I can dance to the music.

Get dinner ready

No matter what time of day it is, start something for dinner. Put it in the slow-cooker, the oven — do whatever! Start a quick batch of rolls, too, especially if you hardly ever make them. Then, clean your kitchen. I use my vintage Dishwashing with Dispatch routine, and I wash my dishes by hand. If you have a dishwasher, it’s even easier. Wipe down all the counters and the stove, and sweep and spot-mop the floor. Then, sit and drink a cup of tea for a few minutes.

Start at the beginning

No matter what time of day it is, begin at the beginning of your daily cleaning routine. I have my Daily Order of Work at the front of my 1950s Housewife Plan binder.  (It’s another vintage routine.) Whenever I need a reset for my home, I go to the very beginning of that and work through it. By the end of my cleaning, the house feels fresh and ready for happy living again!

Planning Helps Stop Hot Mess Days

I love planning! But a plan is nothing if you don’t commit to doing it every day. I recommend starting with morning and evening rituals that include some basic self-care/beauty routines and some simple next-day prep. Add in things like getting up 30 minutes before everyone else to dress and fix your hair and makeup, taking a luxury bath before bed, and preparing for tomorrow morning by packing bags and lunches, thawing tomorrow’s dinner, and preparing for breakfast ahead of time.

After you have your rituals, peg them to something. Cue yourself to start your morning routine AS YOU ROLL OUT OF BED! Start your evening routine at a set time to get enough sleep to get up a little earlier than the babies. Firmly tell your older children that they are not to come out of their rooms in the morning before a set time. Practice these rituals for a week before you make any changes!

Some other plans you should make include a meal plan (Pro tip: plan all three meals at once!), and a cleaning plan. Make sure that you have everything you need to make all the meals on your list. Try very hard not to go shopping right now. When you do your cleaning plan, make sure that you include dusting and sweeping. Clearing all the surfaces of everything and cleaning the floor every day will keep your house feeling like a much nicer place to be. I highly recommend mid-century minimalism, with cleared surfaces and carefully curated decor. Empty surfaces will make you feel better about being in your house, as well.

Do Something For Your Husband

I can just about guarantee that if you are in survival mode, your husband is suffering, too! Do something for him right now. Make sure he has clean laundry, especially socks in pairs. When he gets home, take a moment to kiss him and say, “Hi! I’m glad you’re home!” in your brightest voice. DON’T ask him to watch the children or do anything around the house right now. Don’t ask him about his day, or tell him about yours. Sit with him on the couch for a few minutes. Don’t let the children interrupt this moment, either. Teach them to wait 30 minutes before they ask their father for anything after he gets home. If he tells you about his day, smile, listen closely, and make encouraging comments.

Make time for at least one night a week where you sit with him and do something he likes. If you know nothing about it, ask him. My husband likes to play video games and watch TV and movies, but I grew up not watching TV or playing video games! Still, at least once a week, I try to sit with him while he does his screen thing in the evenings. I bring him a special dessert or another treat, ask him about what he is doing, and listen to (and try to remember!) what he is telling me. (Yes, I create opportunities for mansplaining. Every man should have the right to mansplain, and manspread, in his own home!)

Make sure you tell him at least once a day that you are grateful for something he has done for you or the children. Even if you can’t manage anything else right now, you can do that. He needs to feel appreciated, even if it is just for not complaining at you when you are in surviving hot mess mode!

Make a Schedule

I really cannot stress this enough. A SCHEDULE IS A LIFESAVER! Put yourself, your children, and especially your littles on a schedule! It will help soooooo much.

Start with waketime, bedtime (and naptime! For you and them!), and a definite, dependable mealtime. Then, work backward. When do you need to start cooking to have meals on time? Block that out. When do you need to feed the baby? Mark that down, too. (I schedule 3-hour intervals, so I don’t forget to feed them for 5 hours during the day!) When do the children need to get ready for bed so they get to bed on time? Do they have to be at school in the morning?

Write down all the fixed times and needs, and work backward until you have a working plan that you can follow. Try it for a week. Then fix it. If it all falls apart at a certain time of day, focus on that. Eventually, you will have a schedule that works for your family.

If you have never had a schedule, it can be hard to appreciate how much it can help your sanity as a mom and housewife! Just knowing when you need to do something and what you need to do relieves you of devoting an enormous amount of mental energy to keeping it all in your head.

Kids, Schedules & Meal Plans

Also, once your children know what to expect and when, they will stop asking you about it so much, which can be another source of stress. Children who are given boundaries and limited choices make better decisions. A schedule provides them with boundaries and expectations for their time. That can relieve a lot of anxiety for small children. In a world where you have very little control, it is comforting to know what to expect.

You may have noticed something similar to this when you plan meals. Even if your child has never missed a meal, they will ask you, “When’s dinner?” and, “What’s for dinner?” repeatedly. Usually, it is just for reassurance that you have already planned to feed them, so writing down meals relieves all of the anxiety. Now they know you already are thinking about them, so they can play in comfort and wait patiently. They are reassured that you are taking care of them if you care enough to take the time to write it down.

When Every Day is a New Hot Mess

If you have a new baby, or you are dealing with special-needs or discipline issues, you may feel that every day you are right back where you started. That’s OK! Just start back at step 1 every day.

Every time I have a new baby, I start back at the beginning every day for as much as 4 weeks! If all you can do is work through the basics every day, not only will you feel better, but YOU WILL BE OUT OF SURVIVAL MODE! You won’t be a hot mess, because you will be fixing up yourself and your home, at least a little bit, each day. You can get out of hot mess territory! It is possible. Just take it one day at a time.

If you are homeschooling at the same time, I recommend going to the method in my How to Start Homeschooling article while you work on getting out of Surviving Hot Mess Mode. A simple daily plan for your homeschool will also help a lot!

Hopefully, this will help some of you who are looking for an escape from surviving the hot mess lifestyle. It took me quite a while to develop my 1950s Housewife Success plan, but even now, I still use this exact method when life gets past me! It works very well and helps me pull back out of Hot Mess Mode fast, usually in less than a day.

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