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I’ve Given Up on Having “Nice Things” and I’m Okay With It

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom, author and blogger
08/17/20  1:12 PM PST
messy house

I’ve never studied my home as much as I have during the recent quarantine. Prior to COVID, the house was a lot like a train station – the place you rush through on your way to work, school, sports, therapies. It didn’t necessarily matter if this seat was slightly sticky or that corner housed a small collection of dog hair or the towel in the bathroom was perpetually damp for unknown reasons.

My Messy House and The 5 Stages of Grief

But since spending almost all of our time in this “train station” the last few months, my reaction has looked a lot like the five stages of grief:

1. Denial
Surely, quite soon I will be walking out the door again on my way to cleaner environs and therefore, can ignore the fuggy smell of the carpet.

2. Anger
Why am I the only one who empties the dishes from the sink that won’t stop dripping? How did the faux leather ottoman get another rip in it? When are we ever going to paint over these mustard-colored walls?

3. Bargaining
If we make it through this without getting sick, I will cook more, clean more, redecorate and refurbish and turn this place into a haven instead of a hovel.

4. Depression
The state of our couch makes me weep. There are so many mysterious lumps that the kids have taken to tossing all the cushions off to find a comfortable seat.

5. Acceptance
Even if nothing in this house changes, I am eternally grateful for the people in it and the memories we have made on our lumpy couch, over family dinners at the wobbly table and out on the deck that has several wonky and potentially hazardous boards.

If I’m honest, this last stage, acceptance, has been a long time coming. Before my first son, Charlie, I delighted in decorating his nursery. I still remember the name of the paint we used: “Woozle Green”. It was whimsical and bright. The lamp shade boasted a hand-painted forest and stream. The green and blue rag rug gave just the right pop of color at the foot of his white crib with matching dresser. It was picture-perfect. And then Charlie was born premature with a rare syndrome that complicated his ability to breathe and eat. That room stayed empty for over a year.

When Charlie did come home from the NICU, he came with both a tracheotomy and gastrointestinal tube. He wore an oxygen and heart rate monitor while he slept. I couldn’t bear to be out of the room from him. So we disassembled that beautiful white crib and reassembled it in our bedroom where he would stay. Trach supplies buried the rocking chair in the nursery and the feeding pump took over the corner of the living room where our wine rack used to sit. Later, we made way for a stander, a gait trainer, a wheelchair, and a supported feeding chair as well.

Then the Twins Were Born…

When our twins were born, all the important stuff happened at ground level. Playmats blanketed the living room alongside Charlie’s therapy balls and yoga mats. As they began to crawl, we replaced our sharp-edged glass coffee table with the slightly-ripped pleather ottoman that now stores their toys and Charlie’s math and vocabulary flashcards for school, which, as a mostly nonverbal kid, he relies on to communicate. Recently, we’ve added a camping chair to the motley assortment of furniture in the living room. It rocks slightly and gives Charlie a chance to get out of his wheelchair and relax, head back, feet up – his personal indoor hammock. One day, we might actually take it camping.

I’ve seen a great deal of interior design up close and personal lately as people Zoom or shoot Instagram Live stories from their home office or screened-in porch or just to the left of their exposed brick fireplace. I’d be lying if I didn’t own up to a few twinges of jealousy over their tidy, color-coordinated lives. But overall, I’ve come to terms with our messy, lumpy, sticky house, especially now that we’ve spent a good chunk of this year cooped up in it. It is, I’ve realized, also the place that has kept my children safe.


special needs parents

Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom, author and blogger.

Discover her new book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood.

Read her blog, The Mom Gene.

Follow her on Facebook.


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