Take all your problems & rip ’em apart

Take all your problems

And rip ’em apart

Carry them off

In a shopping cart

Be like the squirrel, girl

Be like the squirrel

– “Little Acorns” by The White Stripes

It’s not a well-known song, but “Little Acorns” by The White Stripes is a song to live your life by. It tells the story of Janet, who has been having a tough time lately. But as she’s walking one day, she sees a squirrel storing up nuts for winter. She notices the way the squirrel brings the nuts to her nest one at a time, and eventually manages to store up as much as she needs.

Clever Janet sees this as a metaphor, and realises that if she takes the “one acorn at a time” approach to her problems, they will be more manageable.

Okay, so it’s sort of a silly song. A hard rock riff and an entreaty to be like the squirrel. And it also might be something that we all already know implicitly. Of course it makes sense to break problems into smaller pieces to make them more manageable. But knowing something doesn’t mean we always do it.

So what are the problems that sometimes overwhelm us, and how can we “be like the squirrel”? Here are some situations where being like the squirrel has helped me.



Regular readers of this blog will know that I keep banging on about the death of my grandmother, who brought me up in my early years. It’s been a couple months now but sometimes I’m still suffocated by sadness and I just miss her so much. I had read about it before, but now I know firsthand, that grief never really goes away. Some days are better than others. Let each moment of grief be it’s own little acorn that you acknowledge. I’ve been allowing myself to feel sad when it happens, rather than trying to just carry on, even though that sometimes seems like what everyone expects.


I work part-time but I’m pretty sure I’m still doing a full-time job and then some. I never, ever get to the bottom of my to-do list and sometimes I worry that I’m not keeping up well enough and I’ll get in trouble. But actually, everyone is just as busy as me in my office, and we’re all doing our best. So I just take one small task at a time. And I try not to multi-task, because that is a way of doing lots of work but never finishing anything.


I also, like most normal people, do not have as much money as I would like. I have a lot of bills, like childcare, to keep up with. And I’m not very good at budgeting or saving. If I try to impose an austerity regime on myself, I’m going to (a) be miserable and (b) fail at it anyway.

So my acorn approach is to just think a little harder about each time I want to do something that costs money. How much do I really want/need this thing? Is there a way of doing it cheaper? And each time I manage to save some money by thinking it through, that is a small success.

My house is a tip

This is one that I get pretty stressed about. We have too many toys, but it hurts my heart to get rid of things that were loved when my children were smaller! Am I the only one who gets sentimental about brightly coloured plastic?

Sometimes I start planning to get organised, but am discouraged by the enormity of the task. One thing cascades into another until I just don’t know where to start. Saying I would just do one job becomes just as difficult as trying to do it all at once.

So I’ve started taking a more novel approach and applying complete and utter blinkers to certain bits of mess. Instead of focusing on doing small jobs that might ultimately add up to a tidy house (neeever gonna happen), I just focus on the things that really need keeping up with. The dresser near the front door always gets piled up with loads of random crap. Fine, I’m ignoring it. But I’m going to keep up with the washing. Sort of.

I wish I had more close friends

Becoming a mum changes your social life forever. I used to constantly be with friends, and I had a different friend for every situation. I could call up my “going to the theatre friend”, my “going on holiday” friend, or my drinking buddy. When I had my kids, I grew apart from some of these friends, either because they had kids too and also had no time, or because we were now living such different lifestyles.

I have found it difficult to make mum friends in my local area, and only have a couple ladies who I consider real friends and not just acquaintances. I sometimes feel pretty depressed that I can’t find a group of friends to hang out with at a moment’s notice, or even just that I feel so socially awkward  and isolated among groups of mums on the school run.

But you know what, it doesn’t even matter. Quality over quantity. I’m putting more energy into the little acorns I’ve already collected (the genuine, proven friends). And every time I feel awkward on the school run, I’m just going to carry on saying hello to people even when they don’t respond, and smiling at them all like some sort of maniac.

I’m a shouty sweary mum

When I get stressed or worried or upset or hurt, I shout and swear. That is my reaction. It’s something I’m working on. But I still sometimes step on a bloody lego brick and then turn the air blue in front of my children.

Or when my 5yo is completely ignoring my entreaties for him to stop chewing on a fidget spinner before he chokes on it, and the 10th time I ask him I shout, FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP CHEWING ON THAT BLOODY THING OR YOU’LL END UP IN HOSPITAL!

I am aware that this is not ideal parenting. Judge me as you will.

But I’ve also gotten better and better at showing more empathy with my children. When they get upset about something like misplacing a small plastic junky toy, or because one brother knocked over the other’s tower, I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry honey, I know you worked hard on that tower”. Instead of what I’m thinking, which is “get the f**k over it already”.

So every acorn of positive parenting, every time I offer some extra praise, is one to add to the pile that is making up for the fact that my eldest definitely knows all the swears and how to use them. I’m also working on replacing my swears with rubbish replacement words too. Like “oh FFFidget spinners” or “GoddaaaaarNit”.

Do life’s little problems sometimes get you down? What problems could you add to this list, and how do you deal with them? Here is the song, btw:

The Pramshed

Author: The Mum Reviews

Writing about women's health and wellness (especially for mums) as I try to stay sane in my crazy life.

20 thoughts on “Take all your problems & rip ’em apart”

  1. This is great, your right taking one problem at a time and working through it, is better. One of my favourite sayings is ‘I have 101 things to do’, my husband reminds me that I don’t and that I’m not helping myself. I get stressed about the housework, and sometimes I feel like everything just piles up on top of me. I stomp around our house like a child (actually did this, this eve), then inevitably cry. I have faith, which really helps, but I am shouty and grumpy (working on this). None of us are perfect, but it’s more important to recognise things we need to work on. Thanks for sharing this. xx #fortheloveofBLOG


    1. I think it is very productive to admit that we do cry and shout and grump because life can get on top of us, and reacting that way is human, and it’s the first step to improving ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you have been under a lot of pressure which many of us can relate to. The fact you are in the early stages months of grief will not help that. I remember those early months after my mum died 3 years ago and it’s a crippling time. Anything and everything brings it to the service and it can floor you for minutes to hours at a time. You’re definitely doing the right thing by just embracing it when it happens and accepting the grief. I did the same and as time passed, whilst it’s never healed, it’s become less raw and something more easily managed. If that even makes sense. Thinking of you as you go through this.

    You’re so right to take everything else step by step. Nothing else is that urgent. If you’re doing work and your family are happy and healthy then a bit of clutter doesn’t matter. And I don’t think anyone ever finishes there To Do list at work so definitely wise to let that go…

    Take care of yourself xxx #fortheloveofBLOG

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I lost my dad last year so I definitely know how much grief can affect your life. The acorn approach does sound like a good way of looking at things.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow I’ve not listened to the white stripes in years, even then I wasn’t totally in to them, I didn’t know that track!! Like the one acorn at a time philosophy though and so many of your examples are resonating with me. Especially the mum friends thing, I’ve never had many friends in life and for some reason I thought I would have loads of mum friends. So not true, a few will do! I’d rather have close friends than lots!! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think somehow the media or something make you think you’ll suddenly bond with loads of new people just because you birthed a baby at vaguely the same time but it totally doesn’t work that way!


  5. A great post Nicole – you are so right about tackling the enormity of a situation a little at a time. I find the mess in the house hard and also I can lose my temper a bit too often but just chipping away at things helps and having EMPATHY definitely helps. xx #familyfunlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My house is never tidy, but I just think to myself, the world will go on!! Thanks for joining us at #fortheloveofBLOG


    1. I get stressed and shout too. I think we all do! I’ve got another post on here called ‘a clean house is all in your head’. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. It sounds like you keep a much tidier house than me!


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