The other day, I was talking with my friend Terry about her 103 year old Grandma Sylvia. Terry was telling me that Grandma Sylvia moved to an apartment in a senior community a few years ago and that, every time she visits, the apartment is neat as a pin. “I couldn’t believe it the first time I visited there,” Terry told me. “Even though she doesn’t entertain in her home any more, she still makes her bed every single morning. I asked her why, and she said, ‘I’ve always believed it’s easier to keep up than to catch up.’”
Grandma Sylvia is right. When we create systems for a smoother daily life at home, it’s like taking pebbles out of our shoes. We don’t waste valuable time or energy on things that drag us down and we are able to focus on projects that fulfill and inspire us.
1) Identify the pebbles in your shoe. What’s dragging you down? Is it that messy junk drawer? The closet full of clothes that don’t fit any more? A scattered approach to menu planning and grocery shopping? Use your journal to record your thoughts.
2) Decide whether the issue is one that’s worth addressing now. Studies show that, when families gather around the dinner table regularly, teens are less likely to engage in risky behavior. That’s a worthwhile objective! A messy junk drawer? If you can’t find what you need when you need it, you are likely repurchasing items like superglue, tape measures, etc., That’s a waste of money and mental energy that could be put to better use.
3) Create a plan of attack. Is the issue one you need to take on yourself, or can you delegate it or hire a professional? If the faucet’s been dripping for months, and you never seem to have time to watch that YouTube video on how to fix it, maybe it’s time to call a plumber. Grocery pick up and delivery services save so much time. Is that option right for you? Maybe your teen can drive over to the store this week. Can you arrange for a charity to pick up your discards, rather than taking them in yourself? Be creative in your approach.
4) Use a timer. Most tasks take so much less time to accomplish than we imagine! When my children were small, each afternoon I would set a timer for 2 minutes per room. I would set the timer and the three of us would tidy the room as quickly as we could until that timer went off and then we would move on to the next room. We made a game out of getting the house back to order each day and it only took 10 minutes to tidy the entire downstairs. If you have trouble finding time for those tasks you don’t feel like tackling, like cleaning the junk drawer, set a timer. When the buzzer sounds, you’re free! Set the task aside and spend time on it again tomorrow. Give yourself a small reward for getting it done, maybe a walk with a friend or some time reading.
When we take time remedy the small issues that sap our energy, and allow ourselves the freedom that comes from taking care of them, we find ourselves more able to devote ourselves to the interests and relationships that nourish us. We are able to live more vibrantly. Give it a try this week, and let me know how it goes.