Monday, September 14, 2009

Reasonable Limits

In the last year and a half I have been making a conscious effort to make some changes. Seeking balance, having a more calm household (not always rushing here and there to too many appointments). I kept hearing the voice of a mother who briefly tried homeschooling and told my friend she was quitting as all the homeschool moms she met in my area were unbalanced and obsessed with their children in an unhealthy way. I never met her but wondered if she thought I was unbalanced? Her remark bothered me and it made me reevaluate my life and how I spend my time. Could it be that I was unbalanced in an unhealthy way?

I started making some changes. This process has been gradual. Each time I make a change I think it will have a large impact. Usually the effect of the change is small, not enough of a result as I'd hoped for. Yet making even a small change is not always easy or simple. To try to make more strides, I have to make more changes and see what happens then.

There is an internal struggle I have about limits and what is reasonable and attainable. My issue is that I want to do a zillion things all at once with immediate results and of course would like no problems along the way and success and happiness with everything tried. Yes I know that is unrealistic.

I don't quite know why I am sharing this but here is a peek inside my mind.

Some people think I do too many things. I feel like I don't do enough.

Some people think I have accomplished great things but even when I win something that I've worked to earn I don't always "feel" like anything is to be celebrated. I'm on to the next thing.

One impact that having a too-busy life had with me was I suddenly realized I had no time to feel gratitude for the good things that I was experiencing. One example is I love to take photos and did take them but had no time to even look at them. How ridiculous is that? While some moms choose to spend time scrapbooking and pouring hours into examining their own memories I was not even looking at the downloaded digital photos. I started making some changes to try to slow down to enjoy this life I'm living rather than just moving on to the next appointment and the next and the next.

As I back away from various committments and try to do less, I have found that some things have been neglected in my busy-ness in the past. I was way behind on filing papers that should be kept carefully. I was behind on filing printed photographs from before I owned a digital camera. I was behind on putting updated photos around my house in the frames. I was behind on hanging decorations on the wall that I'd bought. I was behind on decluttering my clothes and really should have been doing that on an annual basis.

At those times I felt it was a higher priority to be an active parent and to do fun and good things with my time. I let some things slide like keeping the house spotless.

Last year I took on a new perspective that to respect my belongings, I should care for them well. I live in a very nice house but was not appreciating it, thinking it was a burden to clean and maintain.

While doing things like decluttering the garage I'm unearthing stuff that's been sitting there for two or three years. I ask myself what was I doing with my time that I was not putting that stuff where it really belonged? Was it good enough for me to neglect the garage like that?

As I go through the house to declutter it and to reorganize it I see I own too much stuff. There are not enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do. I have craft materials to do X, Y, and Z with. I have books I want to read. I have cameras to use to take photos. I have stuff, too much stuff. Maintaining the stuff, moving it around, organizing it, that all takes so much time, time away from doing the things with that stuff I acquired.

I feel like this process of going through stuff and getting rid of it never ends. I thought I did great in 2008 when I got rid of lots and lots of stuff. Yet in 2009 there is even more to get rid of. And I don't feel like I've brought in a ton of new stuff!

I find it hard to find time to do big projects like this garage decluttering job. Trying to do those while fitting in the regular schedule of homeschooling my kids, eating three meals at home each day (from scratch), cleaning my own home, volunteering with Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, tending to our medical care and dental care, and all the rest takes time.

I think it comes down to limits. I seem to have an issue with a skewed idea of what I want to do and what I can actually do in real life. In my mind I wish I could do so many things and just don't have the time. Living with a feeling like I always have an unfinished 'to do' list puts me in a negative situation as I always feel like I'm not measuring up, not doing well because it never is done.

I also over-estimate how much time projects like decluttering take. I have grand hopes that with a whole Saturday I should be able to tackle the entire gargage. Wrong. In between stuff like eating, answering the phone and whatever else happens in the day I find I don't achieve as much as I'd thought I could. So that means another Saturday or Sunday in the near future will need to be booked off to make time to finish it up. That means more plans to decline, more telling the relatives, "Sorry we can't do that thing with you" and other such things.

As I look around my house I see intentions to do things and all that is not done. I have been making decisions about what will never get done or what I no longer want to do, then I let go of that stuff. This is because even if I don't buy anything new I still won't have time to do all that I had hoped to do with this stuff I own.

This is something I've seen on TV shows about clutter and I believe it to be true for myself. What it is, is when a home is filled with things that are not being used and remind a person constantly of what they have not done, it is negative and it is an oppressive feeling. If instead a home is filled with things actively being used or else has open free space where gotten rid of clutter used to be, a freeing and light feeling exists.

Since I've been trying so hard to keep my house clean and to get every room to be clutter free (not 100% accomplished yet), I have a happier feeling. I look around expecting to see a cluttered table top and instead see an empty table or just a couple of things on it like a lamp and perhaps a couple of framed photos. Wow, what a relief for the eyes to not see clutter!

I feel that my time is limited and I've been getting more selective about how I spend it. Some things I used to want to do with my time are now being labeled as undesirable.

Another wonderful thing that has happened to me is that keeping the house less cluttered and more clean makes it easier to keep clean and keep decluttered. Then when I do spend time tackling a pile that built up or putting stuff away that was left somewhere that it didn't belong, or doing the actual cleaning of the house, I am not feeling resentful or bad about myself.

Yesterday I wound up spending the whole afternoon helping my twelve year old son with his bedroom. This is the son of mine who likes clutter and mess. What started off as a simple tweaking of the way his room was organized wound up being a deep cleaning. He did most of the work while I watched and directed him. I wanted him to be the one to do the work to put away all the stuff he'd not put away before. I was not angry with him or resentful for having spent my day like that. And the room was not that bad, and the bones of the organized structure of the room were in place from the reorganization I did earlier this year, so the picking up went quickly. When the room was emptier it was fast and easy to deep clean.

I'm moving toward a healthy feeling of pride in my home. This is a very different view than I held in the past, when I hung up a plaque in my kitchen that said, "A Messy Home Means a Loving Mom". Where I'm at now, with the age that my kids are (nine and twelve), and helped by the fact that I don't work outside the home, is that I think I can juggle mothering, being a wife, homeschooling my kids and keeping a reasonably clutter free home that is clean. In between all that I've still been able to find time to do creative work for my own personal growth and fulfillment (blogging, knitting, photography), although I wish I could do more creative endeavors.

I'm working on resetting my mind's perception of limits and what is reasonable. I'm trying to celebrate the victories and feel good about what I have accomplished rather than thinking negatively about what is still not done.

So that is some of what has been on my mind lately...


Amy said...

I really identify with this, Christine, because I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS try to do too much.

Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

Excellent post, Christine. I too have recently been feeling overwhelmed by all the "stuff", feeling both frustrated by the fact that there is so much of it that goes unused, and grateful for the fact that we can afford it all.

It certainly is a balancing act. All of it. And I've always admired how you somehow manage to find time for yourself to do what you enjoy. I haven't managed to do any scrapbooking in well over a year. Whenever I find a free moment, I somehow end up guilting myself into filling it up with "shoulds".

My 9yo's room has been on my list to get to in the next couple of weeks. It's going to take a full day, but this time we are not going to just put everything away, we are going to do some serious weeding. He's been putting me off as long as he can, but I can't even walk in there to put his clean clothes away. And just how many action figures does one kid need?

Thanks for pointing out that "when a home is filled with things that are not being used and remind a person constantly of what they have not done, it is negative and it is an oppressive feeling." Reading that was a light bulb moment for me :-)

richmomma said...

I LOVE this post. I blogged about it here:

Thank you so much for writing about MY LIFE. :)

Cara said...

I just found this post, and I absolutely identify with what you've said. Some people think I'm doing too much, I feel like I'm not doing enough. There are things around my house (the scrapbooking supplies, the quilting supplies, various books, etc) that are a constant reminder of all the other things I would like to accomplish. Perhaps it is time to declutter those things, hide them, or at least be a little more realistic about them....Thanks for sharing such a great post!