"I need help!"My 5 year old whined pitifully as he shifted, eyes darting back to his toy pile. With a toy bin under one arm, a bucket of toys in hand, Iron Man costume draped over one shoulder, and random toys stacked and tucked wherever he managed to jam them onto the pile, my son started to cry. "I need helllllllpppp!" he sobbed, his eyes darting back and forth between the toys left behind, the toys he was about to drop, and the place he was trying to get to.
Silly kid, I thought, why doesn't he just put some stuff down and take smaller trips? Instead, he tries to carry everything at once, drops things, gets upset, feels helpless, demands help, and eventually makes the process longer and harder than it needed to be.
This got me thinking....How often do I do the very same thing? In our world, today, we try to have it all and do it all. It's easy to get overwhelmed.
This is pretty much a daily feeling for me. I stay home with the kids, take online courses (although I'm on break at the moment), blog, run an online business, write, work from home for my internship, do housework (ok, we're gonna sit here and laugh at that blatant lie), care for pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and two aquariums with fish, shrimp, snails, and a frog), hold a small church calling, indulge my social media habits (especially pinterest), read far too many books at once, spend countless hours trying to "get the most out of my Netflix free trial", (I know I'm forgetting something here!), run errands, take kids to/pick up from school, babysit my adorable niece (which also checks "be sure my only daughter gets to spend time with another girl around her age" off my list), take kids to counseling appointments (for autism, ADHD, etc.), and somehow expect to be able to take care of my three kids and husband, and spend meaningful and quality time together. And I'm actually not the busiest person I know. In fact, compared to the average mom around here, I'm pretty laidback.
So how do we have it all and not feel overwhelmed? We don't. We don't need it all, in fact, all is too much. I know I've heard that before.... I love how Steven Wright joked, "You can't have everything, where would you put it?" If we try to keep living like this, we'll end up just like my five year old, whimpering about how hard things are, feeling like we can't give up because we have to get this done, unable to move forward, not willing to let go.
How do we fix this? In two words: simplify, prioritize.
For those unfamiliar with Henry David Thoreau, he is one of my all time favorite people. He lived in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere for a time and came up with a wonderful concept that can help anyone. He said: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life... Yes, I know he's a old, dead guy, but isn't that beautiful?
So, let's fix this! First, let's simplify. We put so much extra upon ourselves every day, how much do we truly need to allow into our lives? What would happen if I watched one less tv show a day, or spent fifteen minutes less on the computer? I bet I can find even more habits I can get rid of and barely miss.
Then prioritize. What are the most important things in my life, what do we need most? Family, religion, food, clothing, shelter. Ok, that means that, technically, anything that fall outside those necessities, I don't need to live. They might still be good things that enrich my life, but they're not essential to survival.
Look at your life. What is essential? What is enriching? What is just extra? What can I live without? What do I put first? Am I letting good things get in the way of the essentials?
I really need to work on this!
Want more info on how to prioritize and simplify? Check out "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey from your local library.