Clutter has become a very negative, very bad word, and for good reason. Clutter is just an unnecessary accumulation of stuff you don’t need.
But what happens when the clutter isn’t just the piles surrounding you in your physical space? What happens when the clutter that surrounds you is in your life, your schedule?
We live in a society that thrives on, and glorifies, being busy. It isn’t just a way of life now, it’s the answer to a question.
“How are you guys?”
“Oh good. Ya know, just super busy.”
“Oh, us too.”
I’ve made a conscious decision not to use that word or that answer. Instead, I answer honestly and say “Great! We have a lot going on, but we’re doing great.”
I get that my answer doesn’t have the same allure or sexiness as “busy”, but being busy is a state of mind I don’t want to live in. Being busy never got me anything and certainly never got me anywhere.
Being busy gives us the illusion of productivity and I have my own theories as to why this is happening now more than ever.
FOMO. Fo’ sho.
If you aren’t familiar with FOMO, don’t worry. I wasn’t either until about a year ago where I finally googled the damn thing because I was sick of feeling like that old woman who didn’t understand the young, hip lingo. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out and it has become a real thing in our lives, causing us to bulk up on activities in our schedules that we otherwise wouldn’t even care about doing.
Social media has now made it possible to see not only what your friends and family are doing, but how minor acquaintances are spending their time. Rather than being content with the glimpse into one another’s lives, we are on a mission to outdo one another. If her kid can be in ballet, tap, gymnastics, horse riding lessons, archery, robotics and underwater basket weaving, then my kids needs to be, too!
However, there is another way to live your life. It’s called FOBBAE and I just made it up. That is the Fear Of Being Busy And Exhausted. That is how I live my life. Watch out, because FOBBAE will be sweeping the nation.
I don’t want to be exhausted. I don’t want to be a taxi driver all day. I don’t want to not have down time, or flex time to spend with my family. I don’t want my home calendar to be illegible from all the activities being squeezed in. I don’t want to be running from one thing to the next, both physically and figuratively. I want to be present. I want to do only the things that bring my joy and I want my kids to do the same. I don’t want to be busy.
Whether you believe it or not, or want to admit it or not, you are in complete control of how busy or relaxed you are. Being overwhelmed isn’t due to the activities on your calendar, it is your state of mind. You can choose to live a busy, frazzled life with a schedule that rivals the President, or you can choose to be more mindful about what you do with your time. The choice is yours, always.
Here are some of the ways you can declutter your family schedule and become more present and less exhausted with all the “stuff” you have going on.
Decide on and set your priorities: Have non-negotiable tasks and events in your schedule: Just like uncluttering your physical space, sometimes it is easiest to get rid of the things you don’t after setting aside the things you absolutely know you can’t live without. There are things on your calendar that are non-negotiable, or at least you would like to think they are, but how often are they being pushed aside for less important events or tasks? Let’s say that going to church each week is highly important to you, but you can’t remember the last time you got yourself up early enough on a Sunday to go workshop with your friends and family? Perhaps the reason is because you’ve scheduled brunches for Sunday mornings with friends, or stayed out too late on a Saturday to even consider getting up to a Sunday morning alarm, or maybe the rest of your Sunday is so filled with running around, you’d rather snooze a few hours longer so as to prepare for the day. Whatever the case is, if heading to church with your family is important to you, you have to make it important. It is up to you to put those things on the calendar and make them non-negotiable. If the calendar says church, then come hell or high water (excuse the pun) you are going to church.
Say no: This tip is basically my go-to in almost every situation, because most clutter, whether it be physical, mental, emotional or in the form of a schedule is the result of saying yes to too many things. Saying no is your way of drawing a line in the sand. It sends a message that you are in control of your own life, schedule, calendar and priorities. The great author Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. Saying no doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it is the ticket to living a life on purpose. Saying no is the currency you need to buy back your own time from people who, whether they realize it or not, want to become your priority.
Divide and conquer: If you have a spouse or a partner, divide up your errands or activities so that one person isn’t doing all the driving or brunting the stress of being in 20 places at once. If you are finding that you are doing this constantly, however, it probably means that something has to go. This is a great tip for that season where everything seems to be happening at once, but you know there is an end in sight.
Batch the running around: I can’t tell you how many times I hear moms say that they are constantly running out to complete errands. This gives you the illusion of having a much more cluttered schedule and is a waste of time. Give your errands more thought and plan out your trips. Having to “run” out multiple times a day wastes time and fills your schedule will unnecessary traveling.
Only allow the most essential activities to be done: This is very similar to priorities, but takes it to another level. Every time you feel pulled to say yes to an activity, ask yourself if it is essential to your life’s purpose or your family priorities? Will this bring you closer to your goals as a family? Will it be something that brings you joy or will it just be another things cluttering up your calendar, making you resentful that you agreed to it in the first place?
Work in seasons: When it comes to having kids in sports or other extracurricular, I know many families who allow one per season and no more than that. That is an excellent compromise between doing all the things and doing nothing at all. This can also work for your entire family. Perhaps choose one thing you will say yes to each weekend, or month, or season. We do this at home and it has been a great way to feel like we are giving our kids fun experiences, but also allowing us downtime without the constant running around (that I loathe, by the way.)
Give up the superhero mentality: You, my dear, sweet, beautiful mom, are not a superhero. You have superhero qualities, don’t get me wrong, but you cannot do everything. The more easily you embrace this fact, the easier it will be to totally unclutter your life. You can’t be everywhere, see everyone, do everything and the moment you stop trying (and failing) at this is the moment you will find peace in doing only the most important things to you.
Ok, so we've got your schedule uncluttered, but what about the rest of the house? Is the clutter taking over and causing you to think "It would just be easier to move to a yurt." The problem is, you don't even know what a yurt is and you love your home, so let's find a better way. I've designed a checklist just for moms like you who are ready to take the junk by the proverbial horns and get uncluttered for good. Download your free copy of the Purge it Like It's Hot list. Room by room, you'll find out what to toss for good.