Breaking the rules

Sometimes you have to learn to break the rules

 

Perfection

1. Not getting started because it's not perfect


Get rid of the idea that someday it will be perfect, complete, done. This is an impossible goal. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Nothing will ever be perfectly organized, perfectly clean or perfectly flowing along. There will be bumps and bruises along the way no matter how much we try to control things.  My significant other really taught me to relax and spend more time enjoying my life and what I was doing, rather than worrying the details to death. I used to be filled with a lot of anxiety and this constant quest to get it all right.  It wasn't until I let go of all of those ideals that I was able to start really enjoying my life and my family. My motivations are a lot different nowadays. I wouldn't have a website or even a business if I hadn't let go of this rule. Too often we spend time worrying or not acting because it won't be perfect. The key to my own success is working with what I have rather than waiting until I can make it perfect. You can also change or edit things later.


 2. Perfection in chores.


 I had an epiphany one day. I've had a few over the years of course, but this was a game changer for me. I've been a stay at home mother while working on projects and houses for over 10 years now. I finally realized that if I always kept score based on whether the dishes or laundry were done, then I'd always be losing. As I compared myself daily to this elusive rating system, by which I judged my effectiveness as a mother, a person, a significant other, I was never coming close to a 100%.  Let's face it-the things we do daily, over and over will never be done. These things are life's daily habits and chores not something to keep score about it. It is a rhythm and way of life, never ending and sometimes overwhelming. Trying to judge your worth by these things is meaningless. It's the work we don't see or get a gold star for that is by far more important. Instead of did I get the house clean or did I  remember to wash their school shirt it became did I love my kids today?  Did I make them laugh, did I make them smile and feel loved? Did I listen to them when they tried to talk to me? Did I play with them when they asked me? Did I have time for them? Or was I too worried about my never ending to do list of chores, chores, chores? You have to be deliberate in your choices of what matters and what doesn't. 


I sure wish I had been able to see this when they were little. I was completely overwhelmed when I was a new mother and everything was always a mess. Laundry and dishes felt like mountains I'd never conquer. My only regrets are that I wish I had enjoyed it more and worried less. This new perspective would have completely changed things for me. When I started changing my decisions to incorporate these new ideas I made a seemingly simple decision. I decided I'd do laundry on Thursdays only and that was that. Every time I walked into the laundry room and saw piles of laundry I'd just shake my head and say," it's not Thursday". Once I set this new routine in place, which worked with my schedule and may need adjustments in yours, everything changed.  I started to set up a loose routine and gave small tasks so my kids pitch in. Sometimes they help fold the laundry or match socks. I resist the urge to refold their items and just appreciate the help. Who cares if the shirts are folded the same way or if they  don't put it into their drawers as neatly as I'd like? My kids are learning more about the routines of life and the satisfaction of contributing to a family. They are hearing my thanks and appreciation without the relentless pursuit of perfection hanging over them. They are contributing to our household and developing their own system just as I continue to develop mine. 


3.  Believing You have to do it all


 My kids pitch in with the housework in small ways that work for us. Because we all do it, it only takes a few minutes. We focus on working together quickly for a few minutes at a time to keep things tidy and clutter free so we all enjoy our nights and weekends together.  They are responsible for emptying their laundry basket on fridays, and they tend to do it right after school. We talk a lot about how doing things first frees us to focus on what we what to do.  They also straighten their room and everyday after school they hang up their own jackets and bring their lunch kits to the kitchen. These systems are easy to maintain because we set it up that way. I have low hooks for coats they can easily reach and a large basket for mitts and things.  There are no roadblocks to completing these simple chores with reachable hooks and baskets to contain messes. It's not perfect but we all pitch in often enough in small ways that it's never overwhelming anymore. And ask your spouse to help you. Be specific about exactly what would be helpful to you. 


#4. We don't stick to the list 100% but enough that we stay on top of it


We don't always do chores everyday without fail,  but we do them often enough and consistently enough that it's mostly ingrained in all of us now.  For the most part we all keep the system going.  I have tweaked my weekly routines as we went, adjusting things as it made sense to do so.   I eventually added Tuesday for an extra load or 2 of laundry. I applied these ideas to cleaning my office and filing as well.  Now Monday has long been my day to work from my home office so on Fridays I clean and organize it now. It was a simple change to my routine that made all the difference. I set aside the tasks I will complete on Monday and file the rest away. So when Monday comes around everything I need to focus on has been arranged and my work space is clean and uncluttered.  I'm not thinking about it anymore. It won't ever be done so I've stopped using it as a basis to keep score. I do one chore a day besides making our bed daily,  and doing dishes.  Perfection is the enemy of the good.  I have no idea  where I saw this quote, but it's good and it's true. My house isn't ever going to look like a page in a magazine, even if I help design houses for a living except for maybe a few  rare moments of life. The fact is I have lived in houses more in need of renovations than completed ones. Kids keep wearing clothes, and dirty dishes keep multiplying like they are mutating so set it into a routine and forget about the elusive perfect house and perfect score. It doesn't  exist.  


#5 Pinterest Parties, Houses, Lives


As a mom of two boys, I spent some time stressing about birthday parties, Christmas presents, perfect houses and following the crowd in scheduling our lives to revolve around more lessons and sports teams. Over the years, I have learned to embrace what is most important, rather than what looks good.  Because in reality a good party needs a fun activity and good treats, more then it needs perfect decor and invitations.  Christmas gifts around activities like family board games,  family outings, active toys fuels the soul of your family far more than wasting boat loads of money on more plastic  crap... You will regret filling your basement or playroom with all the  latest and greatest toys of the moment. You will start smuggling that shit out of there in black garbage bags under the cover of darkness.  Don't do it. Don't buy into the hype of more, more, more.  Ask what activities your kids most want to do instead of toys and video games. We focus on making Christmas baking and I let them go nuts with decorating sugar  cookies and a gingerbread house. The kids deliver samples to our families  and neighbors, they show their friends their creations with pride. We share with everyone. 


Our boys don't play a lot of recreational sports for two reasons. One, we travel to visit our family regularly and we go out to our cabin as often as possible, driven by the weather rather than regularly scheduled activity. Our weekends are free to do as we please.  The boys have been in soccer and gymnastics, but they are not driven to  be involved yet in a way that isn't us pushing them to do it. So we assess each time they mention what they would like to do. Our oldest is  interested more in the idea of cadets and beavers than sports teams. And my youngest has tried karate, soccer, gymnastics, swimming along with  his brother. None of this really stuck for them, so we just keep checking  back in. I used to worry I was doing my kids a disservice but now I see  how letting them decide what interests them has been far more  important. They have a list of things they have chosen and we have  actively sought out ways for them to be exposed to their own interests. Music and robotics are top of the list these days.  We are far more open to opportunities than being stuck in a structured  and demanding schedule of teams, practices , forced travel,  fundraisers and expenses. This frees  us up to channel money, time and energy into things we enjoy as a family rather  than keep up with the Jones'. I focus on spending time with my family, and what things will bring & keep us together. How can I support my kids in their own interests? How can I build their skills while hanging out together? What opportunities can I seek out to be active in ways that fulfill us? 


And if you are thinking but I like all those things you are suggesting not to do, then you have missed the point altogether. My simple advice is to build your life and family time around what is most important to YOUR family, not mine or the Jones'. If I've learned anything in all my years of working with people is that we are as uniquely different as we are the same but the only happy ones are the ones that march to the beat of their own drummer. 


What kinds of things can you do for yourself to expand on your own interests and goals? What would you do if you didn't worry about it being perfect? My own experiment with this idea is to keep writing on my website. I know there are errors and mistakes, but I've been posting anyways and cleaning it up after. This way my relentless pursuit of perfection doesn't stop me from doing what I really want to do. Some day I'll get it all cleaned up! We often forget about ourselves when we become caretakers of others-a spouse, a child, an older parent and I've  given up that idea as well. Now what I want and need is just as  important and scheduled into my life as my kids activities and interests.  And I'm going to do it anyways, no matter how far from perfect.

 

Carrie Sansom
 

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