Recommended reading: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 2014 bestselling book by Greg McKeown, on clearing your life of “have-to-dos” you really don’t have to do.
More recommended reading: Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most. McKeown’s 2021 sequel to Essentialism, for those who feel they’ve cleared their lives of all possible nonessentials and still don’t have time for the essentials.
As a parent of young children, can you relate to the feeling that no matter how hard you work at managing your time, there’s always too much to do? If so—and if you “don’t have time” to read a whole book on improving the situation—here are a few starter ideas for making a dent in everyday overload and stress.
Start With the Right Attitude
Every time you tell yourself something is “impossible,” you make it a little less possible for you. So the first clutter category to attack is the negative thinking that adds weight to every other problem. Make a habit of affirming, daily or hourly, that “I can get through this, I will get through this, I do have what it takes.”
Nip Clutter Increase in the Bud
One disadvantage of a prosperous, industrialized society is that it’s easier to acquire new things than clear out old things—and the 2020–21 increase in at-home time has worsened the problem, as record numbers of consumers purchase new products for private leisure or for home-and-gardening projects. Not that there’s anything wrong with such projects—or with bolstering the economy—but often, we invest money and space in things we never use, don’t need, or already have. Before your next “nonconsumable” (or slowly consumable) purchase, ask yourself:
Do I have solid plans for making use of this?
Is it really the best item for the job, or would something I currently own work as well?
Am I sure I don’t already have one of these stashed in the basement?
And remember, “clutter” affects schedules as well as physical space. If you’re in the habit of saying “yes” to every request, now is the time to get more thoughtful about it—and perhaps encourage your children to do more things for themselves.
Beware the “Now or Never” Trap
No one “has to” squeeze their entire bucket list into the current month, year, or decade. Choose a few top priorities for each season, and you’ll be better able to give things the attention they deserve and conserve your energy and enthusiasm for future goals. (And as a parent, remember that shoe-tying and chauffeuring won’t be part of your daily schedule forever.)
Remember That “Essential” Doesn’t Necessarily Equal “Productive”
When all is said and done, often all the wrong things got done. Never be so busy giving your kids everything material that you forget the deeper essentials of spending time with them and listening to them. A spotless house soon collects new dirt, but the warm feelings of a loving home can influence a dozen generations to come.