How do you do it all?

I heard it again yesterday and at least 3 times before within a week.  Curious women asking, with perhaps a trace of angst in their voices and defeat on their faces, "How in the world do you manage to do it all?"

So, in case you are wondering, I am going to answer that question for my blog friends.  Same as I answered them.


Period.  I do not do it all.

And I don't even try and I don't even feel a smidge of remorse over it.  Or desire for it.

I have been just as guilty as anyone else to look at someone else and slap the "Epic Fail" label on myself.  Depending on which friend I am focusing on, I come to the conclusion that I should exercise more, clean my house better (or just clean it period), decorate every room simultaneously - looking like House Beautiful yet on the budget of Poor Richard's Almanac - prepare gourmet meals 3x day from wheat and coconut oil that I grind and/or extract myself, write a blog that has ads on it (translation - makes $), publish a book, teach my kids violin and Japanese, give seminars on how to be the perfect wife & mother, have 21 children and adopt 6 more, and definitely SCRAPBOOK ALL THE LOVELY MEMORIES OF EACH CHILD FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIFE.  Yeah, definitely that one.  All the while maintaining an impeccable spirit of patience and kindness and love, and perfectly manicured nails.

If I look at all the folks that can and do those things, I mistakenly believe that they do all of them.  And I am here to set the record straight - they don't.  I don't (do any of them!).  And neither should you. 

Here's what I do:

1. I give grace.
Grace to myself by embracing the truth that I am not designed to "do it all".  Grace for my friends who can't "do it all" either.  And grace for my family by not stressing us all out while I try and pretend that I can.

2.  I prioritize.
While we can't do "it all", we can and should do the "it" we are designed to do!  I constantly assess how I'm doing on keeping my priorities in order.  And I ask for input, even when it's painful...
My husband's needs and desires for our family trump everything else.  This week, he held a conference for his department and vaguely hinted at needing something for the "goody bags".  I offered to make strawberry jam and this took priority over all other projects I had planned.  Note: he didn't insist on this, didn't even really ask for it.  Instead, this was an opportunity for me to bless him and to live out my priorities.
After hubby come kiddos.  Yep, my family comes before church or "ministry".  While I don't (always) jump at whatever the kids are asking me to do, the needs of their schedules and lives take precedence over my Bible studies, my blog, and my friends.  My family IS my ministry!
As the children have gotten older and more independent, I have more disposable time to invest in other places.  But they will always rank higher in the pecking order than anything outside my home.  Especially exercise.........

3.  I outsource and delegate.
BIG on this idea!  I don't do all the cleaning in our home. The kids are largely responsible for the day to day cleanliness of our home (which is why we suggest all our guests be up to date on immunizations...JK)  I do most of the cooking but lunch is most always "YOYO" - You're on your own.
Whatever I can afford to outsource, I do.  I know women who can repair cars, monogram gift items,  and maintain their own heating/cooling systems, but I can't.  Perhaps I should say I don't because I'd like to think I could learn if I had to.....but while we can afford to have someone else do these things, I consider it  my patriotic duty to contribute to the economy by paying to have it done.

4.  I plan ahead.
I am always on the lookout for things I can do ahead of time that will save me time later.  Often, it saves me money as well.  I deliberately choose projects, menus, etc that can be broken up into smaller increments and done a step at a time.  For instance, that strawberry jam I mentioned.  A week before I knew we would need to make jam, I had already purchased and processed scrumptious berries into 3 cup portions and stashed them in the freezer.  Ready for smoothies or my strawberry bread recipe.  Now I could use some of them for strawberry jam.  Same for apples that I grate and store in bags to be used in my apple cake recipe.  Makes end of year teacher gifts a snap.
Speaking of gifts, I have a "gift box" under my bed which houses things I purchase on sale and stash until time for a hostess gift or birthday present.  Helps avoid some of those mad dashes to the store at the last minute.  Saves $ too :)

For me, planning ahead means not putting off what can be accomplished early. That's pretty self-explanatory but just for the sake of example, I'll share that I think it's a good idea to get up early, make up your bed as soon as you get out of it, don't waste time doing meaningless things, and (loosely) plan your day the night before.

And it means being prepared.  Maybe not Y2K proportions, but being prepared saves my hide more times than I can count!  (and the converse is also true.....)

I have some other ideas about organization that help save time, money, and sanity in this series:
Tips for the UNorganized,
Planning ahead really helps me do the "it" I'm called to do!

5. I lower my  expectations.
Now, don't hear what I'm not saying.  I am all for excellence!  My husband just taught this principle to  our Young Marrieds Sunday School class this week.  Yes, I am all for excellence.  But perfectionism and excellence are two different things.
"Excellence" is for the glory of God and the blessing of others.
"Perfectionism" is for the glory of self and a manifestation of pride. 
When I say "lower expectations", I am talking about going back to point #1. Giving grace all around.  Not trying to appear that I have it all together and can do more than someone else.  Not being impatient with people that don't have strengths in the areas I value but instead seeing their strengths as being different than mine and also to be treasured & applauded.
Strive to do the best you can, even in the "little" things but not so that you look good in someone else's eyes.  Do the best you can at that moment, given the resources (sleep, money, energy, giftedness) available to you at that time.  And be content with the results.

6.  I consider timing.
"It all" today won't look like my "it all" next year.  I don't attempt to do all that I am equipped to do at the same time.
  For example, I don't teach a Bible study every semester.  Even though I dearly love to do that and am called to teach women, I don't try to do it nonstop.  I need time to study and prepare...and replenish and maintain my priorities.
I look ahead at the calendar and guard our commitments so that our family as a whole isn't overscheduled.  If my hubby and/or kids have a lot of obligations in a certain week, I don't add to the stress level by hosting a Tupperware party in our home at that time.  And I don't let the kids commit to too many things either...even if "they love it!!"

Psalm 1:3 says
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers

Different seasons are to yield different fruit.  Know which one you're in.  Don't try to produce out of season.
And, in order to keep bearing that fruit and not wither, we need to be sure we are planted so that we continuously receive the Living Water.  Over and over and over.

The main thing

I deliberately saved this tip for last.  It could've been the first one, because it really is the most important.  Without this tip, none of the others matter at all.

Yesterday I shared a couple of things I learned during my years at the Chick-fil-A office.  Today, I have another one.

Truett used to say "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." 

What's your main thing?  Are you keeping it the main thing?

For me, that means  a commitment to regular time with the Lord.  This is what guides me, transforms me, equips me.  I can have all organizational tools known to man.  I can have every corner of my house...and perfect order. I can complete impressive and extensive to do lists. And I can try and meet everyone else's expectations of me.  But if I don't follow the plan He has for me, everything else is meaningless.

When I have time with Him, I am able to hear Him throughout the day, directing my steps, leading me to where He wants me to be.   Some days, it might be to teach a Bible study to scores of women or to get all my Christmas shopping done in July. Other days, it might be to rock my baby for hours so that she might sleep when she has an earache.  It could be to visit the inmates in the county jail or take my Mom to the grocery store.  Other days, it might be to listen to a friend whose world is falling apart all around her or to bake chocolate chip pies for the freezer. Sometimes it's to accompany my husband to a ball game or to get some rest so I can get up early the next day. Or it might be to sing some hymns as I sit in wonder at His feet, amazed at His power and wisdom and grace and love.

And sometimes, time with the Lord means pouring out my heart that I messed up the plan.  Failed again to hear Him or to follow the directions that I did hear.  You know what I find at these times?  Grace.  Amazing grace.  Enough to cover all my failures.  All my mistakes.  All my selfishness and laziness and stubbornness and inadequacies.  Forever. And enough grace to pick me up and give me courage to try again. Trying to keep the main thing...the main thing.

Thanks for joining me on the quest to be organized.  I hope you have found some tips that will help you live well the life He's called you to .
But just in case you mess up, remember that the main thing isn't a tidy linen closet.  Nor dinner in the freezer.  Nor a crossed off list of things done. The main thing isn't what you think you need to get done and it's not what everybody else things you ought to do.

The main thing is Him.  And what He wants you to do.  And there is always enough time to do everything He's called you to do.  Every day.


Just do it

I had the great privilege of working for several years for Chick-fil-A Inc .   It was a wonderful opportunity for many reasons, not the least of which are the lessons I learned from founder Truett Cathy and then President Jimmy Collins.  Today's tip comes from a couple of those such lessons.

I recall hearing Jimmy often say - "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." By watching his example, I learned to always have a plan.  When circumstances change, that plan can be adjusted but it always helps for a plan to be in place.  I am not suggesting rigidity nor am I naïve enough to think that simply having a plan can always prevent disaster.  But, not having a plan, well, that's a recipe for failure.  Apply this to everything from finances to social schedule to housekeeping.  A plan.

The other lesson comes from Truett.  I heard him speak to many different groups and his message often included these three points:
The formula for success is simple -
1.  You gotta have the "want to"
2.  You gotta get the "know how"
3.  Then, you just gotta "do it".

Over this past month, I have shared with you my coping mechanisms to survive my natural bent towards being unorganized.  If you suffer from a similar ailment, then I encourage you to take a tip or two and develop it into a habit.  Make a plan.  Learn how to do something that you aren't succeeding at right now.  Maybe it's meal planning or being on time or taking care of laundry.  You hold the key to the "want to".  There's plenty of "know how" out there if you want it.

Now just "do it".

Good luck!  I'm cheering for you !

Pick up lines

Nope, I am definitely not organized but I've developed enough habits that help me survive.  Without too much collateral damage in the process.

Today's Tip:

Pick up after yourself.  Yep, that's it.  Simple, yes, but amazing at how much this habit keeps clutter and chaos and incapacitation at bay.  I like breaking tasks down into manageable steps instead of attacking a mountain all at once. 

When I come in the door - purse goes on the coat hook, shoes in the basket by the door.  And kids do the same.
When I am cooking, I put things away as soon as I use them.
I urge (ok - insist??) that things be returned to their proper room after use.  School books, games (although of course I allow the world's longest running game of Risk to remain at the dining room table until world domination is achieved, even if that takes several days!)
Meal clean up happens as soon as we finish.  And since I cleaned up as I cooked, the eating phase clean up is easier.

Decluttering is nullified if we don't maintain the environment.  Simply picking up after ourselves - cleaning as we go - is easier than letting it build up. 

Even if your kids say otherwise!

Declutter. Repeatedly

The buzz word is "declutter".  Fancy for "get rid of stuff". 

Although I think I have done this successfully, somehow "stuff" multiplies and/or my house possesses a magnetic field that attracts clutter in the dead of night.  I need to consistently go through drawers and cabinets and toss "stuff". 

Having less stuff to keep track of makes organization easier.  And "decluttering" doesn't have to be a daunting task.  I like to tackle 15 minutes worth at a time.  Just 15 minutes can clean out a linen closet or several drawers.  A quarter of an hour every day for a week will result in an entire room spiffed up.

Today's suggestion - start somewhere easy, like the laundry room (or laundry closet, like I had for most years of my married life!) or hall closet.  Attack it for 15 minutes.  Toss the trash, donate the surplus, and straighten up the rest. The payoff of an organized corner of your house far exceeds the investment of some 15 minute blocks!!