Do I REALLY need to do that???

As of now, my answer, barring a few minor exceptions, is no. Those of you with some lingering, ahem, issues with authority, come closer...You don't have to do it either! Once the goody-two-shoes stop gasping, I'll explain.


System Overload

As a woman, with a big family, who likes magazines, the internet, and the occasional reality show, I am pelted daily with the idea that I need a "system" or "routine". There are systems for everything! Shopping, meal planning, cooking, dressing, cleaning, laundry, decluttering, spending time with your kids, your spouse, your friends, budgeting/saving, losing weight, getting your kids to sleep, eat, read, poop, it just goes on forever. If you add homeschooling to that mix, it's enough to make your eyeballs bleed. Behind each of them, I'm sure, is a well-intentioned chap or gal making crap tons of money. Let me ask you a question. In your heart, deep in the cockles, maybe even the sub-cockles, how does all of this "routine" make you feel? If it makes you feel amazing, then you have my permission to stop reading. But, if you are like me, and it stresses you out, makes you feel like stifled crap, or turns you into "meanmommyneverletsusdoanything", read on. I am about to blow your mind.


You already know what to do

Yep. That's right, rebel. People have been keeping themselves and their children alive, fed, clothed, and relatively happy since the beginning of time. Remember your Grandma? (Mine was amazing. If yours sucked, you can mentally borrow mine. Ruth Robinson.) Somehow, she managed to create a warm, inviting home, full of yummy stuff to eat, fun stuff to do, and got me to eat my vegetables, all without a Home Management Binder. I'm sure there were routines she used that I did not see, but they were habits developed over years of living and doing. The woman grew up during the Depression. She could make dolls out of Kleenex and cookies out of dirt. (Ok, the second part is a lie, but the Kleenex dolls were awesome!) So, how DID she do all that?


Sadly, I don't know. Grandma Ruth died 25 years ago, so my adult mommy self never got to ask her. But my child self remembers how it felt. I am grateful every day for the stability and simplicity she provided in my early years, and the joy and fun my Grandpa Ruland always brought to the table. I really think it's what kept me from going off the deep end completely. I remember vividly a lot of quiet time at home, watching, helping, listening. I remember a basic rhythm to our days and weeks. I remember very clearly what the priorities were, because that is what we did. Period. And I promise you, there we no charts, checklists, email reminders, or any other artificial outside source of discipline involved. I think if anyone had tried to get Ruth Robinson to adhere to any sort of system, other than her own, she would have thrown her false teeth at them.


I am Ruth's grandaughter, through and through

I am a spiritual seeker, intelligent, inventive, quick witted, naturally organized, a lover of simple things, a good cook, voracious reader, digger in the dirt, slightly outspoken and stubborn as all get out. I do not like being told what to do or when to do it. Even in the most benign fashion. I have always had to find my own way, devise my own solutions, and establish my own routine. I have more than a small problem with authority, and the Doc Marten's to prove it. However, there has been something else going on, probably also since the beginning of time. Women comparing themselves to other women, and telling each other what to do. I'm no superhero. This stuff affects me too. If there is one distinct difference I can point to between Grandma and me, it's how exposed I am all the time. Information is constantly arriving, uninvited oftentimes, through channels that did not even exist 20 years ago. I won't go on some tirade about how TV is evil, because I don't think it is. I love media of all sorts. But the quality and tone of what is out there, well, it can be undermining to the confidence in ways that convince us that we really don't know what to do, or how to do it. In our time-crunched, financially unstable, consumer, competitive, celebrity obsessed world, we are all way more vulnerable to clever marketing ploys, even in the form of "systems".


This is where I get sued

Unless you were raised by wolves (not to disparage wolves, I'm sure they are great parents) you do not need to be told what to do, or how to do it. For instance:

  • Your body has an internal clock, which if permitted, will show you clearly when to eat and sleep. You will notice your own natural ebb and flow of energy, and can plan your days accordingly. So does your spouse. So do your kids. They may not all be the same, and little ones have to be taught how to listen to this built-in schedule. There also has to be room in your life, and adequate quiet, to detect these subtle shifts. Creating that environment can be really difficult, and is pretty against the grain in our society. If you work for someone else, or if you have kiddos in school, it's especially tough. Think about what most gets in the way of your internal rhythms, and IF YOU CAN, get rid of it. (Even if it's a "system" that is supposed to "work")
  • You already know what to eat. Advertising and marketing of all sorts have muddled the process, not made it better. Imagine if packaging, commercials, or special diets were not a factor! How much more free would you feel at the store, if everything were on the same playing field? Again, its about what is getting in the way of your own natural intelligence. Do an experiment, just to see. Next time you go food shopping, don't buy anything you have seen a commercial for. You'll be amazed at how much is at your regular grocery store that is natural simple food, and you'll be even more amazed at how well you can put a meal together. If you do this for a while, you will discover what it is YOU really want to feed your family, not what some advertiser wants you to buy. (Kick this up a notch and try it with self-care items or household products!)
  • Cleaning isn't hard. Or that big of a deal. It may well be that you have too much stuff, or too much house, and that can make cleaning a nightmare. Currently, I fall into the too much stuff camp. Decluttering is challenging, and can tap in to all sorts of anxiety about deprivation, future calamity, loss of money, memories, or autonomy. I am not one to advocate randomly tossing out all your junk. But, if you think about it, isn't it harder dealing with the crap on your counter, not the simple act of wiping your counter? My two year old knows to wipe up a mess, just from watching me do it. All cleaning is some combination of washing, wiping, or gathering up. Racoons and monkeys do it, for Pete's sake. Again, if you allow yourself the space, you already know what to do, because you've seen it done all your life.

Not all parts of all systems are bad

Sometimes, the noise in our daily lives is just too loud. Sometimes we are in a time crunch or emergency, and we need to be on autopilot. Sometimes, we just were never exposed to certain situations, and our inner wisdom gives us the silent treatment. In those cases, or any other time where you find yourself grasping at straws, I think learning from others is an amazing thing. There are some really great resources out there about time-management, cleaning tips, recipes, saving money, and being healthy. If you encounter something, and it lights you up and makes you feel great, by all means, integrate it into your life. I'm currently reading Tell Your Time, by Amy Lynn Andrews, and I'm really getting a lot out of it. Just beware of those insidious products that try and control this process for you. Some things to look for (and run away from):

  • Do you have to pay for it? Most information is available somewhere for free (blogs, conversation) or for a one-time investment of a minimal amount (classes, books, e-books). If it seems outlandishly priced, it's probably over-advertised. If it requires a paid subscription, unless it cooks you dinner and rubs your feet, it's probably not worth it.
  • Is there a lot of catchphrase/jargon/or other branding? Other than a basic brand identity and whatever is used to make something aesthetically pleasing, any other fluff is just brainwashing. Seriously. It's an attempt to make you identify with a product so you want to keep using it. Don't believe me? Read this!
  • Does it over complicate simple tasks or create a lot of busywork? Convincing you that you are incompetent to handle the monumental task before you (like cleaning your sink) or adding pointless jobs you never thought of doing (like dusting your houseplants) is just another way to keep you dependent on the product. If it takes you longer to read the directions than to do the task, get your information somewhere else.

There is so much more, but I'm no expert. I'm still sorting through this mire myself. It can be very hard to tell the difference between my intuition and what really makes me feel good, and what I'm constantly being told should work for me. I will be sharing what I figure out for myself along the way, and I'd love to hear about your experiences as well. I invite you to join me in bucking the systems!

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