Fresh Start Fridays: What They Did for My Family


Yacht Knot

The Hub and I are doing some assessment. We're taking a look at where we are from a variety of perspectives and determining where we need to direct our family ship. This is a good exercise for us. We have always operated as a team, and we've had some heavy stuff to deal with over the last six months or so.

We work well together, thankfully, and we're often on the same, or similar, wavelength. What we are not are resolution makers. However, we have consciously made a choice that will positively impact our family in the coming year, and years to follow. We intend to Simplify.

One word, laden with a lot of meaning for us, in both the literal and figurative senses. We need to simplify our finances, simplify our commitments to outside entities, simplify our home. You see, we are pack-rats. My hub brings things back from the transfer station after dumping the trash and recyclables. I accumulate things, paper -- stuff -- without ever creating a proper "home" for any of it in the first place. We hang on to things, I think, because for so long we didn't have a lot. I was a single woman living alone, just scraping by when we got together -- he was living in a friend's basement, recently separated.

But we can be emotional pack-rats as well. Our burdens weigh heavily on our minds. And I know that when I have a lot on my mind (lately, it's been primarily financial concerns, with my kids' education taking the number two slot) my stress bleeds out into my day to day interactions. I'm short and snippy with my kids. I'm grumpy and frazzled and overwhelmed, so when the boy really wants a cereal bar for breakfast and all I can offer him is toast, I'm sometimes more biting and snotty about my response than I'd like to be.

My son gets off the bus one day, turns back to the driver and shakes his fist at him before the door closes; he stomps down the driveway toward the house. I hear my daughter bark at her brother, "Just give me ten minutes to myself!" but what I really hear are my words and tone coming out of her mouth.

It's because I have been wearing my worries and my stresses and even the little frets like a flak jacket. I'm ready to snap-to and deal with the next tiny little bump in what would otherwise be a smooth day if I didn't have so much shit on my mind. Armed with my shell of tension, I am actually doing my children a disservice. My stress and my worry are multiplying, it's playing out in my kids' day to day existence ... right now.  I'm creating stress fractals in my family.

I come to this realization as I am washing my hands. I look out the window at the dusting of snow on the deck, but I don't see it. Sound bites echo in my head of angry things I've said. I think of the patience I've not had. I remember scenes where I'd flung something down in frustration. None of these incidents are at all related to the "big" concerns I've had lately.

Part of the point of our Simplify motto is the intent to reduce our overall burdens. It means getting the financial picture to a place where we can appropriately manage what we've got on our plate. It means cutting out things that don't matter -- tangible and otherwise. It means, overall, less stress. More importantly, fewer fractals of that stress reflected back at me when I look at my kids.

When they got up the day after my hand-washing epiphany, I announced that it was "Fresh Start Friday". I told them that I had a lot of things on my mind lately, and that I realized how snappy and impatient I'd been. I wanted to make a fresh start. We talked about how each of us would make it a Fresh Start Friday.

And, we all had great days -- there were no bus shenanigans, I didn't hear my girl parroting my bitchiness. We really did make a fresh start. And we've had pretty good days since then. My stresses haven't evaporated by any means. But simply being more mindful of the tension I was creating for the people around me has already reduced the weight of the burden I've been carrying. Which makes it easier to not get all cranky over every little thing -- and frankly that is much simpler than using my energy to get all pissed off over every single annoyance.

There's something to be said for mind over matter.


Have you ever called for your own "Fresh Start Friday" or worked toward simplifying things in your life? Share your insights and experiences in the comments.

Margaret Maurhoff Barney is a writer and blogger from New Hampshire. Over the coming year, she hopes to continue to find ways to simplify her family's life. Read more from Margaret at her blog, Just Margaret, or via Facebook and Twitter.


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