Friday, January 25, 2013

I Got a System for That

Monday morning, my husband found me in the laundry room, pulling sheets out of the dryer.  He looked around a second with a confused expression and said, “Is it Tuesday?”  And for a moment, I wondered if my life is just a bit too structured.
Yes, Tuesday is laundry day and has been for many, many years in our household -- and my laundry routine is like a well-oiled machine.  Monday is bill-paying day and houseplant-watering day.  Saturday is grocery day (in NJ it was Sunday night, while everyone else watched football).  I make daily to-do lists, which are derived from my weekly to-do lists, which – when I’m really organized – are derived from my monthly to-do list.  I was just weeding through old documents on our computer hard drive and found scads of checklists for a multitude of household tasks:  weekly chore lists for the girls . . . packing lists for trips back to Kansas . . . year-end to-do lists for my Creative Memories business . . . checklists for things to get done during the holiday season.  I survive day to day on systems I have set up for the tasks I have to accomplish.  I promise you, I am not nearly as obsessive in this regard as I used to be, but I still wonder if I would do well to learn to live with a bit more spontaneity.
My daughter has been questioning this tendency in herself, also.  Lately, she has taken to making very detailed to-do lists for herself everyday – down to “brush my teeth” and “take my vitamins”.  Ironic, because she might be the most self-disciplined person in the house these days, yet she wants a list to be sure she doesn’t miss something.
“I’m too organized!” she whined to me the other night.  She has routines set up in her life regarding even the smallest of details . . . like, how she brushes her teeth, she tells me.  And yeah, that’s a little extreme, maybe.  But is it a problem?  I don’t know….
Personally, I’m thrilled that I’m able to rely on her getting done what she needs to get done without my nagging her.  Even the things she doesn’t enjoy doing, she gets satisfaction when they’re done because she can check them off her list and that’s satisfying.  I can SO relate to that.  I don’t think that’s unhealthy.  That’s knowing thyself and working with your personality to make your life go smoothly.  Right?
Now, I told her, if your lists and routines start stressing you out . . . if you get interrupted brushing your teeth and mess up your routine and it annoys you to the point that you have to do it all again . . . if you find yourself crying at night because you didn’t get everything crossed off your list . . . if you find you’re living for your system rather than your system working for you . . . THEN we have a problem.
Neither of us are there yet.  But I’m thinking that I may need to get intentional about finding swaths of time for us to be intentionally unintentional.  I remember a recent holiday season when we were in town for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s and I refused to allow myself to make any list of any kind for any day.  I was as completely spontaneous as I could be.  And it was WONDERFUL.
For a while.  And then came Monday – bill-paying day and houseplant-watering day – and I happily settled into my comfort zone again.  J

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