The Terrible “To Do” lists

My husband Keith and I have been so excited about all the changes that are taking place in our home, and our new perspective on life that we assumed it would be easy for others to understand and be happy for our journey. But we spent the weekend with some people close to us and they were far from supportive. I had forgotten how gradual it was for us to learn what we have learned, and expected them to have the same perspective. They did not, and maybe they never will. But it is so liberating to throw things out, and de clutter my life that I want you to know how it feels. I know Heavenly Father wants to be a part of our lives, and in order for us to let him in we MUST make room. Room in our homes, room in our schedules, and room in our minds.

What I have written below is what I have learned about my “to do” lists, and Satan’s plan.

I have wondered far too many times why mundane repetitive tasks are a part of Heavenly Fathers plan. So many days of my life have been spent repeating the tasks I did the day before. Cleaning, washing, folding, piles of dishes, toys away, relocating items, putting things away for the 100th time…etc. I know we all have purpose here, and I have often wondered how to find that purpose when I was buried in tasks to do. At one point I finally decided it must be because I need to be able to find joy in the mundane, and learn to live happily among the chaos having children brings. I also thought it was to learn to prioritize, to show Heavenly Father that I could do what He wanted me to do first, then fill in all the “need” to do tasks later. I was trying to do scripture study, plan FHE, exercise, do service, prepare healthy meals for my family, and have playtime/structured time with my kids, and get my food storage because I knew Heavenly Father had asked me to do those things. But all while doing those things I was distracted by my to do list…how was I going to organize the pantry, clean out the garage, wash AND fold all the laundry, clean out the coat closet, buy Dylan the perfect dress for her school performance, decorate my bedroom, plan the perfect birthday party for Finley, finish the logo for a client, e-mail the school back about Logan’s upcoming party, organize baby books…etc. The list is always HUGE! Sometimes overwhelming, and sometimes manageable. I really believed that the key to it was to just do my best and the Lord would take care of the rest. (And it took me 5 years of being married to learn that. I learned to do this when I had postpartum after Dylan was born and was so overwhelmed with my life that I finally had to give my offering and let the Lord deal with the rest. What a blessing it was to know I didn’t have to do it all, and I didn’t have to be perfect. For more on this topic you can read the book “Believing Christ”) Although the Atonement is always applicable in our lives, I was missing the main problem. Most of the things on my to do list had absolutely nothing to do with the Lord’s plan. Some tasks are part of the society we live in, but a lot of them I had brought upon myself. I “needed” to clean the garage because we had too much stuff out there to manage. We had bins of things that we were saving for that “just in case” moment. Boxes we hadn’t opened since we moved in our twin home. Toys our kids didn’t play with anymore. All things we had purchased because at one point we thought we “needed” them. I “needed” to decorate my room because Pinterest had too many cute ideas, and Instagram had way better rooms than my own. I “wanted” to buy Dylan a new dress, because the 5 beautiful dresses in her closet apparently weren’t good enough. She didn’t need it, and she didn’t even ask for it or know that I had the intention to buy her one. But I assumed it was a need so it cluttered my to do list and stressed me out because I couldn’t find the perfect dress nor the free time to shop for one. I “needed” to plan the perfect birthday party, with the most perfect decorations and invitations because my 4 year old totally cared what his party looked like…NOT! All he needed and wanted was to spend time with his family. Because so many people throw gorgeous parties I assumed I better do the same or my kid won’t be as happy. I better give him everything he asked for or his 4th birthday will be an epic fail. I was so wrong, but HOW? The world told me to do all of these things, so I kept scrolling my Instagram feed assuming they were right. But what I remember most about my birthdays as a kid was 1-I got to pick what we had for dinner. 2-I got to ride in the front seat of the car. 3-All my brothers treated me like royalty because it was my special day. So what I am really trying to say is…we don’t need stuff! For so long I have cluttered my life with things. With to do lists that all have to do with purchasing something, changing something, or doing something that takes my time away from what is really important. We have not only uncluttered our life by getting rid of all the physical things that needed to be reorganized in the garage, etc. But we have been taking away the to do list by simplifying everything. I unsubscribed from all my emails, so now I only get email from family, friends, Etsy (I have a small store there), and my kid’s elementary school. It takes me under 5 minutes to manage my email a day. It is refreshing to check it because I am not annoyed at all the emails I am receiving. I don’t feel stressed out because I have to hurry and get online to purchase something that is being advertised or I won’t get it before the sale ends. (especially because I didn’t know I needed that item until my e-mail showed it to me, making me think I now “needed” it) I unfollowed everyone on Instagram and Facebook that I didn’t know in person, or wasn’t beneficial to me and my family. It now takes me 5 minutes to scroll my Instagram feed, and I enjoy every picture because they are people I know and care about, or recipes I want to create. If there is someone I am following whose posts make me feel bad about myself, what I am doing as a mother, I unfollow them. I don’t spend all day doing mundane tasks because I got rid of most of them. If there was a toy I was sick of cleaning up for the 100th time, I donated it or let my kids sell it and keep the money. If there was a book on my bookshelf that always made me feel guilty because I hadnt read it, I donated it! It has been so refreshing to get rid of the to do lists that I had created for myself thinking that was a part of life. I realize now that every choice that I make comes with a price. It is either my time and/or money that was either wasted or used beneficially. President Monson has said, “Decisions determine Destiny.” I believe this 100 percent. Every choice I was making to purchase something new, or add more to do items to my list were just taking space in my mind and cluttering my ability to focus on things that were truly important. The more choices I make to simplify my life, the clearer I see that the Lord’s plan really is perfect. He didn’t put all of these stressful things into my life, I did. As I am slowly de-cluttering our home and life, I see more purpose to being here. I am a mother, not a maid. I am a wife and a neighbor. The Lord needs me. My kids need me. They don’t want me to spend my entire life cleaning up their stuff, or watching me read emails all day. They want to spend time with me and build a relationship with me. I see more opportunities to serve, and I see more clearly now how Satan is trying to work on me and my family by cluttering our home, minds, and time so we have nothing left for the Lord. I feel I am seeing “things” as they really are…clever distractions.

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Becoming as a little child

Those close to me already know the changes that are happening in our home. There has been so much going on over here that I thought I better share some of my new found joy with all of you. In January, I was having spring cleaning fever. While searching the Internet for organization/storage ideas I stumbled on Becomingminimalist.com. The blogpost said “you don’t need a bigger house, you need less stuff” I was almost embarrassed that I had never thought of that before. I figured with our growing family it was just the next step for us to get something bigger to house us all. We were totally bursting at the seams of our 2500 square foot twin home with all of our belongings. I read the Blogs “start here” articles and decided I would get rid of a few things we didn’t need to clear up some space for other things. What happened next has been mind blowing for Keith and I. Our lives have completely changed. Getting rid of things felt sol good that I didn’t stop there. Having empty space in the closets was a miracle. The more we threw out or donated the better we felt and the clearer our minds have been. All the sudden we had all this emotional space in our lives to focus on things that really mattered. I started reading everything I could on simplifying my life and have made many changes. Every day I learn something new. I want everyone to know how freeing and exhilarating it is to not think about and maintain “stuff” all day. I can’t really backtrack on all the things I have learned, but I have decided I will start writing them down. If you are seeking for joy, peace, or more time in your life, I promise you that simplifying your life will make a huge difference and help you find the things you seek. I can’t begin to tell you how much has changed. My marriage is stronger in so many ways (that will be another post for another day) my kids are happier, and I have free time. I have never felt so much joy in my life. Plus I have made over $1000 selling things I didn’t need or use. This is a tidbit of what I learned yesterday. My mind is racing with things I want to write down, but I had to start somewhere….

So here is what I learned about today. “Becoming as a Little Child.”
One thing I have learned through simplifying my life is that children see the world through simple eyes. They don’t want for anything but love and attention. They don’t need things, or even care about them. They only start to care about things because we tell them they are important, and we get excited for them when they have things, and earn things. And we bribe them with things until they think those things are important because we have been talking about them for so long. I have felt awful for throwing consumerism in their little faces, telling them things are important, getting upset at them for “breaking someTHING” and spoiling them with things they didn’t need or even ask for. I did all of this thinking that things were going to make them happy. The world told me it would, and I believed them. What I never realized was they were already happy. I feel terrible that I now need them to unlearn everything I have taught them about being a consumer. I watched a couple videos of Easter Sunday from 2010 today, our son Logan was 4 and our daughter Dylan was 2. Keith and I were doing our best to give them the “perfect” Easter. We bought presents they didn’t ask for, candy they didn’t need, and all throughout the video we stopped them from enjoying the little piece of candy they were fixated on because they weren’t looking for the rest of it. We couldn’t let them enjoy each moment because we were too excited for them to find all the Easter prizes hidden throughout the room. Then to top it all off, we kept telling Dylan to stop eating all the candy. What mixed signals we gave all throughout the video…”Look at all this candy for YOU,” “hurry and find it so you can fill YOUR bag and see how MUCH you have,” “Don’t eat it,” “Come over here and look for more candy.” etc. Logan was finding eggs for Dylan, filling her bag and showing her every detail he found. Keith and I were so busy worrying that they hadn’t found all (the Easter Bunny) hid for them that we didn’t even notice or point out how sweet it was of him to treat her that way. We didn’t encourage that behavior at all. Instead we ignored it and encouraged him to find MORE candy for HIS Easter bag. Had I watched this video 3 months ago I wouldn’t have noticed anything other than their tiny cute faces and sweet innocent voices. But Keith and I were both disgusted at our behavior tonight as we watched the videos. Knowing what I know now, this is how it should have gone.
*There shouldn’t have been so much…not even half of what we did. Maybe 10 percent of what we did. We overwhelmed them with all of it. *We should have started with a prayer. *We should have put the camera on a stand and ignored it while we participated in every moment. *There should have been a purpose to all of it. There is a reason we have Easter, and how we celebrated definitely didn’t honor that. *My “How did the Easter bunny do” question should have been replaced with questions that weren’t there to stroke my ego. I should have been asking “how do you feel?” “What are you most excited about?” “Why are Eggs a symbol on Easter?” “How many jelly beans can you eat in 10 seconds?” *Instead of saying “Pick up the egg and put it in the basket” I should have said “you are making music, it does rattle when you shake it.” then I should have grabbed an egg and made candy music with my 2 year old.
*We should have addressed Logan’s Christlike behavior.

*If there was something that I expected to happen, they should have known beforehand. They were so little and innocent. How was Dylan supposed to know not to eat all the candy before breakfast…after all I told her it was for her.
I clearly missed every real moment that Easter Sunday. I was trying so hard to “create” the perfect Easter with things and presents that I missed the moment to celebrate Easter with my kids. And they missed out too!I believe a part of “Becoming as a Little Child” means to declutter our lives and see what is right in front of us. To enjoy life and the beauty of it in every moment. We need to retrain ourselves to look at life through a child’s eyes. Only then will we see what is really important. And it is definitely not a bag full of Easter eggs.
my munchkins
*****I wrote this as an e-mail to family members in February 2015. I have been learning so many things while simplifying my life that I wanted to spread the good word! People should know how amazing this is. I had no idea and am lucky I stumbled on the concept. Less really is more. I have written more e-mails that I will turn into blog posts in days to come.