The Sacred Homemaker – being gentle on yourself

So you are the sort of person who overcommits.

Here are some familiar examples:

“Yes of course I will cook for 200 people on the weekend. Authentic medieval ingredients and techniques? no worries. In costume? of course.”

“Would you organise a meeting of 20 people including catering cause we couldn’t be arsed?” “ No worries.”

“Would you look after 5 pets, 3 children and bake 3 cakes for the fete which is 2 days away?” “Why not?”

At this point you need to take a deep breath and work out ways to make your life easier. Here are several techniques for decluttering your commitments.

1. Use a calendar. If every day is full, your life is overcommitted. Everyone needs down time to watch bad movies and eat junk food in their pyjamas. All day. If you don’t take time out, you will get sick. Effectively, your body will make you have some down time. And down time is much more fun without tissues and Benadryl. So if you have a full schedule, schedule down time just like you would commitments to other people.

2. Say “No”. Easier said than done, especially if all your friends and family know you are a soft touch. But you can say “No” without saying “No” by doing the following – cut down the size of the commitment. Recently I was called on to help with running a weekend event. Since my husband works away a few days a week, I realised that if I left at Friday lunchtime for the event then we would pass each other on the highway. So I committed to the event, but from Saturday morning on. That gave me Friday afternoon/evening to catch up with hubby, and still gave me plenty of time to help out at the event.

If you are asked to make 3 cakes in 2 days, say “Sorry, but I can only do 1 for you.” You’re still helping, but at a manageable level. This means you won’t be burnt out and not able to help in the future. If they question you – “But you’ve always….” just explain that this year you are really busy and they can take it or leave it. Trust me, they will take it.

3. Lie. Not easy I know, but sometimes people can be very insistent and not take ‘No’ for an answer. Family commitments are always a good one, as are sick children, trips away and funerals. Obviously this should not be over-used, but “I have to go to a family BBQ that afternoon” is always handy. Follow it up with – “but I can come help set up for a couple of hours in the morning” and everyone will be happy.

4. Quit. If you’ve been secretary of the Garden Club for the last 4 years and you are over it, quit. They will find someone else. If they can’t find anyone else, the group isn’t viable anyway. Sometimes over committed types end up being the pillar that holds up an organisation which should have folded years ago. Let it go. Something else will spring up in its’ place. Just like plants in a garden, organisations have use-by dates and keeping them alive artifically isn’t always the best idea.

5. Take your life day by day. Or even hour by hour. Say to yourself, “today I can realistically achieve this much.” Then cut that in half. And in half again. Then you might have a reasonable list that has half a chance of actually happening. Then prioritise that list as you go, because inevitably you will get interrupted or you’ll run out of paint.

6. Being a little bit sick means you must take it easy. If you don’t, you will just make it worse, and your recovery will be longer. You could even do permanent damage to yourself, so cut your usual list up and take an unscheduled day off. Especially if you spend most of your time at home, give yourself a day off. Don’t be tempted to put the washing out or any of those “I’ll just…” jobs. Go to bed. Watch TV. Sulk. After all, that’s what the rest of the family do! When your kids ask you to do something, inform them that you are sick and that they will have to sort it out themselves. You’ll be surprised what they can do for themselves if you aren’t there to do it for them.

Basically, if you are an over committer, you need to be ever vigilant that you don’t dig a hole you can’t get out of. Put yourself first for a change, be gentle on yourself, and be realistic about what you can actually do in the time available.

It’s easier said than done. Good Luck!

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