Another summer is over, and so is my blogging (podcasting, video-making) break. I’m starting my ninth year of this deslobification process, so I know how recovery from the craziness-of-routine-free-summer goes around here.
I’ve shared different analogies over the years, and here’s (at least) one more that has been rumbling around in my head for a few weeks.
Staying in my lane. The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I realize that staying in the lane where I need to be is so much less stressful than moving in and out, trying to get around that jerkface slowpoke and beat the system.
Less stressful, AND I generally get there just as quickly. And getting there at the same time without heart palpitations means staying in my lane is better. Even if I could have shaved off 3.8 seconds.
You know I’m going to talk about dishes and laundry and such in a moment, but first my stories:
There’s a stoplight where I sit at least four times a day throughout the school year. At least.
It takes me out of the residential streets of my neighborhood and into the city streets that lead to my kids’ schools.
Technically, there is a way around it. If the other cars going straight at the light leave enough room, I can attempt to avoid sitting and waiting at that light by turning right on red (legal in Texas) if there’s a gap in traffic, pulling out onto the big road, immediately getting in the left hand turn lane and using a hard-to-see-unless-you’re-looking road that runs alongside a little shopping center to get back to the road I’d be on if I sat through the light.
Last year, I made a conscious decision. I decided to sit through the light. Every time.
Because here’s the thing. All that watching and turning and watching again and turning again often resulted in me having to wait anyway to make that last right turn. Sometimes, I had to wait to turn until the cars that sat through the light went by.
Sometimes I beat them, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, it was stressful.
Sitting at the light meant waiting, but three fewer turns.
And do you know what? My kids were at school on time every single day, just like they were during the years when I turned and finagled and raced against the stoplight-waiters.
The main difference was that I wasn’t stressed over that stoplight. Like, at all. I knew I would wait and I knew it would eventually turn green. And I used less gas. And I’m guessing my brakes and my blinkers will last longer. And maybe even my heart.
All it took was a pre-made decision.
And now for another metaphor. Let’s talk about school car lines.
I’m not going to rant (like is so popular on the internet these days), but I am going to say that after seven years going through what is generally known as the most maddening school pickup car loop in town, I have some thoughts.
The first day of after school pick up is bananas. At this school, 1/3 of the kids are new each year, which means 1/3 of the parents are new as well. School pick up lines are wackadoodle anyway because they have unique-to-each-school unwritten rules that people expect one another to follow. When people don’t yet know these unwritten rules and when teachers don’t yet recognize cars (so they can get the attention of talkative 4th graders), that first day in the school pick up line takes forever.
So people freak out and search desperately for a better way.
This school is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, with no neighborhood streets where parents can park and walk to get their kids. The only option for someone wanting to avoid the car loop is to park in a parking lot across the street and walk across a VERY busy, four lane road and then a decent sized field to get their kid.
I see (and talk to) parents who do this every day. In the heat. In the rain. In the cold.
It’s a long, stressful walk, y’all.
All because that first day in the car loop was bananas and they said, “Never again.”
Except that by the third day of school, the car loop (while not exactly a Loop o’ Fun) is no longer bananas. And because I’m me, I often time parents I see parking across the street to see if they get back to their car before I make it all the way through the loop. Not with a timer, just as a race they don’t know they’re running.
Sometimes I win. Sometimes they win.
But I don’t have to wear pants.
Which means I win.
Now to explain this super-wordy metaphor:
Sometimes trying to come up with a fancy way to outsmart the inevitable is more hassle than it’s worth.
Once upon a time, I was the Queen of Thinking I Could Find a Better Way.
I searched for tips and hacks and tricks to outsmart the reality of my home. When my house went back to being a disaster, I became discouraged and gave up hope that I’d ever figure this thing out.
Lesson I Had to Learn #1:
While tricks might help sometimes, it’s usually less stressful to just do what needs to be done in a totally boring way.
Time and energy I spend looking for ways to get around doing things the boring way can be spent getting actually getting those things done.
And then they’re done.
Lesson I Had to Learn #2:
There isn’t always a better way. I don’t have to come up with a new plan for getting my house back under control every time it gets back out of control. Getting straight back to doing what I know works ultimately saves time.
Lesson I Had to Learn #3:
Never, and I do mean never, judge a routine (or a car loop or a household task) on the first day. Just don’t. The first day is awkward and new and way more overwhelming than future days of the same routine (or car loop or household task).
No matter how crazy summer was (and this one was extra crazy), getting back on track/getting back in the groove/staying in my lane/re-claiming order in the house means running my dishwasher every night, emptying it every morning, and working hard to get every last stitch of my laundry done on Laundry Day.
We got through summer’s lackadaisicality by doing the dishes every day, even though it was all at random times. I know from experience that I have to do the dishes every single day. I also know, from experience, that my main focus now that life is a bit more predictable is to try very hard to get back into the routine I know works. And it does work. And my kitchen quickly got back to looking decent because I kept doing what works.
We wore clean clothes over the summer by loosely keeping up with the do-all-the-laundry-at-once method, though Laundry Day tended to last through the whole week some/most weeks. But now that we’re back on routine, getting it all done on Monday works again, and gets easier every week.
When I stay in my lane, I get where I need to go. Usually, I get there as fast as I would trying some crazy new way, and always with less angst.
If you have no idea what the basics are or how to keep up with them, check out my book: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. It’s where I teach you what I’ve learned over the past 8 years. Hopefully, it will save you quite a few years of trial-and-error and heartache.
** Technically, I always wear pants, even in the car loop. But
sometimes often they’re pants I wouldn’t wear walking across the street.
*** Even-more-technically technically, I always wear pants when outside my house.
**** In the U.S., “pants” means shorts or trousers or jeans. If you live somewhere where “pants” means something else, I do always wear those.