In the past, we often found ourselves scrambling around making time to do things that seemed meaningless to us. We did them simply because they pleased someone else. They were things we cared little about and ranked low on things we enjoyed doing. Unfortunately, what we valued, like quality time and family activities, took a back seat. We were always trying to find time for them and squeeze them in when we could.
If this sounds like you, let me alleviate your stress and help you save your time for things you value. Letting go of the little things will enable you to spend more time on your priorities. Our priorities should be the core of our lives, not what we fit in when we have the time.
Exceptional lawn care isn’t at the top of my priorities list.
Every summer, we receive a letter from the city telling us we have weeds that are too tall on our property. They are generally somewhere obscure, like around the base of a tree by the road, or along the side of our garage. At the bottom of this “friendly reminder” is a notice that we can cut them down ourselves or, after a few days, someone from the city will come and cut them for us. For a ridiculous charge.
Every summer, we angrily stomp out to the yard, rip out the 10 or fewer weeds along our garage or trees, and glare at our neighbor’s perfectly manicured home and garden. We know she is the one that likely notified the city of our “weed problem” based on previous conversations.
She loves that lawn of hers. She spends hours every weekend and time during the week to maintain it. And that’s just lovely. For her.
Some people love to care for their lawn and flowers, and that’s great. I don’t.
I consider this one of life’s little nuisances. So please don’t call the city because you “weren’t sure if they were weeds” and you didn’t like the look of them. I’m not interested in living according to someone else’s priorities. It’s not that unsolicited advice is always a bad thing, but in this case, we know what we’re doing. We’ve become experts in letting go of the little things, and this is something we’re completely ok letting go of.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we don’t appreciate or desire a nice looking lawn. In fact, we’ve done a lot of work over the years to improve the outer appearance of our home. I assure you, my dear readers, we do not live in a wild field of weeds. Weeding our lawn is just not at the top of our priorities. Not even close.
Andy and I are not retired. Our child is not grown. We have zero interest in spending all of our free time (wait, what’s free time?) tending to foliage. We prefer to spend our valuable time enjoying our son and our family. He grows and changes so fast and we want to savor and cherish every moment.
So please consider, before judging us and our home by your standards, that maybe our priorities are different from yours.
Letting go…despite the annoyed neighbor.
If letting go sounds like something you’d love to do, but just can’t see it happening, let me ease your mind. It wasn’t easy for us either. It takes practice to learn what it is you value…and what is worth letting go of.
Our society conditions us to conform. From a young age, we envision almost identical life goals. College, marriage, a house, kids. But who decided this was all important?
We all have different priorities. To live our happiest, we need to be able to let go of everything we don’t really care about. Regardless what others have to say about it! If it’s not hurting anyone, let them be annoyed! You’ve got more important things to focus on.
There are a lot of successful people in this world that have learned to let go. They’ve let go of the idea that there is one right path. They’ve let go of the idea that what’s important to many should be important to all. They know what their true priorities are, and are focused on them, leaving the rest behind.
This is the secret to happiness. It’s the foundation of a fulfilling life. Figure out what you value, and let go of the rest.
Getting started on letting go.
A popular Disney queen once shook the world with her words; Let it Go. For anyone who has been living under a rock the past few years and has no idea what I’m talking about, Elsa from Frozen is an excellent model of letting go.
She let go of trying to be perfect. She was trying to be everything everyone wanted her to be, and in doing so, had to hide away a piece of herself and lived a very unhappy, unfulfilling life.
I promise, letting go for her was a heck of a lot harder than it will be for you. So at least there’s that.
You’re letting go of trying to be perfect, but I swear you won’t need to conceal magic powers by running away to a lonely ice castle in the mountains. You have my word.
But it is difficult. With so many years behind us of feeling like everything is necessary, how do we decide what isn’t? How do we know what’s okay to let go of?
Here are a few tips to get you started. The more you let go of and find comfort and happiness living your priorities, the easier it gets.
First, identify your priorities!
This is an obvious first step. You can’t know what the eliminate if you don’t know what is important to you. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that. What I assume, however, because you’re reading this blog, is that your priorities center around your family. Your children, spouse, and pets.
You’re also likely prioritizing your health and mental well-being. Great. From there, you might have to do a little soul-searching to figure out what else is a priority for you. A quick way to start this process is to grab a pen and some paper.
Now answer this question: what in life makes me whole?
Think about what it is you need in your life. What are the things you would miss if they were gone? Again, you’re going to have things like your children, husband, dog, food, and so on. Think beyond that. Go deeper.
Do you absolutely love to read or write? Would you miss your garden if you stopped tending to it? How about your afternoon walks or bike rides?
Don’t limit yourself to things you currently do. That’s the point. You’re trying to open up your life for more of what you want by eliminating what you don’t care so much about.
If you love to read but don’t ever have time for it now, make sure that’s on the list! Going forward, you’ll want to make sure it’s a part of your life.
Don’t rush this process. If you need to, take a break and come back to it. Maybe come back to it another day. Continue to build the list until you feel pretty confident it’s complete. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. We change throughout our lives, and so will our lists.
Second, start removing things from your life that are not on your list.
Identify the things in your life you are currently doing that are not on that list. Are you bike riding every afternoon but hate it? Then stop. If you’re doing it for fitness, try something else. You might find something you love. Or incorporate more play into your life with your children.
Do you regularly tend a garden but don’t really love it? Then stop. If you like the look of flowers but don’t love the gardening, buy some low maintenance perennials you like, plant them, and leave it. Weed it two or three times during the summer max, just so it doesn’t go completely out of control and kill your plants. Who cares if there are a few extra weeds in there? It still looks nice and you’ll have tons more time. If you really don’t care, then wipe out the whole thing and put in grass. Now you just have to mow it with the rest of the lawn.
If you’ve been doing these things for a long time, it may feel weird at first to just stop. But that’s what you have to do. It will get easier with time, I promise.
I do have one note on this. If it’s something you hate to do but is absolutely necessary, obviously you can’t remove it from your life. Sorry, but you’ll need to continue to brush your teeth, bathe, and make dinner. But there are a lot of things in life that we do thinking they are necessary that really aren’t. Really try to hone in on if you’re time is being consumed by any of those things.
Think what would happen if you stopped one to those activities. If the answer doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, and everyone is still healthy and happy, it’s probably okay to stop. Or at least cut back on it.
One example is cutting our hair. I know so many people that have to get their hair cut every so many weeks. Why? If you hate long hair, okay, I get it. But if you don’t really care and just feel the need to get it cut so it “looks better,” save your time and money and start cutting it less frequently. I have gone more than a year without cutting my hair. No one died. No one even noticed.
Third, start filling in the newly available free time with the things on your first list.
Now that you’ve given up some things, you should have more free time. Start filling them in with the things you want to do. Things you love.
This time is free for you. Fill it how you want to fill it!
Finally, start practicing ignoring people.
I don’t mean everyone all the time. That would be very unfriendly. Just comments people make about your decisions.
This is likely going to be easier than you think. We already do this every day and you probably don’t even realize it.
Every day, someone says something about our how we eat, how we raise our kids or our shopping decisions. Everyone has an opinion.
The difference is, we tend to separate our life into two different categories. Our personal decisions that we guard and defend, and our public decisions that other’s have a right to have an opinion on.
The problem with this categorization is that we often put things into the wrong category. Our religion? Yes, definitely personal. Our office filing system that everyone uses? Public decision; if I want to designate everything in our office as a different fruit name with scented and color-coordinated folders, they have every right to speak up and disagree with me. And also probably submit me for drug testing.
How we care for our lawn is a personal decision. Yes, it’s visible to others, but as long as were obeying all laws (ridiculous though some may be) and it’s not causing a health hazard, I have every right to do whatever the hell I want in my yard. No one else has to like the look of it.
Start going through those things in your life and decide if maybe they need to be recategorized into the “personal decision” pile. Once you decide that it’s something no one else should have a right to complain about, it will become a lot easier to ignore their judgy looks and comments. We’re all parents here. There is no better practice for ignoring criticism!
Once you start to worry less about what others think about your new decisions, your life will be all your own again. More than it ever has been. And you will finally be able to make your life about your priorities instead of just trying to make time for them.
I will never be perfect to others and I’m okay with that.
When people come to visit, it will look like we live here. Because, well, we do! I will not spend my time removing every trace of children’s toys, or dog’s toys for that matter. This is our home. I couldn’t care less if it’s not as perfect as someone else’s. We’re well practiced in letting go of the idea that it’s essential to create the illusion of the perfect home.
My time is valuable to me. So is the happiness of myself and my family. Impressing others by trying to live up to their standards just isn’t for me. It never will be. I don’t think anyone should live that way. What a waste to spend all of our time worrying about other people’s opinions!
So please, everyone, pardon my long grass, my few extra weeds, and cracked cement walkway.
Excuse my son’s slightly too long hair, my unwashed car, and the Husky fur on my black pants (or bag, or shirt, or jacket or…).
I promise to return the favor and mind my own business if I disagree with your priorities. It’s your life. Live it in a way that brings you joy and fulfillment!
We are happy. We are healthy. Family always comes first. I won’t apologize for that. We are living our lives to the fullest, exactly the way we want to.
I sincerely hope you all feel as free as we do to do the same. If not, work on letting go by using some of the getting started tips above. It is the number one thing holding you back from living the life you want. Start living life unapologetically by your standards and your priorities.
How has letting go allowed you more time for family, health, and your priorities?
-To your Better Life-