Same Goal, New Strategy

First off, I noticed that I have not yet written about my summer vacation. Not the trip to NYC (FYI since my last post about having to move to Plan B, one of the apartments from airbnb came back with a lower price, so we're actually back to Plan A, to everyone's delight!), but my extra hours away from the kids.

I was feeling a bit burnt out and irritable this spring, so T suggested that I get more babysitting once the schools were out and high school girls were available during the day. And so I have. I now have childcare 2.5 days per week.

I started keeping a journal, trying to figure out how to get my life to where I want it to be. I thought I had worked out some strategies, but when I explained the situation to a friend over lunch today, she encouraged me to rethink my plan.

Yesterday, I set a goal of putting away the nativity set and organizing the bookshelf in the parlor during my six hours of child-free time. It took about 15 minutes to carefully pack away the nativity set. I figured I'd be done with the books in an hour or two.

It didn't work out that way. I got about half the shelves organized in about 40 minutes, but then I started getting a headache and feeling bad, so I lay down for 20 minutes. Then I went back downstairs to finish the job. But after 30 minutes of sorting and organizing, deciding which books to keep and which to give away, and then for the books to keep, which shelf to put them on, the headache and overwhelming fatigue had returned. I went back upstairs. I journaled how puzzled I was at this, since I had enough sleep the previous night, and I had eaten plenty of food so it wasn't hunger or low blood sugar or anything predictable.

I repeated the exercise once again, but as soon as the headache returned for the third time, I called it a day, with the bookshelf project unfinished. In retrospect, I think my brain was rebelling against all the decision-making. My solution was to just take my home organization goals as slowly as I needed, with as much breaks as rest as necessary to not make myself miserable about it. I journaled that I was resigned to this process taking years to complete at my current pace, but I can only do what I can do.

When my friend heard me describe all this, she pointed out another solution that had not occurred to me. Hire even more help. She said it was painful to hear about how difficult it is for me to get things organized, and she had another friend with ADD (her age) and never really understood why she just couldn't get simple things done and was always asking for help. Now she understood just how difficult some things are for someone with ADD. But she thought that torturing myself and drawing out the project for years was not the obvious solution. She said if something was so difficult that it gave me headaches and I could only do it for 30 minutes at a time, it was a clear sign that I should outsource the project. I need to hire a helper. Somebody really organized. She said an organized person could have the task done in even less time than the hour or two I had originally anticipated.

She pointed out that there are so many other things that I am really good at, that I really should be focused on doing THOSE things instead of struggling so much with things that are terrifically difficult for me. That option hadn't occurred to me, but it is appealing.

So my goal is still to get all the junk cleared out of the house, and get everything organized and updated, ideally to the level as if the house were up for sale. Really de-cluttered and pristine. But instead of slaving away at the task and developing strategy upon strategy for how to get it done myself, my new strategy will be to hire someone and get a lot of it done this year. And once it's all done, get them on a regular maintenance schedule, so I don't have to lose sleep about how I will possibly keep the place from falling into chaos again. I will outsource that responsibility. This will free me up to focus on the better use of my time, which is hanging out with my sons. And pre-schooling W in the fall.

After spending a month mowing and keeping up with the yard work, I am confident that at this point I'd rather pay a babysitter to watch the kids while I get that done. I like gardening and landscape maintenance, it makes me feel good. But I would MUCH rather watch my own children than tackle the organization projects that literally make me feel sick and make my head hurt, like the bookshelf project. That sort of thing I will just outsource.

So my task now is to make a list of projects I have no problem completing myself, like yard maintenance and changing the air filters throughout the house, and what projects are unreasonably difficult. Once I have a list, I can start my search for a helper, and have some idea of the sort of hours I will need.

My friend today helped me to see that if I need support staff, I need support staff. I shouldn't waste time spending days doing things that should only take minutes or hours, I should use those days for doing something that I CAN do well.

I do not anticipate cutting down on the babysitting hours this summer, though. But instead of using my free time making myself sick to neaten things up in the house, I will use my free time to recharge and do things that make me feel good. I'm so glad I escaped another day slaving away at the bookshelf and went out to lunch. I will hopefully have a much better summer because of it. And I will enter the fall refreshed and relaxed, and ready to take on the new responsibility of home-schooling my four-year-old.