Polka Dot Cottage: Seeking balance

Seeking balance

Posted February 3rd, 2009 by

Love the quilt and the sentiment

I’ve got a tendency to obsess.  That’s Neil‘s word, not mine, and while I don’t like the negative connotations of it, I’m at a loss to find another term that fits.  So obsession it is, I guess.  Polymer clay, sewing, knitting, website design…   I love making beautiful things, and I know that sometimes I am driven to do nothing but make beautiful things.  This is a problem.

If there were no such entities as laundry, dishwashing, and sole proprietorships, a fixation with living an artful life might be perfectly acceptable.   The truth is, though, that I neglect these less interesting responsibilities until they get entirely out of hand.  What starts as a few innocent dishes in the sink becomes, within a day or two, a mountain of cups and bowls so high that I can’t even rotate the faucet.  And the stress caused by living among such clutter and unfinished business has me retreating further into the safe, comfortable routine of making things.

…obsessive crafting => ignored responsibilities, clutter, mess & guilt => obsessive crafting to make myself feel better => ignored responsibilities, clutter, mess & guilt…

Oh, friends, this circle is just not good!

This weekend, I was taking a long drive by myself, and I suddenly felt an intense craving for simplicity.  And for true happiness.  I have nearly everything I ever wanted (with one notable exception that I wish I could just. get. over. already) – I should be deliriously happy, really!  But so often I’m just not.  I finally decided that something had to give.  Something had to change.  And the more I considered it, the more I started to feel that Balance was key: Pay more attention to the tedious responsibilities in life, feel more in control of my environment, live with less clutter, feel less guilt, get one step closer to happy delirium.

And so “Balance” has become my mantra.  And my lovely little Mantra Quilt wall-hanging as well.  (Heather of Beauty That Moves made it, and there are more in her shop, if you have a mantra of your own.)  I bought it in the hopes that seeing that word each morning will urge me not to hyperfocus on any one thing for the day.  And since I know myself well enough to realize that I need a little more structure than this pretty but subtle reminder, I’ve started what I like to call Project Balance…

I’m on Day Two now, and so far so good.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I work well with a checklist.  I’ve come up with a complex series of task lists spanning different times of day and different types of responsibilities:business, household, personal growth.  The idea is that once I’ve done the things on the lists, then I’m free to spend the rest of my time however I like.  And that includes knitting a big pile of hats, sewing more skirts, or drilling holes in polymer clay buttons, if that’s what I want to do!

Already my house is cleaner, my business is on track, and I am coming to my free time feeling like I really deserve it.  I feel healthier.  Balanced.  And it’s only been two days!  I truly hope that I am still saying this in a week, a month, at the end of the summer, next Christmas, and beyond!  My track record for sticking with things is not so hot, so wish me luck…

So.  How about you?  As long as we’re spilling our guts today, everything ok in your lives?

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  • Elaine says:

    Are you sure we aren’t related? Which is code for: Me too.

    My circumstances are different though – I am the sole breadwinner here and my apartment is small. So I have less time between ‘neat’ and ‘depressingly cluttered and kitchen exploded’. It’s about 1-2 days here.

    I try very hard to get my necessities done each day before I move onto the non necessities. I have a stack of orders waiting on me though and some are from a couple of days ago. They are not yet late but it would be so easy to do the stuff that’s dancing in front of my Mental Eye first.

    Be kind to yourself but firm.

    • Lisa says:

      “Dancing in front of my Mental Eye” – that’s a good way to put it, and I totally hear you. I am usually very very bad at ignoring those impulses. I think I started this self-improvement thing at a very good time, when there is nothing that is begging to be made.

      I don’t know what I’d do if I had to be the sole breadwinner. Once upon a time I would have been able to handle it, but now…? I feel entirely too scatterbrained for that.

  • good for you! I suffer from that same ugly cycle. I love the list, but I always abandon it (not good). I just keep adding more! more! more! until I’m stopped in my tracks.

    I need that little quilt. Maybe mine should say STOP or NO!! Would that work?

  • Amy Crawley says:

    Hi Lisa,

    This is a great post and congratulations on starting your goal toward balance. I agree with creating lists. I’ve also called them brain dumps because you are writing down *every *last *thing that comes to mind that you want to get done.

    I’ve also started dedicating certain days to certain activities, writing tasks down on my calendar, and writing down those tasks that must be completed each day. Yes, there are days when I slip but I just plug along until it gets done.

    It has been said that these new habits take 21 to 30 days to establish (sounds better than 3-4 weeks doesn’t it?) I’m still trying to get that far but am hopeful this is the year for new habits to form and stick.

    Keep us posted on your progress.

    -Amy

    See what Amy Crawley has been blogging about: Patches

    • Lisa says:

      Yes, “brain dump” is an appropriate term for it. These days, if I don’t write it down, it’s not getting done.

      I’ve also chosen certain days for certain types of tasks. I’m using Google Calendar and Remember the Milk online to help me keep track of it all. It’s great, because it will automatically regenerate tasks for me and I don’t have to remember to write down every Monday that it’s time to water the plants.

      Good luck to you, too!

  • Carrie G says:

    I’m not alone? Same thing here. In fact, the other night as I was getting out of the shower, I heard my husband yell at the kids, “I’m the ONLY one that EVER cleans up here.” This may be a problem for me, but I took my time in the bathroom, extra time, in fact.

    I mentioned this post in mine for tonight – let me know if that isn’t cool.

    See what Carrie G has been blogging about: Poncherello

  • Marty says:

    Hmmmm, I recently retired and have the IGAD (I’ve got all day) syndrome. Maybe a checklist would be prudent for me!

    See what Marty has been blogging about: Countdown

    • Lisa says:

      IGAD – that’s a good one. In the past I’ve felt way more productive in the mornings and been able to get much of my work out of the way then. These days, though, I like to spread it out for some reason. I guess it just works better for who I am right now.

  • Hi, I found your polymerclay on the web a long time ago, myself experimenting with the clay for about 6 years now. I found your blog a couple of months ago while serching for crocheting bloggs… :-) Myself started crocheting some weeks ago. I have not commented in your blog before but now I feel that I could have written all this myself. It is as if you talk about me. Totally. Finally. Madly. I have a blogg to (www.anjson.wordpress.com about family and interests (written in swedish) and my headline some time ago was – obsession..
    Thanks for a wonderful inspirational blog and excuse my not so often used english :-)
    And to Marty; Thanks for IGAD expression. I will use that expression often!

    • Lisa says:

      No need to apologize for your English – I can’t understand a word of Swedish, so you are WAY ahead of me :-)

      I suppose that it’s fairly common for creative people to pour more of their energy into their craft than is healthy at times. It’s nice to see we’re in good company.

  • I think everyone struggles with this, really. I’ve realized too, that a lot of people feel more comfortable being overwhelmed because then they don’t have to think about more serious things, like the fact that the world seems to be falling apart. I think there must be great swaths of humanity that don’t have hobbies or talents (that they are aware of) that reach the evening and are actually bored, can you imagine? Do they volunteer with a charity or take a class? No – they sit down in front of the TV. So, I’ve come to be, over the last few months, grateful for some of my responsibilities, because it means that I do have value and interests and talents. Just think, if you weren’t good at making beautiful things and running a business, you would need to clean your house just to keep yourself busy!
    Also consider – if you worked outside the home, would it still be your responsibility to clean, do laundry, etc? There does tend to be an unfair balance in the home responsibility regard for women. That’s why we make men fix things.
    Also- why guilt for a messy house? Who, exactly, are we hurting? That seems to be some crazy thing that’s been driven into all of us. I wish I could get rid of it too.

    • Lisa says:

      I used to be bored. I think the last time was probably 15 or more years ago, but I do remember the feeling vaguely :-D

      Neil picks up the slack around here often, so I can’t really complain about that. And to be honest, my business doesn’t really take up more than 6-8 hours per week at this point. That leaves me more than enough time to have a relatively neat house. I’m not looking for magazine-worthy. I just want to live in a spot where I’m not constantly tripping over stuff, or pushing junk out of the way.

      The guilt over a messy house is more related to my kids than anything else. I can’t really have their friends over right now. Not that 5 and 8 year-olds are that picky about cleanliness, but it’s just so bad… especially where toys and the kids’ things are involved. I need to do some serious purging of their belongings before I’m comfortable having other children in this house. And that’s not really fair to them.

      And, of course, you and I carry the Walling Clutter Gene, which doesn’t help…

  • zoe says:

    I am with you and top of my list might have to be reading less blogs…. but that would suck! Maybe I should work on a list….. I will put it on my list of things to think about:)

    See what zoe has been blogging about: Day v1.4

    • Lisa says:

      LOL! I’m trying to figure out where blog-reading should fit on my list. I’m trying out the idea of doing it with my breakfast after the kids get on the bus, but I’ve done that before, and it’s lasted until lunch time. Not good!

  • Janey says:

    Oh Lisa you wrote exactly how I’ve been feeling.OVERWHELMED and always feeling like I’m playing catch up. I do have a strict policy of making beds and throwing the laundry in the wash before doing anything else. But that doesn’t mean the laundry actually will get folded and put away the same day. Not to mention the stress of paying bills, making snacks and lunches for three little ones, trying to de-clutter (which hasn’t been getting done) and getting the three kids to and from school(we don’t have busing) AND than trying to find time to do my thing. I am constantly feeling exhausted, of course February always has me feeling this way. I do go knitting every Wed morning for a few hours but of course the last three weeks we either had snow days or I had sick kids home today I can’t wait to go and knit and chit chat. I feel so much better knowing I’m not alone, and I am going to start making lists and hopefully I will start feeling more in control. I also feel guilty since I haven’t been making more bags for my shop. Here’s to making a list and feeling more in control even if only half the list can get accomplished in a day. Thanks Lisa for inspiration and knowing I’m not the only Mom feeling like this.

    See what Janey has been blogging about: Super Productive

  • Aimee says:

    I am precisely the same way.

    However, our house is on the market, so it has to be kept neat. And it’s heavenly. I can’t believe the weight off my shoulders. It’s starting to weigh down a bit at the moment, because we’re letting it slip a bit (no one’s coming to look at the house, after all). However, I know I’ll feel better when I just stop ignoring it and put it to rights again. It can be done in an afternoon. Maybe this afternoon!

    I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I vowed that when we have our next home, everything will have a place, and everything will be kept in it. The feeling of bliss an organized, neat home brings is worth it. I’ve made this vow before…many times…but I have to believe it will happen this time.

    See what Aimee has been blogging about: Are You Guys Twins?

  • judy says:

    Lisa,
    Never use the word ‘hope’ in that context. See yourself next xmas doing what you started 2 days ago and how happy it is making you. Hope says you have no control over it and makes you helpless in the whole process . Don’t give up your power or your choices. An old psych nurse, judy

  • Ann Staub says:

    My mom said this to me years ago, I live by it everyday.

    “your children will never remember how dirty the floor was, but they will recall mom playing with them.”

  • Carla says:

    I feel exactly the same way Lisa! My problem is that I leave my house at 6am and don’t get home till 5pm. By that time, it’s all I can do to just feed myself! I end up on the couch watching a few shows and then it’s off to bed to do it all over again the next day. I have so many craft projects just waiting for me and i’m just too tired to get any of them done. So then when the weekend rolls around, there is laundry, dishes, grocery shopping…..on and on and on. And if i do manage to do a little laundry through the week, it ends up on top of the dryer for a few days. So for me, i really never have time to do the things that make me feel good. Which are things that make my house beautiful, or projects for the people i love! Hmmm, where is that darn house keeper???

  • Libby says:

    I’m with you Lisa. I’ve started making a list each morning of things I need to do BEFORE I start scrapbooking. It’s definitely helping to get things done and I’m not feeling so guilty.

    Libby

    See what Libby has been blogging about: Kevin’s Birthday

  • neca says:

    I am the same way! One thing that has helped me is to try & focus on the task at hand. I think about how what I am doing 1) nurtures my family and 2) is an outlet for creativity.

    I guess that either sounds dorky, new-agey, or 50’s house-wifey(!), but when I put things in that context, they cease to be chores and become yet another outlet for me to express myself.

    Okay, dorky!

    See what neca has been blogging about:

  • Tiffany says:

    I’m exactly the same way!! WOW I too neglect my household chores for more Fun things *hangs head in shame* Mostly its for my photography and trying to get my business off the ground or researching new techniques or just fidling around on the net or making a new quilt or new bedroom curtains lol! :) I’m guilty
    What a great idea BTW…a list…huh. Maybe I should make a list, or two, or three. There is alot to be done and I always find myself wishing for just a few more hours in everyday!!!

  • Alisa says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I have followed your blog for a long time now. I have always admired your ability to make lovely things, cook yummy food for your family, spend time with your boys and husband and be a pretty darn good businesswoman. While I totally understand how your feel, I must say I have found the fact that you do leave the small stuff sometimes while pursuing other passions a big plus! I have often wished I could be more like that. You’re so right..balance is the key. I think being aware of that is a great first step.

  • Lynsey says:

    Nope – you aren’t alone in this! I work from home running Cuteable as well as my own craft business and it can be so easy to ignore the stuff piling up around me while I get on with some work. I’m slowly de cluttering though and it makes me feel better :) I just need to learn to balance my time better now.

    See what Lynsey has been blogging about: Treasury!

  • Karen says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Great post! And what a beautiful reminder on bringing more balance into your life. I love the colors in your mini Mantra quilted wall hanging.
    I think that balance is something we all strive for and struggle with in our day-to-day lives. For me, it is the day job vs. the artful life and finding balance between the two. It is usually my art life that suffers when there is an imbalance so I have to very aware of that. Granted my kids are now grown so that is one less thing (as you know, a BIG thing) that is not a part of the balance equation anymore but there are still so many things that fill up a day and so many things that I want to explore and yet discover. Lists and journal writing are 2 great tools I use to organize my tasks and my thoughts. What a great idea to devote different days or parts of each day to certain tasks.
    I’m sending you positive thoughts and good wishes for your new balanced way of being. Please do keep us posted on how it’s working for you.
    And remember – just like with meditation where we keep bringing ourselves back to the breath when we start following our thoughts too much, just bring yourself back to balance when you feel yourself slipping too far in either direction. It really is a practice, one that gets easier with time.

    See what Karen has been blogging about: Studio Wednesday

  • Iris Mishly says:

    Lisa dear, as you see in all those comments again and again that you are not alone, i guess this is one of the things that almost every woman/wife is experiencing especially if all those chores are her responsibility and if she can’t see all the piles of things around the house (i know i am).
    Balance is such an important word, and i think it has so many meanings in every thing you do or experience in your life, there can be worse things or better things to happen and we need to find balance in everything that is happening to us. your post was important for me to read these days, i can’t say why for now but it sure made me look, again, at the whole picture and see my….Balance. thanks lisa.

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