A few years ago after having my second child, I had a big aha moment! As a working mom, I was overwhelmed with the demands of our household. I would furiously clean all weekend only to have it be a disaster zone in 3 days. This coupled with sleep deprivation and hormones almost drove me to the brink of CRAZY.
However, at some point I realized that some tasks are just never going to end. They are cyclical. Laundry, dishes, cleaning --- all of this is a sign of a well-lived life. I have laundry because I have a beautiful family. I have dishes because we are blessed to have time together to eat and share our days. Is it a pain in the rear to clean-up? Yes! But would I trade my family or our time together? No!
Once I came to terms with the fact that my "environmental overwhelm" (car, house, desk) will never go away as long as I am living a full-life - I realized that I needed an EASY system to keep up with it. Enter the timer.
You may have noticed that every challenge involves setting a timer. Why? Because part of overwhelm is feeling like it never ends. Timers give you a built-in end point. Setting limits for yourself will help you get control of your overwhelm.
For instance, when you look at the pictures that you took yesterday, you could easily decide to spend the next 72 hours furiously cleaning your house, your car, your office etc. And at the end of that time period I am sure it will look amazing. The problem is it won't stay like that. Unless you clean and then re-locate to a hotel there is going to be another load of laundry, new dishes to wash or dirt tracked in that has to be swept.
So, how much time can you consistently invest in managing your environmental overwhelm? I say manage because it will never be cured. How much time can you give daily to keeping up household routines and clutter? How much time do you need each night to make sure proper self-care happens?
For me, I set the microwave timer for 60 minutes every day I am home and focus on whatever projects I have. Sometimes it's filing bills, de-cluttering, cleaning my closet, taking things to goodwill --- it doesn't matter. I turn on some music, get the kids involved if I can (otherwise they can play the WII) and get to it. When time is up - I am done for the day. It doesn't matter if I am finished. Knowing that I got something done creates a sense of accomplishment which helps immensely when dealing with overwhelm.
At night, I need 15 minutes to pick tomorrow's outfit, take off my make-up, brush my teeth, moisturize, check my agenda for tomorrow, and take vitamins. What a difference 15 minutes can make when you do it every single night. It didn't take long for me to notice a difference in my skin, the increased shine in my hair, the flexibility of my nails and the ease of my mornings. But I had to use a timer each night to force myself to get into a routine.
Because I travel a lot, I am not able to do the household work daily so an hour works for me. However, I have friends who do 20 minutes a day and that's all they need because they are able to do it every day. Picking a time that works for you that you can stick with is what is important.
So, get out your timer, and GO!