When my kids were little, I tried to fill every waking minute of each day with tasks, in a never-ending quest to finish my “to-do” list.
Even if this list wasn’t written down, I had a rolling tally of things in my head that I felt I needed to complete before the sun set.
Whether it was making snacks for school, running errands throughout the entire county, working on laundry, cleaning house or finishing my daily work-out—I was in non-stop motion. The problem? Even though I was completing all of these tedious tasks, I never felt that I was accomplishing anything, and I constantly seemed to be missing out all of the fun things in life that other people were doing.
It may sound obvious but it’s taken me 20 years but I’ve finally realised where I’ve been going wrong. Life is not about how many things we can squeeze into a day, but the quality time we spend with others. Most of us know that, but do we practice it?
I’m learning to. I no longer make lists, on paper or in my head.
I realize that the things I run out of time for will always be there the next day—but minutes spent with my loved ones and friends can’t be re-lived.
Unfortunately, it took moving 13 hours away from my family for me to have this revelation. When I lived close to everyone, I saw them on a daily basis and our togetherness didn’t seem like a priority. Now, I see pictures on Facebook of everyone gathering together and I terribly miss even the smallest moments that I used to take for granted.
Every year, my parents would have all of the grand-kids over to pick the pumpkins from their garden. I always went along too, taking pictures of the festivities and bringing pumpkins home to decorate my porch—never realizing how truly special this annual event actually was for everyone. I remember when my own kids were barely able to hold a tiny pumpkin and were given rides in the wheelbarrow to the garden. Now they are as tall as my parents and help with the harvesting.
Days like this are what memories are made of. Days spent getting the house clean and the chores done? Well, not so much.
So what if the laundry sits in the hamper for an extra day? My partner works all week and we never get to see each other, so now I spend of my weekend hour with him. Some days we go get coffees, or visit the park for a walk, which is nothing huge, but we are together laughing and having fun—building our relationship together.
Since I can’t go back and re-live my last 20 years, I’ve vowed to begin living for these little moments now. When I catch myself feeling overwhelmed with tasks needing to be done I try to take a deep breath and once again realize what is truly important in life.
I would much rather have a dirty house and a full life.
My advice for young parents and anyone who is struggling to about accomplish too many things: if you can, let them go and live for today. Instead of worrying about making sure the dishes are done and put away, read your kids a book.
I remember one night when I was trying to fit one last load of laundry into the washing machine, my granddaughter came to me, wanting to work on a craft project. Knowing that this activity would lead to a total disaster zone in my house I was hesitant at first but then realized that she would soon be returning home and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Soon the glitter bottles and paints were out, spread across my dining room table, and we spent our afternoon making Christmas ornaments. We ended up having so much fun that we then went outside to look for pretty rocks to start a collection.
It was one of my most favorite days ever with that little girl and I almost blew it off.
So call your parents, if you live far away. Go visit family, if you are fortunate enough to live close by. Gather with loved ones as much as possible, as you never know how long you will have with them. Don’t worry about a dirty house or making a big dinner. Order take-out and have a picnic on the floor. On a rainy day, build blanket forts in the living room, not worrying about the mess.
Make memories together.
Don’t live a life that you will regret later. Remember what is truly important. The greatest gift that you can give others is your time. Children seem to grow in the blink of an eye and grandparents pass away all too quickly.
Spend as much time as possible surrounded by those who are important to you.
So your living room floor needs to be vacuumed and the mail is piled up on the counter—in 20 years noone will ever remember this, but they will remember an afternoon spent picking pumpkins and laughing in the garden with family.
No is ever remembered fondly at their funeral for having a clean house, but those people we cherish long after they pass are the ones that gave us their time.
Throw away your to-do list already, or at least put it down for a moment and live for today.
Author: Jill Carr
Image: Mike Medaglia
Apprentice Editor: Josie Myers; Editor: Khara-Jade Warren