A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Clear Priorities: When Reality Scares You Straight

My husband had a health scare this week. He’d probably tell you it’s nothing. In fact, he’d kill me if I shared the details here so I won’t. Big deal or not, it was enough to shake me up to the point that little else seemed important to me.

Isn’t that funny how life does that to us? We go through our day-to-day life filled with mundane activities and daily responsibilities. Then reality pops up out of nowhere and turns our world upside down.

When Little Else Matters

Not too long ago, I overheard two friends talking at the grocery store. Evidently one of them had a family member who had been in an accident and the family had basically been living at the hospital non-stop. They would rotate who went out to grab food and pick up some clothes at home before returning back to the hospital.

I remember thinking, “Wow, that really puts life in perspective.” Soccer practices, meetings, and everything else that fills our normal lives just fall away. Even the practical implications of taking care of kids, letting out dogs, deciding who goes to work and who stays at the hospital can quickly become overwhelming in those kind of circumstances.

I wondered how much effort it would take for my family if we ended up in a similar situation. Do we have too many things too juggle? Is our life filled with things that don’t really matter? I’m thankful that if a situation like that arose, we live with a built in support system, but the recent experience of mine gave me some good food for thought.

Keeping Your Priorities Straight

Personally, I don’t find setting priorities as difficult as keeping priorities straight. Life is so sneaky how it creeps back in. It’s too easy to get busy even though we want to keep time open for friends and family. It’s easy to focus on our house that gets messy (no matter how much we get rid of) instead of appreciating the fact that the kids are growing up so fast.

It’s a good practice to remind yourself of your priorities and how you got to where you are now. Writing them down always helps me because I have a tendency to forget (shocking, right?). The noise of life does a pretty good job of clouding our thinking and distracting us from the important questions we need to be asking ourselves. Take the time to ask yourself why you do what you do. The awareness you will gain is important but keeping it is the vital missing piece to the puzzle.

Going Forward

One of my dad’s favorite bits of advice is “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. It’s ALL Small Stuff.” So, going forward I’m focusing on the really important things. Given the recent health issues, a lot of the changes focus on getting healthy:

1) Eating healthy. Planning healthy menus and snacks is a big part of this. In a household of 10, it’s easy to buy way too much food. We’ve gotten way too slack when it comes to junk food and simply the quantity of food coming into the house. As a family we’re making some lifestyle changes instead of just one or two of us trying to make changes on our own. I know from past efforts, a support system is vitally important for success.

2) Stick with an exercise routine that works. I am not a big fan of exercise. Growing up and well into my late 20’s I never had to think about what I ate or whether I exercised or not. I’m finding it really hard to start those kinds of habits at this point in my life when I’m juggling so many other things. I’ve tried lots of different workouts at home and we have a nice small collection of exercise equipment. It’s time to quit making excuses for not having time to exercise and just pick something and do it! The time I’ve spent writing this post would be more than enough time to get my body moving. I’ve come to realize that any exercise routine will work if you simply do it!

3) Treat your family members like every day could be your last. That may be kind of morbid, but it’s totally true. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. I don’t want to focus on the fact that I could lose my parents, my husband, or my kids at any moment. However, I also don’t want to focus on the things that don’t matter in the long run. It’s not worth staying upset if my kids leave their room messy or my husband forgets to do something I asked him to do. Would I want those thoughts, feelings, or negative words spoken to be the last ones we ever shared? No way! It’s ALL small stuff!

If you’d like some more food for thought on how to set priorities and how to keep them, there is a section in my book, Family-Sized Minimalism all about priorities.

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Article originally published on 04/28/2011

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  1. Faith,
    We had a MAJOR health scare 2.5 years ago. My husband had a brain aneurysm. At that moment, nothing else matters. The rest of the world ceases to exist. So many times we think that we HAVE to do all the things we are doing, but if we realize that the world will go on if we don’t do these things, we can go back to focusing on the important stuff. And I like the important things you listed, I need these to be priority for me as well!
    I also liked that you brought up KEEPING your priorities straight. I write about defining your priorities, but you are correct, we can define them but then forget to live them out!
    Great post, thanks for sharing! And I hope your husband will be fine, mine is!
    What is Living the Balance Life?

  2. Hi Faith,

    I’m sorry to hear your husband had a health scare and I hope he’s okay.

    This post really made me think. I’ve been in the situation you’ve described a few times in my life. The two times that come to the forefront of my mind are the births of my two children. There is something about holding a vulnerable newborn in your arms that makes the rest of the noise of the world fizzle into it’s rightful place, the background.

    I have a hard time keeping my priorities as well. Thanks for the reminder that some of the things we treat as priorities, really aren’t.


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