By Donna Gregory Burch
This post was inspired by an unlikely source: the toilet paper under my bathroom sink (or really, the LACK of toilet paper).
When we moved into our home three years ago, I couldn’t find a good place to store our batteries, so I shoved them under the downstairs bathroom sink. Because the batteries took up so much space, I could only fit a small number of extra toilet paper rolls under the sink. That meant I was continually going up and down the stairs to grab more toilet paper from our supply closet. Up, down, up, down, up, down … I did this every couple of weeks for three years.
Then, one day I had an epiphany: Why was I creating more work for myself? Why didn’t I just move the batteries somewhere else so I could store more toilet paper under the sink, reducing the number of times I had to resupply it? Why had it taken me three years to figure this out?
That little revelation has prompted me to start looking at other areas of my life where I am creating more work for myself.
Are you making similar mistakes? Maybe you’re storing your most often used kitchen tools on a hard-to-reach shelf. Maybe you volunteered for one too many church committees. Maybe you’re still writing checks to pay bills when online banking would be much faster and easier. Maybe you’re still lugging heavy bags of pet food from the grocery store when you could order them online and have them delivered right to your door.
Most of us with fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS have limits on the amount and type of physical activity we can take on in a given day, but life doesn’t stop because we’re chronically ill. If we’re able, certain things, like basic household chores or family obligations, still have to get done.
But how many times do we make these activities harder than they have to be? Maybe there is an easier way. I think it could be a helpful exercise to look at our everyday habits and ask ourselves, “Are we creating more work for ourselves?”
Let me give you an example of how I’ve been applying this question to my own life lately…
For the past 25 years, I’ve balanced my checkbook register against my monthly bank statement. A few weeks ago, I was transcribing my transactions into my check register when it occurred to me … Why am I doing this? All of my transactions are already listed on the bank statement. Since switching to online banking, I haven’t ever gone back and referred to my old check registers. If I want to know my balance, I just log into my bank’s website. I was creating more work for myself.
Another example …
I had ordered a new remote control from Verizon because our old one wasn’t working properly. When it didn’t arrive, I called Verizon, found out it had been lost in the mail, and they sent me a replacement. Fast forward a couple of weeks … the lost-in-the-mail remote had shown up at the post office. I brought it home and threw it on my desk, figuring I would call Verizon and ask if they wanted me to return it. Then I thought about it … Why am I creating more work for myself? Verizon has already written off that remote as lost. If I have to return it, then that means a trip to the post office (or the Verizon office, which is WAY out of my way), postage fees, etc. I didn’t make the call to Verizon, and we have a backup remote now. If they somehow track down the lost remote, I have it and can return it.
I know a lot of us with fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS have type A personalities. We tend to be perfectionists. We want things to be done just so. Humans are also creatures of habit. Once we do things a certain way, we tend to keep doing it that way without much thought.
But when we’re chronically ill, our abilities and priorities need to change. We need to simplify, simplify, simplify. We need to cut ourselves some slack and stop pushing ourselves to do it all. (Chances are, that “I’ll do it!” attitude probably contributed to us getting sick in the first place!) The truth is the world will keep turning if we don’t get everything done.
We need to stop adding unnecessary items to our to-do lists. Minimize our obligations. Streamline and reduce our tasks. Stop being a people pleaser.
So today I challenge you to look at the activities you’ve planned and ask, “Are you creating more work for yourself?” Then cut out the unessential.
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.