DISCLAIMER: This is not real advice. Do not follow it.
I love Real Simple magazine. I like to read it and dream. I dream about a day when I will have the time, energy, and money to carry out all the wonderful ideas it gives me. A day when my husband takes the kids and all the pets and goes far, far away. For several days. And I have no other obligations.
But reality, in all its wisdom and cruelty, slaps me in the face and I wake up.
So, here I offer my version. Real Simple for the Barely Functioning -- like me.
You walk through your world in a haze, one pile of stuff blending into the next. Everything and everyone crying for your attention. What to do? Where to start? How do you find the motivation when it feels like life is living you instead of the other way around?
Here's your motivation: The stress is your enemy! Plain and simple. You must vanquish it to survive. And you must fight dirty.
Let's get started.
Mail: If it doesn't contain money or isn't from someone you love, throw it away. All of it. If it's important, they'll send you another one. People who want your money will keep trying. If you're worried about identity theft, burn it instead. That will be more satisfying anyway. You will feel immediate superiority. You won!
Email: Delete it. All of it. Just start over. There's nothing prettier than an empty inbox. Just like with snail mail, if it's important they'll send it again. Plus now you have legitimacy when someone asks if you did what they asked and you say that you never got their email asking you to do it. It's the answer you want to give most of the time anyway; why not make it the truth?
Voice Mail: Really? Do I have to even type this? You know what I'm going to say. Delete it. All of it. Scan your caller id, if you must. If there's anyone there you really want to talk to, call them back and find out what they wanted. But I'll bet you find mostly irritating people that you didn't want to think about, let alone talk to. Now you don't have to.
Dishes: This one requires a little work upfront but will help in the long run. Wash all the dishes in the house. Stay up all night if you have to. Then lock them up. In anything that requires a key. How about an old hope chest? (I hope I don't have any more dirty dishes.) And buy disposables. Paper plates. Plastic spoons. Everything and anything that will prevent you having to do dishes. Push aside that desire to be environmentally responsible for a while. We're talking about your sanity here. Sacrifices have to be made. Besides, it's temporary.
Nothing to cook with, you say? No problem. This fits in fine with my meal plan. You won't be cooking.
Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner: One trip to the store for the week, except for dinners. Tailor specifics to your needs. Breakfast is cold cereal. Lunch is a sandwich. Dinner is Little Caesar's pizza. Every day. For at least a week. Depending on your beliefs, you may need to buy double the pizza on Saturday and refrigerate it for Sunday. Every time someone asks what's for dinner, you have the answer. No thinking. And someday when you decide to cook again, they will be grateful instead of turning up their noses. Make sure you continue this meal plan long enough. If they gripe when you start cooking again, then you didn't do it long enough. Try again.
Fewer decisions. Less pressure. Less mess.
Breathe! Again, deeper this time. Breathe! Doesn't that feel great? Nothing like making the tough decisions to give you a little breathing room.
Maybe you would never really do any of these things. But be honest, it feels good just to imagine yourself doing them, doesn't it?
Watch for future articles on other stressors in your life, with a highlight on children and spouses.
*Sneak Peak -- For pains that you don't think are as serious as they do: Go to the health food store. Buy empty gelatin capsules. Fill them with powdered sugar. Put them in an old medicine bottle. Whenever anyone comes to you with a pain that just won't go away (but that you're pretty sure isn't serious) give them one. Tell them you can only give them one because they are very strong. Tell them it will take at least half an hour to work. If they come back in half an hour still in pain, give them one more. But emphasize that is really all they can have -- too powerful. If it still hurts after another half hour, it might be a real pain and you'll have to deal with it. But at least you bought yourself two thirty-minute stretches of peace and quiet.