Balancing Balance, Part VII: Categorizing My Life’s Big Chunks, Little Chunks, and Nuggets

In the last article, we talked about making a mind map to show the Big Chunks, Little Chunks, and Nuggets that make up your life. This is a graphic of what you do with your time. It can be sobering or exhilarating to see it all there in black and white – probably it is both! Most of all, the map should be enlightening. In order for it to have real value, however, what you learn from it needs to be used, and in order for you to really use it, you need to categorize it:

1. Identify the absolute necessities – the tasks you must do in order to keep your family operating at a basic level. It is actually pretty hard to do this. To help, I ask myself, “If one family member was desperately ill in the hospital and the rest of the family was still living in our house, what would have to continue to be accomplished in one way or another?” Another way to think of it is that these are the things that, if you did not do them, could cause the authorities to take your children. They are the tasks without which the family’s health and safety would be compromised. For me, in housekeeping, they are meals, laundry, really basic bathroom cleaning, and removing trash. Selecting these does not mean other jobs do not have to be accomplished, but they can be delayed for a period of time and life can continue. Also, all facets of the necessities are probably not essential. Laundry is a good example – washing and drying needs to keep happening, but dry cleaning and ironing do not.

2. Identify the important tasks – the things that cannot be put off for too long without affecting the smooth running of the household and the comfort of the family members.

3. Identify the extras – the tasks you include in your life because it is your (or your husband’s) preference that they be done, or done to that level or that frequency.

I used highlighters to help me categorize two of the three main divisions of my housekeeping tasks, one color for each of the three categories above: necessary, important, and extras. Further, I used a fourth color to circle items that rarely get accomplished, at least not as frequently as I think they should be. (Full disclosure: this mind map is really a picture of my housekeeping tasks at an earlier time when I had young children. Toys and sorting hand-me-downs don’t figure so prominently in my life today.)

As you categorize your map, you will probably notice areas where there are glitches and unnecessary effort. For example, you may realize that you have categorized “put away clean laundry” as a necessity, but you have also circled it because it rarely or never gets done. That is a glitch in the smooth running of your household, and it deserves some thought about how to make it better. Or, it may occur to you that you are gathering laundry from four or five different locations, which seems like unnecessary work. Perhaps you can figure out a better solution for that and not run from room to room so much. Maybe you notice you are spending a good deal of time wiping sticky fingerprints off of doorjambs, the furniture, toys, and other surfaces. It may occur to you that you could save all that effort by allowing your children to eat and drink only while seated at the kitchen table and allowing them to get down only after you have washed their hands and faces with a damp cloth. A relatively small change of habit and front-end effort could yield big dividends in work expended and the everyday cleanliness of your house.

You might jot down your observations and ideas as they come to you.

Do not use this exercise as a way to beat yourself up, throw a pity party about your circumstances, or give in to other self-defeating ways of thinking and behaving. Instead, use it as a tool to help you look at your life with a view toward enhancing it. You may see the need for big changes or just a couple of small ones, but whatever positive steps you take will be an improvement.

Next time, we will take an honest look at all the extras in our lives, but for now, can you name a change you would like to make?

To read the other articles in the Balancing Balance series:
Part I: Embracing the Truth
Part II: Personal Filters
Part III: Do I Have the Right to Choose My Filters?
Part IV: Personal Filters for Life Management
Part V: What are Your Family’s Gatekeeper Filters?
Part VI: Where Does Your Time Go?

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Did you still want me to clean up and computerize your chart? -your husband-

  2. Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Hello, my Husband,

    Yes, I do want you to clean it up, but not this one. I want you to do one for a post I want to put up later this week, so I can make it printable. It’s funny to communicate here. I love you bunches and bunches. BTW, you are “off the hook” for that little impending leaf project.

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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