My Vacuum Sucks

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“I thrive in chaos!” my friend declared.

I never felt it before, but all of a sudden I found myself wanting to be like her. The concept sounded cool and edgy, while my friend seemed like the ultimate juggler.

Wonder Woman of the 21st Century. Multitasker extraordinaire. Her home sat in the middle of a large Mexican ministry; people came in and out all day.

The door continuously flung open to a barking dog while she hand-dipped dark chocolate almonds with sea salt, helped her homeschooled kids with math, and produced whispy letters on her Cricut. Scrapbooks and handmade cards littered her table, and I sat as a spectator… sampling almonds, dipping when prompted, and making cards.

Actually, just two cards. My friend mass-produced hers with stamps and accented borders while I hemmed and hawed about which shade of green to use as a background. Eyelet or no eyelet? Scalloped scissors or corner rounder? Orange ribbon or khaki jute? Make a decision or go home?

Like family gathering on a major holiday, the room felt energetic. A woman popped her head in, decided to stay, and the afternoon buzzed on without skipping a beat. If there had been another table I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a puzzle surface. Sounds like a special occasion, right? Nope—this was my friend’s normal.

I should do this at my house. Revolving doors, infinite snacks, friends and strangers… it could be great! My kids would probably love it, at least for a while, and my husband could learn to love it. Maybe.

Or maybe not. The longer I thought about it the more I realized I was trying to convince myself to be something (and someone) I just wasn’t. Having perfectionistic tendencies comes in very handy here and there. But going home with only two cards after an hour at the table made me feel like I was living on Old MacDonald’s Farm. And Lame-O was my name-o.

card making

It’s not that I don’t love making cards. My table can resemble a paper explosion in seven minutes flat, and I’m even happy to leave it out for a few days. The snack bowl in the middle might be filled with something homemade, but it might be from a package, too. And I will not be cranking out three cards every five minutes.

Yes, I’ve hand-dipped foods in chocolate before, but not while working with white card stock.

I can easily visit the organized chaos and jump into the deep end of busy when needed. However, on a regular basis, spinning and multitasking are not where I find my sweet spot.

I lived that life for eight years while we ran a gap-year ministry, and I mostly felt frazzled. Nasty dishes sat too long, paperwork piled up and over, and the thought of reading a book for fun brought stress and guilt.

And the Spanish homework my boys brought home? Have mercy. I have never been so close to throwing a nine-pound bilingual dictionary in the dogs’ water bucket. Yelling about not enough time regularly crossed my mind while I bounced between mentoring students, attending meetings, teaching classes, and trying to hide how much mac and cheese I made.

The kids were thrilled but I still had a speech prepared to combat any eye-rolling. “No whining, people; there are children down the street who would donate their chickens for this organic stuff.”

I thrive in order. At the core of who I am, my mind is much calmer when my closet is uncluttered, the TV isn’t blaring, and I’m only cooking three things at a time.

Okay, two.

Our vacuums were made to suck things up. They were not made to blow leaves, the hoses cannot put out fires, and no matter how fast the brushes spin, they will not make us smoothies.

The vacuum cleaner was created to do one thing and do it well.

When I’m trying to be like someone else, accomplish seven things at a high level of quality each day and still be joyful, I will most likely burn out before the end of the week. Or day.

My friend juggles life and runs a hundred miles an hour with ease.

I do not.

God created us very different, and the sooner I grasp and accept this truth the better. Why is it so hard to accept though?

Society hammers us with messages of productivity. If we’re not doing something then we’re not being productive. If we’re not being productive, we’re not being efficient. And if we’re not being efficient we’re probably wasting time. And everyone knows wasting time in America is a big no-no.

Are you functioning within the margins of what works for you and your family? Don’t try to be a circuit board if you’re naturally more like a crockpot. Be who God made you to be, and do what you were made to do.

John Mason eloquently nailed this concept when he wrote, “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.”

If you realize you’re more of crockpot who’s been trying to function like a circuit board, pick one thing you could let go of. One group. One commitment. One ministry. God might have blessed you with multiple talents and abilities but that does not necessarily mean He wants you to use them all at the same time.

Do you think your life functions better with more white space and less chaos? Embrace it. No guilt when you take time for a power nap, an hour with a rad book, or a day with no commitments. If it clears your mind and helps you be a calmer, more focused woman… man… spouse… parent… fantastic.

And if you come to the conclusion your life functions well taking in a house full of people, scrapbooking your family game night, and making taco salad in the car… roll with it.

And if I send you a handmade card with chocolate on it, you’ll know why.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.  ~ Psalm 139:14

Vacuuming grass

Ready to make a change? Here are some ideas:

Pick two or three people who know you better than anyone. Ask them to identify your greatest strengths. Then ask them to tell you where they think you’re spreading yourself too thin and how you could cut back.

Take a strengths and/or personality test online. Compare your results to the things that occupy the majority of your time. Are you operating within your sweet spot?

Make a pros and cons list of each ongoing commitment. Be brutally honest and then ask a loved one for their brutally honest opinion about your commitments. (Isn’t brutal honesty fun?)

Sooo? Are you motivated? Overwhelmed? Encouraged? Feeling a strange urge to vacuum?

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  • Doug

    I loved the quote–born an original, don’t die a copy. Very quimsical take on finding my niche. Thank you Carrie.

  • Andrea

    I’ll bet the guy from Norway found a big spider.

    Amen! I’m an messy perfectionist. How’s that for an oxymoron?

    Figured out eventually that I don’t have to do everything and that’s okay. I only need to do what I was put here for, with excellence.

    Comparison is pointless and exhausting.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Ha–thanks, Andrea. I like your oxymoron. 🙂 You are so right about comparison. Exhausting indeed.