1. Ditch perfection, embrace realism. I love Pinterest. I can gaze at someone else’s magazine-worthy living room all day long. I love watching HGTV and don’t mind standing in the check-out line if I can browse through decorating magazines. The problem with this addiction is that comparison is the thief of joy. As I look at the paint colors and the furniture, it makes me reevaluate my own home and how out of date it looks compared to the newest trends.
In these photo shoots, there is very little evidence of real life. Where are the shoes kicked off under the coffee table or the stray toys and dog bones lying on the carpet? When I was raising kids, I drove myself crazy picking up after everyone. It made me angry and resentful to constantly remind people to put their things away, or even worse, to pick up their things myself. Finally, when I had enough, I started thinking strategically about the problem. I ditched HGTV perfection and embraced Grant Street realism.
For instance, since shoes were a major issue, I put a shoe rack by the back door and a large basket by the front door. This doesn’t look beautiful, but it keeps the mess corralled. Shoes that aren’t on feet have to go in one of these two places. I got the boys on board with the new plan quite simply. Shoes that I had to pick up would be hidden. They could have them back whenever they found them. The first time, I hid them in easy enough spots but then subsequent offenses were met with more creative hiding places and I quit hiding them in pairs. No more yelling or cajoling. (From me, at least—hahahaha!)
2. Know yourself. I don’t like to be rushed. I am not a procrastinator because I hate the pressure of finishing things under the gun. When I have company, I like to spend the last hour or so before the event reading a good book. I don’t want to be cooking or finishing a last minute decoration when people arrive. The underlying issue here is that I’m a control freak and there is nothing that makes me feel out of control faster than time pressure. Because I know this about myself, it informs the way I live. When I entertain, I only serve foods that can be prepared ahead of time and I make any decorations and favors well ahead of time. This way, my family will still like me when the party starts. Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but I bet you can relate with whatever it is that makes you grouchy and mean. Know yourself and what makes you feel good, then find ways to make this the norm for your household.
3. Check your perspective. There is nothing like volunteering for checking your perspective. When I help someone who needs it, I find that it makes me appreciate the things I take for granted. I also think this works in a similar way with our kids. Get them involved in helping out in your community. Serve at a soup kitchen. Help at a food pantry. Serving together affords your family many new opportunities to discuss the needs of others. When we direct our focus on others, it takes the emphasis off the things we don’t have and makes us aware of how blessed we really are.
We offer a summer reading program that pairs older teens and adult volunteers with kids in our community to eat lunch and read during the lunch hour. It is a great program and all of our own kids have grown up volunteering for it. In households where enough food is never a worry, sometimes we forget that lunch is not a guarantee for every kid. (P.S. We're always looking for volunteers, so let me know if you want to help out!)
4. Express genuine gratitude. Thank others and model gratitude for your kids. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated. When we say “thank you” out loud, it sets a tone for the household that positive and encouraging. Look for opportunities to point out good behavior in your kids. I get it….sometimes you really have to search for it. When we have a student at the Rec that I find myself getting after frequently, I try to watch closely for a chance to praise them and thank them for making a good choice. Does it do miracles? Not always, but I do think that it makes them more inclined to repeat that behavior.
So do you need to do a happiness overhaul? What are your secrets for back on track when you find yourself off the rails?