Years ago, when our family was bursting at the seams with activities and responsibilities, we stumbled across a book that resonated with us in a big way. It was Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Dr. Richard Swenson.
Its premise is simple: Margin is the space that needs to exist between ourselves and our limits. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. It gives us room to breathe, to thrive, to enjoy. It is the prescription for overloaded lives.
We made a commitment right then to sign up for fewer activities, a decision we continually have to revisit when we find ourselves running ragged. Overload tends to creep in every time we turn around.
Margin does not come naturally to me. If it takes 20 minutes to get to church, I leave the house 20 minutes before church starts....forgetting that it takes a few minutes to load up and several minutes to park, unload, find a seat and greet fellow parishoners. Margin says, "leave yourself 30 minutes." I feel less stressed and more prepared to participate in the service.
I notice that schools do a better job of building margin into their schedule than I do. They figure out how long it takes to pass between classes, and create "passing periods" for students, rather than ignoring the necessity for travel time.
When I don't build margin into my schedule, I fling my clothes and shoes on the floor to change into what I need for the next event. I leave dishes in the sink and the craft area a mess because there is no time to organize and clean before rushing off to do the next thing. Overload makes for chaos because there is simply no time to pick up, put away and organize. Then I wonder why I'm three feet deep in debris in every room.
Margin really is the cure, and it is an important Tidy Habit. It's a Lifestyle Habit.
Today's Small Thing is to create margin in your schedule.
Leave extra time for the unexpected traffic jam, slow customer service line, or time to thaw the chicken for dinner. Remember that projects always take longer than you think, so give yourself the gift of an extra chunk of time to get organized before, during and after your work. Look at your calendar: is it back-to-back-to-back meetings, phone calls and deadlines? Work to space things out so you can breathe and be fully present, rather than thinking about the "next" thing you're late for.
And this is really, really, really important:
Margin not only helps us be tidier with our stuff and our time, but it allows us to be available to serve others when we see a need. It gives us time to be creative, inventive, gracious and giving. We can be the kind of people we know we are meant to be. This is what our souls long for in this busy world.
Tell me your margin story. Are you on Overload? Do you need space to breathe? Have you begun to create space in the areas of your life that are stressed? How has this helped you? We'd love to hear!
P.S. So sorry about not posting yesterday. I took a Benadryl the night before and it KNOCKED ME OUT! Went to bed early and could not, for the life of me, wake up early enough to get this posted! No more Benadryl for Rachie.
P.P.S. The link above to Margin is an Amazon Affiliate link, which means I'll earn a few cents if you purchase. I'll only use these links on books or products I believe in and think you might benefit from.