There is no time. I have no energy. Maybe it is because I am a two-time cancer survivor. Maybe I am just getting older. Fall is hectic and the holidays are just around the corner! Do you ever feel you have gotten as efficient and organized as you can get, and it still just isn't enough? Everything isn't getting done any more—I can't keep up, and I am tired of rushing around fatigued and sometimes close to panic. Do you ever feel this way? What is the answer?

I glance at the magazines by the grocery checkout. They tell me to calm down by taking bubble baths and to practice deep breathing or to do a short meditation to reduce my stress. I am sorry, but those quickie techniques sound like trying to put on small finger bandage on a major open wound called Life that seems determined to sweep me away. What to do when you are well-organized but it doesn’t feel like things are working?

Quick fixes aren't the answer. It depresses me that the information gurus on magazine covers are satisfied with treating the symptoms rather than addressing the causes. Hop on the latest bandwagon. All your problems will be solved! Why do they do that? Because it seems easier! As a society, we like things that are easy and quick.

Fix the heart of the issues. We have many choices every day. We can cover up symptoms, or we can try to fix underlying causes. If I have a headache, I may need more sleep at night rather than something to mask my pain. Maybe I need to take a hard look at my life to see if I can eliminate things that are causing the headache–maybe too many activities or too much stuff to maintain?

There's the rub! It is easier to crack a can of pop or take some pain medication than it is to make tough choices about how I live my life. Yet, when I make the tough choices, my gut tells me that I am moving my life in a better direction—the right direction for me.

Prioritize better and learn what things to just let go. For example, sometimes my "stuff to-do” list is very long and includes stupid stuff like laundry, buying toilet paper, or taking care of something in the house. I also have a "people” to-do list. Many of us don't write one or both lists down on paper. Ideas sort of float around in our heads as vague "ought to do's" and "should’s." The people list includes things like calling and emailing family members and friends, scheduling get-togethers with people, and making doctor appointments for myself and other family members. When I choose to take care of my "people" to-do list first, I know I am doing the right things. My soul feels good, and my heart stops aching. Working on this list, however, sometimes requires more effort than, say, folding the laundry.

Simplify! When I am stressed out by something in my life, I have learned that it is worth the extra effort to fix or eliminate the cause rather than to treat the symptom. I will never get it perfect. Life just isn't that way. But, it is simpler and healthier to eliminate a cause rather than to continue to treat and mask multiple symptoms. To gain better control of life means to fix problems rather than masking them. It is harder to do, but in the end it is worth it.

Try this book: Creating A Charmed Life–Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know by Victoria Moran (HarperOne, 1999) because it is filled with small readable sections and practical suggestions. Her resources/bibliography section directed me to even more help. Her suggestions, like anyone’s, work best if readers are willing to make the tough personal choices and changes needed to do them. There again is the rub.

Sometimes I am willing to crack that can of caffeine while I work on the tough stuff. After all, I need to stay awake to finish the book that tells me I need to get more sleep. I can't change everything at once. We all have to function in the "real world." I gratefully choose to live in our cluttered consumerist society even though I sometimes complain about it. Our way of life certainly isn't perfect. I can adjust. I can tweak. Yes, I can simplify.

Make tough choices. Cancer survivors especially know that sometimes the tough choices are all that are left when we get tired of masking too many symptoms. The very definition of the word "choice" means picking from options that each may have their advantages and disadvantages. That makes choosing hard. Maybe we can learn that we really can't have it all, all at once, right this instant. If we make the tough choices, I think we can be rewarded with more time and energy for our personal priorities.


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. She also is a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.