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Enough Already

By Angela W. Schultz

I loved Valentines’ Day when I was a little girl. First thing in the morning I ran into my parents’ bedroom, where there was always a big box of chocolates waiting for my mother and a little red heart-shaped box with four chocolates waiting for me. I matched each of the chocolates up to the picture on the inside lid so that I could guess its filling, then I slowly savored each one. I loved those chocolates—no so much for the candy itself, but because I felt grown up and special, just like my mother, when my dad gave them to me.

Later in the day I would proudly march into school with my bag full of paper Valentines—one for each classmate. Carefully inserted into each miniature paper envelope was a single candy conversation heart. I spent hours carefully matching the message on each heart to its recipient. If I was lucky, a few of the Valentines that were given to me would also have a candy heart tucked inside or taped to the back.

My, how times have changed. This year my parents mailed a Valentine box to my daughters. It included videos, a t-shirt, and four large boxes of candy for each child. “How can they possibly savor any of it when there is so much?” I wondered. “And what is there left for their own daddy to give them?”

I didn’t want the girls to have all that candy. Oh how I didn’t want them to have all that candy! In fact, I actually pilfered one box of candy from each of them and threw it in the trash before giving them the gifts—I was just so dismayed by the sugar load. Still, my 5 year old wolfed her portion between gulps of milk, “It’s too sweet,” she explained, between greedy mouthfuls.

Then their friends arrived with Valentines. Besides the cards, each of them brought a little heart printed bag stuffed with (I counted) one mini pack of Skittles, two mini packs of M&M’s, a pack of Bottlecaps, a heart shaped sucker, and a whole box of conversation hearts.

I gotta tell you, I feel lost sometimes. So many voices constantly remind me that more is better—billboards, advertisements, supermarket displays, and even my own friends. And though I try to swim upstream, I often end up feeling strange, out of synch, and even a little guilty for my differences. But despite that I’m still not so sure that the voices are right.

I have enough little girl outfits in my house to clothe the children of an entire Cambodian village. Interestingly enough, I haven’t purchased clothes for any of my five daughters in years. We receive many, many gifts, for which I am wonderfully thankful. But because the clothes are gifts from Grandma, Auntie, or whomever, I feel obligated to keep and treasure them forever. Meanwhile, the piles keep growing.

We also have boxes and boxes full of toys at our house. I try to keep them organized so that we can make good use of their educational value, but the truth is, it’s an overwhelming task. Don and I were watching one of our daughters look for a doll to play with the other night. She tossed through piles of dolls—throwing a naked body here, a broken arm there—before finally finding something. I seem to always be giving toys away. But still, there is much to clean, arrange, order and remember to appreciate that there seems to be no time left to treasure anything.

I have my grandmother’s china, which I never use but cannot discard. I have furniture that doesn’t suit our lifestyle, but that I feel obligated to keep because it has been passed down. I have more games, music, and videos than I have time to enjoy, and I have more information than I can absorb, courtesy of the internet. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in my own abundance.

And still, the relentless voices of the media and of people around me tell me that it is not enough. Just last week I attended an enrichment night in which we were encouraged to redecorate our house for every season—swapping out pictures, knick knacks, rugs, and slipcovers every few months. The first thought that came to my mind, “Where on earth would I put all the off season decorations?”

It is easy to be distracted by the churning speed of modern life. The mounting pressures to do, be, and buy more combine to convince us that the simple and the human are inadequate. Is it any coincidence that many women wonder if they themselves are enough? I was pondering that question this week, and my thoughts turned to Felicia’s Hanosek’s essay “How Much is Enough?” I love her candid look at the difficulty in balancing the many demands and she faces and roles she fulfills. I also like her acknowledgment that at its core the question of being enough is deeply spiritual, more a question of connection to the spirit than of organization, lists, and efficiency.

“Enough is as good as a feast,” says Mary Poppins. I think she’s wrong. Enough is better.

What about you? What have you had enough of? Do you feel like you are enough? And how do you maintain your center on days when the world seems to be asking for more than you can give? What is your favorite part of Felica’s essay?

About Angela W. Schultz

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14 thoughts on “Enough Already”

  1. I agree with being overloaded. I bought each of my boys a box of chocolates like you described, with only four chocolates, thinking that it would be a fun treat for them to have after our Valentines dinner. Needless to say, they never got them. With the HAUL that my son brought home from school and the bags FULL of candy that the neighbors brought over- I was DONE! I feel like EVERY holiday has turned into a gift giving, treat loaded, eat until you're sick day. I dread Easter simply because of the candy that it brings. Nothing is a TREAT anymore, it's just expected.
    I will say that for Valentines I felt like I stayed in control. My special purchases were limited too: some sasuage for spagetti (and we ended up making hamburgers ) the chocolates, some sweettarts for my DH and I think that's it. My DH bought me a single rose, a CD and a card. I loved it all! I set the table with a cloth and candles and we had hamburgers by candle light. My boys loved it- and it was simple. Simple is SO much better.

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  2. When we moved four years ago, we spent about a month with everything we owned boxed up and stored away. My kids didn't even skip a beat! They never once asked for a single toy! So, all the toys went to DI. We are still a toy free home. If the kids get a toy for Christmas or some other sundry holiday, they play with it for a few weeks, and then ask if they can give it to some other child in need of something.

    Oh, there are a few toys here and there around, but seriously, it has been the most liberating thing to come along in YEARS! And I think my kids are more imaginative and creative for it.

    The pressure, though, to "exceed" in giving, is real though. I hate it, and yet fight with it through every holiday. I just read an article talking about how so many children today are raised with the message, "You are the most important person on earth" in an effort to raise self-esteem, which is so corrolary to the idea of giving ever more to our little precious children. The author was lamenting the loss of a generation of children that don't know how to do anything but seek praise. It cured me of those pangs of guilt when I make my kids work for 5 hours on Saturday while all their friends are out playing.

    It's tough to battle the ever constant message that we "deserve" more, more, more. I think it's especially tough for little people to discriminate those messages.

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  3. Althouh living in a small apartment has its disadvantages, one of the things I have been grateful for is the limited space that calls for serious debate when bringing something into our home. When I am offered a hand-me-down toy or clothing from a neighbor I debate if there will be room in the drawers, if there is something it could replace, rather than just adding it to the pile. I have learned how to throw away cards and notes, immediately rid myself of junk mail, and file pictures before they become piles of stuff on every table and dresser top. These are all things that were difficult for me before. But now there just isn't room. And it has been a huge blessing that has forced me to simplify.

    That's just the physical aspect of course. But I have also found that living here in New York has forced me to simplify my priorities in other ways. If I volunteer to bring dinner to a new mother that means I will most likely have to carry it over there (however many blocks away it may be) or possibly take it on the train, usuallly with my two kids along for the jaunt. It's not that service isn't great, but I have had to be more realistic about the ways in which I offer to extend myself and that has allowed me to put less pressure on myself and leave more time for days at home when I "just" take care of my own family, get my scripture reading done, maybe even sweep the floor.

    What I really love about Felicia's essay is the realization that even when it comes to the everyday duties and work we are trying to perform, we can only do enough when we are using the Savior's atonement. It is his grace that makes anything we do enough.

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  4. Wow. A toy-free house. Wow. That would be so great. My kids are quite attached to their toys, though, and I am too. I like their stuff. And I like my stuff. And I wish I could order and organize all of it better, and give away what I truly don't need, so that I could savor it, enjoy it, instead of being burdened by it.

    Every summer we go to my husband's family homestead in Wyoming, where 13 kids were raised. The rooms are tiny, barely big enough to comfortably hold all our luggage. When I first went there, I thought how cramped they must have been… then I realized that they probably didn't have things to fill the space with. Thirteen kids is a lot, but they didn't have the stuff back then, and what they did have, they treasured.

    I don't know how to recreate that joy and sense of specialness. Whenever I reread the "Little House on the Prairie" books (wow, she's a good writer. I reread those books and am amazed at how well she writes–those books are clear, simple, not-cheesy, and interesting.) I'm amazed by how much joy they took in the few things they owned. I don't want to give up my stuff, but I don't take that kind of joy in it either.

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  5. Justine, you have inspired me. For FHE tonight we are boxing up stuff to put in the garage. If noone misses it within a couple of months, out it goes.
    Amber, I love holiday foods too. We had pink oatmeal and individual heart shaped pizzas for Valentine's Day. My kids are already speculating about what I will do for April Fool's Day this year.
    Emily and Heather, I used to think I just didn't have a big enough house, and that surely if I did it would be worthwhile to hang onto stuff (preparedness, right?) Then a few years ago we moved into a monster house that was twice the square footage of our previous residence. It wasn't better–just alot more work to clean and organize. We downsized last fall, and now my hubby is dreaming of moving all 7 of us into an 800 sq ft mountain cabin, if he ever gets healthy enough to build one. I think he's being unrealistic, but he has almost conviced me to at least downsize again, which was probably his goal.

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  6. I struggle so much with these questions. I don't say no easily to hand-me-downs because I'm cheap and dont want to spend money on clothes, but then I end up having too much to manage. I do some of the same with toys, too. I just don't know what the answers really are. And then I hear of someone toy-free, or living in 800 square feet, and I feel that much more overwhelemed. I'm not convinced that we all have to be toy-free and square-foot limited to be righteous, do we? Is there really One Right Way to approach this, or is it more that we are trying to do what we can with what we have? (I'm not saying those who have shared their approaches are suggesting they are the only right ones…it's just the way I filter these things myself…by gettnig overwhelemed (and I have run into those women who think their way IS the One Right Way and that always stays with me a bit.) I hthe Lord can save me even in my clutteriness, because having so many different approaches to things is overwhelming in its own right. It's not just stuff that does it to me, ya know?

    I have to say I am concerned about that enrichment night you had…while I think traditions with holidays are fun, I don't like the idea of creating more stress for women who don't have the desire or inclination (or money or space!) to have different slip covers for each season. Yikes. Just yikes.

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  7. I don't think being toy-free or sugar-free or TV-free or (fill in blank here) has anything to do with righteousness. It just comes down to what works for your family. I fall too easily into an all-or-nothing mentality, and then I drive myself crazy! I think we can easily spend more energy feeling worried or guilty about things than we do working toward a solution (if we need one) or enjoying how things are (if we don't).

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  8. This is one reason why I do not decorate for holidays besides Christmas: where would I store it all? I spent all day yesterday putting stuff in my basement into Sterlite boxes, each carefully numbered and catalogued, so that we would have room for the food storage our Stake President wants us to get. Now we have room for a year's supply of food. What we don't have room for is Easter, Halloween, Fourth of July, and Valentine decorations. I put up the stuff my kids do in school and that's about it.

    And I do feel a little sad (or defensive about the expectation, and then irritated) about it, when I go into a cute-decorated home (or last Halloween when my kids wanted something besides just pumpkins). But decorating well is not my gift, and it's lucky it isn't, because I don't know where I'd put it all.

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  9. Righteous? I'm not sure that that has anything to do with it. Oh sure, the underlying principles may be gospel based–create and warm and inviting home, care for your body, share your resources with others, etc etc, but for most of those categories we have been given a great deal of latitude in how we interpret and apply them. I think much comes down to lifestyle choice, and to individual preferences and talents. We have different gifts, and we will shine in different areas. I don't think clutter will keep me out of heaven, for example, I just find that it distracts from things that are more important to me.

    Good point about expectations themselves being overwhelming, Michelle. I was struck by Felicia's point that it helps to give myself permission to give 30% in a given area, if that is the guidance the Lord gives me for balancing my life at that time. It's interesting how much more patient He often is with us than we are with ourselves.

    And the toy free update…we loaded a ton of toys into the garage last night. The kids were mostly very supportive about it. They seemed relieved, actually, to have less stuff to organize and clean. Our house has a loft area with a built in child size "cupboard" underneath where they used to keep their toys. They still have toys there–a few dolls and accessories, a few Barbies, a few building toys, But they now also have lots of space to play in. They're been busily engaged all day, and have told me several times how nice it is to not be crowded with stuff. They also seem to have rediscovered the few toys that are left. We'll see if it lasts. I told them it was an experiment–anything they dreadfully miss can be brought back inside.

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  10. Angie, again I know that neither you nor anyone else here was suggesting that this is an issue of righteousness, but my own personal insecurity filter sometimes interprets it that way, and I have seen people use this as I'm "I'm better than you are" kind of thing, which doesn't help my filter at all. 🙂

    We are having a big DI drive here in March, and my pile in the garage is huge. I went through a pile of clothes yesterday and probably will fill another bag or so with those, so I guess I can rejoice in little things, little bits of progress.

    And I agree with us having different gifts. I guess this has all just underscored what mine…aren't! 😉

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  11. My husband and I debate over the "toy issue" frequently. He comes from a home where toys were scarce and where being "careful" with one's toys was of premium value. I came from a home filled with toys and the things that I liked/wanted. I was spoiled, he was not. And you know what? Being spoiled helped me understand how unimportant those toys were. Not being spoiled taught my husband the same lesson.

    Kathy is right that it boils down to what is right for your own family. Now, if only my husband and I could agree…

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  12. I think the idea of custom fitting these ideas to your own family is SO IMPORTANT! It drives me crazy to hear , from other women, exactly "how" I should be doing things. Just like each of my kids is so totally different, my family dynamic is so different from other families.

    Kathy is right. It's about what works in your house. The issue of over-abundance is still an issue for me though. It's something that drives me crazy daily. Just because there aren't toys to clutter the bedroom does not by any means equate to a clean and clutter free bedroom. It's still a struggle.

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  13. Michelle, I have to work hard to keep such things from clogging my insecurity filter. So you're not alone! Try it as a mantra: "This is what works for me. This is what works for me." 🙂

    It's a complex issue. There's the whole question of whether a particular thing (like candy or toys or TV) is really a problem in my house, and then there's the question of what, if anything, to do about it. Sometimes in my life there's an area that's NOT working, but ignoring it is all I can do at that point. That's another version of "what works."

    A few years ago I reached a point of such desperation that I had to abandon several of my pet worries. It was a do-or-die choice. I had to tell myself, "I can't afford to care about this right now." I'm not suggesting that you're in the same panicky boat. I just want to point out that just because something triggers our mother-radar doesn't mean we need to go attack it. If we went charging after every intruder into our ideal scenario, we'd be constantly running from one problem to the next in a crazed sweat.

    And that's not to say that it's good to always ignore things we're not happy about in our lives/families. (If indeed we are unhappy about it for our own reasons, not just because we're comparing ourselves to others.) Sometimes the time for change is NOW. But when I make big changes, I have to be ready. It's like making the baby fall asleep on his own–the pain of the change has to be less than the pain of NOT changing. That's pretty much the only situation that motivates me!

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  14. You are right, Kathryn. Thanks for the reminder: "This is what works for me."

    And yet, like you said, there are times when change would be good. But as for the clutter issue, that is one place where I really try to do my best and try to let the rest go. But it's still hard not to compare, ya know? 🙂

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