I cleaned out my not-very-big purse/diaper bag about a month ago. This is what was inside:
It was too much. The straps were starting to break, and the bag was so full that when I carried it over my shoulder, the contents poked me in the armpit. Also, it was really heavy. So I dumped everything out on the floor and took a little inventory.
Among other things, I discovered several Starbucks cup stoppers, three (full) water cups/bottles, a stack of children’s books and magazines, my wallet zipper bag, two Magna Doodles, diapers in two different sizes, various papers from church, three pacifiers, two pairs of sunglasses, wet wipes, a bag of pens, toys from Chick Fil A kids’ meals, and some baby toys (most of which had been dropped on public floors and were in need of a good sanitizing).
The irony is obvious: the bag was so full that when I actually did need to find something in it, I couldn’t. I was straining the leather and all of my muscles to carry around a completely useless burden. So I put a bunch of stuff where it actually belonged, put the kids’ stuff in their own dang bags, and re-packed the purse/diaper bag with ONLY things that actually belonged there.
Lately I’ve been thinking about routines for the new school year, and I’ve noticed that the process is remarkably similar to my bag-cleanout exercise. Our summer days have been full–too full, much of the time. And as I make lists of all the things I want or need to add to our daily routines as school begins, I realize that I have no space for all these new, good things.
I’m realizing that my days, like my bag, have a limited capacity. It’s my job to be proactive in filling both of them with the things that I really want and need to get where I am going. When I emptied my bag, I found that I was carrying around more things than I really needed. And as I’ve thought about the drains on my time and energy, many of them fall into the same categories:
(a) Things that were useful for a specific moment in time but that are now serving no purpose.
(b) Things I carry for others that they should be carrying for themselves.
(c) Too much of a good thing.
(d) Things that used to be a good fit but that aren’t any more.
(e) Things that were important to someone at some point but that are not actually meaningful to me.
Unexamined days can easily be full and busy, but that doesn’t mean they are productive. It’s worth a few extra minutes to think one layer beneath the to-do lists and the daily routines. Where do you want your days to take you? At the end of a semester, or in a year or five, where do you want to be? What do you want to have accomplished?
The reality for most of us is that our bags, and our days, are bound to be full. But full of what? Things we need and use to accomplish a purpose or achieve a goal? Or are our bags–and our days–full of things that no longer help us, things that are only important to someone else, things that we hold onto for all the wrong reasons?
I’ve realized that many of my personal habits take up space in my day but do not move me in a direction that I want to go. I made a list of things I wish I did every single day, and I was dismayed to realize how few of these things I do with any regularity at all. My challenge is to order my days in such a way that I make space for the things that matter most.
I’ve cleaned trash and clutter out of my bag a few times since I took that photo a month ago, because maintaining an “examined bag” is an active, ongoing process. So remind me of that in October when my perfectly thought-out routines need a tune-up already!
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)