Contemporary Stress & Clutter

May 12, 2009
A reduction in stress leads to happier families and we can all benefit from that.

The Heavy Badge posted an article titled "He's Changed." In the article it states, "Many lives seem to be filled with clutter that chokes us from having any quality in our life. Police families are particularly prone to this 'cluttering' because they try to compensate for shift scheduling, overtime, and the perception of many wives that they are 'single-parenting.'" How true these words are for so many. I'll look around, see dishes in the sink, a pile in my in-box and a stack of "needs to be read right now, MOM!" papers on the counter. I often find myself just staring at the wall after trying to organize all the things I have to get done. My brain just wants to shut down. I've learned, to get organized, I just have to start somewhere. Here are a few areas, I struggle with and some ideas of how to get started whittling down the clutter.


Economically, many of us are having a rough time. Although police departments generally are immune to massive downsizing, even once-seemingly secure government jobs are being affected by financial difficulties within communities. Many families, including my own, now realize the cost of overspending and reliance on credit cards. Even with our eyes wider, figuring out how to avoid these financial pitfalls can be overwhelming.

Avoid Overspending

Mortgage Guide UK makes the following suggestions to help with overspending:

  1. Be aware of how much money you spend.
    I don't know how many times I've reached into my wallet for that $20 I know is in there only to come up with only one or two dollars. Then, I begin to add up those "cheap" items I've bought, such as coffee or a magazine. All of these purchases add up quickly and without keeping a detailed log of where my money is going, I feel astonished at the fact I'm always broke. Using computer software or a small notebook to keep track of your purchases can help you be realistic about what you're spending your money on.
  2. Avoid impulsive spending
    This is one of my pitfalls. I don't know how many times I just had to have that chair or that book only to get it home and a few days later wonder why in the world I bought it. Waiting a day before purchasing something will often allow you to know if you really want it.
  3. Don't spend time where it is easy to spend money.
    I had to break my habit of wandering around bookstores on my lunch break.
  4. Give yourself strict income limits.
    When my husband and I were not seeing eye to eye on budgeting, a close friend of ours made a helpful suggestion. Each month, write out our bills and deduct that from our income. Then, we should figure out an amount for food, gas and fun. We'd put cash for each allotment into a separate envelope. When the money in the envelope was gone, that was it.

Over-reliance on credit cards

Depending on credit cards is an easy trap to fall into especially when times are tough or when you find something you just have to have right now. Using credit cards for splurges or necessities can become an expensive habit. After adding the interest to the purchase price, those shoes or that new television may not have been such a great deal. Currently, many of us are being crushed by debt. To help, suggests: shelve your credit cards, tighten up your budget, cut back on non-essentials and create a plan to pay down debt.


Another area that gets easily cluttered is our time. Police families are especially prone to feeling as if there isn't enough time in the day because of law enforcement obligations like overtime and court. To compensate for the lack of control, we often overbook our calendars. We fill every spare moment with activities. It's easy to fall into. After all, our work and our spouse's work fill in a huge chunk of our day. Unfortunately (at least that's how I feel when I'm overbooked) we have to eat and sleep. Then, we have to fit in a work-out and the always pressing errands like grocery shopping. Add kids and now you have sports practice, choir rehearsals and mounds of homework. There seems to be so little time. Even the weekends are crazy. Here are a few suggestions for taking control of time:

  • Set limits.
    Although there are so many fun things to do in life and a lot of not so fun things, you need to decide what activities are important to you and your family. I once heard a mother say she put her foot down and would only agree to one extracurricular activity per child per season. Afterwards, her children's academics improved and they got to spend more time with their family. This goes for the adults as well. Signing up for yoga, painting and curling may seem like a good idea, but the craziness that comes with them won't allow you to enjoy any of them.
  • Schedule family time.
    In a way, at first, this sounded counterproductive to me. I'm overbooked, and now you want me to schedule more things into my calendar like "us" time and family bonding time? Okay. But, it began to make sense. After all, time made for family dinners is irreplaceable and studies show enormous benefits from this simple practice.
  • Too many of us feel cluttered. Our house is cluttered. Our minds are cluttered. Everything just seems so overwhelming. The encouraging thing is with just a few simple changes, many of the habits and behaviors that add to the clutter can be changed. The Heavy Badge recommends, "Take the time to sit with your spouse and methodically go through each part of your life and eliminate the things that are not necessary. The amount of clutter in your life is directly related to the amount of stress you feel." A reduction in stress leads to happier families and we can all benefit from that.

    About the Author

    Michelle Perin

    Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. 

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