Overwhelmed with Cleaning? You Don’t Need Balance — You Need a “Tilt”
As much as I hear people talk about it and strive for it, I cannot stand the concept of “balance.”
I get wanting to be able to keep all your plates spinning — and the deep-seated fear of allowing the most important plate to crash while keeping the less important ones aloft. But the plate-spinning metaphor feels too stressful. It’s apt: Life does feel like a juggling act. But breaking free of the act starts with breaking free of the metaphor that insists you need to try to keep everything up in the air at all times.
Hearing about the concept of tilting felt, to me, like a ticket out of the hamster wheel. I came across the idea through “Destination Simple” by Brooke McAlary. Tilting takes into account the real-life seasonal and even daily changes that influence the rhythm of your actual life. It allows you to go with the flow without feeling like you’re giving up on your ideals and standards.
While “balance” makes me feel like I have to do everything at once, stretching me too thin and not giving me the room to do anything well, “tilting” recognizes that priorities change day to day and season to season. Focusing on one thing doesn’t mean abandoning something else, it just means putting it aside until you can give it just as much attention as it deserves, when the time is right.
For instance, during the most shut-in days of the pandemic, I had to let go of maintaining my house to a certain standard of order. For a while there, I was sanitizing groceries and making sure my kids were getting enough activity throughout the day; I had zero bandwidth to worry about toothbrushes left out on the bathroom counter or onion skins on the pantry floor. I was focused, I was tilted toward keeping my family alive and well.
Global pandemics aside, the idea of tilting has brought calm and flexibility to my life. Here’s an example: Reading aloud to my kids is something that’s very important to me. But during soccer season, two of my kids have practice two to three times a week, and it’s a feat on its own to get everyone fed, showered, and to bed at a decent time. It’s too forced to try to fit reading aloud into our routine. Being able to drop it or lessen it, just for a few months, is a gift that tilting gives me. I know I’ll tilt back to a more regular habit of nighttime family read alouds when soccer season is over. I can adapt without guilt and enjoy each season of our lives for exactly what it is.
When it comes to the more practical matters of homekeeping (the cleaning, the cooking, the home maintenance), tilting also comes into play. You can tilt towards or away from cleaning any time your life demands it (or grants time for it).
- You might tilt away from cleaning when: You have a big work deadline looming and no time to cook. Opting for frozen dinners that can be heated up in twenty minutes doesn’t mean you’ve given up on preparing home-cooked meals for your family; they just mean that right now that’s what needs to give so you can still tuck your kids into bed without rushing and devote extra attention to your career.
- You might tilt back towards cleaning when: Grandparents come over and take the kids out for ice cream and a bike ride, giving you three bonus hours this weekend. Go ahead and tackle that grout that’s been bugging you while you catch up on your podcasts.
These examples might not look like your life, but you can see that there’s freedom in thinking about your time like it’s always tilting back and forth, even when it comes to mundane tasks.
Whether it’s during once-in-a-lifetime events, a few weeks throughout the year, or daily choices that ultimately don’t mean that much, tilting saves me from feeling not good enough and helps me notice what’s happening right in front of me. Rather than making me feel like I have to do my best to balance everything, the concept of “tilting” reminds me to choose what matters — even in an environment I can’t control.