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What Do You Do When There’s Too Much To Do?

Mother Teresa In Crowd

There is a lot to do.  There is a lot to do in our lives.  There is a lot to do at home or at work.  There is a lot to do to make the world a better place, and to help make it whole again.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  I do.  The world is a big place.  Climate change is a big problem.  Rethinking our culture and the way that we do things is… huge.

I came across a wonderful quote yesterday.  It was an amazing reminder.  A person that changed millions of people’s lives also felt overwhelmed:

“If I look at all the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Teresa.

One step at a time, one change at a time, one person at a time.  We change our lifestyles one action at a time.  We improve our communities one meeting at a time.  We change the world one person at a time.

When you are changing your lifestyle at home, do you think about a specific reason why?  I do.  I actually envision a child in India who loses her home to climate change, as the waters rise.  I picture a polar bear, alone and adrift on a tiny bit of ice in Antarctica.  I think of my best friend’s daughter Simona when she’s my age, rationing the precious little oil we left her generation.

Yesterday my grandfather – who is just 6 months younger than Mother Teresa – said to me: “I hope I live to see the end of this Depression.”  He lived through the Great Depression. And it was tough for him, it colored the way he sees the world. Not only did it teach him to survive and become resourceful, but it also allowed him to feel beauty in a way our generation has never felt. He sees beauty in being free from suffering.

But now he feels the suffering of people.  He suffers economically himself. And you better believe I think of my grandfather as I work to change our world.

We have two years. In two years my grandfather will live to be 100 years. And he is working hard to stick around until then.  So that gives us 2 years to fix the economy, bit by bit. I’m motivated!!

I encourage you to think specifically when you feel overwhelmed.  Just do one thing, just start one thing even.  You can’t change yourself overnight and you certainly can’t change the world overnight.  But you can do something.  So do it.

And if it help to motivate you, visualize a specific reason.  Your children, a cute animal, a precious piece of land, whatever helps you imagine the affects of your change.

Mother Teresa And Baby

Mother Teresa said so many wise words.  But here is another of my favorites:

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

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19 comments to What Do You Do When There’s Too Much To Do?

  • It’s definitely easy to get overwhelmed. As I’m slowing easing back into life after being sick for so long, I’ve found it’s better for me to specialize. I’ve been asked to volunteer with lots of places, but I’m keeping my efforts on the local food movement. Sure, I support lots of other causes, but my energies go towards my passion which is where I feel I can do the most good. I wish I could do it all, but I’m only one person – until they can figure out this whole cloning thing anyway…

  • I hope your grandfather makes it to 100! One of my great-grandmothers lived to be 99 1/2. We were always sad she didn’t make it to 100, but she was ready to go and she lived an amazing life. She out-lived my great-grandfather by almost 30 years! At her funeral, while we still cried, we focused on the happy things in her life, the fact that she walked around our farm every day until her late 90′s (perhaps that’s how she lived so long!), that she always had cookies for us, that she read us stories, gardened, played on the floor with us and the dogs.

    I always hope that I’ll make it as long as she did, and that my quality of life will be as good. I’m sure you hope the same! Cherish your grandfather while he’s here!

    As for feeling overwhelmed, I often do. Not so much with changes I’ve made to be environmentally friendly, like you, I take them one at a time. Stack wood, can this, plant that. I try to enjoy it and actually see those changes as a way to de-stress my busy work day.

    This week, I’m on vacation from work so I’m taking the time to enjoy every minute!

  • deb

    Great post and admire your grandfather’s longevity.

  • I heard this saying many years ago and have kept it tucked in my pocket since – Look at everything; overlook a lot, change a little. It’s kept me sane more than once. I love the updates on your Grandpa and I always wish him well. He’s an inspiration. Thank you.

  • It is so easy to freak out and panic in the midst of overwhelming crisis, whether economic or climatic. I easily feel bogged down, whether it is about clutter in my home or the carbon we all are emitting. Your post is a reminder that I really can only do one thing at a time. I should give each thing my full attention and energy before moving on to the next. That is how we keep from being overwhelmed. That is how we get things done. Thank you for reminding me of that Melinda!

    P.S. I am rooting for your grandfather!!!!!

  • Another quote that springs to mind:

    ‘Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.’
    Mahatma Gandhi.

    Says it all really.

  • The first thing I do is groan then get into bed and pull the cover up over my head- then I get into action. Some of us are latent bloomers

  • I would agree that it’s easy to get overhwelmed. There are *so many* things that our family would like to do and I did recently have to come to the conclusion that we have to start small and take it one piece at a time. What a timely post!

  • Getting past that inertia of despair is really tough, especially when you are on the gloomy side to begin with. I find that I have to repeat to myself often “I am doing the best that I can, and anything I do is better than doing nothing.” But it is still easy to slide into the mind that says “It’s too much trouble, I’ll let it slide just this once.”


  • “be the change you want to see.”

  • Wonderful quotes by an incredibly wise and compassionate woman. Thanks for sharing!

    Great post and yes, we just have to look wide and act small to eventually made a difference.

  • Ya gotta start where you are.

  • Lovely post – so many of the things I do to live more simply seem to gobble time. Yet, when I do them mindfully, for my kids or for someone in particular, they are inspiring (like making pureed pumpkin today! local pumpkin, no BPA-can, in prep for making my own slightly healthy mac n cheese for kiddoes to skip packaging and energy for production/delivery). Making mac n cheese for 2 days instead of popping one in the microwave for 2 minutes could make me crazy! But instead, it’s making me happy. I think of Green Bean while pureeing the pumpkin. I think of Beth from Fake Plastic Fish when NOT ripping open a frozen pack of mac n cheese. For me, thinking about the community of green bloggers is pretty inspiring, but you’re right — it’s insightful to think about a kid who deserves clean water or that polar bear cub, too. I tend to think about those issues more abstractly but I bet putting a face on those actions would be motivating. Thanks!

  • [...] and work projects to finish up.  So I’m not going to get overwhelmed, I’m going to take one step at a time, and I’m going to get it [...]

  • [...] changes add up.  As we said earlier this week, one step at a time can add up to make a large [...]

  • Thank you all for your lovely, lovely comments. This post was special to me and so are the comments here!

    I will try to work my grandfather into more of my writing, too – it sounds like he is a hero to several of us. : )

    So very interesting that Mother Teresa reminds us of Gandhi – such wonderful caring people!

    JessTrev, I love that you think of other bloggers as you’re doing things. So great.

  • P.S. You know that when you guys leave these wonderful comments, it feeds my soul? Well, if you didn’t you do now. : )

  • Melinda, your writing feeds *our* souls! And I think about people I know, really, not just bloggers – I think of my dad when I save rubber bands and tuck them into a little glass jar just like he did in his toolroom, or my aunt when I wash my tinfoil, or my grandmother when I make ravioli (which is almost never), or my mom when I make pesto, or my friend Jen when I hang clothes to dry ’cause she loves the smell of wind and sun on her sheets…or my brother when I use Classico jars to store my beans, or his wife when I feed my worms. Interesting that I think fondly of people who’ve taught me ways of being rather than people who may be impacted by my actions. Like your perspective.

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