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Self Care For Quilters

Self-care is a pretty hot topic as of late.  It's not a new idea at all, health professionals have been telling us for years we have to take care of ourselves and stewardess have always told us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we help anyone else.  Hearing it, knowing we should, and doing it though are vastly different things.  I'm no expert on self-care.  I struggle with it too.  I'm just like you guys, I know I need to do it, I want to do it, but in the midst of the day I end up sacrificing myself more than I should.  So let's see where we can carve a few minutes for ourselves.

self care for quilters

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I think as quilters we are a special breed of people.  We tend to be the first ones to lend a hand, volunteer for something, send quilts or quilt blocks to strangers in need, and forget about ourselves.  I have done it and I have seen it.  Fellow quilters saying, "I wish I had time to make myself something." and I just saw the stack of charity quilts they shipped off.  I'm not saying charity isn't important but my point is when you have 80 irons in the fire you better not be tossing yours out on the ground to make room for something else. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.  If I get a notification of a fundraiser I'm dropping everything to get something made for it.  It's a balance that we are trying to find here, That way we can do all of the charity work we want to do and be able to do some things just for us.

 Later in the post, we are going to identify three tasks we have to do in our lives.  There's a fourth task though but you aren't going to identify it, I'm identifying it for all of us.  That fourth task is self-care time.  Right now I want you to block off an hour a day in your schedule for you.  Just you, so that you can do something that heals your soul.  I don't care what you do in that hour, it could be reading, drinking coffee, watching Project Runway, sewing (for yourself!), painting your nails, reading the Bible, working out, the only rule is it has to be for you and no one else.  If you have to break it down into two 30 minute blocks but right now you need to find one hour for you every day.  If you schedule the time you are more likely to stick to it.

We can't add more time to the day.  Also, skipping sleep is not taking care of yourself.  Your body needs 8 hours of sleep so that leaves us with 16 hours each day to get everything else done.  What I want you to do is focus on three things you have to do, I call these our non-negotiable tasks.  These are things you have no choice in doing, you have to do them.  Each of our three non-negotiable tasks are going to look different.  We don't all have the same things we need to get done.  The rest of our to-do list is negotiable but we will get to that at the end.

My first non-negotiable task is my day job.  Right now we need both incomes. There's no way around it.  I like fabric and without my paycheck, I wouldn't be able to get my fabric.  Someday, I hope that the blog is self-sustaining but right now it isn't so I go to work.  It's a non-negotiable task and I can't do anything about right now.  It's OK to have those, I can't delegate my work hours.  I can't streamline my workflow and that's OK.  So there's no need to focus on this one.

My next non-negotiable is cooking dinner.  I live in the middle of nowhere with a husband who has Celiac.  Our dining out options are slim, to begin with, and Celiac makes them even slimmer.  So it's put dinner on the table or starve.  I can save time here.  I know I can because I've done it before but fell out of the habit.

My third non-negotiable task in my life is to work on the blog.  I know this little blog will never become self-sustaining IF I don't work to grow it.  I also know that if I don't grow it some of my long term goals won't happen.  So I have to make time to work on it, I need to treat it as a business, and I need to think of it as my pet who needs food, water, and cuddles.  No, I'm not cuddling my laptop or my sewing machines but you get the idea.  I'm sure some of you are thinking, why didn't she use a plant analogy, well that's because I haven't been very successful at growing plants.  I tend to kill them and I don't want to do that to the blog.  I do much better with animals.  There's a lot here that I can do to save some time, energy, and help my mental state.

Now that we have our three non-negotiable tasks and we've figured out which ones we can save time with and which ones are just what they are I have some questions for you to ask yourself. Are there ways you could streamline the process?  Could you delegate tasks to someone else in your family?  Can you afford to pay someone else to do it?

My first task I could do something about was cooking.  I can't delegate it to anyone else.  It's just Paul and I and I get home about 2 hours before he does.  I'm not waiting that long for dinner to be started.  I don't recommend paying for your food to be cooked.  An added benefit to cooking yourself, no matter if you have to or not, is the food you cook is healthier than prepared foods.  Maintaining your own health is the first step to self-care.  If you don't feed your body well it won't work well.  A body that's not working well gets sick and you can't spend time with your sewing machine if you are sick.  What I have done is the past is make freezer meals.  I spent 2 days a month prepping food for us to eat.  It was amazing and then I got out of doing it when I had a few days off and never got back to it.  If you are interested in this be sure to sign up for the weekly newsletter of your choice.  I will expand on this there and share some of our favorite make ahead and quick meals.  Having the bulk of the prep work done each evening saves me close to an hour a day.  That's seven hours a week or twenty-eight hours a month.  Right there is that hour I need to block out for myself each day.

The blog is the main task that I need to look at and start saving time.  There are a lot of little things that go into running a blog.  I have to make graphics, take photos, design projects, make sure my social media accounts are active, and more.  Here's where I struggle and I'm going to be bluntly honest so stick with me.  I have a hard time letting go.  I need to listen to the song from Frozen on repeat until I get it through my thick skull.

It's my blog, it's my thing, therefore I must do it all.  This is a horrible mindset because no one can do everything themselves but it hard to break it. I know that deep inside but it doesn't make it any better.  I am getting better at it.  I've let Paul have the vintage sewing machine section of the blog.  It was hard to do that.  He basically had to beat me over the head with a metaphorical stick to get me to let go of it.  I love watching quilting videos on YouTube.  We had watched a Missouri Star Quilt Company video and followed it up with an Eleanor Burns from Quilt In A Day video.  And when that finished I got a little whack that I really needed.  He started pointing out all the people who Jenny mentions that helps her.  She's not designing the quilt, sewing the quilt, quilting the quilt, binding the quilt, demoing the quilt, editing the video for the quilt, doing the promotion for the quilt, etc.  He also pointed out all the people who helped El in the video we just watched.  He was making a very sound case for letting go.  Neither of those women are one woman shows, they have help and if they take help from their family why couldn't I do it too?

This is probably the hardest part of my self-care.  If I want this blog to become self-sustainable I'm going to have to let go of part of it.  My guess is there is one of your non-negotiable tasks that's like this for you.  It's so personal and you feel so tied to it that the thought of letting someone else do part of it makes you ill.  I also know that what I'm about to type is easier said than done.  You have to!  I have to!  I'm not going to turn all the parts of my blog over to people I don't know.  It's still mine, It's still my baby, but I don't have to do it all.  Paul is more than capable of cutting my fabric for me when I need it done.  I'm not going to turn the sewing over to him because that's my favorite part.  I'm keeping that.  I can turn most of the photography over to him too.  Let's face it he's dang good at FMQ on a treadle and photography.  I need to use his strengths just like he uses mine.  He writes his blog posts in Word and then has me format them for the blog.  That part overwhelms him and I can do it in a few clicks.  The actual quilting of a project overwhelms me a lot of times and he can do it in a snap.

I don't know why it's so hard to let go of the parts I know there is someone who can do it better than me to do them.  I know right now you are thinking, "Well Betsy could be in charge of doing the flyers for the guild show.  She's great at graphic design, would free me up to decorate the space which I love, but man it's hard."  Honey, I'm in the same boat.  I was completely comfortable putting my life into his hands but letting him do some cutting of fabric scares me.  I'm not exaggerating this at all.  We were both firefighters, he was my chief for awhile, he literally had my life in his hands and I was OK with that but I can't give him fabric to cut.  So I get ya!  I really do.

Let's make a pledge to one another right here, right now.  That for the next 11 months we will work to let go and take care of ourselves.  If you would like we can form an accountability email ring or something similar.  I know several of you don't do social media.  You can shoot me an email at melissa at quiltingroomwithmel dot com.  Because that's my last tip for self-care, find yourself a group that understands your struggles.  We are all in this together!

To help you stay on track and not get overwhelmed I've designed this sewist to do list.  You can get it for free by subscribing to our newsletter.

quilters self care

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Would you like to comment?

  1. I love reading your blog and the story of cutting the fabric ran so true for me as well, I laughed out loud. I fractured my elbow a few years ago and my hubby offered to cut some fabric to help me and there was no way I was willing to show him how to do it. I take the pledge with you.

  2. Mel, I think it took me until I was well over 50 to be able to stop getting sucked in to everyone else's charity projects, or group quilts, etc. I don't belong to guilds anymore. I do charity stitching when I feel like it, for whatever group I feel like supporting. If I want to take a class, I just go and do it by myself, and don't get recruited to join friends in classes that I wouldn't otherwise be interested in. The one online group and the one local group I attend do not do swaps, BOMS or other compulsory projects.

  3. Thank you, I struggle with allowing myself the same love I so freely give away!!!