Americans let stuff rule their lives. That's true in how much stuff we accumulate over the years, in not being able to let go of mementos and knickknacks, and that's true in how many commitments we have.
Parents' lives are cluttered with activities and to-do lists: day care, after-school care, PTOs, doctor visits, band practice, choir practice, Sunday school and more. Non-parents aren't much better off, what with picking up the dry cleaning, dropping pets off at the vet's office, meeting up with friends after work, using lunch breaks to pay bills before they accrue late fees and more. In the meantime, we're all trying to find the time to pursue our hobbies, to watch our favorite television shows, to mow the lawn and to do whatever else absolutely must be done without delay.
All this activity doesn't factor in the stress from credit card debt, underwater mortgages, late rent payments, worrying about paying the utilities or filling up the gas tank, or what to do with student loans.
It's no wonder so many people are so cranky.
Charles Swindoll discussed this problem in his 2005 book titled, "So You Want to be Like Christ?" In the book, Swindoll pointed out sources of "mind clutter" in modern life, including saying yes to too many things, not planning leisure and rejuvenation time, owing too much debt and thinking that technology has simplified our lives. Swindoll called for people to declutter their lives so they could declutter their minds. He especially blamed the lack of leisure and rejuvenation time for making people short-tempered, as they run between poorly planned activities that add virtually nothing to their well-being.
Early in 2012, I predicted in one of my personal online blogs that the year would be a time when some people would take a step back from technology to simplify their lives. I based my prediction on articles I had read online of people wishing to do that very thing. Then, in July 2012, Michael Hyatt, former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, posted a blog talking about his attempt to do that very thing while on vacation.
Although I continue to spend more time on Facebook than is healthy, I mostly use that social network site to stay in touch with relatives and friends as well as to promote my journalism work. I quit playing the site's endless series of games perhaps two years ago -- because the playing took up too much time. I swear some people are addicted to those games, which often require sucking more people into them so you can advance in the game.
I would rather have face-to-face time with my friends and relatives than to rely on the Internet or texting, but since most of them live far away, Facebook is a necessary evil.
Lack of quality time with loved ones and being overcommitted are not the only reasons so many people are cranky. But those issues do factor into people's bad behavior.
I know I'm more likely to snap off at someone if I'm feeling anxious over something. I'll let you know if I succeed at finding a healthier balance in life.
Jason Reynolds, staff writer for the Times-Gazette, wants to hear your stories of good and bad behavior you have noticed for a possible mention in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 684-1200.