What? Your ducks aren’t in a row? Mine either.

ducks in a row

AI-generated on Canva – ducks in a row

I thought being retired would mean less worry.

I was wrong.

For one thing, I’m older now and everyone and everything else is older, too — from friends and family to furniture and appliances. If it doesn’t need replacing or repair, it certainly needs maintenance! And, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Life — retired or not — is like juggling balls, or spinning plates, or herding cats. It’s up to us to make sure we don’t have so many things going on that we can’t stop and take care of something when it happens.

(Are you old enough to remember Remember Eric Brenn spinning plates on The Ed Sullivan Show? This YouTube video will refresh your memory!)

Life is like juggling balls, or spinning plates, or herding cats. We all have trouble keeping our ducks in a row. You are not alone! Click To Tweet

What kind of ducks?

Whatever your metaphor of choice, here are some things most of us have to juggle, or spin, or herd, in order to feel like our ducks are in a row:

  • Bills paid?
  • Money coming in?
  • Laundry situation under control?
  • Kids and pets fed and healthy?
  • Emails, voice mails, and other messages replied to sufficiently?
  • Home, yard, and auto maintained?
  • Personal health issues managed?
  • All family and friends being attended to at some level?
  • Birthdays being remembered?
  • All paid subscriptions being used effectively?
  • Will drawn up?
  • Outfit ready for tomorrow?
  • Passport renewed?
  • Vaccines up to date?
  • Photos organized?
  • House functional and comfortable, if not guest-worthy?
  • Work getting done?
  • Educational goals being met?
  • Personal growth happening?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Isn’t it just a matter of time management?

There are any number of ways to manage your time. Or, to manage your tasks within the same 24 hours we all have each day. (Make lists, prioritize, schedule, do/delegate/dump, ask for help if you need it, etc.)

Time Management Resource Roundup

What I’m thinking about today, though, is how we can manage our expectations of ourselves, and give ourselves a break in the face of overwhelming task lists and responsibilities.

It’s normal to have a few stray ducks!

You can be prepared for every eventuality you can think of, and then something happens that you did not expect. No matter how prepared you think you are:

  • On occasion, the ducks (or cats) WILL become unruly, and shenanigans WILL ensue.
  • A ball WILL drop and a plate WILL occasionally shatter into a million pieces.
  • The branch WILL break, and you’ll need to trust your own wings.

Hopefully it will be one of the less important balls or plates that suffers.

Then we need to regroup:

Ideally we will only be juggling/herding as much as we can manage, most of the time.

And it’s OK to remove a few ducks from the lineup to make things easier!

You and your ducks are not alone

I’m not here today to tell you which ducks are most important and what your rows should look like.

I just want you (and me) to know and remember that it’s NORMAL.

You are not the only one. You are not alone.

More perspective, from others:

Your Life Is Now. Stop Waiting Until Your Ducks Are in a Row

Tired of Trying to Keep All the Plates Spinning?

How to Recover from Mistakes and Dropped Balls

Herding Cats: A Simple Method for Working with the Disorder of Our Lives


Keep in mind, particularly when surfing social media:

Don’t compare your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel.

I don’t think most people — your friends, that is — on social media are being fake and trying to make themselves look good. And it’s certainly not that they don’t have problems! I think it’s more that — when things are going wrong — they get a little preoccupied with their herding and juggling and are not sure what to say about their situations that won’t just generate a ton of unhelpful (but caring) advice. OK, maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I’m probably not the only one. And then when one plate breaks and you (OK, I) have regrouped and started spinning another one, there may seem to be no point in mentioning the broken one in a public forum because things are fine again. For the moment.


Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

(Yes, I included this quote in my last blog post too, but I really don’t think it can be overstated, do you?)


Did you drop a ball or lose a duck?

Are you OK now?

What will you do differently next time?

Are you still beating yourself up about it?

Does it help to know you aren’t alone?

What advice can you share with us in the comments below?



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  1. Jonda Sue Beattie on October 23, 2023 at 7:41 am

    Your list of “what kind of ducks” made me smile. It felt like a checklist that I have. I get frustrated not only keeping my ducks at least in the same pond but also other people’s ducks. I’ll only ask clients so many times if they want to reschedule or use up their paid hours. I get tired of asking people who have done work for me to please send the invoice so that I can pay them – I just have to accept that perhaps a year from now they will get around to it. I hate tracking down medical supplies and nurses that just don’t arrive. I know I need to stop using up my time and energy on such nonsense.
    My new mantra is “Well, no one died from that. Let’s move on.”

    • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 10:51 am

      Couple of good points there, Jonda. Sometimes keeping all the ducks in the same pond is GOOD ENOUGH! (As opposed to all lined up.) And keeping track of other people’s ducks can just be an exercise in frustration. I laughed at — and love — your new mantra! “Well, no one died from that. Let’s move on.”

  2. Jana Arevalo on October 23, 2023 at 8:08 am

    I love your thought that not everyone is being fake on social media, but more that when our ducks are out of order we get distracted with putting them back in the row. That’s a great perspective, and I agree. I never want to complain on social media, so it usually ends up being the happier, shinier parts of life. Thank you for the reminder that we ALL (even professional organizers 😜) have our own ducks that need to be put back in order from time to time!

    • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 10:59 am

      Thanks for your comment, Jana. I think assuming your friends are being fake is just as unhelpful as assuming their lives are better than yours. Also, you’ve reminded me of another blog post I wrote once: Sometimes Organizers Need Help Too!

  3. Seana Turner on October 23, 2023 at 10:24 am

    I find it very comforting to read “It’s normal to have a few stray ducks.” Both my husband and I work very hard to stay on top of things, but there are still stray ducks. Keeping track to ensure that returns arrived and we received credit, for example. Or trying to figure out where we are paying too much, and then deciding how to regroup. Dealing with just one small issue can involve hours on the phone.

    I keep a stack on my desk of paperwork that relates to those outstanding ducks. I think I’ll call that stack “my ducks” from now on.

    • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Great examples, Seana! Now I think we need rubber duck paperweights for our stacks of stray ducks, lol!

      • Seana Turner on October 23, 2023 at 11:09 am

        I was having the same thought as I was typing. Sounds like a great stocking stuffer to me!

        • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 12:07 pm

          Ha ha! Or a great organizing business promotional item!

  4. Sabrina Quairoli on October 23, 2023 at 11:22 am

    I agree; it is normal to forget to do things. We had a small electrical fire in the attic, and the fire department was amazing. They were able to put it out with little effort. However, they damaged the ceiling in my bedroom. This was two years ago. We have been meaning to fix it, but we forgot. Then, last year, we got the entire inside and outside of the home painted and completely forgot about the ceiling in the bedroom. Ugh.

    This weekend, I was doing yoga in the bedroom and realized that the ceiling was not done. Oh well, I will have to get someone to do that. Years ago, I would beat myself up over the forgotten task, but now, I just say, “Oh well, we will repair it soon.” I added it to my things-to-do list and will get to it when the other important tasks are completed. Thank you for the reminder that we are only human.

  5. Linda Samuels on October 23, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    What a comforting and empowering read. Thank you for these reminders that we all have ducks and most likely, they aren’t in a neat row. At least, not all of them are.

    Dating myself, but yes…I definitely remember the Ed Sullivan plate spinner guests. As a little kid, it was a huge fascination. How the heck did they spin all the plates simultaneously? Practice, I guess. What an adrenaline rush. Nothing wrong with adrenaline, but it’s not sustainable or healthy to have it constantly surging at high levels.

    I actually have two miniature, as in super tiny, rubber ducks on my desk. I like to squish and dance them around sometimes. They are great fidgets that help me focus when I’m in meetings or listening to webinars. After reading your post, these little pals have taken on a new meaning- reminders that while I have ducks, they might get out of alignment at times, and that’s ok.

  6. Julie Bestry on October 23, 2023 at 11:44 pm

    Add to the list: technology updates. In the course of a week, I’ve found I need to update my version of WordPress (more than I realized), update a particular piece of the website programming, replace my DVR (which means watching everything on it), replace my router (and perhaps the new DVR won’t even work until I do that) and replace my dying TV. So much quacking from the technology ducks! And all the plates zoomed up to the top (seemingly) in one moment!

    “Don’t compare your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel.” is a more elegant way of saying, “Don’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” And it’s so true.

    I feel like we all need a playdate for our wild ducks so that we can herd them together.

  7. Janet Schiesl on October 24, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    I love how you called your task list ducks, and having few stray ones? made me smile. Every time I have a stray duck now it won’t be a chore, I will happily finish my task and smile and get it done. Thank you.

  8. Sharon Lowenheim on November 6, 2023 at 7:20 am

    I love that you mentioned the guy from the Ed Sullivan show. When I get incredibly busy, stressed, and overwhelmed, I feel like that guy. I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers him!

    • Hazel Thornton on November 6, 2023 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Sharon! I do wonder if younger readers have any reference at all for spinning plates?

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