Misplaced priorities

I have to admit, I’ll never understand suburbia. I get out of my car and I see perfectly manicured lawns as far as the eye can see. I would understand if one or two people had spent a lot of time on their lawns, perhaps gardening hobbyists, people with a fairly obsessive nature, etc.

But every single lawn is perfectly manicured. All I can wonder is , “Doesn’t anybody here have anything else to do? Does lawn manicuring hold such a high priority in their lives that, with all the competing pressures of modern life, they somehow all find the time to pay this much attention to grass?”

Then one of the neighbors comes out and starts pushing her lawn mower across an already low-cut lawn, somehow managing to cut it even lower. This is a lady with children. Is it just me, or is a huge section of society misplacing their priorities? Remember, your priorities are not what you say they are, but rather how you spend your life.

I have nothing against lawns, please be assured. But I just cannot imagine having that kind of time with nothing more important than grass to attend to.  Of the dozens of things on my to-do list, the lawn is always there and it is almost always at the bottom of the list.  But it’s not just the lawn.  The lawn is one very visible example.  There are other less-important things that many people give lots of time to, as well.

How do you spend your life? What are your priorities?


  1. how do i spend my time?
    writing humor much like you.
    except more … um differenter.
    but much like you, just the same.
    what i haven’t figured out is if i’m any good.
    you know, could i carve a life out doing it?
    seems you have.
    if you have any words of wisdom, i’m all ears.

    oh yeah, when i’m not writing, i’m cutting the lawn.
    can’t keep it short enough.

  2. My lawn up-keep is dictated by my HOA. Sigh.

  3. My lawn grows until it reaches a point where I think the HOA or the city will have a problem. Recently though, I have caught the bug of (veggie) gardening in my backyard, which I think is a better use of the land.

  4. We had all our lawn taken up several years back: less water and less commitment. We are now gloriously free for other things: like social media for example. Grin.

  5. I am fortunate to have a lawn that is shared with a neighbour. He cuts and looks after watering it regularly . I supply the fertilizer when its needed and the bottle of wine when its not.

  6. I think you are right! most of us not only that we don’t know what are our priorities, we don’t even have set our priorities; it’s easier to ignore this aspect and to go and cut the lawn.
    About my priorities, the first is me, the second is my family, the third is my work!

  7. You’re absolutely right, but I’m not sure that everyone is getting the point of the post. I definitely try to spend every day doing what’s important to me – and that is spending time with my friends and family! 🙂

    Great post – I’ll be visiting again soon.

  8. I imagine that people who mow the lawn almost every day just want to get away from it all and be alone for a moment. But also, these are also the people that are obsessed with their neighbour’s opinion. The American Beauty tought us a lot about this ‘kind’ :).

  9. Yeah, I understand where you’re getting at. I can’t totally say it’s a bad thing. Everyone has different priorities. Maybe mowing the lawn is her break from the world and it helps her think and cope with her problems. It could be her form of meditation. BUT, I do agree a lot of people in this world could adjust their priorities accordingly. The ones that are unhappy, moping, and depressed should introduce some change into their life. Don’t beware, but be aware and you’ll be able to solve everything! 😉

  10. I think you are right! most of us not only that we don’t know what are our priorities, we don’t even have set our priorities; it’s easier to ignore this aspect and to go and cut the lawn.

  11. Well there are times when we care so much about social norms and outside appearance. Maybe the woman’s neighbors always mow their lawns and feel the need to do the same thing because it’s what they’ve been used to already. Priority is a very subjective thing.

  12. I just think of all the people that spend 2-4 hours a day watching TV…it’s an obscene amount of time.

  13. My priorities are to have fun and enjoy myself and my new apartment. But somehow I find myself sitting at this desk, working from 9 to 3 pm each day, bored out of my mind, and still sleeping near boxes that I haven’t been able to unpack. I hate desk jobs. I really need to reconsider this. How are we supposed to survive the office world? I think I’m really depressed. Plus my hair is falling. damn.

  14. Hi There,
    I was reading about a studying being done on Happiness in Burlington VT where they use real numbers to measure how we can increase happiness. I think you might like it. http://www.economixt.com/2009/08/update-from-burlington-vt-happiness-survey

  15. Nice article, thanks for sharing …………..we really need to re-evaluate our priorities from time to time.

  16. Well i think each of have different priorities…others just want a simple yet gives them happiness in doing such thing well for them thats there priorities in life…doing such things i mean so much for them priorities are not just for work or gaining more money or materials things but its also for the self or family happiness and i think this the number 2 priorities for others..

  17. If North Korea has nuclear missiles and ICBMs and is now creating a threat of nuclear war on the horizon….
    ….why is Michael Jackson getting more airtime on the news? Has the news media lost all traces of common sense?

  18. Sometimes those well manicured lawns represent something other than a high priority of time and attention. On my street there are only three homeowners who maintain their lawns. Interestingly, that’s me and two next door neighbors. The other homeowners are busy with their lives and their childrens lives and hire lawn maintenance companies to handle the grass and shrubs.

  19. I’m glad I’m not the only person who has puzzled over this phenomena. In fact, lawn manicurists are the least disturbing of the pack. At least, they get done in an afternoon. I’ve seen people devoting years building retaining walls, months cutting the lower limbs of branches, and weeks sweeping up leaves.

  20. Everyone has choices but is not all at the same level of awareness about their own inner power. The story invites readers to learn to step back and reflect on their own conditions differently. Lessons are often missed.

  21. I never got it about the lawns thing. I grew up seeing it, had to help with it as a kid. I could not comprehend why people would put so much work and dedication into something only to get it to look exactly like everyone else’s if it was perfect. It didn’t seem like much of an achievement. My son in law cuts our lawn, he enjoys the exercise and likes doing it. But we don’t weed or seed or do anything but keep cutting it because of local ordinances.

    I know if I owned a house I would rip it out and replace it with low-growing ground cover that never needed replacing. I was horrified to find out that more arable land in the USA is covered by suburban lawns than any other crop. No one eats it. It’s not grazing for sheep or cattle. It’s status display for people who buy into the American consumerist lifestyle with all its conformity.

    Clover is tasty for various small animals and edible by people, it blooms and looks cool. Ground ivy has tiny purple blooms that look cool. Various wildflowers could grow in most of these climates. So there are ways to create a non labor intensive yard that would still be beautiful, you could still walk on it and play on it — which half the people with the perfect lawns won’t let their children or dogs play on them because they’d rip them up and because toxic chemicals are on them keeping them looking that way. Some places in drought-raddled areas, realtors will come by and literally spray paint the dead grass green to make the home more salable.

    That is completely creepy to me.

    The yards I like best are full of plantings with flowers, herbs and even vegetable gardens out front, sometimes punctuated by little paths and statuary or pinwheels and flags. They show personality and individuality. But they are rare compared to a flat green lawn that has at best a box cut hedge kept trimmed geometric.

    I have disabilities or I might enjoy actual gardening, planting flowers and edible berries and vegetables and herbs. That’s right out of it for me. But if I were abled and strong I still wouldn’t put that kind of work into something as dull, bland and self-effacing as a standard suburban lawn. I would at least shave patterns and maybe words into it when mowing just to startle people and make them see some idea of mine is involved — that it’s not standardized, not normal, not just like everyone else. Then again I’d probably fill the yard with sculpture and mosaics anyway interspersed with topiary if I had the body energy of the average lawn-care guy.

    My daughter made a point to me about it. People do this because they’re supposed to. They like having their time structured by other people. They like being told what to do and knowing what they’re supposed to do instead of having to decide what to do. I can’t imagine that as remotely comforting or happy, but she seems to be right about a great many people preferring not to have to make decisions — even as banal a decision as what to watch on television generates a thousand fights. So maybe the lawn thing is peaceful to people because everyone agrees on what it ought to look like when it’s done.

    It’s not for me though. No way. I’d rather see it go to wilderness.

  22. David Leonhardt says

    Great comment, Robert. We have an acre and a half of lawn for the kids to run on. We keep it reasonably well mowed, but not so much as to kill off all the lovely purple flowers, the clover or the multitude of miniature strawberries that grow in the lawn.

  23. I agree… I live in southern Spain, where much of the local populace are retired, but spend most of their time “manicuring” their flowers and plants (there’s not much in way of grass here).
    Don’t get me wrong, if it makes them happy then good for them… But you get the feeling all that effort is about what the neighbors think.
    Personally, I go for less effort, more time to sit and enjoy it!

  24. Chris Arnold says

    First, Hello. This is my first time posting a comment here.

    “Remember, your priorities are not what you say they are, but rather how you spend your life.” How true that statement is.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about how we all understand the concept that money doesn’t buy happiness. We grasp the conclusion (based on research) that past the poverty level money isn’t correlated with happiness.

    I get these concepts and suspect you do too. Yet we spend so much time and energy on money–as a society and as individuals. So to the quote above, WE REALLY DON’T GET IT.

    We worry about:
    * “Will I keep my job in this economy?”
    * “Can I give my kids everything they need to have a great life?”
    * “Will I be able to afford this? (gym membership, designer handbag, pet gorilla)
    * “Will I have enough for retirement?”
    * “Am I making enough? Am I living to the standard I should be?” (comparison to others is a huge thing in most of our heads)
    * and on and on.

    Personally, I’m trying to catch myself in this thinking and reverse it. If I really see that money doesn’t buy happiness, than what am I doing right now to correct all the energy I’m worrying away on money?

  25. I have also been analyzing the keys to happiness on my blog, O! To be happy! While prioritizing is definitely a key to personal happiness, I think it important to refrain from judging the priorities of others. For example, enjoy keeping a clean house. I’m not OCD about it (I know a few people who are) but I do find that I personally function better when I live in a clean and organized environment. It helps me to be productive, which in turn, increases my level of happiness. As far as the lawn goes, some people really do enjoy gardening, and mowing the lawn is part of keeping it up. Yes, there might be some who do it solely for the purpose of “Keeping up with the Jones'” but you never really know what the motivation is behind that behavior. I notice you are wearing a red shirt and tie in your picture–do you enjoy the color red, does it make you feel better, or look better? Some people hate red (my redheaded daughter for example, because it clashes with her hair). So I’m not going to judge you on that choice. Judging others is an act that sucks energy, and produces negativity, which drags you down. Its not a good thing.

  26. What always bothers me is other dictating what somebody elses priorities should be. Is it not possible to have a nice lawn while still fulfilling your other life’s commitments? Hello, yes it is. If somebody enjoys having a nice lawn and it make THEM happy, then who are you to criticise. By the way, I trust that everybody who condemn those people who have nice lawns has thrown away their TV’s or is Lost the number one priority in your life. And if I don’t want any purple flowers and clover in my yard then so be it, it’s my yard.

  27. I think many people have gotten to the place where they feel they HAVE to be busy. To me, lawn work is a necessary evil that has to be done, but not before it’s time.

    How do I prefer to spend my time? Doing activities that help me reach my goals or make me happy. Life is too short to spend it all on my lawn.

  28. Fortunately, my son mows the lawn because I think it is important to teach him the value of work. It is sad however, that many people seem to think that outward appearances are top priority.

  29. When you live in the suburbs and don’t have an association to take care of your yard the responsibility rests on you. Peer pressure is the best motivator when it comes to the appearance of your yard. “You better mow the lawn….what will the neighbors think?” This is the motivation. Now there are a few of us who don’t care what the neighbors think and only take care of the yard based on our own time table and sense of appeal.

  30. A lawn is pretty important in every house. It is the first introduction to a house. Sightseers will be impress if a lawn is properly organized. I think that you have to take care of your lawn everyday.

  31. I guess I can see this from both sides. I do have better things to do with my time, but I can also see why people take pride in their lawn and really work to make it look good!

  32. On holiday to Florida recently, I really enjoyed leaving my ever shrinking lawn behind(as the kids get older, we no longer need enough lawn to kick a ball around).

    What was even more refreshing was sitting on my patio via the pool in the villa we rented watching someone else mowing whilst we enjoyed a nice glass of wine. It would seem lawn mowing can be better appreciated when you are not the one behind the mower.

  33. Your so right, setting Priorities is a way of life, especially with this Christmas season a couple of weeks away, the way we spend our time as an immediate effect to us emotionally, whether good or bad, could be a cause of unneccessary stress. Many your time well and set your priorities, making money, sure, but being happy and living with what we have is precious.

  34. it is true that you may have greater success in preventing this kind of weed invasion if you chose to renovate you lawn anew and followed maintenance practices, it’s still safe to say that in time, what your neighbour is doing with their lawn can have a significant impact on how hard you’ll have to work on your side of the fence to keep your lawn ideal.

  35. I think you are right! most of us don’t know our priorities, we have to set our priorities. In my life my priorities goes first for my family then myself

  36. I think that these people with misplaced priorities are using their lawns to represent their lives – if their lawn is organised and well maintained, they think that others will see them as being the same. Perhaps maybe they even feel that way themselves, and truly believe that the state of their lawn, their house, etc is representative of themselves. If that’s what makes them happy, then so be it, but I think they need to figure out what it is that would truly make them happy on a deeper level, and pursue that. Until then, these misplaced priorities will continue to consume them.

  37. The point is what is your priority in life and how you handle them. What thing you give importance too. If I am interested in music, I’ll get time for it. People around me will find me in music and nothing else. But I fing myself time for everything. And same thing applies to lawning and everything else in life.

  38. I live in suburbia and I hate to mow my lawn. It’s so small though I can’t justify paying someone thirty bucks a week to mow it. My wife really likes it too cause she feels like I’m taking care of things.

  39. I garden, which includes mowing my lawn, to reflect an attitude: Using everything around me to it’s fullest. The grass clippings go on my vege garden, which is heresy to true lawn enthusiasts, but good for vege growth. I live in a block of flats were other residents have small lawns like mine and have no interest in maintaining them. So their plots look like a jungle, while mine is manicured. I don’t care. All that matters is what I want to do with mine. I did offer to do theirs free of charge, (and get more clippings!) but since only one other resident is of my culture, the rest have different priorities that don’t include cutting grass – which is completely fine too. If you garden, you can tell a lawn that is mowed for conformity and one that is mowed to reflect a gardeners attitude. I often see mowing contractors mowing grass down to the clay, or after heavy rain, so that mud sprays everywhere. I think that is the final phase of the sickness.

  40. If cutting the grass is the problem and you would like to something more comfortable during that time, then simply save some money and after a while invest in robot lawn mower.
    And thats it 🙂

  41. Most people who live in those neighborhoods care a lot about what their friends and neighbors think.

  42. This influenced me to come and grow my own garden.

    Thanks a lot

  43. something more comfortable during that time, then simply save some money and after a while invest in robot lawn mower.
    And thats it 🙂

  44. I think you are right! most of us not only that we don’t know what are our priorities.

  45. I would tend to spend most of my time trying to improve myself. I think most people feel that by improving their outer world, they think that they would feel better on their inner world. Thank you for your post.

  46. I absolutely agree with what you are saying. I get a guy to cut my yard for $20 since I value my time at a much higher rate than that. That way I can do what I find enjoyable with that time.

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