Howdy Do It 17 – Ellie Snow

Howdy Do It came from “how do you do It,” the question Ellie & Margot found themselves asking about their freelance lifestyles, and so Howdy Do It was born, a weekly column about the things we do to keep ourselves organized, inspired and on track. Ellie will be here each Monday, and Margot will be over on Mint at the same time.

If you have any questions for Margot or Ellie, you can ask them on formspring.
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Last week I walked into the mail shop near my house to ship some orders. It’s a small, family owned business, and I much prefer it to the Post Office. There are rarely any lines and when I walk in the door, they say, “Hey Ellie!” My favorite mail shop guy was the only one working, and since I was the only one in the shop, I thought I’d ask the owner how he got into the business. Cause if you think about it, owning a mail shop is sort of… different. I mean, you don’t grow up wanting to deal with packages, right?

Turns out the owner of this little mail shop is an industrial engineer, who was laid off about 6 or 7 years ago. He bought the business because it was for sale, and he needed work. Although he had applied and been accepted to great jobs all over the country, he decided that the most important thing to him was not a good salary, or a prestigious job. He had a couple of teenagers in the house, and he knew that moving them across the country for one of these great jobs would be devastating to them. He decided his family was way more important than any job.


And so for the past 6 years, he’s been running this mail shop. He makes just enough for his family to live on, and never has to work more than 30-40 hours, which means he gets to spend a lot of time with his wife and kids. Since he knew I had recently been laid off (and may or may not be able to read minds), he wanted me to understand that work is just work. At the end of the day, it’s really not all that important. His exact words were, “This stuff is just crap, I mean, excuse me, but work is just… it’s just crap. You can’t worry about it.” He wasn’t saying it in a disgruntled way, but more like it just doesn’t matter, not the way other things matter. He said, “you know Ellie, you’ve just got to figure out how to be happy, because happiness, and your family… that’s really all that matters.”

You know how you can hear something from the people you love, and know it, but not know it? And then, you hear it from a stranger, and it’s like… OH. I spent the last week thinking about what the mail man said, and wondering why I worry so much about my job. Of course, it’s important to care about your work, but how much stress and worry is really necessary?

images by Lars Tunbjörks via johanna wallin



I got chills when I read this. It’s wonderful to want to succeed in your job, but at the end of the day it’s still just a job. I mean, what would we do all day if we didn’t need to work? I’d probably spend time with the people I love, doing the things that make me happy. Why not live everyday with that attitude?

claire brewster

A beautiful post. I’ve always thought that about my day job, its just not worth working yourself to the ground for something. But for my own work it’s another matter, I find it hard to let myself have a day off, but sometimes I need to let it go and make myself go have some fun. Will try to remember your post in future.

jennifer h.

i loved this post! my family and friends always tell me the same thing but it’s so true – it takes a “stranger” like you to say that and for me to really hear. words to remember.



Yes, yes, YES!!!! After years of guilt for not being as “successful” as some of my peers (I’m not slacking, but not climbing the ladder either)
I suddenly became GRATEFUL for it. Maybe it was marrying my best friend, maybe it was the fact that my sister moved two miles down the road… I started to realize that giving up MY time was not worth a $10,000 raise. Shit, not even a $100,000 one! I enjoy a home cooked meal every weeknight with my husband, and impromptu cookouts with my sister and my two gorgeous nieces on the weekends. And I cherish the time I have to work in my studio to do the soul satisfying things that no job could ever provide me.


i think that these simple truths become easily obscured, especially for natural overachievers. right now women are feeling the pressure to perform in our careers more than ever and so it follows that work becomes a source of contention. certainly sharing our various experiences will help us regain our balance and perspective. thanks ellie!


love reading your comments. i’m glad others feel the same way & thanks especially holly hanna & penelope!


I have to diasagree sorry. I think our work (whatever that may be) plays a big part of our life. I love my job (and yes I know I’m very lucky like that – although I did 10 years of uni to be in that position) and without it I’d be a bit lost. I don’t do overtime and I still have fun, but it plays a big part in defining who I am, especially as a female (as we often get defined as being wives and mothers, and we are so much more than that). I know times are tough for a lot of people at the moment and people have unfortunately lost their jobs and there are certainly more valuable things in life, but working is an important contibution to our society and the world we live in. Imagine if nobody worked!


I’m certainly not suggesting anyone’s work is not important. I know I’ll personally NEVER be able to retire, because I love being busy and contributing, in whatever way that might be. But at the same time, I feel an immense amount of stress and unhappiness at times, brought on by my own (sometimes false) definitions of what success means. Becoming self employed has caused me to take a good hard look at the meaning of success, because the bottom line is I may never make as much money as I could working for a design or ad agency, and I may work a whole lot harder, with longer hours and blurrier lines between home life and work life. My point is that a job is never worth an unhealthy level of stress, and if changing jobs, or deciding to cut back so that you can spend more time with your family, your garden, your hobbies, etc. is a possibility, then that may be a good option! I think everyone needs to figure out what makes them happy, and placing all of your priorities on your job isn’t always the answer.


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