Something I’ve recently realised is that in order to make space for the things I really want to spend my time doing, I need to reduce the maintenance of life. Everyone has a certain amount of ‘life maintenance’ tasks, but while some of them are essential, perhaps there are ways to spend less time on them. Or even eliminate some.
Since moving to a new country, I’ve effectively been on sabbatical(!) from “real” work. I cut myself some slack to allow time to help get the kids settled into schools and activities, set up our apartment, invest in new friendships, and explore new ways of shopping, cooking and eating.
But now, as I’m considering a new, big project, it’s time to take stock and cut back on those tasks that I’d classify as “the maintenance of life”. Here’s what I’m thinking…
Yes, I have been resisting this but I think it’s time to actually draw up a couple of weekly meal plans and stick to them. (Maybe we’ll even just have one and have the same meal for each day of the week like my grandparents did.)
Regardless, I need to stop running out of key ingredients and making extra trips to the store. I’m also thinking of reducing the number of different meals on rotation. Variety is over-rated. From now on, if it’s healthy and edible, it’s a win.
On that note, I think I can simplify shopping too. Make it just once a week, and if we don’t have the ingredients for some meal, or even run out of one of our staple items, too bad. There’s always plenty of food in the house, and the family can get used to being a bit more flexible with their choices.
Yes, of course exercise is important, and many of us need to be more consistent. But without constraints, it can become too easy to spend way too much time just going for a run! And I’m not talking about running marathons, but by the time I procrastinate and faff around before going, gear myself up to start running, do the run, maybe walk a bit, maybe sit in the sun a bit on the way home, and then relax when I get home and delay showering and moving onto the next thing, a lot of time can go by!
My new plan is to head off straight after kid drop-off and run a bit harder, for a shorter time. Then shower straight away and hit the day’s list.
I realised recently that although I don’t eat breakfast, I can’t really get anything important done while I’m helping the kids get ready for school. So, I’ve decided, this will be my time to do a few housework jobs – and only this time. I’ll chat to the kids, and at the same time, I’ll throw a load of washing on, hang out another, vacuum the floors, or whatever I have time for. But I won’t let housework eat into time that can be spent on more important things.
Housework can be infinite if you let it and it is certainly not the most important thing in my life!
Simplifying My Social Life
This is a tricky one as I love hanging out with friends and find it hard to say no. But, based on my current commitments and energy levels, I’m going to have to set some boundaries. A good place to start might be having a rule of just 2 things per week. Only one of which to be at our place.
Yes, they’re getting trickier! Of course I don’t actually mean to simplify the kids themselves or the process of raising decent human beings, but sometimes I make things more complicated than they need to be.
One thing that works well with my kids is simple rules and patterns. We recently started doing homework straight after school. Although it would seem harder this way (the kids are tired and would love a break), it’s actually much easier for everyone when we have a routine of sitting down and doing it straight away.
We’re also putting in place firm restrictions about exactly what times technology can be used. (At the moment, we regulate it but there are no firm guidelines. I think the kids will appreciate firmer rules.)
I’m also looking at activities for the new school year. High on the criteria list will be simplicity – ie. minimising the number of times one of needs to go out to drop them off and pick them up.
Moving into a two bedroom apartment has certainly simplified our lives a lot! Without a garden or pool to maintain, and literally no storage space, we’re forced to keep our stuff to a minimum. However, there’s always room for more pruning and cleansing. I’ll keep a donation bag handy and try to fill it up regularly.
Clearly the most important thing to do, is to do the most important things. So, I’ll be getting back to the habit of writing out a very short to-do list, and sticking to it. Just 3 things a day make such a difference.
How about you? Are there any areas of your life that need simplifying? Where can you minimise the maintenance of life?
Great post Fiona! Excellent food-for-thought. I’ve found outsourcing tasks and delegating basic related decision making has made a big difference. For example we have a new gardening and maintenance person for the office who monitors the state of the garden and building exterior and does whenever he notices needs to done, up to a certain amount, without needing to check in with me first. We occasionally get a bigger bill than normal, and have to fight the ‘I could do this myself’ inner voice but overall have been finding that these type of set-and-forget arrangements not only simplify life but free up headspace significantly.
Great idea to just get the problem looked after. Some things could be done better (or cheaper), but in the scheme of things, they’re not actually that important or worth worrying about.
Yes my hardest one is that run-always want to just keep going ?
You’ve just got to cut down, Jac! Maximum 1 hour per day 😉
Anne Marshall says
Wise article Fiona…your commitment to such action comes through in your writing and it is all readily doable with your mindset. It seems to me it’s going to be wins all around.
Thanks for your support Anne. We’ll have to see if it works though!
Like this. I also use that time around ‘gouter’ (after school) to get the housework done and plan out dinner. In this heat wave it also includes a trip to the pool!
Not sure how you fit in a trip to the pool with housework and dinner!! Wonder Dad!