The relentless forward movement of life

Overwhelm is everywhere. At least among people I know, more people than not have more to do than time or energy to do it.

The solution largely seems to be: pare down. (I sometimes follow my own advice in this realm.)

If you have less stuff, there’s less to put away, to maintain, to clean. The lack of clutter is mentally and emotionally freeing. (This is something I have been working on for years. Still not where I’d like to be, but not nearly as pack rat as I used to be.)

Our outgoing books go to the used book store for hopefully a bit of store credit. Clothes go in a pile of “outgoing” and then get donated to The Kid’s preschool’s clothing donation drop. The Kid’s old clothes get handed down.

We have a Goodwill box for anything else. When the box is full, it sits in the car for a few days (are there people who just take it right away?), then gets dropped off at Goodwill.

If you buy less stuff, besides the above benefits, you save money. Because even if you get all your crap at the dollar store, you’re still spending dollars. They might not add up to make you a millionaire, but they easily could add up to something more rewarding than impulse buys, especially if you’re accumulating things that don’t hold up well or don’t keep your interest for long.

(Shop with a list. When you go grocery shopping or to Target or to wherever your impulse purchase weakness is, take a list and stick to it! And if you’re going in to pick up two or three things, don’t get a cart. Or a basket.)

Do less stuff. Clear as much of the calendar as you can, and be mindful about adding things back in. Make things do double duty if you can. For example, when The Kid was doing track, he had practice for 90 minutes three times a week, plus meets. I used his practice time to get exercise in for that day, and sometimes brought something else to do when I was done instead of wasting an hour and a half on games and social media. Even if the “something else” was just a book to read, not having (or making) time to read has been a point of contention between me and life, so using that time to read made life better.

Farm out household tasks. I know too many women with husbands and bigger or big kids who are still doing most of the work themselves. There are some things that we do because we live in a house, and that applies to all members of the house (except the youngest of the young; even kids who are two or three can put away their own toys).

How to get there if you’re not there? One suggestion: make a list of all of the housework, then sit down all together and decide who is going to do what and how often. It doesn’t need to be rigid, but it does need to be followed. What’s the payoff for them? A happier you. A more engaged you. A more energetic you. A less nagging you. They’ll need some reminders at first (as would you, if it was the other way around). While you’re working on the schedule, ask what words you can use to remind them to do stuff without it feeling like a nag. If there aren’t any, then they just need to remember to do it. Calendars, chore charts, white boards or chalk boards, sticky notes—whatever works for you.

Make meal plans. Do this one as time goes on, and it slowly accumulates without a huge time commitment. Just keep a list of meals you have and what ingredients you need to make them. Spreadsheet, index cards, whatever. As it comes time to plan meals for the coming week (which is much more efficient than trying to decide after work what to make), you have a bank of meals to choose from and a list of what you need to make them. Make your shopping list from the meals you’ve chosen from the meal bank.

I’ve seen many posts with crockpot freezer meals, sometimes taking a few hours on a weekend to prep a week or more’s worth of meals. (They’re always for people with omnivorous diets, so I haven’t tried them.) Take a meal out of the freezer in the evening (make it part of the dinner clean up routine), put it in the crockpot in the morning, and dinner is ready (or the main portion of it is) when you get home.

I’m a little off topic of paring down, but really, given our lack of community any more, it’s all about simplifying.

If you have neighbors or nearby friends who would share dinner responsibilities (which would require similar enough diets and schedules), you could cook for both families once a week, they could cook for both families once a week. You both just got one night a week that you have home-cooked food without having to cook it, and you’ve worked in some social time. Don’t worry about your house being tidy enough (as long as you have space for everyone to eat).

Pare down. Simplify. It’s very much easier said than done, but like nearly everything else, doing it in steps makes it doable.

Once you’ve taken a little more control, you’ll have more energy for some of the things you want to do now and can’t because there’s just too much.

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