When I read that the focus of the new book, Minimalist Parenting, was about enjoying modern family life “more by doing less,” I was intrigued. So much of my life is spent balancing competing interests. My 24-hour day is filled my family. My career. My friends. Household responsibilities. The quest for time to replenish my reserves (yoga, reading, blogging, faith). The hope for time for fun (adventures with the kids, renovating our house). The desire for time to just be, unscheduled and open to that which may come.
I’m always struggling with not finding enough time for everything and with that nagging feeling that I’m not taking care of some part of my life well enough. I say that with confidence in me and my abilities; I’m trying and I could do it all. But, there’s not enough capacity to get everything done. Not enough time, sleep, money, energy. There’s a limit. And, something always has to give. It’s a choice of priorities, of course, and I’m OK with that. But, sometimes, I don’t want to chose.
So, enjoy more of my life with less? Friends, sign me up.
And, so I did. I bought the book and joined #MinCamp, the two-week, reboot your life program held by Minimalist Parenting authors Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest. It was the easiest reboot I’ve ever done. Each day I was sent, via email, a quick and relatively-painless task to help find space in my life and to get freedom from the things that cause stress and clutter, both real, all-over-my-desk clutter and the clutter that fills up my head.
The tasks varied from “donate a bag of stuff” (which I was well on my way to doing after our basement clean up session) to “schedule a date night” (next Friday night, baby!) to “give yourself 20 minutes” (which I did, just me and the New Yorker, cuddled up together–sigh). Those, I had covered. And, they made me feel good. Accomplished even.
My favorite tasks by far were those, unsurprisingly, related to organizing. For example, the cabinet under our TV holds the kids’ art supplies, and lately, I had been having some trouble closing the doors. So, I set getting the cabinet under control as task #6. I took everything out. I tested all of markers, tossing those that didn’t work. (A novel idea.) I recycled pages with scribbles on them, used up coloring books, and any coloring books featuring Bob the Builder (honestly, his pumpkin-headed sidekick freaks me out). I packed away the Halloween and Christmas coloring books with the holiday decorations. After 20 minutes, everything fit back in the cabinet–with room to spare. The dozen or so marker caps with no bottoms were gone, and the kids had usable supplies at the ready. My only regret was not getting rid of the Playdoh (does any parent really like that stuff?); I’ll tackle that one on another day.
Task #7 was my other favorite: take 30 minutes to clean out my email. Be merciless. File. Delete. Respond. Get that inbox down. I could do it! I set the Timer+ app on my iPhone and got to work. Amazingly, I realized that the 137 emails in my inbox were largely notes to myself. Read this. Do this. Check out this blog. Crazy. So, I did what any good blogger does: I created boards on Pinterest. Check them out, readers. I have a board for blogging tips, a board for home renovations, and a board for stuff I just think is pretty. Instead of clogging up my inbox with all of these “gotta get to” tasks, I will now share my clutter ideas and inspirations with the world (as an aside, follow me on Pinterest!). I went well past the 30 minutes, though. Three hours later, in fact, I was still working on my email, getting my messages down to 50. It felt great.But, the best, and, perhaps most revolutionary, task was #8: make a meal plan. OK, I know, you probably do this already, but not me. I’m a decent, but not particularly creative, cook. (I prefer baking, actually. Measure. Mix. Taste yummy batter. Taste again. Put in oven. Clear and straightforward. More my style.) My husband and I would, essentially, wing it: open up the fridge and figure it out dinner. We ate fine, but have been in a little bit of a rut. The day-by-day strategy didn’t allow for new dishes or involving the kids; it was truly cook-eat-go. We’d never planned out the whole week before. Never written it down and hung it on the cabinet next to the stove–and then, stuck to it. Thanks to #MinCamp, we did, and it was the easiest week of meals that I can remember. We even tried a new dish (that I cooked!). And, now, I’m inspired to keep on our weekly meal planning.Now that camp is over, I’m reading the Minimalist Parenting book and considering other ways to structure our days so we’re more efficient and have more time for the important elements of life. Less getting distracted by small, unimportant things like clutter and mixed-up priorities. More laughing and celebrating. More enjoying more by doing less.