Taking Time to Make Time

Last week I wrote a bit about being busy. At the time, it seemed like I was paddling upstream in an inner-tube using a broom for an oar. After my post, I decided to step back and take a hard look at all of the things on my “to do list” that just weren’t getting done. There were several sewing and gardening projects, a language class I had purchased last year that was set to expire this month, items to be posted to Ebay for our decluttering project, and items already posted on Craigslist that needed to be dealt with.

As I sat with my list in hand, I channeled my inner Marie Kondo and asked myself if there was anything on the list that I even wanted to do – things that would actually bring me joy. That’s when a lot of the list fell apart.

I wanted to make an insulated bottle holder for those quick walks in the park where carrying a backpack for the sake of one water bottle was just too cumbersome. I, however, did not want to make curtains for the kids’ new house. I definitely wanted to work in the garden but I absolutely had no interest in taking the language class. I wanted to declutter, just maybe not now. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with crazy Craigslist buyers making appointments and never showing up or packing up things for Ebay.

With my now scratched out list, I began to take action. I cancelled all of the ads on Craigslist. I put the Ebay box back in the closet. I jotted down the curtain sizes and put them in my purse so that I could search Goodwill or Big Lots this weekend for something on sale. And I decided to let the course expire (I had purchased it through Groupon for $5 last March so it wasn’t a huge loss).

When I said last week that we were going to put busyness out of business, I meant it. I don’t like the overwhelmed feeling that comes with having too many things to do and not enough time to do them (or more aptly, the perception of having too much to do and too little time to do it). There’s always time when you make time.

So Angie and I sat down on Sunday to take time to make time. At the top of our brainstorming list I wrote – if we weren’t busy doing things we don’t want to do, what would we do instead? The ensuing list took up an entire page in my bullet journal! We surmised that we would:

  • Go outside more often,
  • Work in the garden,
  • Have planned play dates with our little niece, and
  • Simply relax!

As minimalists, we had already spent years paring down our possessions and responsibilities so that we could do just those things that were now on our list. So what was the problem? Why weren’t we doing them then?

We spent a little time talking this out and concluded that we had inadvertently adopted (or adapted to) the ways of the culture we were living in. You see, in Florida, we were surrounded by laid back retirees of all ages whose to-do lists consisted mostly of…well, those items on our list. Folks didn’t stress over a whole lot and they certainly didn’t keep score of accomplishments the way our family and friends here in Tennessee do. Busyness, you might say, is the state pastime here. Just yesterday morning, one of my neighbors posted this on Facebook:

You can’t see the comments but they all contain lists from other people of what they had done that day. It’s almost like a competition!

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a productive day, the glorification of busyness is what I find bothersome. The fact that so many people that we know and love equate taking time out to simply do nothing with being lazy (or worse, doing something for yourself with being selfish!) is absolutely sad. This is something that, as a culture, we need to change.

Being idle is perfectly okay. Taking care of yourself and fulfilling your own needs first, is more than just perfectly okay. It is necessary.

“If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.” – Barbara De Angelis

We decided that the biggest change we need to make to be content while living here is to exit the busyness highway. We don’t need to compete with our neighbors to see who did the most with their day off and most importantly, we don’t need to feel guilty for doing things for ourselves. To facilitate this change, we took the list of things we really wanted to do with our time and wrote them down on our April calendar. We planned them into our life. We made them our highest priority.

You can take a peek at our calendar at the top of this post. Note how we didn’t put any activities down for Work-Free Wednesday. We left those open to be spontaneous – to do absolutely nothing if we so desire 🙂

What are some of the ways you make time for yourself?

If you want to read a fun article about the joys of being idle, check out 10 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing

PS – the calendar we used in the photo was among a stack of freebie calendars given to us by a friend and wasn’t intentionally selected to promote the particular charity listed on it. We chose it because the monthly photos are all of birds. 

Spending Time in Tennessee

My mom has spent the better part of her life caring for others, as a nurse, a mother, and a grandmother. She is an amazingly strong woman; but even the strongest of women need a little help sometimes. In March, Mom suffered severe bronchitis and the coughing caused her to fracture several vertebrae and crack ribs. Angie and I drove up to Tennessee to help her get to doctor’s appointments and to take care of some Spring yard work.

Caesar Ready To GoOur trip to Tennessee was largely unplanned. One Sunday morning we packed a few bags, a couple of sandwiches, and our cat and headed off. This was the first time that I can recall ever leaving home without a set return date…or at least a date in mind. It was also the first time in our travels that we didn’t have any kind of agenda.

We spent 3 1/2 weeks in Tennessee. In some ways our days were the same as they were at home. I still had work commitments. Angie still prepared meals and kept up with daily chores. The difference though was that those obligations didn’t feel nearly as burdensome as they did when they were the only things we had to do in a day. And though I know they weren’t, the days there seemed longer than normal days and more able to accommodate the things we wanted and needed to do. In fact, there were days when I worked 8 full hours then joined Angie in pulling weeds or mulching the flower beds, made dinner together and watched a movie with my mom, while still finding time to read before bed. Was I crazy or are Southern hours actually longer than other hours?

On the way home, I thought a lot about this time phenomenon. I know there are only 24 hours in a day, each comprised of 60 precious minutes. That’s not debatable. It’s the quality of those hours that seems to be the differentiating factor. In our everyday lives, we sometimes hit a wall or fall into a rut. We may want to do other things but by the time we’ve finished with the things we need to do, we’re out of the notion or lack the energy to carry on. I was in that place before going to Tennessee.

Helping my mom helped me not to think about my own routine. The unexpected change in scenery and shift of priorities was the kick in the pants that I needed to make me to realize that ruts are self-made and therefore, just as easily self-remedied. A happily balanced day is one that includes an even mix of things that you must do and things that you want to do.

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