Somewhere in the last fifteen years or so, our society has embraced and glorified busyness regardless of whether it is best for a person’s life. We rush around from task to task, volunteering for things we don’t have time to do properly or taking on more than we can handle at work. Then, we gripe about these commitments or stay up ridiculously late to accomplish them. We put our kids on hold to focus on our laptops. We eat take out and dig through the dirty clothes (I know you’ve done it) to race out the door again for yet another activity. Our children squeeze playtime in between piano, dance, soccer and swim lessons. They stare at their iPads instead of engaging with their uber-stressed parents. We collapse in front of the TV an hour past the time we should already be asleep to watch shows about busy, stressed out people. We carry their stories into our dreams and wonder why we are restless at night.
Guys. Just stop it.
The ‘I’m Too Busy’ Excuse
One of many lessons we learned while living in a 5th wheel was this: Life doesn’t have to be busy to be full.
This year, let go of them “I’m too busy!” excuse and instead put these three tips into practice. Don’t talk about it. Don’t yap on Facebook. Don’t see what tips Pinterest has to offer (or ask your mom). Just jump in and make these three small alterations and watch your lives change. I lived in a camper for 10 months. You can trust me.
Too Busy Tip #1: Get Rid of Your Stuff
Think back on your last 24 hours. How much of that was spent looking for something or cleaning something? Friends, look around your house right now. Do you need 23 coffee mugs? Do you need five? How many pairs of jeans do you really, truly wear? I love my kids as much as you love your kids, but get real, do they even PLAY with what they have? When we left our “normal” life, we had to put most of our daughters’ possessions into storage. They each picked a few, beloved stuffed animals and a couple toys to bring with us and that was it. Guess what? They were happy as clams. Since moving back to a traditional house, our youngest (eight years old) said several times how she has too much stuff and wanted to give it away. So we did.
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When friends come over to our home now they repeatedly comment on how there is absolutely no clutter anywhere. They notice that they can stop by unannounced and the house is always tidy, always welcoming. I threw a surprise party with 48-hours’ notice. A friend with severe cat allergies noted recently that we must keep our house super clean because he doesn’t even get watery eyes despite our feline duo.
We gave away and sold a lot of stuff. And, it wasn’t easy. I cried over some of it. I miss a few things even now. However, most of it I’ve never even thought about again. My kitchen counters are clear to cover in flour and make biscuits from scratch. Our floors are wide plains ready for impromptu dance recitals and karaoke concerts. Our dining room table never has to be picked up before we sit down to eat or play Monopoly.
You can have this house, too. Think of the time and energy you’ll save. Give your possessions to others and enjoy the reward of less.
Too Busy Tip #2: Stop Eating Out
This one shocks more people than any other advice I offer. I’m serious though. Look back on your monthly expenses and check out the amount you’re spending on restaurants. The food is high in calories, the portions are obscenely large, half the time you leave food on the table when you walk away and all those $20 here and $30 there add up to a budget stretched beyond capacity. Put a limit to your restaurant visits and make them something to be anticipated and relished.
Gather your family around your own kitchen table instead. Share your roses and thorns (highs and lows of the day), quiz each other with old Trivial Pursuit cards, nourish your bodies with home cooked meals and the quiet that can only come from being in your true happy place—your home.
And, if your home isn’t your happy place, change that this year.
Our children are giddy when we head to a restaurant because it is an event. Heck, we’re a bit giddy ourselves. I love coming home to a clean kitchen after dining on food I didn’t cook. You know what else I like? Concert tickets, weekend camping trips, quick runs to the beach, buying my daughter the sparkly chandelier she desperately wanted. We’ve done all those things because we used money saved from our food budget—by not eating out.
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Avoiding restaurant food also makes it easier to track calories and eat what your body really needs to be healthy and slim. It’s so much harder to know what you’re taking in when you didn’t prepare it yourself.
Too Busy Tip #3: Put Down Your Device
I know this is ironic coming from a blogger. And, of course you’re reading this on a screen. How can I then recommend you cut out screen time? I’m not saying throw your iPhone into the nearest gutter and listen for the splash down in the darkness under your street. I’m just asking you to consider these examples from my life and apply them to yours.
I’m busy hollering at someone on Facebook about something truly world changing and my four-year-old is talking to me. I keep saying, “Just a second, honey!” while she touches my side, gets louder and finally puts her small, soft hands on my face, turns my head and shouts, “Look at me!”
Or what about the time the same child said, “Let’s play ‘what am I?’” Then she proceeded to hunch her shoulders, bring her hands together in pantomime of typing on a small keyboard and yelled, “I’m Mommy!”
I can’t believe I just shared those humiliating stories with the Internet, but if my experiences (ones that still make me wince with shame) cause you to think twice before picking up your device, it’ll be worth it. We lived without them before and while I know none of us can imagine life entirely without them now, please consider the beautiful freedom associated with forgetting your phone at the house. Then do it.
Busyness and stress are not inevitable. Choose to live differently. I know these three suggestions don’t really seem related to each other or to our goal of less busyness but they are. When you are fussing about your stuff (or the stuff you want), squeezed by your limited budget (or tightening pants) and spending more time online than in reality, you are too busy.
Your life isn’t full. It’s overwhelming.
Friends, I’m not perfect at this. I’ve just seen unbelievable, refreshing, liberating results from small changes. For more wisdom on simplifying your life, I highly recommend Rachel Jones. (She didn’t pay me to say this! She doesn’t even know who I am.) Read this and see what I mean.
Lisa Farrar Wellman writes at www.armedonlywiththis.com about road schooling, beautiful family trips and living as simply (and sanely) as possible.
Books on Simplifying Your Life and Decluttering
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