Do less, enjoy more.
There’s a symmetry to that line…a balance that’s so tantalizing in its simplicity. Unfortunately, it brings to mind another line:
Easier said than done.
Life is messy. There are so many variables, so many people, so many needs to consider. Reality isn’t so simple.
But what if it is? What if it really is as simple as doing less stuff so you can make room for more joy?
I invite you to consider this list of things you might let go of.
You can stop doing these things (or do less of these things) and immediately free up time and mental space for something you care about more…something you want to do but are sure you can’t fit into the current version of your life.
There is no value judgement here. Please do not feel guilty if you read this list and recognize that you spend a lot of time doing these things (or not doing these things) right now. This is simply a place to begin. An invitation. A place to pause.
There will also likely be items on this list you disagree with, or see as non-negotiable. That’s fine. One size does not fit all. I’m not trying to be definitive. There is no definitive because our lives and priorities are unique.
Consider if letting go of one or more of these things (temporarily or permanently) might open the door to something more.
Social media and late-night TV (or YouTube)
We all need zone-out time. But when diverting ourselves with social media starts to eat up hours we don’t really have (or would rather use doing something else), this is an easy place to start. No need for cold turkey; how about starting by setting a limit (and using a timer) the next time you find yourself in front of the screen?
Being immediately responsive at work
You’ve heard of the 24-hour news cycle? Well, we’re living in the 24-hour work cycle. When you’re immediately responsive after hours and on the weekend, you’re training your workmates to interrupt your off-time. Yes, it feels good to be the go-to employee, but it takes a toll on your ability to rest and connect with the rest of your life. Consider setting an end time to email checks, and letting late work calls go to voicemail.
Volunteering at school
Our schools are in need of help, no doubt about it. But when your level of help directly interferes with your ability to care for yourself, your “help” won’t scale. Choose a way to contribute to your child’s school that leaves time for you to breathe and balance yourself.
Nightly multi-course dinner
Ideally, family meals are nourishing and taste good. That doesn’t mean they must be different every night, and served with garnishes, placemats and lined-up silverware. Simplify meals, repeat the family favorites, and devote the extra time and space to improving your health with a walk around the block.
Mowing the lawn, cleaning the house or doing something else you hate but could afford to hire out
“Outsourcing” is tricky. It brings up issues of privilege, responsibility, and budgeting. But it’s worth getting honest about the value of your time. If you can afford to hire out parts of your day, you not only open up space for other, more important things, you provide a job for someone who needs it.
Spending time with obligatory friends or community groups
Another tricky dance: guilt and obligation. Every boring party and obligatory coffee date you attend is time you’ll never get back. You owe it to yourself to value your time and, in some cases, mental state. Learn the art of gently but firmly saying no.
What’s one thing you could let go of in your life to free up time for something else?
Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.