Here’s where I stand on busyness: I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly isn’t a sin. We’ll probably always be busy, because our lives are full.
The key is to be busy and full with the right things, to take life in stride instead of racing through it frantically.
You want the sound of your life to be a hum of vibrant activity, not the erratic and jarring frenzy of a jackhammer.
So how do you take the hectic out of the busy? Here are 15 ways to simplify and streamline your day-to-day:
1. Write down all of the commitments and activities you participate in
Put everything on paper: all of the extracurriculars, regular church get-togethers, book clubs, ministries, sports practice, everything. You might tell yourself you don’t have that many activities scheduled, but seeing it all written out could change your mind. Are you doing too much? Is there something you need to pass on this year? Don’t say “yes” to every good thing that comes your way, or you’ll muddle your priorities and end up saying “no” to something you meant to cherish.
2. Do the same things every day
Implement of series of small routines into your day that you repeat regularly. Start morning and evening routines, but also begin a “just got home from work” routine, “before the husband gets home” routine, or “after lunch” routine. Anything that makes sense for your schedule. Adding structure to your day like this helps you feel productive without feeling hectic. Even if you’re a naturally spontaneous person, daily and weekly routines create a rhythm that you can use as a jumping off point.
Both of these courses are self-paced. You can watch the videos and fill out the workbook on your own time…and each lesson only takes a few minutes! These courses are definitely worth looking in to if you want to craft more meaningful routines in your day.
3. Declutter one small area each week
Getting your household clutter under control has a domino effect. You’ll find that an uncluttered home makes you a better homemaker, changes your spending habits, and makes you more relaxed, among other things. But decluttering your whole home can take some time! Start small, working on just one thing per week. My book divides your home into 30 different projects, but you can break it down even further: one week’s project is to declutter the utensil drawer, the next week you might declutter under the kitchen sink. If you want some high-impact ways to make your home look instantly tidy, you can download the “cheat sheet” I made.
4. Keep all of your lists in one place
This simple habit will help you feel less scattered, and keep your desk from looking like a circus of post-it notes. It’s not a bad idea to be in the habit of writing things down, but there’s not much point if you can’t keep track of what you wrote. Try keeping all your lists in one loose-leaf notebook. Here’s more on the method.
5. Meal plan (or at least do menu mapping)
Meal planning is an essential homemaking practice that will save you money, time, and mental energy. Write down breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and then build your shopping list around the items you need to make them. (Here’s how I organise my grocery list, for ultimate simplicity.)
6. Start a meal database
Keep a list of all of your family’s favourite and go-to meals, either in your list notebook or on a spreadsheet on your computer. Think of as many meals as you can in one sitting, and then every time you have another meal that’s especially easy/frugal/beloved, add it to the database. When you plan your menus, you won’t have to wrack your brains for ideas–just glance at the database and select from there (perhaps just adding one or two extra dishes that you’ve been wanting to try).
7. Make lunch an either/or affair
To simplify your meals still further, give yourself just two options at every lunch. One option will always be leftovers, if they’re around. The other option will be something you like and can vary easily, like sandwiches, a meal salad, or soup. You might want to choose this second option based on the season–soup in the winter, salad in the summer, for instance.
Do you know how easy it is to get dressed for work when you have a prescribed uniform to wear? You’ll enjoy that same simplicity when you choose a “lunch uniform.” Always have the ingredients on hand that you need to assemble your lunch uniform. You can add variety by stocking different salad toppings or making a different batch of soup every week.
8. Prepare food before you get hungry
Yes, meal prep really will simplify your life! Hunger leads to bad tempers, hasty mistakes, and stress. Try to always do a little meal prep before you or anyone else you’re responsible for gets hungry. Prep something for dinner in the morning or mid-afternoon, even if it’s just chopping vegetables or making a side dish. Fix lunch before you reach the danger point, even if you end up putting it back in the fridge while you all go outside to play for an hour. When it comes time to actually get the food on the table, you’ll do so with ease because a chunk of the work is already done!
9. Set aside time for correspondence each day
In all the Victorian and Regency novels I read growing up, the heroines and heroes attended to routine correspondence on a daily basis. Sometimes they read letters that were brought in at breakfast time, or after breakfast they went to their desk to write notes and take care of business. You can adopt this old-fashioned habit by setting aside a specific chunk of time (some may need an hour, for others thirty minutes will do), to respond to email, write thank you cards, make business phone calls, etc. Resist the urge to hop on your computer ten times a day to check email. Set aside one block and diligently do whatever you can fit into that time.
10. Treat your cellphone like a telephone
Let’s review what old-fashioned phones were like:
- They weren’t windows to the internet
- They didn’t have apps and games
- They were attached to a cord or had to be near a docking station
- You could take them “off the hook” when you didn’t want to be disturbed/distracted
If your smartphone is taking over your life and fractionating your time, start pretending like it’s just a phone.
11. Stop scrolling
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram serve up an endless feed of content, and it’s easy to get lost in scrolling through them. Five minutes of “checking Instagram” can quickly turn into half an hour! Even if you don’t scroll endlessly, you might be filling the cracks of your day with social media hopping, when you could be spending those in-between minutes at rest.
You might not know this if you joined Facebook after it became open to the public (and not just college students), but Facebook didn’t always have a “news”feed. You used to just visit your friend’s “walls” (now replaced by the timeline), to leave a message, share a link, or give them an emoji cocktail. Facebook wasn’t just a time suck. I don’t know about other social media platforms, but you can actually get rid of your Facebook newsfeed with the Kill News Feed or News Feed Eradicator Chrome extensions. I used the latter on my laptop.
Rather than letting random content filter down to you through social scrolls, actively seek out quality content during your dedicated leisure time. Go visit your favourite blogs and check for the latest post. Read a newspaper article or go to the library for a new book.
12. Know what cuts, colors, and brands of clothes look good on you
Take a closer look at your favourite clothes. What materials are they made out of? What brand are they? Try to identify why you love them so you can make those clothes your new standard when adding pieces to your wardrobe. If you know what you like and what works well for your body, you’ll save a lot of time browsing–and a lot of money on returns for items that didn’t meet your expectations. Clothes shopping will become a much simpler process!
13. Choose a colour palette for your home
When I started thinking more critically about my wardrobe, I realised that if I had a strong foundation of classic wardrobe staples, I’d have endless opportunities for variety and layering–even if the amount of clothes I owned was small. I think you could apply this same principle to decorating your home. Choose a foundational colour palette, and let that guide your decisions for paints and accents. A colour palette will give your home a harmonious feel, and simplify your decision-making process for all aspects of decorating. If you need help choosing a colour palette, this post from my friend Hilary is a good place to start.
14. Shop at Aldi
It can be a huge change to start shopping at a different grocery store from the one you’re used to. But I highly recommend checking out Aldi. I love this grocery store because I don’t have to spend time price shopping around town–I know I’ll spend the least at Aldi! Aldi stores are small because they don’t carry twenty different salad dressing options. Fewer choices = less decision fatigue. You can breeze in and out of this store and save a bucket of money at the same time.
15. Explore online shopping
I’ve fallen in love with online shopping because I don’t get distracted and overwhelmed by all of the items crowded into a physical store. If you have kids, it’s a lot easier to shop online than to zigzag all around town. You can also find more specific items for your needs–and you don’t have to drive all the way to a store just to discover that they’re out of the item you want.
What should you shop for online? Personally, I like to get specialty groceries and household goods on Amazon. I use Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards, which makes this a very inexpensive way to shop! Grove Collaborative is my resource for discounted face wash, shampoo, and other personal care products. If you’re new to Grove Collaborative, you can get a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s handsoap + $10.00 store credit when you click through this link.
As you settle in to these rhythms and systems and habits, you will notice a difference–and you’ll likely find many other things to simplify, too! Stop apologizing for being busy, and learn to distinguish and enjoy the comfortable hum of your day-to-day. If you ever hear that jackhammer again, you’ll know it’s time for another change!