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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 13 - Precious time

The Persistence of Memory (Salvador Dali)

On our quest to minimalism, it is essential that we examine the usage we make of our time. After all, time is one of our most precious assets. In a typical consumerist society, unfortunately, we spend most of our time either:

a) making money to buy stuff
b) spending money on stuff
c) taking care of the stuff we have acquired with our money
d) worrying about money (will we have enough for all that stuff?)
e) thinking about the stuff we'd like to buy but don't have enough money for

Unless you are struggling at making ends meet (i.e. have a hard time paying for basic shelter and food), there might be another way to go about this.

If you're like most people, you probably feel like you don't have enough time. Not enough time to do all the things that need to be done and even less time to do all the things you want to do. If you're like most people, you probably also don't know how to solve that problem. 

I know because I have been in that situation. My life is not very original: simply put, I am a full-time working mother who likes to live in a relatively tidy environment, hang out with her family and friends, engage in some hobbies and allow herself some downtime. My time management skills are okay, I think, and yet I often feel like I'm chasing my own tail. As I once told D, "How come I feel like I'm always running and yet never seem to get anywhere?" His sage answer was:

"You must not be running in the right direction."

My lack of time, just like yours, is not entirely an illusion: when I did the math, all the things I have to do simply did not add up to 24 hours a day. That's the bad news. On the bright side, they added up to maybe 25 hours a day. Enough to make one stressed, tired or frustrated, but nothing that cannot be fixed.

How do we fix it?

You will find tons of time-management and time-saving tips online. Some can be very helpful. But they are not sufficient. What I want to suggest is that we examine our time allotment more closely.

1) Set priorities: 
What are the things you are absolutely not willing to sacrifice? Call me sleep-obsessed, but there is no way I will cut down on my 8-hour nights. I also want to exercise and eat healthy on a daily basis (and have my kids do the same). 
What are your unshakable priorities?

2) Be honest with yourself: 
We all have a weakness. Mine is to read articles online. I have an insatiable thirst for information on the topics I am passionate about, but it is easy to get carried away. I have to set a time limit, otherwise I would never do anything else. 
What is your weakness?

3) Revisit perceived expectations: 
You might have seen the quote "The graveyards are full of indispensable [people]" (attributed to Charles de Gaulle). We might feel like the world will fall apart if we do not accomplish such and such task, but the truth is, if we slowed down a little bit there would probably be little consequence. If slowing down possibly means the end of a career or at least a decrease in prestige and income, not slowing down can often mean health problems (mental and/or physical). Perceived expectations can also lead us to burn ourselves out at home and in our relationships. Relax: you are not the savior of the world and occasionally bored children or a little bit of dust are okay. 
In what ways do you put too much pressure on yourself?

4) Revisit stereotypes: 
Breadwinner (making as much money as possible for the family). Superwoman (juggling with career, children, clean house, impeccable looks). Whatever our ideal, it is often best left to the utopists. Real life is not about perfection. Working less, spending less time on looks... it magically frees time to do other things that are probably more meaningful. Speaking of stereotypes, if you have a partner (and children old enough to help), this is a good opportunity to discuss the attribution of chores and make sure it's equitable. It's not okay to have one family member work while the other ones are relaxing, no matter the age and gender of the protagonists.
Do you endorse stereotypes that really do not serve you?

5) Revisit the difference between needs and wants: 
Only once you realize you need less does it become possible to consider working less. 
Any examples come to mind?



This week my temptations were children-related. I have one young consumerist in the family, and it does get tiring to say "no" all the time. She is getting more reasonable, however. After getting all excited over a stuffed animals display, she calmly observed "but I would probably play with it for just a few days, and then lose interest". (Good. The brainwashing I have been working on is beginning to show results!)

Donations (good riddance)

Clothes and books. Books and clothes. I used to get a high from acquiring them. I have simply reversed the situation and now get a high from donating them.

Observations and cogitations

Minimalists come in all shapes and sizes, as I noticed at my first Minimalist Meeting. Some live ascetic lives. Some like to surround themselves with nice things. But all try to be mindful of their consumption habits.

What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. I frequently put way too much pressure on myself. 'Normal people' can do x, I tell myself. And insist that I can too - despite knowing that a chronic illness makes simple things harder to achieve. A work in progress.
    Still donating time, and some books are being prepared for a giant pick-up. The house will be a lot lighter. There are eight boxes on the spare room bed ready to go, and more to come yet...

    1. I have the same internal dialogue! And with chronic illness, I am sure you face even more challenges when you try to set your limits. Take care. xx

  2. In the fall I was a stressed mess but I spent a lot of December reevaluating m priorities and the past few months have been better as far as time management.
    So funny about the stereotypes - I'm not a fan of any stereotypes and we don't have them in our home. Chris cooks, cleans, irons, does laundry - whatever it takes to help out. I take out trash, put stuff together, do yard work....Pretty much we have tried to teach our boys that when something needs to be done it is all of our job to take care of it. Hopefully they carry that over when they have families of their own.

    1. It's so good to see that reevaluating your priorities improved your life! You are living proof! :-)

  3. I think we are all guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves. We must choose or prioritize what really is the important, essential things in our life and concentrate on those ........let the rest go.........

    All the best Jan

  4. Ive swung perhaps tooooo far the other way with the no pressure on self these days.
    and Im ok with it.

    1. I think we all need moments like that! When you need to push yourself, you will know. :-)

  5. Very nice discussion of the problems of time management and how to solve that frustrating issue!

    I love that Dali painting, Persistence of Memory!! I remember when I saw it at the MOMA in New York how surprised I was at how small it is. Dali is my favorite artist, and his works range from tiny to huge!

    1. I saw Dali's works in Montreal in my early teens. Loved him right away. :-)