Saturday, March 06, 2010

What I Don't Do

I discovered, in the last few years, that the secret to getting a lot done is in what you don’t do.  Whenever I find a new, inspiring friend who seems to accomplish amazing things and who I’d like to emulate in one way or another I try to learn what it is she doesn’t do and this helps me determine if/how I could also do some of things she does.

It’s a fact that we all have the same 24 hours a day to do things.  How we each spend that time varies wildly.  No one can do it all.  And there are times in life when the choices you made earlier mean you don’t have a lot of wiggle room now, like when you have a houseful of babies and toddlers, a really demanding job that you want to keep, or a time-consuming volunteer assignment.  Yes, some people can operate on less sleep, work faster, or multi-task but that really doesn’t explain how most of the “amazing ones” do what they do.  Their secret is in what they don’t do.

Please don’t think I’m trying to lump myself in with the “amazing ones” as I share my don’t list.  I just thought it might be helpful to know all the things I don’t do.  I’ve traded a lot of things in for more time and I’m generally happy with the choices I’ve made.  Also, I am NOT suggesting that my choices are “the best ones” or trying to convince anyone to make the same ones.  I’m thinking for myself and I want to inspire others to think and choose for themselves, which means we will likely choose different things.

1.  I’m not very social. 
Other than 3 nights a month for booklcubs/classes with my home school group, I don’t do much socially.  When my husband is not at work (nights and weekends) we spend time as a family.  On occasion we get together with another family but not that often.  Most evenings are divided between time together and time where we aren’t interacting but are in the same room doing our own things.  This is when I get a lot of reading done.

2.  I don’t do my hair or wear makeup, often.
My college roommates would really laugh at this.  Back in those days I would spend over an hour every morning on hair and makeup and then after school, wait for it, I would take a shower and do it all again so it would be “fresh” for my evening social activities.  Ridiculous, I know.

After brain surgery I had a shaved patch of hair on the back of my head and had to wear an eye-patch for a couple months, which totally defeated the purpose of doing hair or makeup so I didn’t.  I lost a lot of vanity and it became a habit and I found better ways to use that time in the morning.  I do makeup for church, dates with my husband, and anytime I want to look my best but I think my kids prefer me in a chair with a book than in the bathroom with hair and makeup done.  I don’t really care what random strangers think of my looks and I know my friends love me regardless.  My husband loves me either way but I know he appreciates my efforts for our dates.  Looking my best is one way I show respect for God, hence makeup for church.  My hair is finally growing in more normally and I desperately need a haircut but I don’t think I will go back to the days of blow-drying and flat ironing.

3.  My house is not that clean.
I hope this will not always be the case but I’m not willing to give a lot more time to it than I already do.  Ideally, one day, I will have enough storage for everything in the house to have a neat, accessible, place behind closed doors but today, I don’t. So I’ve purged and purged and purged but I still don’t have a good place for everything which means there is a bit of clutter about which makes cleaning a little more difficult.  And, I have very active baby/toddler twins that I must watch while they are awake. As my children get older, they will help with a lot of cleaning but that’s a few years off.  So I try to keep the kitchen and bathroom sanitary, not necessarily pretty, and the living room and bedrooms get picked up once a day and vacuumed 2-4 times a month.  Laundry gets done every week but not always folded and put away.

4.  My family doesn’t have a lot of clothes.
This is my secret for getting all the laundry done in a day.  When the twins were first born, we all had way too many clothes.  It became possible to do two loads of laundry every day in a week and still have piles of undone laundry lying around.  So, I purged.  I didn’t touch my husband’s wardrobe, that’s his affair, but I have noticed him purging on his own.  I got rid of everything we don’t wear.  Then I looked at what was left for the kids, I picked my 10 favorite outfits and got rid of the rest.  I didn't really need to do this with my wardrobe because it was already so small.  I never keep things I don't wear and only have a small wardrobe of things I like.  We only need enough clothes to get through the week, not two or three.  With the babies, I also had to get rid of a lot of blankets and burp cloths.   That eliminated A LOT of laundry. 

5.  I don’t do yard work. 
I’m not proud of this one and would like to change it, just haven’t made it a priority yet.  Our yard is pretty bad looking as all my nice friends could but wouldn’t say.  In the summer my husband mows the lawn.  I’ve weeded maybe twice in 3 years and pruned a rhododendron, very badly, once.  I did do a bit of gardening last summer and loved it.  I hope to spend time in the yard this spring/summer.  We have a play area with swings.  I need to get a second baby swing and then I can pop the twins in swings while I work in the yard. 

6.  I don’t go a lot of places.
As home schoolers, being at home is pretty important.  I don’t have to drive anyone to school, which is nice, and I’ve chosen not to enroll my kids in many classes or other activities so I don’t drive them many places.  I would like to get Isabel in swim lessons soon.  We go to our homeschool group once a month, a field trip once a month and to the park or a friend’s house twice a month.  We go to church every Sunday.  Other than that, me and the kids don’t go out during the day.  I have nearly all of my groceries and produce delivered.  If I really need something my husband will kindly pick it up on his way home from work.  Sometimes I make a solo errand run on a night or weekend for diapers, toiletries and other odds and ends.    I don’t take the kids to the library often.  Instead I use the library website to put books on hold and my husband picks them up every week.  We do most of our book and clothes shopping online.  Sometimes for fun on weekends we all go to the mall or bookstore together.  Yes, we are a sight. 

7.  I don’t facebook the way most people do. 
My husband recently convinced me to sign up for facebook.  I have it set up so that I never get any emails about anything from facebook and when I check my facebook page I skim over everything and only respond to messages from friends and a few comments here and there.  When I blog about something I want to share, I post a link on my wall.  I know facebook can take up a lot of time but I don’t spend much on it.  I prefer and blogs for connecting with distant friends and family.

I’m sure there is more that I don’t do but that’s the big stuff that comes to mind.  What’s on your “don’t do” list?

UPDATE:  I just remembered a very important one.

8.  I don't berate myself for what I don't do or don't do as well as someone else.
I've chosen the things I do and don't and even if it's not all perfect, what good will it do me to feel bad about it?  If I haven't chosen to do it, it's not as important as the things I am doing.  If I need to add something to my do list then I can work on that but not by dwelling on what a rotten person I am for not doing it.  I just don't believe in that kind of thinking.  I am not superwoman but I am capable.  If something really needs to get done, I can do it.  But first I'll have to decide what not to do, so I'll have time for the new something.  And what is the point of comparing myself to anyone else?  I don't do it.  If I want to be really good at something I'll have to put more time into it.  How my effort stacks up against someone else's similar effort is irrelevant.  I love to be inspired by what others are doing but I don't waste my time comparing myself to them.  I get good ideas and move on.


Motherhood for Dummies said...

I love what you said about compairing your self to others and such. Nicely put :)

Michael Family said...

Love it! I "don't do" a lot of stuff either, and it's all about prioritizing. I've noticed the same philosophy can be applied to money. What do I "not spend?" We have lots of hand-me-downs, we don't have cell phones, we don't go out to eat, etc--that allows us to spend money on things we want/need and meet our savings goals.

Sea Star said...

What a great list. It is true, there is so much more time for reading, playing games and being together when you don't do a lot of those other things.
Except for outings my list would look very similar. I go to the gym 4 times a week and we hit the park and library once a week and try to make shopping a once every two weeks affair. We end up having at least one outing everyday.

I love not having to get up and get kids ready for school each day.

Jennifer said...

Great point Marissa! That is so true about money. I'd love to know what you "don't do"...

Jen H. said...

I don't do anything with photos after I download them from the camera to the computer. No scrap-booking, no photo albums, even though I think it would be fun.

I don't make cute little handouts for the young women at church. Instead I focus on preparing good quotes, questions, object lessons, discussion topics, etc. for the lessons.

I watch very little t.v. I only watch our Netflix offerings on the nights when I'm sorting laundry, ironing, or doing some other mindless task.

I am inspired by this post. I'm going to think about possible things that I can stop doing in my life to make time for more important things.