By: Revanche

Life talk: Simplicity and routines

June 21, 2017

I recently visited an overwhelmed friend to help with her laundry and play sounding board. Over towels and bath sheets, she confided in me. She and her spouse had been arguing over everything, she said, stressed by bad decisions, work, kids, work, kids, more stressful decisions. You name it, it was a fight.

In my world, most fights can be resolved by taking a deep breath and letting it out, several times, then figuring out what’s really getting your goat and dealing with that.

Sometimes it takes several hours, or even days, for both parties to cool down and start resolving the issue. That’s fine. What I don’t have time for is endless rounds of fighting over the same thing when the real issue at hand tends to boil down to both partners need to be respectful and/or considerate and/or more direct in some way that they’re not currently being.

That’s a simplification of course, but in general, that’s been a common theme among friends who complain about their marriages. There’s a big difference between complaining about a tricky situation in your marriage, and consistently complaining about the quality of your marriage.

In any case, I’m not a marriage counselor and I don’t offer advice unless asked. What I will do is help with the mountain range of laundry.


89 pairs and 6 stray socks, later? I was ready to fight someone. Leaving aside who needs this many pairs of socks? Leaving aside, also, “who needs 15 different sock styles??”, for the first time, my favorite task felt like an awful chore and no wonder. I wasted 45 minutes of brainpower on socks. I felt like climbing atop that mountain of socks and bellowing: take it all away! Simply your laundry, simplify your life, save your brain!

Reduce decision fatigue, stop wasting brain function on unimportant decisions. Make routines, give your brain the space it needs to be creative and productive.

I keep seeing this message.

Why is this at all a surprise? My best writing thoughts come to me in the shower, or when I’m laying in bed trying not to think. If I’m hung up on a work problem, the dishes get washed or the table gets picked up. In my better days, I’d go for a run. Now, Seamus gets an extra walk to shake the cobwebs. The mundane stroll through the neighborhood clears my assumptions or moves them aside so I can see the solution. Daydreaming and meandering is good for our problem solving. 

The key to success is clear, isn’t it? Set routines! Set them for everything!

As a newish mom, I’ve lost the luxury of deciding that starting right now, like in my single and driven days, that from now on, I get up at 5 am, shower, work out, write write write, work work work, eat, work some more. Exhaustion would destroy whatever brain cells I had left, even if I wasn’t dealing with a baby that insisted on changing zir sleep/non-sleep routine every time I relaxed.

But I’m not doomed to suffer, ambition-free and listless, until JuggerBaby becomes a fully actualized human. I’m not doomed because I’m not a martyr, nor am I stupid.

I am going to set myself up for brain freedom and success by minimizing the mental and physical clutter. As much as I quirk an eyebrow at quoting Thoreau’s “Simplify, simplify” for the sheer weight of privilege behind the fact that he could easily simplify by choice (and see Cait’s post on the privileges of choosing to be a minimalist), it does apply here.

Begone, home clutter!

Streamline the closet.

Good-bye to my weird organization system of past jobs. Professional clothes were once separated from lounging / casual clothes to prevent me from sleepily wearing a geeky tee and jeans to the business casual office. Now that it’s all casual, all the shirts /pants / sweaters are now reunited, organized by color, so that I can see everything at once. That’s step one. Step two is making sure that only the ideal wardrobe lives in my closet.

The goal: Mornings, I can grab a clean top, add pants, and voila! Dressed!

Subcategory: Color matching: weeding out most colors. I don’t want to think about whether this clashes with that. Well, not that I do much now but let’s never waste another synapse firing on that again.

Baskets, baskets, everywhere!

Between the dog meds to accompany meals, needing to walk Seamus and JB together, JuggerBaby trying to steal the dog’s leash, phones, keys, and poo bags, and and and … we have instituted a Basket Rule. Everything has a basket. No need to wonder where Thing is, it’s in the Thing Basket. Done.

Subcategory: Nix the (unnecessary) containers. We are battling my love of containers, great and small, and cutting the clutter. Less clutter = less to clean! Win win.

Make gifts easy (and the same)

I found myself asking Twitter for birthday suggestions for a three year old boy and what a load of brainspace that burned! I fell down a black hole of looking at action figures, educational toys, and costumes. Then a friend reminded me, duh, I give money and I give books. Done!

Same with wedding invitations. We have to travel almost every wedding to some remote place that is half impossible to get to without driving for hours and spending serious cash. There’s a trend for child-free events, and we can’t leave JuggerBaby in anyone’s care over a weekend, so we’re declining most invitations. Before JuggerBaby, we couldn’t fit in more than 2 weddings per year, and now it’s even less than that. I send a lovely Nidhi Chandani Everyday Love Art card with a check. Done.

Begone, professional clutter!

Ease up on the side hustle

I have a tendency to take on way more projects in the chase for extra income than there are hours in the day, or energy points in the universe. Instead of flailing about with 20 different projects, doing them all badly, I’ve made it a point to give myself a specific window of time to test out side money projects, and then permission to just stop if it doesn’t pan out, like with mTurk.

A project needs to slot in organically with my life now, and grow organically with the efforts that I put in, because I’m not about to replace my professional job with its many perks with a job that takes even more out of me than I can give, and jeopardize the balance of the rest of my life.

Delegate appropriately, then Back Off!

My bones were made in my professional career by taking on everything in the workplace, big or small, and knocking home runs out of the park with all of them.

There comes a time, especially when you’re managing a staff, to hand stuff over and only monitor progress, not do it all myself.  I’ve been managing staff for over ten years now, and it’s still hard to fight the tendency to just quickly do something simple because I know it like the back of my hand with the intention of “helping”, but instead wasting my valuable time, and getting in my team’s way.

What else can I do?

I’m evaluating what I do as I go along, without spending vast stretches of time that I don’t have mulling it over, testing my theories and changing on the fly so the list above is just a start. This ignores the social capital aspects of our lives where we choose to spend time with our loved ones for fun and support.

There are definitely more ways to streamline how we do life and work, and I’d love to hear what you do in your lives.

:: How do you juggle your responsibilities? What’s essential and non-essential?

13 Responses to “Life talk: Simplicity and routines”

  1. I think it’s important and if at all possible to eliminate as many distractions as possible, especially if you are having a problem in any area of your life. It’s hard to get to the root of something if you can’t see past a messy house or have too many other obligations.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Financially Bi-PolarMy Profile

  2. I know how I want to streamline my wardrobe. Now I just need to find the time to do it!

  3. My wardrobe is still separated by professional/business casual/casual (where casual is DH’s hand-me-down t-shirts that are too ratty to be worn in public).

    BUT, I definitely have a mix and match wardrobe where I just pull a shirt from the shirt place and pants from the pants place and it will be fine. I basically decide what to wear by taking what is on top or in front and then putting clean things on the bottom or in the back. Most of my shirts are solid colors with the spring palette.

    I also don’t really care about clothing. If I did care, I probably wouldn’t want a streamlined uniform, but it is definitely not where I choose to show personal flair.

    Our stuff has a dedicated place, but I’m not very good at making sure the thing is in the thing place. I’m mostly good at putting the stuff I need to take with me next to the door when I come home, but I’m still not great at it. DH is much better. The kids take after me.

    For gifts for kids, we mostly regift the excess that my MIL has given us. We need to get invited to more birthday parties or else dump a load at toys for tots this holiday season. (It has also been a long time since we’ve been to a wedding…)

    I only do side hustles that help me professionally with my own career.

    I love delegating, but I need good people to delegate to!

    Good luck with the streamlining!
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…How to keep a gifted kid challengedMy Profile

  4. Anne says:

    I just did another big axe of my wardrobe recently… I need to figure out how to get my spouse to do it.
    I get annoyed enough that I have different styles of black ankle socks that all more or less match each other. 89 pairs, egad!!!!
    Anne recently posted…20 Gift Ideas for a KayakerMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Is it possible for you to do some of it for him? 🙂 Is that wrong? Depends on your agreement, I guess. That’s why JuggerBaby only gets 6 pairs of colorful socks. The rest are just white socks.

  5. Socks–I had three children and a husband to keep in socks. The older two were close in age and a boy and girl. So, it was easy to sort theirs. The little one was a girl. Hers were easy. The husband wore dress socks always. However, he would drop by any store and buy another pair of socks. Not one pair was the same. I spent hours inspecting his socks for pattern, material, other things. Finally, I declared he could never buy his own socks again. I just went out and bought a half dozen pair of black Gold Toe and prayed the others would wear out or get lost. It made my life much easier. It probably freed up 30 minutes each week.

    I’m over 70 and have simplified my clothing since I have not been able to sew. I wear black pants all winter and heather gray all summer. Most blouses are all weather. Sweaters make the winter outfit. Of course, I have light printed pants for summer, several skirts for summer, several for winter. It is definitely simplified.

    As tops and pants go from wearable to stained or ripped, they are only for around the house, outside, and chicken yard.
    Practical Parsimony recently posted…Storing small items in the kitchenMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Re your husband and the socks, I would have done the same! Though I wouldn’t have had your patience, I don’t think, with waiting on the others to wear out. I might have retired them for him 🙂

      I wear all the same socks as well, my only different socks are a small set of novelty socks that are quite obviously matchable.

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