Our life is a little crazy. Homeschooling with toddlers in the background is definitely not a recipe for peace and quiet. Right now, as I’m typing in my kitchen, one toddler is trying on my sleep mask and the other one is trying to snatch it off him, and I’m trying to ignore the older girls fighting over who has the right to sing in the basement. Ah, parenting. In my last post, I shared our family’s latest commitment- observing Shabbat every week from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Total honesty: this is the greatest thing our family has ever done. Rest is totally underrated, and harder and harder to come by, especially if you’re a mom. There’s just something about birthing children that transforms us into frazzled balls of exhaustion, with a never-ending cycle of work that either gets done and subsequently undone or haunts us in its varying states of undone-ness. I mentioned last time that I have a few little tricks up my sleeve that make it possible for me to have one day a week completely work-free, and while none of them are particularly mind-blowing, they have totally helped me let go of the non-stop rushing and take a step back to relax.
**A few notes: as part of our minimalist lifestyle, we don’t have a ton of commitments in the form of activities for our kids, meetings for me to go to, or guys’ nights out for the hubs. This makes a HUGE difference in terms of flexibility with our time during the week. If you haven’t done this before- I highly recommend (especially now that activities are winding down for summer) assessing whether or not your family’s activities fill your soul in the way that they fill your time. If you’re rushing like mad most of the week to get from A to B, seriously thinking about which activities are must-do’s and which ones are just time-fillers is a life-changing exercise.**
Whew. Was that really annoying? I promise not to dwell too much on the absolute beauty that is the life of minimalist homeschooling, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I do totally get that what we’re doing over here is a bit much for most people, so in what follows, keep in mind that everything I have listed here can be done marginally. If you want to slow the pace in or around your house but don’t want to ditch everything at once, give just one of these ideas a try, or modify some combination of them to fit you. Our life has its own craziness and every bit of these have been modified from other things we’ve tried with varying degrees of success. So here goes, my recipe for a peaceful weekend (at least most of the time):
- Plan ahead with chores, and do some things every day. This may blow your mind (or send my mother into shock), but I don’t sort laundry. I know. Living on the edge. But it’s totally true. I just take what’s in the hamper and toss it in the wash. (I do keep hampers in each of the bathrooms so towels and washcloths always get washed together…literally the only sorting that happens.)
- Get the mundane stuff out of the way first. I really hate emptying the dishwasher. But having dirty dishes in my sightline is like an instant dose of “reminders of crap that need doing” and I can’t handle it. So dishwasher gets run at night and emptied every morning while I fix my coffee, no exceptions. Same for laundry- a load goes in as soon as I’m up. It’s just easier if I don’t give myself the chance to think about how much I don’t want to do either of these things.
- Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. No really. This is life changing. I can take the day off on Saturday because I have a meal already made, chilling in the fridge for later (today it’s BBQ chicken stromboli, but I’ve done enchiladas, chicken salad, or tuna roll-ups). I stick to a category routine (like Mondays are always Mexican, Tuesday is always Italian, Wednesday is traditional southern cooking, and Thursday is Brinner- you know, breakfast for dinner), and operate within those categories. Some other time-savers are chopping veggies ahead of time (I always wash and chop as soon as they’re home from the grocery store) and batch cooking. I highly recommend Better Home’s and Garden’s Make Ahead Meals cookbook if you’re a working parent who wants dinner to come right out of the freezer. This book is a godsend and helps me every week.
- Divide the labor. My husband’s gift is to not cook for us. Bless him. Luckily he loves to do the grocery shopping, because hitting up Whole Foods with this wild bunch is somewhere next to “get a root canal” on my list of things I’d prefer to do with my time. There are jobs in this house that are mine and jobs that are his, and there are LOTS of jobs for the kids. They’re little, not incompetent. So they get little jobs. Setting and clearing the table, making their beds, wiping down their bathrooms, and bringing their trash to the kitchen are just a few ways they contribute.
- Plan for YOU. This is the hardest one. When we started observing Shabbat, the truth is, I was so used to doing work around the house that I would sit down to relax and find myself looking for work that needed doing. I created jobs for myself. Not anymore. The food is prepared, the family is relaxing, I am relaxing. I have my books picked out for reading, I have my oil diffuser set with the scents that I love, and I have comfy clothes laid out for myself. And when the urge to get up and sweep off the porch or deep-clean the fridge comes, I remind myself that Sunday is coming and if it really needs doing, I can do it then.
I don’t always win at this. As I write this I’m staring at a basket full of clothes that I had every intention of having folded by now, and a genuinely minuscule amount of ironing that could be completed while my troop plays outside and I watch Fantastic Beasts (likeliness of those things happening at this point: zero). But I can tell you that my kitchen is clean, the bathrooms have been scrubbed, and dinner is (relatively) well underway, with fairly little effort from me. And at sundown, whether I’ve finished this laundry or not, we’ll light the candles and begin my favorite part of the week, and whatever’s left to be done will wait until Sunday. Friends, if you don’t have time to rest every week, I’d highly suggest digging deep to make time for it. It’s a beautiful thing.