Monday, 3 November 2008

Where do you get the time for that?

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

I couldn't count the number of times I am asked "Where do you get the time to do that?" in the course of a week. Ironically, invariably I am thinking the same thing of the other person! Other parents discussing their busy schedules and working lives at school pick-up time makes me feel quite exhausted just listening!

I never really know how to answer that question in just one sentence, because I didn't just magically click my fingers one day and create an extra 10 hours a week (although there are many times when I would like that ability!). Two or three years ago, I too would have asked the same question of a friend commenting on her soap-making adventures for example, because I was so busy looking after three little kids full time that I didn't have any 'spare' time to cook from scratch or mend clothes.

Actually it began even before that. When I was working full time I was far too busy too cook from scratch or mend clothes. When I stopped work to have my first baby, I was too busy with the baby to cook from scratch or mend clothes (although I did steam and puree fresh food to feed her when she grew old enough to eat solids). Then I had another baby, so I had a toddler and a baby to look after - no time for baking (but I did discover the joys of a slow cooker)! Finally, along came baby number three - I had a baby, a toddler and an almost four year old to care for; good Lord, you must know I have no time to cook or mend!

The old adage that "from little things, big things grow" is so very true though, and suddenly one day it dawned on me - I had had no extra time when I had one baby, so where did the extra time come from to enable me to look after three children? The short is answer is of course, it gets easier as time goes on. Things that seemed difficult and time consuming at first (gosh, I remember how difficult it seemed to get that first, brand new baby changed and dressed) but they gradually get easier and eventually become second nature.

It's the same with living simply. At first, changing the way we are used to doing things might seem difficult and time-consuming, but gradually we get used to it and eventually it becomes routine to do it that way.

Of course, it is all but impossible to change everything overnight. To even attempt to do so, I think, would be far too overwhelming and bound to end in disappointment. The method I found to be the easiest to begin with with, was to look at all the areas I wanted to change in my life and focus first on those that I felt were the most important, and of those, the ones I felt most capable of changing immediately (and those will be different for everyone I feel, as everyone has different abilities and likes). Baby-steps are the key.

For example, I felt that changing the type of food we ate was the most important issue we faced when we started on this journey. First on our list was to stop wasting the fresh food that we were already buying, such as throwing uneaten leftovers and limp or mouldy vegetables past their use-by dates into the compost bin. The simple solution to that was to start weekly meal planning (a subject Bel has already written about). That 10-minute investment of time not only saved us a significant amount of money - because we were only buying the amount of food we needed (and there were no more impulse purchases!) - it also saved me time, not only through getting the grocery shopping done faster, but also through the elimination of the 5pm what-are-we-going-to-eat-for-dinner dilemmas, that invariably ended in buying takeaway.

With the money we were saving on our weekly grocery shop, we were then able to switch to buying only organically-grown fruit and vegetables; our second food priority. The organic fruit and vegetables were purchased via a local delivery co-op, so the time I saved having them delivered I then used to shop once a month at a local bulk items warehouse, where I could get toilet paper and so forth in large quantities, therefore saving even more money on our groceries, as well as setting up the beginnings of a stockpile.

Having a stockpile on hand then meant that I could switch to shopping for everything else fortnightly instead of weekly - and that on those alternate weeks where I didn't need to grocery shop any more I could start learning to cook from scratch. Initially I just made healthy snacks for the kids (always making extra to freeze for later), but that allowed us to move on to priority number three - eliminating as many processed foods as possible from our diet.

Of course, eliminating processed foods from our diet meant even less time spent grocery shopping as I could now by-pass all but two or three aisles of the supermarket - which gave me more time to cook!

Do you see the positive feedback loop I had set up by making just one small initial investment of 10 minutes a week? Each small positive change allowed me the time or money to make another small positive change, with each building upon each other, so that in a relatively short period of time we could make significant improvements in our diet (and health and budget!) without trying to wave a magic wand and find an extra 3 hours in my week?

I have found that it has worked the same way for the other areas of our life where we wanted to make changes, and here we are, two years later, living a vastly different - but much simpler and more enriching - life. It didn't happen overnight and each baby step seemed quite small and sometimes trivial, but to look back at how each step has compounded with the ones before it, to make significant - and often profound - changes in our lives, is so incredibly rewarding and it provides me constant inspiration to continue in our journey.

Many people argue with me that as my children gain more independence, I am able to accrue more 'spare' time, and that's true to some extent, but I have found that as my kids get older, there are infinitely more events and activities they are involved with that use up that extra time - art classes, play-dates, swimming lessons, homework, school fund raisers; the list goes on. However, as my children get older I can see the numerous positive influences our lifestyle changes have enabled in them, and that provides me with even more inspiration to learn new skills. Where once upon a time I considered it essential to have some 'me' time to go shopping for 'retail therapy', I now consider it essential to have some time alone to make soap LOL.

So you see, I haven't 'got' any more time than the other parents, I just use the time I do have differently :-)


willywagtail said...

I love posts like this one. You have shown that change is possible. Due to my depression I have a limited amount of energy but it really helps me with my priorities to read something like this. Thankyou so much. Cherrie

Kez said...

You make it sound so simple :)

Seriously, excellent post - it made me reflect on how far we've also come in our journey - and also how far there is still to go. But babysteps, right?!

Michãel said...

I really appreciate your examples. Inspirational post, thanks!

Green Bean said...

"it gets easier as time goes on" Love that! It is so true.

When I first decided I would line dry my clothes, it seemed like such a burden. Now it is routine and I realize that, in a way it is easier. I fold everything as I take it off the line instead of lugging a pile of clothes from couch to bed to chair waiting to "find time" to fold and sort it.

Same goes for food, as you described, and everything else. And I and my kids are better for it.

Great post.

simplelife said...

Great post. Sometimes we need to look back to see just how far we've come as the changes are so small and subtle. I'd like to hear about some of the other changes that you've made and how your family has coped with and adapted to them. I find the changes that require other members of my family to co-operate harder to achieve. The things like food are easier as I do all the shopping and most of the cooking so they have to have what I provide.

cheers Kate

Anonymous said...

Great post! Your writing is always so clear and affirming.

goddessjodi said...

Oh, you have said what I am many times people ask me "where do you find the time".....I have three children under the age of four and you are so right, the time has always been there, I just use it differently now!
Thanks for a gorgeous post!

christine said...

excellent post.

if you ever get a chance, can you quickly list some of the healthy snacks that you make for your kids and freeze? i would love the help.

warm regards.

Sue said...

That extra time that's supposed to appear as the kids get older is a myth. As you say, we just learn to manage our time better & in a more fulfilling way. In my experience children need their parents more as they get older. It's called quality time & it is only "quality time" when they need you not when we can spare them our time.

claudia said...

You are so right. My neice wrote a comment one time that said the more you have to do, the more you will get done. I have to agree with her and you!

sashwee said...

This was a very encouraging post. I'm going to make a meal plan this evening. I've only recently discovered this blog and I'm really loving it. Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas.

Thimbleina said...

Well said, great post

Anonymous said...

I work full time and our kids have moved out. I still get very tired and have solved the issue of dinners by getting out meat from the freezer on Sunday night. I think about whats in there and pick 4 packs of meat or chicken and put them in the fridge. So that gives us meals till Thursday night. I know what we are having and I can usually change them around if I am short of time. By Friday I usually have pulled something else out of the freezer or we just have a simple meal. This works really well and the food is just waiting for me to cook. This also gives us a good variety of meals.
Cheers, Juanita.

Ree said...

Excellent, Julie. Clearly explained steps to improving the quality of your young family's food and life.


amanda said...

thank you for this a mommy of a very high-needs two-year-old, i often wonder where i cna and do find the time to craft, cook and live more simply. i agree that overtime it just becomes what you do...and you find these little pockets of time when you need to!

Prudent Homemaker said...

Thank you so much for that!

Now I know where all that time came from!

Oh, and getting rid of television was the other way we got more time, but that one I knew already.

Thanks to your post, i think I can answer the question now when people ask me how I have time to garden, to cook from scratch, to make bread, to sew clothing, to have a website, to homeschool, etc.

I was wondering how I was going to get time to add two more things to my list of things to do, but you pointed out to me that I already have a system in place--meal plans (I wrote 4 months worth already, one month for each season depending on what is fresh in my garden). I just need to look at them each morning so I can plan effectively when to start soaking beans, start soup, start bread, etc.

Off on my new adventure--making and using cloth diapers! I have two in diapers, plus 3 others.

I can't believe how little I did when I only had 1 child. I had no time at all to sew then, yet I get tons of it done now with 5 under 6!

Julie said...

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your positive responses to my post, I love that there are people getting something out of my writing :-)

Simplelife, I think that dealing with reluctant or even downright anti-simple family members is a big issue for many people, so it's definitely a subject we will post about in the near future. Thanks for the suggestion.

Christine, Finding healthy snacks to make for my kids that I can cook in bulk is really important at my place, so I will definitely put together a post of my favourite recipes. Thanks for the suggestion :-)

Cheers, Julie

Winterwood said...

beautifully put! and so true.. the feedback rule of frugality works the same way - the less you want to spend and spend less, the more money you save so then youdo have money to spend if you so wish, paradox huh?

Yabusame said...

A wonderful explanation of how you get from here to there.

I must revisit the menu planning (didn't succeed the first time I tried it).

Thanks for sharing.

MystikMomma said...

This post hit home for me. I have some friends that have made several comments that they don't have time to read my blog. They are too busy for that sort of thing as they work. It feels like a put down, because I have chosen with the wonderful encouragement of my husband, to stay home with our children. The reality is that I did work full time, consulting, traveling, managing an entire household, first time mother and I also kept up with birthday cards, long marathon calls each month with my friends while maintaining a blog. I just think we have to really look at how we do spend our time and what takes up our energy. If we take a cue and live simpler, we could learn new things that will help us connect to the source of life itself. I guess you could say, I am tired of having to hear, well you don't have to work, so this is why you can do all of this stuff. Well I do work, consult part time, manage our household, and homeschool. It is not easy, but rewarding. I just wish others would stop finding excuses to stay connected and just connect already!

lazy susie said...

Great post, Julie. I've never looked at the evolution of things that way.

Anonymous said...

Great Post!

I would love to hear how you budget your money. I have found that people that use their time wisely also use their money wisely.

Great Job!


maryanne said...

Great post, and it's so true that taking it in baby steps is the way to go, especially as sometimes seeing people who are so far ahead of you can be a bit overwhelming. So it can seem easier to give up at that point.To Willie Wagtail (Cherrie): be gentle with yourself and just take one little step at a time: I've been where you are and one thing that's really helping me is to see those helping hands reaching back from those who are further ahead in their journey.

Paula said...

This is all very true in my experience.

Barb J. said...

Thanks for reminding us that the small things add up!

Lauren said... true! It's funny, I find that I do more mindful things (cooking, mending, projects) now that I have three little ones, than I ever thought I had time for with one. Reading your post really put things in perspective and inspires me to keep taking those babysteps. Thanks!

suggymom said...

Excellent post! I agree with Prudent Homemaker that turning off the television also opens up a lot of time. Most of all, changes take time to get used to and to become good at. I can now whip up a homemade pizza in nothing flat because I have practiced at it, whereas it was once a daunting task.

minnesota:madre said...

I met a woman once who lived in this beautiful off-the-grid house on the banks of a river in Iowa. She was green in so many ways. My college head couldn't get my head around her. I wanted to be her immediately. Her advise was the same as yours. Baby steps. I always remember that...when I'm figuring out how to bake bread or learn how to use cloth diapers. Step by step we'll get there. Thanks for the reminder.

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

Yes! This is just how we've done it. A little at a time, gradually building change upon change. I know some people are "all or nothing" types. I can't do that. I have to take baby steps.

the little travelers said...

i love the 10 minute reminder! when i think i can't possible eek out one more minute to my day i realize that of course i have 10 little minutes!

Christy in OH said...

we are making alot of changes here too-making foods at home, our own bread for example. We've also come down a long road to get where we are. 10 years ago if you asked me if I wanted to raise some chickens and have my own garden I'd have laughed! Now, we're at that place!

I'm loving homemade/handmade toys lately too. All natural. I taught myself to sew, and fell in love with that too! I feel like a few, well loved toys are way better than a (dumpster) toybox full of plastic commercial ones.

So many things in life are restful and relaxing-sewing little things is that for me. We need to get back to those "stress busters" that have been forgotten today :0)

Christy in OH