Finding More Time. For Real.

I'm going to try something here. I'm going to attempt to communicate an idea in less than 500 words. What I want to share here is worthy of an e-book (how's that for creative modesty). And if I achieve half of my current mindmap dreams and schemes, it will show up one day in an e-book. Consider this your sneak peek.

Do you want to find more time in your day? Time to create. Time to exercise. Time to cook. Time for adventure. Time to visit. Time to nap. Time for... whatever. 

Three life changing ideas that have really helped me find more time in my days.

1. Let go of perfection. Learn to live with a little mess.

I think we mothers and homemakers especially get hung up on this. Or maybe it's just  personality types like me. Learning to accept a certain amount of mess in my life allows me more time for creativity and exercise. 

I didn't used to be able to walk out of the house when it looked like this. Then I came to the realization, a few years ago, with my husband's help, that I wouldn't do anything else besides clean and pick up after kids if that's how I chose to spend my time.

It's a choice. Have a perfectly put together house or spend a couple hours a day writing. Have a clean kitchen (always) or leave the house for a day of exercise in the outdoors together. Tidy up the living room or go for an afternoon ski. Invite people over to share a meal or fret about my messy bedroom. 

This isn't just about cleaning though. It's about expectations and good enough. There is such a thing as good enough, even in a life well lived. And living with good enough can free up your time. 

The need for perfection.

Let it go. 

(PS. If you apply the next point it will only take you 30 minutes to clean your whole house and there's not much stuff to make a mess with to begin with).

2. Simplify and downsize. 

No joke. You know all those minimalists who are talking about living with 100 things or whatever their take on it is - they're onto something. 

I'm no minimalist and I recognize everyone has different priorities. But having experienced the freedom that comes from downsizing, I know a bit what I'm talking about.

A word of warning. If you go this route, really downsizing - not just moving boxes from the garage to the basement and back again - it's going to get hard, before it gets better. Call it skiing through crud if you want.

Last year was so much work for our family. Painful, expensive, tiring work. We had a vision and we worked our butts off. This year we work also, but it feels different when you're literally carrying around less weight. It feels like freedom.

Everyone has different life goals. I'm not going to tell you what yours should be. All I know is our goals are to not go big. Big house, big car. Big mortgage, big bills.

Our goal is to have big experiences. Grand experiences. Life changing experiences. Thru-hike the AT for 6 months, spend half the year in Europe type experiences. 

Our goal is to have time and resources to do what we value. 

This is the smallest house we've lived in as a family this size and this is the most freedom we've ever experienced. And time. Time to ski, time to write, time to create, time to dream. Time to make things happen.


Let it go.

3. Learn to enjoy, without owning.

I was reminded of this on Jill's recent post.

This is one of the ten inward expressions of simplicity, according to Richard Foster author of Celebration of Discipline. The classic book on Christian simplicity. 

I'm not going into the long term economics and financial investment of owning vs. renting a home. There's something to be said for owning land (really owning, not the bank owning). We dream of owning a small piece of land with a yurt.

Those community living folks (we've tried shared living, it's not easy but it's something we hope to return to someday in one form or another) are onto something.

When you share resources or choose to forgo owning and instead borrow or rent for seasons of life - it frees you from the time suck of "stuff maintenance".

I like to regularly remind myself that I am just passing through. Literally. When I die I don't take anything with me. None of us do.

I want to live a life that brings me joy in the living. Not the acquiring and owning. 

Yes, I own. Yes, I buy (lots of stuff actually). Yes, I like my "own" space.

But for each thing we own we need to ask the questions:

  • Do I own this or does this own me? (Or does the bank or credit company own this and therefore own my time?)
  • Does owning this thing bring significant enough value to my life to justify the time I spend maintaining it?
  • Is there another creative option besides owning this that would free up time for the things I really want to do?

I'm learning to enjoy and really appreciate what is not mine, but what I am privileged to use for a seaon (like the chalet), because honestly, none of this is ours to begin with. It's just stuff passing through our hands during our short time here. 

The need to own. Everything.

Let it go. 


900 words. I tried. 

The quest for the short post.

Let it go.

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  • Michelle

    Michelle on Feb. 16, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours Reneee. I love it. I am going to re-read this and hopefully get my husband to take a look at it too. Thanks.


  • Heather

    Heather on Feb. 16, 2012, 1:27 p.m.

    Such truths. When I was a new mom I tried to keep everything spic and span. As more kiddos joined our family, it became full time work. I realized I was not only losing myself, but precious time with my family. Now I accept mediocrity at times, but have so much more fullness to my life. Also agree about simplifying and owning less. So much truth.


  • Becca

    Becca on Feb. 16, 2012, 1:53 p.m.

    We lived a few years with my inlaws and my family of 5 got 500 square feet for our use. I learned real quick what the kids actually played with and what could go. It is really really hard downsizing, but I agree that it is so worth it. Even now that we have 1600 square feet for the 5 of us, I am always looking for what we can let go of and bless someone else with.


  • Alexia

    Alexia on Feb. 16, 2012, 2:44 p.m.

    I loved your post today. I felt that you were having a conversation with me:) It is really hard to let go of perfection and to live with a mess. We are a family of 5, with 3 dogs...there is always something to do, but I am learning. I want to live my life to the fullest and not worry about the dust. I want my kids to remember and cherish our family time:) Thank You for your lovely post. Have a great day :)


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Feb. 16, 2012, 2:46 p.m.

    The 900 words were WONDERFUL, as usual! The biggest challenge for me has been letting go of perfection, but SO worth it. BTW, I'd by an e-book by you about these three things! I've said it before, you and your family are such an inspiration to my family and me.


  • Amy K

    Amy K on Feb. 16, 2012, 2:48 p.m.

    When I started reading your post this morning, I excitedly called out to my husband to read it with me. You are describing EXACTLY the path we are on (and it is a somewhat new path for us)! Your post today gave us a nice boost of encouragement, especially in the downsizing department. I've found myself feeling rather discouraged fighting the "stuff" battle--the kids are mortified when they find out we are getting rid of ANYTHING and they are still too little to understand the big picture. Plus....It's just too easy to stick something you don't know what to do with in the closet if there is space in the closet to stick it! We've come to the conclusion that the only way we can ever truly get rid of "enough" is to move to a smaller home. What an encouragement to hear you say the experience has been so "freeing." I feel even more confident that we are on the right path.

    I am quite happy you can't stick to 500 words. I would also TOTALLY buy your ebook. :) Have a wonderful day.


  • Jen @ Anothergranolamom

    Jen @ Anothergranolamom on Feb. 16, 2012, 2:59 p.m.

    What a great post! I am trying to allow the mess in our house, as well. The problem is it starts so small (cleaning up after one baby), and gets bigger. Now I have 4 big kids, and wish my house could look like a model home every time someone drops by. I have to remind myself that we actually live in our house -- we don't just visit it every morning and evening like many families. Wish I could convince my husband about downsizing: we have far too much space to keep clean, as well, and that leads to accumulation. One question for you: we have grandparents that are constantly bringing us more "stuff." While they are showing their love, they are actually fighting against our goals. Any ideas about how to deal with this problem?


  • Its_Lily

    Its_Lily on Feb. 16, 2012, 3:43 p.m.

    Ahh, Renee, this is one of the best posts I've read in a long time. Thank you for stating this in such a clear and concise manner. Beautifully written!


  • Kika@embracingimperfection

    Kika@embracingimperfection on Feb. 16, 2012, 4:31 p.m.

    Another thought-provoking and encouraging post. I sure have struggled with learning to allow mess. Sometimes I wonder if I've gone too far the other way when I see some areas of my home that could sure use a cleaning;) This is an area that has really held me back in the past. The truth is the cleaning will never be done and if we wait for that then we will never have time for other good things.

    The downsizing thing is tricky - certainly that is my dream but for now, sticking with our home (1230 sq ft) makes the most sense in terms of the local market/availability. I continue to work at less stuff but my kids are resistant for sure - well, not in every department, but when it comes to their old toys/books. I recently got rid of at least 100 more books which was a big thing for me. Anways, my vision is very simple, delcuttered (but still creative) space; energy efficient; fairly compact/well-designed.

    I love the idea of sharing more freely. I am most thankful for one of my local girlfriends who totally lives with the same mindset as me. It has been wonderful to freely share or outright give to eachother as we see a need or are ready to part with something that the other family could use. They are masters at finding what we need at the local (free) take-it/leave-it and this has been great budget wise and for environmental reasons - keeping so much stuff out of our local landfill. (Although I've heard that some people stuff homes/garages with this stuff just because it is free and not because they actually use it!!!).

    Is it wrong that your readers' comments end up longer than your original post?!


  • Birdie

    Birdie on Feb. 16, 2012, 5:25 p.m.

    Great post. If you ever decide to thru hike the AT let me know. I live very close to the start of it in Georgia. We hike some part of the trail at least once a week. Love it! I'd enjoy meeting you and the family.


  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on Feb. 16, 2012, 7:09 p.m.

    The great thing about living in a tiny house is that we have no room to store things so we are ruthless when it comes to storing anything. What a blessing that is. The tricky thing I find is that the house fills up with creative mess VERY fast and unless I'm watchful I can be constantly be clearing. Thanks for the reminder about letting it go a bit. Getting outside is really where it's at.


  • Heather

    Heather on Feb. 16, 2012, 7:45 p.m.

    Great Post!

    I live right on the AT also, where it crosses from NJ into NY. The husband and I have similar goals. I also learned a while ago that my kids and experiencing life are much more important than a clean house. My kids love to cook and bake with me. Do you know of any 22 month old boys that can work a pepper grinder? My son LOVES to cook and eat! My daughter prefers baking. I love love love your blog!


  • Natalia

    Natalia on Feb. 16, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

    Beautiful post. As someone who is on this path, I have to agree with you that IT WORKS. And it is so great to read a post that reminds us that to live simply we don't have to own our own home, it's okay to rent. As much as we would love our 'forever home' we are not in a position to do that. And I am okay - not only do we not have a mortgage, we are not responsible for the major maintenance (like broken boilers) and we can get on with realising that while a home is important, it doesn't have to be the 'perfect' house to be the 'perfect' life. And we'll come live on your commune/communal living project one day :)


  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Feb. 16, 2012, 11:07 p.m.

    Stuff is a time waster! I have been slowly and steadily getting rid of stuff over the past 2 years. Too much stuff creates messes and makes me feel stressed. And I love renting for the fact that I don't worry about the maintenance. A definite time saver.


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Feb. 16, 2012, 11:39 p.m.

    I love this post, Renee, and it's had me thinking all day. I have learned to let go the past couple years. Letting go of my expectations of having a perfect house and letting go of physical clutter. Although there is always room for improvement, I feel like I've reached a good balance in our lives and home.

    Thanks for another great post.


  • Mom Tougas

    Mom Tougas on Feb. 17, 2012, 1:41 a.m.

    Hi Renee,

    You missed one! Learn to share the work (delegate). I learned this when I worked in a group home for troubled teens. Every week we made up a chore calendar and the work was rotated weekly so everyone learned how to do all the cleaning jobs... cleaning the bathroom, sweeping, mopping with the wet mop, doing the dishes, vacuuming, dusting. Allownaces were given in accordance with willing participation. Extra allowance was given for extra chores,(shovelling the walk, raking etc.) Wednesdays were special chore days. This is the day when fridge was cleaned out, windows and walls were washed. Bedrooms were tidied and beds made before anyone came for breakfast. This is excellent training for your children when they grow up and live on their own. They will know how to keep a house clean and neat. And of course, we need to teach everyone to 'pick up after themselves' in respect for others who live there and need a clean space to live. This takes special effort in training, but it is well worth the time spent in training.




  • Francesca

    Francesca on Feb. 17, 2012, 1:44 p.m.

    I struggle with the mess: my house is always a mess, and it feels cluttered - not because of real "clutter", but because of not enough room and too many books to start with. I don't care about the look per se, but the mess makes me feel like I can't breathe or function properly ...


  • Karen

    Karen on Feb. 17, 2012, 7:41 p.m.

    I love being a recipient of my daughter's wisdom. You've inspired three thoughts for my day:

    • in my mind I don't have a lot of stuff - until I open the closet or shed doors and see what's really there and haven't had the discipline or guts to do the heave-ho. "Get to it."
    • I am happy to see I'm accepting the "mess is okay" philosophy (even when there's only two of us in the house!), now I have to encourage my love-life-partner that it's okay - but then, if he's willing to capture the dust bunnies, maybe I've got it made. "Move carefully mode."
    • acquiring the stuff that promotes learning and demands mental stretching (and time) isn't always the same as that which gives me the most satisfaction leading to my goals. "Make wise choices, listen to the Spirit."

    xo, Mom


  • Joy

    Joy on Feb. 17, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

    Renee, you're awesome! I just love your writing style, it's so conversational and authentic. I think this post so beautifully sums up much of the "why" of your blog: this is what you've been put into cyberspace (and our lives) to teach, to live. So looking forward to the book it will become - thank you for sharing yourself!


  • Erika

    Erika on March 2, 2012, 9:18 p.m.

    Yes! So inspiring and so true. I love to do spring cleaning in our home in order to keep things simplified and only have around the things we actually use.

    I've found that it is also helpful to look at the metaphors of the things that we are holding on to and how they are affecting us in our lives.

    Such a great post!


  • Heather

    Heather on Aug. 29, 2012, 11:58 a.m.

    I found your blog through searching about homeschooling in a small home! Your posts are inspiring, and my crafty 10 year old is inspired to organize her supplies better. This post is awesome and just what I have been needing to read.


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