I randomly picked up a book recently called The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. Well, I guess it wasn’t random since I will read anything I can get my hands on when it comes to minimalism and simple living. More like spur of the moment. But reading it couldn’t of come at a better time.
The last few weeks have been rough, which is some of the reason I took a bit of time off from writing around here. While summer is fun it’s also draining – my kids think it’s acceptable to stay up until almost my bedtime, since it stays light here until after 10 pm. Afternoon rest time has been a struggle too and if you have kids you will understand me when I say no rest time and late bedtime is HARD. I was living on an average of six hours of sleep a night, on my feet all day with the kids and just struggling in every single area of my life. The laundry was an endless cycle, with piles of clothes all over the house. The dishes were never done. I was trying to break up fights and rock the baby and cook dinner and run errands and when I sat down for a minute I was just empty. I had no words or thoughts. Just tired and so weary. It was this endless cycle of striving and and wanting to do everything yet somehow not doing much of anything. And I wasn’t sure how to make it all stop.
Last week I was at the point where I could not take it one more day. Something had to change. I was trying to figure out what I could do to somehow balance the craziness of my family and home with time to myself and space to do things I love, like write here on this blog and read and create. That’s when I picked up The Power of Less. I’m only a few chapters in but already it is helping me refocus and be more intentional. The Power of Less is about eliminating the unnecessary so you can focus on what’s really important. It’s about cleaning up the clutter, rubbing the smudge prints off your sunglasses and paring things down to just the essential so you can live more clearly.
Leo Babauta compares simple living to a haiku, that short Hawaiian verse that is bound by 17 syllables and three lines. To convey the right emotion a poet must be selective and thoughtful with his words, choosing words that matter and express exactly what he wants to say. A haiku is beautiful because it has limitations. A simple life is beautiful because it has limitations. You don’t have to do everything all the time.
“By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.”
This thought, while not necessary new or ground breaking, has been revolutionary for me. Limitations. Simple focus. One way the author puts this idea into practice is by focusing on one thing at a time.
Stop the multitasking.
Focus on one goal.
Change one habit at a time.
So this week I am trying to focus on the essential, figuring out what really isn’t working and making one change to simplify and streamline. I started with creating a solid evening routine. By the end of the day I am tired so I’ve been really bad about leaving the the toys all over the living room floor, dirty dinner dishes in the sink and so on, which of course makes waking up the next day a joy and delight. I love waking up to a messy house and having to wash dishes to eat breakfast, said no one ever. I’ve been forcing myself to put away the laundry on the bed, clean up the kitchen, set out my running clothes and go to bed early instead of staying up bleary eyed to watch Fallon when I can just see him the next day on Hulu.
It’s funny, but making one well planned, intentional habit has had a big impact on how my day goes and my attitude towards my kids and my work. It is not always easy to stick to the plan and sometimes I just don’t get anything done but the nights that I do, it’s incredibly rewarding!
The thing about this concept is that it applies to more than just my crazy life with littles. We all probably have an area of life that is frustrating or overwhelming. Work. Social obligations. Buying ethically. Choosing a non-profit to support. Turning a dream into a business or blog or whatever. I encourage you to take a few minutes or couple hours or a day and figure out one thing you can do consistently that will make what you are dealing with less overwhelming. Focus on one thing at a time and when you figure that out, move onto the next goal. It’s not rocket science, it’s not even a new concept really, it’s just a little trick we (meaning me!) easily forget.