Little Bites: Progress, Not Completion

I’ve already professed my love for lists. Sometimes, I even relish the assignment of new tasks simply because it allows me the satisfaction that comes from recording new items on my to-do list. Another one added…another one to cross off.

In fact, I’ve been known to add items to a list that are already completed. (Friends have confessed to the same behaviour, so I know I’m not alone).

Sometimes, though, I can get so wrapped up in focussing on the end goal, I lose sight of – or neglect entirely – the process to get there.

That’s why I’m trying to embrace the concept of progress, not completion.

Let’s take laundry. You know how I feel about laundry. The never-ending source of work for any parent. Sometimes I look at our jumble of blended cotton and want to cry. Getting it all put away before another load joins the teetering pile feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve found: making progress can be satisfying.

In one particularly tough season of a precarious work/life “balance”, I told myself I only needed to put away three items of laundry each day. My kids create three pieces of laundry before they’re out of bed in the morning, so the math didn’t really add up. Some days, I’d manage to match a single pair of socks (I counted that as a single item), a dishtowel, and a T-shirt. But, most days, I felt up to more. I’d stick to three at a time, but 3 + 3+ 3 + 3 adds up to a full load of laundry…eventually.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes the first bite is the most discouraging and daunting. The elephant – be it laundry, an adoption process, a move to a new city, saving for a college education, or quitting a smoking habit – can seem too big to tackle, even in bite-sized pieces. But, in reality, that is exactly how we have to handle each problem. One dollar at a time, we fund that education. Skipping a single cigarette (then another and another) is the only way to quit smoking.

Step by step we make more and more progress. . .which, ultimately, leads to completion.

Your turn. What project or goal are you making progress on right now? How do you stay motivated to keep taking those bite-sized steps forward?

Header photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

A Special Wednesday Visit from Laura Vanderkam

About a month ago an e-mail popped up in my inbox from Laura Vanderkam. As in, the Laura Vanderkam. She was asking if I might be interested in doing a “blog swap” at some point in the new year.

Bear in mind I have never guest posted for anyone, ever – let alone Laura Vanderkam. (She has given a TED talk, friends, while I’m over here awarding myself gold stars for remembering to take an iron supplement and trying to use up excess strawberry jam).

I’ve been implementing Laura’s time management strategies for years, but the rules from her latest book – Tranquility by Tuesday – have literally changed my life. They prompted me to say yes to a new project management role at work. They’ve inspired me to prioritize adventure (and, thanks to Laura, aim for at least a few enjoyable moments). Perhaps most relevant to this platform, her Three times a week is a habit mantra is the reason I started a blog.

Today I’m guest posting over at Laura’s website. I’d love for you to join me in her space…but don’t leave yet!

Laura was kind enough to answer a random assortment of questions I sent her way and I’m now officially adding a hammock (and two perfectly spaced trees) to my wish-list for 2023.

Q. What was your favourite “effortful fun” experience in 2022?
A. For the past few years, I’ve chosen a year-long reading project. I work through something big a little bit at a time, which makes it much less overwhelming. In 2022 I read through all the works of Shakespeare. While the man was prolific, when you spread it all over 365 days, reading his plays, poems, and other writings is quite doable. And now I’ve done it! Not only is reading Shakespeare great for its own sake, I feel like I’ve gained a lot of cultural knowledge. All those famous phrases came from somewhere! This year I’m reading through all the works of Jane Austen and I’m already really enjoying her farcical youthful writings. 

Q. What “rule” from Tranquility by Tuesday has helped you the most? What “rule” seems to have been most impactful for readers?
A. I don’t have a favorite rule, just as I don’t have a favorite child. But I have probably become most evangelical about the “One big adventure, one little adventure” rule. In adulthood, much of life becomes the same day to day. While routines are great — they make good choices automatic — when too much sameness stacks up, whole years can disappear into memory sinkholes. We can counter that tendency by planning in little adventures — anything novel, intriguing, intense, out-of-the-ordinary. These become anchor points in memory (“oh yes, that was the week we went to the new gelato place”); we don’t ask “where did the time go?” when we remember where the time went. One of the best parts of this rule is it gets people into the mindset of seeking out adventure, which is possible even in constrained circumstances. I love that your family created a giant Chutes & Ladders game in chalk on the driveway!
As for the rules that help others…I put the nine Tranquility by Tuesday rules in their order for a reason, namely that Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime, and Rule #2: Plan on Fridays, tend to be the most impactful for people. When we start thinking about getting into bed on time, we not only wind up more rested, we give structure to our entire day. As in, you most likely have 16-17 waking hours in any given day. It’s a lot, but not an infinite amount of time. So, how do you plan to allocate it? Designating a weekly planning time gets people out of crisis mode, and allows them to start making slow progress toward their goals. People start doing what they need to do, and what they want to do. It really is magical. 

Q. What reality of your current life/career would most surprise 20-year-old Laura?
A. 20-year-old Laura wanted to be a writer, and she was. I started freelancing for various publications to make money in college, which is not terribly dissimilar to what I do now. However I do think 20-year-old Laura would have been surprised to learn she’d have five kids! 

Q. Do you have a go-to reset when you’re feeling overwhelmed or struggling to stay focused?
A. In Tranquility by Tuesday, Rule #3 is to “Move by 3 p.m.” I’ve found that a 10 minute walk outside is the equivalent of a magical reset button in the day. Even if I’m tired, or feeling stressed, I feel better after I return. We all need breaks, so best to take them mindfully and do something that really does improve focus. 

Q. What seemingly “little” moment have you observed or been a part of lately that provided a disproportionate amount of joy?
A. I recently attended a “Christmas Tree Burn” that a local Episcopal church was hosting (with help from the fire department). People brought their Christmas trees and they lit a huge bonfire. Old Christmas trees turn out to be very flammable! It was exciting for the kids, plus lots of other neighborhood kids were there, and it was nice to be outside on a January evening. Plus it was on a Sunday night. I like to have something to look forward to on Sunday nights as a way to stretch out the weekend. This little adventure checked all the boxes.

Q. What was your favourite purchase (under $200) in 2022?
A. I asked for (and received) a hammock for Mother’s Day in 2022 and I really enjoy sitting on it. It’s partly what it represents — that I can sit and relax for a few minutes! Our yard is lovely, and the hammock encourages me to pause and enjoy it. 

Q. If you could snap your fingers and have all the capabilities necessary to excel in any career or hobby (e.g. if your wish was to be a famous rockstar, you’d magically have the necessary vocal/instrumental skills), what would you choose and why?
A. I’d like to have the voice of an angel. I love to sing and because I’ve sung in reasonably intense choirs for much of my life I can sing decently. Hours of practice a week will do that! But those hours don’t get you to the level of some of the soloists I’ve had the luck to sing with. Maybe in another life!

Thanks, Laura!

Your turn. What was your favourite purchase in 2022 [mine was Eufy]? Do you have a go-to reset activity? What career or hobby would you choose if you had no limitations? What aspect of your current reality would most surprise your 20-year-old self?

Header photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

Sometimes It’s Easier to Do Something Instead of Making It a To-Do

I can’t even recall the specifics of the task now, but a few weeks ago I instinctively reached for my planner to write down an item on my to-do list. I stopped – pen poised over paper – and thought: Elisabeth, it would be a lot less work to just DO the task – now.

So I did it, patted myself on the back, and moved on with my day.

Your turn. Do you love lists? (I do!) Have you ever discovered that – sometimes – it takes less work/mental energy to just do a task versus adding it to a future to-do list?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

23 Goals for the New Year

Following along with my planning structure from previous years, I’m setting 23 goals for the year ahead (with a slight twist).

I find both the practice of sitting down to think through potential goals + executing on those ideas to be highly motivational and positive. I tend to set the bar low and make sure to give myself partial credit where applicable. Also, I’m perfectly content to take a second look at goals that no longer align with my priorities.

Before I jump in, here is a post I wrote last year about Why I Set Annual Goals, How I Measure Them, and What I’m Going to Tweak Next Year.

Here’s my 2021 Goal Recap + 2022 Forecasting and my 2022 Goal Recap.

goals for 2023

  1. Track my visits with Mom and Dad. At first I thought of setting a specific goal – say, sharing a warm beverage at their place once a week. But instead, I’m opting to simply track our time together. I have a little notebook I’ve tucked into the front of my daytimer, and I record the date and what we did together. I’ve got a headstart on this goal since they arrived in late November for their 4-month stint of living down the street. I’ve found that when I track/monitor things, it makes me more aware of the choices I’m making with my time. Often, this is enough to spur me to action. I know we’ll see each other frequently, but already I’ve found that having this added layer of record-keeping makes me more grateful to have them temporarily nearby + inspires me to make room for as many opportunities to spend time together as possible.
  2. Plan our summer. June – September 2022 was a tough period for me mentally; it was an odd assortment of challenges all converging at once. But I stopped planning (it almost felt pointless – never knowing when a contractor was going to show up, or when a recurrent tough interpersonal relationship in our neighbourhood would impact my day) and I think that contributed to my overwhelm. I want to use my planner all summer and be intentional about maintaining some semblance of structure through those vacation months.
  3. Get laser eye surgery. This is a big, expensive goal. I went for a consult years ago – before I was pregnant with Levi. It was simply too expensive at the time and I’m okay that it didn’t pan out. But I truly hate glasses. I have a very strong prescription so new glasses are expensive and I can’t see anything without them. While swimming makes me cold, I think part of my misery is the fact that everything is blurry without my glasses. I need new prescription glasses + sunglasses + an eye exam. Together those would be well over $1,000. So why not invest that into corrective surgery? Both my sisters have had laser eye surgery and love the results…[Feedback welcome from anyone with firsthand experience with corrective eye surgery.]
  4. Do some exterior landscaping on our back/side yard. Now that many of the “must-do” and “want-to-do” renovations inside are complete, it’s time to tackle the outside. Our yard is a blank slate; we had to excavate years ago to improve drainage and sadly had to rip up all the existing hardscaping + cut down four trees. I don’t love the thought of more decisions, but I think it will significantly boost the curb appeal of our house and also make our outdoor environment more pleasant and usable.
  5. Go see the summer production by a local theatre company. For years, John and I went to a local theatre’s annual summer performance. The performances are all outside and of top quality. Even before COVID, we had missed a year or two. I don’t feel the need to declare this an annual tradition, but I would like to go this summer. They put on two plays each season, one of which is performed around a bonfire at night. Very fun.
  6. Get away – solo with John – to a new destination. Barring catastrophe, we are booked for a 2023 trip to Rome. It won’t be balmy (I did love our one and only trip South in March of 2019), but it should be warmer than Canada!
  7. Run 10 km. This is it. No race. No time. Just a goal to, at some point, run 10 km.
  8. Hang something over the couch. This is a carry-over goal from 2 years ago. I really want a mirror in this space, I think? We have plenty of art elsewhere in this room, and then a giant bare patch over the couch that has been empty for years. It irks me…
  9. Get a pedicure. Someone gifted me a pedicure over the summer and I’d love to do it again. I think I’d opt for the cheaper option (and skip the foot massage; it was fine, but also $$$). I was amazed at how long the polish stayed in place and it never chipped.
  10. Get a duvet cover and insert. We don’t use a top sheet, and I currently wash our huge comforter in the washing machine which isn’t ideal. It’s showing its age, and it’s time to upgrade to a duvet, so I can easily machine wash the cover. [Suggestions of a great insert welcome; ideally one that has ties so the duvet doesn’t slip down.]
  11. Paint/makeover Abby’s room. She doesn’t complain about her space, but it is dated and really could use a facelift. The carpet is old and industrial looking, but in good shape, and I think that will stay; ripping it up would initiate a cascade of more expensive renovations like replacing baseboards and sourcing new flooring + labour for the install, and having to move EVERYTHING out of her room. But I think paint and some fresh display options for her walls will be a very inexpensive – but dramatic – improvement.
  12. Enroll Levi in swimming lessons. He has had one swimming lesson his entire life (the first issue was COVID – then when lessons started again, he broke his wrist the day after his first lesson while playing soccer and that was the end of that). He also runs cold, like me, so didn’t get as much swimming in (with a life jacket) at my parent’s place on the lake as I anticipated. We bought him two second-hand wetsuits, so I’m hoping that will offset his tendency to run cold.
  13. Order my 2022 photobook. I list this every year and I know I’ll do it!
  14. Read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy OR a trio of old classics (thinking: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights) OR the complete Chronicles of Narnia series. Not sure which I’ll choose. I own all these books (aside from Wuthering Heights).
  15. Go see a musical. Either locally – or on Broadway if we happened to make it back to NYC. I love musicals, and I think seeing a musical would be a great annual goal for me (though that’s unlikely to happen)!
  16. Make a new friend. Not sure what constitutes a new friend (i.e. how close do we have to be?), but it would be interesting to track any new friendships that develop over the next 12 months.
  17. Try three “new-to-me” eating establishments in our local area. I’m not a huge fan of eating out. I have a hard time spending the money and easily get decision fatigue (I’m like a deer-in-headlights every time I see a new menu; so many choices! what if I make the wrong one?!). But it can be fun and three feels like enough to constitute a goal, without feeling overwhelming (e.g. trying a new place every single month).
  18. Take each child on a special solo date. This is a repeat goal from 2022 (which I did successfully), and I think it deserves an annual slot on my goals list.
  19. Buy a new nude bra. The one I’m currently using was purchased before Levi was born. So the necessity of this goal should be apparent!
  20. Use my fancy dishes. I didn’t know how to properly categorize this goal (and my dishes are not really “fancy”). I have several lovely pottery bowls by a local artist; I have a very pretty wooden salad bowl. But these items rarely see the light of day. Why? What am I saving them for? This goal can radiate out, too. Use the nice candle. Set out the nice towels. Use the wonderful-smelling hand cream I ration for no good reason.
  21. A goal to be added, upon reflection, in March 2023.
  22. A goal to be added, upon reflection, in June 2023.
  23. A goal to be added, upon reflection, in September 2023.

My last three goals are to be determined. Life happens, things change, and I thought it would be interesting to have designated pause points for me to come up with new additions to the list, armed with relevant information from the previous months. Potential ideas: take tennis lessons, read through the New Testament, go on a getaway with some girlfriends, be a guest on a podcast. We’ll see where the year takes us.

And there you have it – my tentative list for 2023!

Your turn. Do you make goals for the year? If you set out with specific goals for 2022, how are you faring? Do you have a favourite goal from the past that you’re most proud of pursuing? Any suggestions for potential goals I should consider?

Header photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Here’s A Thought: It’s Only An Advantage If I Use It

This is it! My final post for NaBloPoMo 2022. I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again – three cheers for San who organized this event (she tries to downplay her role, but it would not have happened without her!) and three cheers to all the participants who showed up day after day after day after day…

And to those who didn’t participate in the “official” event but have been following along, providing virtual cheerleading, commenting, and being relentlessly supportive? Three cheers to you, too!

I’ve been working primarily from home for over a decade now. I worked from home when I had infants in the house. I worked from home when I had preschoolers in the house. And, of course, like the rest of the world, I worked exclusively from home during the recent/ongoing global pandemic (this time with elementary-school kids in the house).

I’ll be the first to admit that working from home can be a double-edged sword. It is great to be able to switch over the laundry and prep supper over a lunch hour. But it also means that, concurrent with work, I am thinking about laundry and supper prep and can actually DO something about it.

Too often I take a limited view of what I can/can’t do with the level of flexibility my (part-time!) job provides.

I can run errands during regular business hours. I can walk with a friend in the middle of the day. I can do that load of laundry and prep that supper. Sometimes this means I answer work e-mails or wrap up projects in the evening – but that itself represents yet another layer of flexibility!

Here’s the rub: my flexible working schedule is only an advantage if I use it.

All of us can likely identify something we could label as an “advantage”. Maybe your workplace offers a free lunch program so you don’t have to pack a lunch. Maybe you have unlimited PTO and don’t have to scramble for childcare if someone needs to stay home sick. Maybe you work for a company that provides a great discount on hotels or rental vehicles. Maybe you have in-laws nearby that are willing to provide last-minute babysitting.

But these things are only advantages if we use them. And, if you’re anything like me, there might be some untapped treasures waiting for you.

Your turn? Can you think of an area of your life that involves a higher-than-normal level of flexibility? If so, do you feel like you maximize the potential of this situation?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Fast, Not Rushed

Earlier this week I encountered a situation that has been relatively infrequent over the summer – an empty house and a few low-impact tasks to complete without anyone underfoot. There was a batch of muffins to bake with over-ripe bananas; a load of laundry to start; general tidying of living spaces.

I knew the clock was ticking before everyone was going to converge back at our house. I told myself there was no rush – there wasn’t! – but I could feel an underlying nervous energy to get everything done. Sometimes it feels really good to check off the boxes (especially without anyone else in the house).

Nothing required perfection. I’ve made these banana muffins hundreds of times and no longer consult a recipe. I wash all our clothes together in cold water. There was no point in deep-cleaning the bathrooms with nine people in the house (over 50% of our houseguests are either in diapers – or barely out of them – and couldn’t give two hoots about the cleanliness of counters).

There was no rush and no external pressure. But I went ahead and put on loud music and went about completing my jobs. Fast.

Like running and sliding down the hallway gives me a mental and physical jolt, that same fun intensity can make knocking items off my to-do list more pleasant. I ran towels to the closet. I raced to see how quickly I could load clean dishes back into the cupboard.

I appreciate the fine art of dawdling (or lollygagging, as one reader puts it). But it’s okay to go fast, too, when it feels right.

If I hadn’t managed to get everything done it would have been fine. But guess what – I did get it all done, had my heartrate pumping (in a good way) and enjoyed the process far more by going fast.

Hopefully no one looks too closely at the floors or my folded laundry. I’m suspecting they won’t…

Your turn. Do you sometimes enjoy powering through chores quickly, racing against a clock in a low-pressure challenge?

Header photo by Saffu on Unsplash

Looking Forward: September Edition

I’ve decided that September is my “January”.

It’s when I clarify priorities. Get my bearings and reorient.


It has been this way for as long as I can remember. As a child, I especially loved the smell of new erasers at the start of each school term. (I always got a package of hard, rubber erasers. The distinctive smell of Pink Pearl is tattooed on my brain and though we tend to prefer the white variety in our household, I secretly love when a pink one finds its way into someone’s desk, just so I can breathe in that old, familiar scent).

I craved the sense of possibility I felt when opening up a brand new notebook. All that white space. Neatness, order – but also the awareness that those lines would soon be filled with information. It felt like positive growth, though in grade school I certainly didn’t label it as such.

While the setting has changed – I don’t sit inside an elementary classroom swinging my “inside-shoes” against a linoleum floor – the conditioned response remains constant.

September and October are my favourite months of the year. I’m almost ashamed to admit this out loud, because I know how long we Canadians wait for summer. And, yes, I realize waving goodbye to summer means that winter is now nipping at my heels. But still…fall is my favourite season. The crisp morning air. The gorgeous colours at sunset. The sound of crunchy leaves underfoot.

I live vicariously through my kids – their packs of pre-sharpened pencils and pristine notebooks and new (white) erasers; their refreshed wardrobes and fully stocked bookbags. But there are adult comforts too. A return to warm flavours and textures and experiences I miss over the summer. Hotdogs, flashlights, and tank-tops move over – it’s time for soup, candles, and fuzzy sweaters.

We’ve spread this summer out for longer than normal. Between John’s sabbatical and an unusually busy season spending time with family and friends, we’ve made a lot of great memories. But I’m also elated that September is in view. I know the shine will wear off quickly enough. I will undoubtedly be complaining about school lunchboxes and homework and having to dig out our cold weather gear. But, for now, the road ahead feels ripe with possibility and I’m going to enjoy the anticipation of that clean slate.

In no particular order, here are five things I’m looking forward to:

  1. My 5K race. I know for many people reading here, a 5K race is commonplace. For me it represents something more. I’ve been wanting to do a timed event for years and…just never got around to it. It feels good to have something scheduled while simultaneously feeling no pressure. I’m not aiming for a personal best; I don’t have aspirations to place near the top of my age category. I’m just doing this to check off a goal I set for the year, to enjoy a new sense of accomplishment, but mostly to have fun. It’s a new adventure and I’m genuinely excited.
  2. White space. I’ve talked before about the concept of wanting a broad margin, but it’s something that I have to revisit again and again because I keep losing sight of my need for white space. For the most part, I think society encourages us to fill in the void. To colour in available space with something. And this is often good and enriching. I’m pro-adventure. But it can also be exhausting. Abby has one wall of her room plastered in art projects. Drawings, homemade creations, colouring pages, photos, little shards of pottery and special shells she has collected. It is…quite a sight to behold. But regardless of how masterfully she colours a picture, the white spaces are what make them truly beautiful. We can’t have all white or all colour. And lately, I’m craving more white.
  3. Writing more. One of the components of that white space is spending more time writing. I’ve been cramming creative pursuits into little wedges of time, but I’m aiming to set aside dedicated (planned!) times to sit and write and think and create.
  4. Reading. I’m slowly reintroducing books. I’ve missed reading. I really need to take something off my radar over the summer and books are always one of the things that goes. I know there will be summers when the kids are older I can relax at the beach and read a book, but we’re simply not there yet. I have a set of books I’m ready to order in from our library and that feels…refreshing.
  5. Change. Abby is starting middle school. Behind-the-scenes John and I have been thinking through some exciting career developments. As much as I like sameness, I also like the thought of (some) change. Fall seems like a fresh start; a launch point for exploring new opportunities.

Oh, and one more for the bonus round. I’m anxiously anticipating an end to renovations. Work has stalled, yet again, because of our busy end-of-summer schedule, but everything should be wrapped up by the end of September/early October and I am very much looking forward to that!

How do you feel about September? Does it feel like a much needed fresh start, or do you mostly just miss the carefree warmth of summertime?

Header photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

(Pursuing) Life with A Broad Margin

I’ve talked about minimalism a number of times here on the blog and embrace a number of minimalistic tendencies. That said – I still have plenty of excess “stuff” and certainly couldn’t fit all my possessions in a carry-on suitcase. Perhaps Joshua Becker (a prominent “minimalist”) clarifies my view of minimalism best when he defines the pursuit as: “the intentional promotion of things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.

A few weeks ago I went for a walk. Just a walk. No headphones. No companion. Just a walk with my thoughts. Usually, my mind darts off in a dozen different directions and I spend the whole walk untangling them. But this time I ended up with a singular focus – the concept of simplicity.

While in other seasons I might have been (perhaps subconsciously) aiming for adventure or challenge or achievement, right now, I realized, I’m craving simplicity.

I looked up a definition of simple (remember dictionaries?) and here are some of Google’s suggestions (I remember dictionaries, but don’t actually own one):

  • plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design
  • without much decoration or ornamentation
  • easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty
  • free of secondary complications; not limited or restricted

Life isn’t always going to be uncomplicated or easy (Twer that it was so simple; Hail, Caesar! anyone?). People I love will get sick. Tragic things will happen. Life will be hard and heartbreaking and frustrating and confusing. But for now – and hopefully in the middle of future challenges – I can try to approach life with a mind for simplicity.

I have done without electricity, and tend the fireplace and stove myself. Evenings, I light the old lamps. There is no running water, I pump the water from the well. I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple.

Carl Jung

Sometimes complications and states of busyness are out of our hands. But, much of the time, our to-do’s and limitations are, at least in part, self-imposed.

I have a relative who fills virtually every minute of their life with something (including some very intensive hobbies) but is constantly bemoaning how busy they are. This person has purposefully built a life with no margin, but then complains about having a life with no margin.

Counterintuitively, achieving “simple” – be it for a wedding cake or in our weekly calendar – can take a lot of hard work and intention. It is difficult to be simple. Why? Perhaps because it doesn’t leave us anywhere to hide?

When we strip away the excess, are we happy with what is left?

I’m also coming to realize that if I want margin, I’m going to have to pursue it. I have a way of filling in all that white space with messy scribbles of things I could/should/have to do and that margin I want and need…poof…vanishes.

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Richard A. Swenson

As I went through a brief Thoreau kick last year, I realized he has a lot to say about these subjects.

I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life.

Henry David Thoreau

Why does it feel shameful to admit I love a broad margin to my life? To say with confidence I need some a lot of white space around my to-dos and calendar reminders.

Why do I feel bad admitting I enjoy nothing more on a Saturday morning than to spend it…puttering?

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to–day to save nine to–morrow.


Finding the right balance between a full and contented life and an overfull life can be hard. And I also know it’s going to change – likely dramatically – as our family dynamics shift. Simple will almost certainly look and feel different from year to year.

To the relative I mentioned, my preferred margin would likely be far too liberal; for others, my margin would be too small.

But, overall, regardless of the margin we want or the level of simplicity we’re pursuing, I think the following thought is a good place to start:

Less but better.

Greg McKeown

Your turn. Are you in a season of adding responsibilities and hobbies and adventures or, like me, are you craving simplicity and a broad margin to life? It can be surprisingly difficult to define – and achieve – the idea of “simple”. Thoughts?

Header photo by Evie S. on Unsplash