Again, the myth of doing it all

A few weeks ago “The Busy Person’s Lies; With four kids and a full-time job, time is precious. But it’s also plentiful,” appeared in the New York Times.

In this opinion piece, the author—a married professional who works full time (with travel) and has four young children—writes about tracking her time for a year and concludes that people like her have more time than they realize. She asserts that we perceive our lives as being “AAAHHHH!!” hectic because we focus on inconveniences and rushed moments when in truth we mostly get to do the things we say are important, things like seeing our friends and family, spending time with our kids, and reading books, as well as excelling at our jobs.

While I’m as anti-bitchbrag* as the next person, I think the author neglects some of the reasons behind the widespread feeling of overwhelm:

  • Time is not a commodity, and a half hour in the middle of the day is not the same as the half hour before bed. Repeatedly transitioning between activities and modes of thinking depletes our energy over the course of the day. Doing activities on an imposed schedule rather than when it makes the most sense for us physically or psychologically also takes a toll (this is why I didn’t succeed at working out at 5:30am, and why it was so hard to open my work laptop after putting my son to bed).
  • Everyone needs some amount of daily “do nothing” time in order to recharge.
  • Some people have less energy than others. I’m confident that I don’t have the energy to do the equivalent of raising four childen (let alone raising those children while working full time)—a fact that has nothing to do with time management.

While I disagree with what sounds like a claim that we can “do it all” if only we manage our time better and stop feeling sorry for ourselves, I thoroughly agree with the author’s conclusion: decide for yourself what your true priorities are, and make sure you put your time and energy there.

*bitchbrag:  complaining about how busy you are with the goal of appearing important and in demand

Twin Cities option for donating fabric, yarn, textile tools

If you’re in the Twin Cities and want to find a good home for unused fiber arts materials−or if you’re looking for some good deals on materials−mark your calendar!

16th Annual World’s Largest Textile Garage Sale in Minneapolis  — Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Textile Center will accept donations between 10am-7pm on Thursday, April 7 at the University of Minnesota ReUse Center warehouse in Minneapolis.

Items accepted:

  • fabric
  • yarn
  • thread, notions, and buttons
  • patterns, magazines, and books
  • beads
  • sewing machines, tools, looms, and specialty equipment

The Textile Center is a non-profit organization that displays works of fiber art in its gallery, rents studio space, offers classes, and sells books, supplies, and finished work. The garage sale is their largest fundraiser.


Feel good about giving

In a post on Becoming Minimalist, Johsua Becker describes the American gift-giving season this way:

Over the next several weeks, new possessions will enter homes at an alarming rate. The new possessions will arrive in stockings, gift bags, gift wrap, and envelopes. And the new products will come in various forms: electronics, clothes, books, toys, jewelry, gift cards, video games, decorations, DVD’s, and cookware. In America alone, over $600 billion dollars will be spent on retail goods during the months of November and December.

Some gifts will meet legitimate needs. But most gifts during the holiday season are purchased to satisfy wants: another new doll for your daughter, a new video game system for your son, or a K-cup coffee maker for the parents. Worse yet, many of the gifts we give will satisfy neither needs or wants—instead, they will only satisfy an obligation.

Sound familiar?

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can instead choose to give “gifts of meaning,” as New York Times editorial columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote, by giving a gift to someone who truly needs it.

To make things easy, Kristof shared a list of nearly a dozen American and international non-profit organizations that he thinks are truly improving people’s lives. If you want a third-party opinion on another charity, rates the financial health and accountability/transparency of organizations based in the U.S. You can read more about Charity Navigator’s methodology on their web site.

A goal we could only achieve by simplifying

Three years ago we were fortunate to be able to leave our jobs for a few months and live in another country. That experience, and the fresh perspective it gave us, was the spark that ignited our efforts to live better with less.

Now we are once again living outside the country, this time for a school year. It’s a dream that was only possible because we’d freed up time (for planning and preparation, for extra hours at work), reduced our living expenses, and reduced the amount of stuff we needed to put into storage during our absence.

It’s been interesting to keep working toward our goals while living in a totally different context. There are many things we just don’t have to think about. For example, before our move we went from two cars to zero, which automatically reduces our carbon footprint and our monthly expenses, and ensures that we get outdoor exercise every day. The higher cost of energy where we’re living is helping us be more mindful of how we use electricity and oil. And we’re figuring out how we can buy locally grown and organic food products in our new city. We’re also willfully unemployed, which for us means an exchange of job-related stress for ample sleep, exercise, community education classes, and volunteering. Like I said, it’s a dream.

Although our return to the U.S. is still a ways off, we’ve started talking about what else we can change once we’re back. A priority will be choosing a place to live (renting again) where we can use public transportation and our feet to get around so that we only need one car. I’ll also be looking for a job where I can prioritize my mental and physical health. My hope is that we can offset a lower salary (assuming that will be a compromise) by reducing expenses in ways that connect back to our goals, for example by cooking more at home and having only one car.

What goals—daily or long-term—are you trying to achieve by simplifying?

David Brooks on the evolution of simplicity

Today’s New York Times features a thoughtful reflection by op-ed writer David Brooks on “the evolution of simplicity.”

In his essay Brooks describes today’s impulse to simplify and streamline as stemming in part from a desire to lessen the “ache from all the scattered shallowness.” He also lasers in on efforts that are called simplifying but mainly boil down to “a more refined, organic, locally grown and morally status-building form of materialism.”

For all of us trying to simplify, I think it helps to first articulate why we’re doing it. If we’re moving toward “unity of purpose,” as Brooks so eloquently writes, what do we truly need to do to get there?

Summer (or anytime) quinoa salad

Photo of quinoa salad from original Cooking Light recipe.

Photo of quinoa salad from original Cooking Light recipe.

Getting together with friends and family is a good excuse to eat well. Here’s a simple salad recipe that can survive post-meal lack of attention on the dining table or picnic buffet.

The original recipe is fairly different, which just shows that this salad is highly modifiable and you don’t need to worry about exact measurements. Adjust everything to your tastes.
— juice of two large lemons (about 1/2 cup) mixed with about half as much extra virgin olive oil
— fresh ground salt and pepper
— 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Other salad ingredients:
— one clamshell package of mint leaves, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
— large handful of dried sulphured apricots, cut in small pieces
— one bunch of green onions sliced in small pieces (five or six thin green onions)
— two small/one large jalapeño pepper(s) finely chopped (seeds and membranes removed; wear gloves while handling)
(pour dressing over these ingredients and set aside while finishing the steps that follow)
— 2 cups uncooked quinoa, cooked according to directions on package (mix red and white quinoa for more color); let cool and then fluff with a fork
— 3/4 cup slivered almonds toasted deeply, then cooled (toasting in a cast iron skillet works well if you have one)
— spring salad mix torn into bite size pieces (don’t use a mix with radicchio–too bitter)
Toss all ingredients together, adding lettuce and almonds just before serving. Makes 10-12 generous servings as a side dish and is good on day two. Simply halve all ingredients for a smaller salad.