There is a lot of talk in the minimalism world about the benefits of de-cluttering our physical possessions to allow more room for focusing internally on what is important in our lives. I would say there is also an equal amount of discussion about minimizing your commitments as well, all those activities that you feel obligated to, but aren’t actually bringing as much enrichment in your life, or your family’s life as you thought they would.
In my case, I was overdoing it in a lot of areas: PTA volunteering two to three times a week, four different children’s extra-curricular activities, getting together with friends outside of the house at least once a week, exercising for over an hour six days a week, volunteering at a local community organization, all while working around six hours a day and trying to keep up with the day to day maintenance of a home and family! I was exhausted, with no time just to sit down and think for a moment. None of my commitments were a bad use of time, there were just too many of them too often, so they ended up being dreaded obligations rather than activities I looked forward to doing.
As I started de-cluttering my possessions, I also started de-scheduling my life to allow myself room to breathe and find out what the ideal use of my time is to me. Everyone has different ideas of what is an important use of their time, but the fact is, we all only have a certain amount of time, and it is up to each of us to fill our own clock with what brings value to our personal lives. In my case, I realized I was spending too much time out of the house. We cut down the kid’s activities to just the ones they truly enjoyed doing, I limited my volunteer service in both the PTA and the community organization to a more manageable amount of time, and I created a shorter, but more effective workout routine so I wouldn’t need to spend so many hours exercising. I also started having my friends over to my house to visit while I completed some project I wanted to get done, instead of leaving to go somewhere, which resulted in much more enjoyable time spent together talking.
Now, before any recurring activity makes it onto my schedule, I carefully and intentionally answer the following questions:
– What lasting value or experience will it bring to my life?
– Will the time required to be involved in this activity increase or decrease the value of my relationships with other people and family members?
– If I find that the activity does not bring as much value as I thought into my life, is there a way to end participation that won’t result in a loss of money, not fulfilling commitments or a loss of friendship?
– In relation to all the other items on my schedule, where would this activity fall in level of importance?
– Do I have the physical energy to take on this activity and easily maintain my current schedule?
Answering these questions beforehand helps me to make more intentional decisions as to whether the activity or commitment in question is something with which I want to become involved. As I have de-scheduled my life, which was difficult to do in the beginning, but very worth it, I have found that I love having unscheduled time. I am more creative and spontaneous and much less tired overall than I was before. It has helped me feel like I am creating my life, instead of obligations dictating where I will be and what I will be doing each day.