Yesterday, after hours of work video meetings, I ended up on stool at my kitchen counter with my phone and an open bag of Doritos. I saw on Instagram that somebody recommended a podcast about a 10-step skincare routine. I started listening to the podcast (still eating the Doritos), because I had been staring at my saggy neck during five hours of video calls. I started to scroll around searching for those recommended skincare products and put them in a shopping cart. It was all very easy – she even had a printable PDF of the recommended products and the 10 steps morning and evening.
Easy – yes, simple – no.
Life has gotten very simple during quarantine. I don’t even have to check a calendar – I already know that we have nowhere to go; and all five of us will be home to eat supper together all seven days; and work each day will start in my guest room with a video meeting; and the teachers will post all the kids’ assignments on Google classroom by 8:30 AM each day.
Simple – yes, easy – no.
As it turns out, quarantine life during this pandemic may be simple in some ways, but it is not easy. I thought at first that I would have plenty of time for yoga, cleaning the refrigerator, ordering the new bike helmet on Amazon, organizing the paints and playdough….
But uncertainty brings with it so much complexity. We need to have contingency plans for everything. Summer camp? Vacation to Yellowstone? Will I still have a job and a paycheck? Will the kids go back to school in the fall? It’s exhausting.
Last year I got really interested in the practice of simplicity. I wanted to simplify my spaces, my systems, my calendar and my mind. Three excellent books taught me a lot: “The More of Less” by Joshua Becker, “Unstuffed” by Ruth Soukup, and “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by George McKeown. These books taught me how to be intentional about what really matters, and ruthlessly get rid of everything else.
In “The More of Less,” Joshua Becker describes all of his efforts at minimalism and simplicity as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.” That year of working to simplify my spaces, my systems, my calendar and my mind is helping me gain some clarity now. How can I work to figure out what is essential during this time, eliminate what is non-essential (like a 10-step skincare routine), and build a simple system that makes execution as effortless as possible. What really matters versus what is “just good” in life? What are those VERY FEW highest value contributions to the world and to my family I can make right now?
My highest value contribution right now is to keep as much peace and joy and laughter in the house as possible during this quarantine. Here are a few things I’m trying to prioritize to get there.
- Keep the house (or at least the kitchen) somewhat picked up even though the house will not ever be clean all at once.
One of my favorite voices on how to prioritize things that matter without going overboard is Kendra Adachi, aka “The Lazy Genius”. Her tagline is “Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.” To me, having a clean house is only important because it makes us all feel a little more at ease. Episode #155 of The Lazy Genius podcast is titled “How to Clean the House When Everyone is Inside It.” I used to have someone clean my house every other week, and it is one of the things I miss a lot during quarantine.
- Exercise a little every day, even if it’s just a walk.
This keep me sane. And walks with Jamie are good for decompressing from a stressful work day and sort of count as a date.
- Try to laugh or be silly with the kids a little bit every day.
Roald Dahl once said, “A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.” I agree. Laughter and nonsense can help the kids (and us) feel a little less anxious about all the uncertainty. Jamie asked the kids how they wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day, and our six-year-old said, “I think we should get a disco ball and have a pillow fight.” We did.
- No more than five minutes of news a day.
Five minutes is enough for me to know what is going on in the world, and not enough to make me fixate on it.
- Try to add meaningful value at work each day without letting business complexities during this pandemic consume me.
I achieve this less than half the time. It continues to be a priority and a struggle.
- Prioritize sleep over “relaxing.”
Generally, things go better when I choose to go to bed on time rather than watching another episode of something.
I decided to say no to the 10-step skin care routine because of the time it would take to do every morning and night, the mind space it would occupy, and the maintenance of stocking and reordering 10 little bottles and jars of product. I bought one product for the saggy neck that bothers me most.
Simplicity for its own sake doesn’t matter at all, but it does open up space for the important things. And it is the opposite of easy.
What is one thing that is essential to you that you feel you are under-investing in right now? How do you clear space for it?