Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How Are You Making Your Life Easier?

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I turned 40 earlier this month and one of the goals I set for myself for this decade was to make my life a little easier. This is different — or I should say more — than just “simplifying my life,” which makes me think of mad organizing binges (which I have regularly), getting rid of stuff I no longer need or want (already do this), and saying no more frequently (working on this). Making my life easier will require me to do some things I’m not always comfortable with, for example:

admitting that I cannot do it all and asking for help; accepting help graciously when it’s offered; making simple meals or ordering pizza for my family instead of creating elaborate, time-consuming recipes; and spending money on convenience instead of saving on inconvenience.

I’ve felt the intensity of life turned up a few notches in the last year, especially since Joanie became mobile and Jackson started public school, where I’m expected to volunteer, chaperone field trips, bring a class snack once or twice a month, help with (daily!) homework, and of course, do drop off and pick-up every day. None of these things is hard (or unexpected), and I’m more than happy to do them all, but, like any parent, I find the act of juggling these things with all my other numerous responsibilities to be a challenge. I don’t want to spend my days crabby and overwhelmed. I want more energy to enjoy this life I’ve created — this family I’m so grateful for, this city I love living in, these friends I adore.

And so, I’ve been cutting corners — heating up frozen lasagna for dinner a couple times a month, and throwing fig bars in Jackson’s backpack for his snack instead of following any adorable Pinterest idea. I’ve called an Uber a few times when I very well could have walked because it saved me fifteen minutes and a little sanity. And this week, I decided to start paying someone to pick up Jackson from school and take him to his theater class so that once a week, I don’t have to wake up Joanie from her nap just to run her big brother up the street. I’ve also hired a babysitter for two hours on a different afternoon to watch Joanie while I take Jackson to a weekly appointment he has in a neighborhood a mile and a half away. (With no car and no direct public transportation and no easy way to bring two car seats for Uber rides, a mile and a half with two small children might as well be ten miles.) All of this does make my life a little easier and it also forces me to embrace another goal I set for myself this decade: stop feeling so guilty about stuff (but that’s a topic for another day). It saves time, energy, and space in my head otherwise spent fretting about this or that, and it even gives me a chance to enjoy more one-on-one time with each of my kids.

What about you? Have you adopted any new routines or practices that make your life easier? What could you start doing, if you gave yourself permission to, that would reduce some of your stress? And what would you do with the extra minutes (or hours?) you might have if you asked for and accepted (and maybe paid for) help?

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29 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ale September 28, 2016, 1:28 pm

    I have started to say NO more often. Specially to the people who are closer to me, like my family and my boyfriend. Sometimes I did things just to please them even if those were an inconvenience to me, so now I try to look for other ways or just say no.
    About two years ago I started bringing lunch to work everyday. About a year ago I started bringing my breakfast and snacks too. I prepared eveything the day before and that took a lot of time. And this year I also had to pack my dinner because I go to school two days a week from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. So I have started to meal prep every sunday. It takes almost a whole morning of me chopping, cooking, baking, but at the end I have all my meals for the work week, including snacks and dinners. So, when I get home tired at 10 p.m. I have everything food related for the next day ready (I have to wake up at 5 a.m. and work starts at 6:30 a.m.) And I don’t even eat the same thing everyday because I cook a lot of things that can be paired up. This has definitely made my life easier.

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    • avatar

      csp September 29, 2016, 7:38 am

      I meal prep on Sunday too! and I love embracing NO. I make the week’s breakfasts, lunches, and a few dinners all on sunday. Once a month I will make 15 croc pot meals in the gallon bags so they can be pulled out the morning of and dinner is ready.

      Overall, I really look at efficiency. What am I doing that could be done easier

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  • avatar

    girltuesday September 28, 2016, 2:00 pm

    I have a problem with feeling guilty, too. I’ve started to utilize carpooling so my commute doesn’t drain me, cutting some cooking corners a la Trader Joe’s, and trying really hard to say “no” to things that I just don’t wanna do.

    Wendy, or any other parent on DW can answer, do you feel immense pressure from other moms or the Internet to be crafty and perfect? How do you deal? I don’t have kids yet (probably in the next 4-5 years), but I really wanted to gain some knowledge from modern, working moms. My mom has no idea what all this Pintrest crap is about, and none of my friends have kids.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki September 28, 2016, 2:30 pm

      I don’t feel pressure for the crafty part yet, but I often feel pressured about food. Like, I feel like I’m ruining my kid because we eat what I would consider “typical” lower middle class Midwestern food. We don’t do a lot of greens, most of our veggies are super basic (green beans, peas, etc), I don’t make quinoa and I’m not even sure that’s spelled right. I’m the pickiest person I know and I’m trying to not pass that on so I make things I wouldn’t normally eat, but honestly? I feel like a failure. And then I feel guilty because I’m not interested in changing it.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy September 28, 2016, 2:54 pm

        I grew up eating like that, honeybee, and I think I turned out ok. But I prefer feeding my family fresher, more organic stuff now (including greens, lots of fresh fruits, and yes, even quinoa) – or at least exposing them to it. But bc I’m about making life easier these days, I always have plenty of frozen chicken nuggets on hand when I just can’t with the dinner fights. I definitely don’t beat myself up if dinner (for Jackson) three days in a row is heated up frozen food.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 28, 2016, 3:09 pm

        I grew up eating like that too, honeybee. I’m fine. And healthy. And happy. I’m not ruined.

        I do eat differently now because I love fresh vegetables. But don’t feel guilty.

        Growing up, we did eat fresh vegetables that were in season, corn, asparagus, tomatoes. I loved it. So maybe try to get some seasonal vegetables in? I won’t even buy those vegetables now unless they’re in season. THEY TASTE SO MUCH BETTER! Ok, I buy cherry or grape tomatoes, but not the kind I love on a good sandwich. And I buy canned for sauces.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy September 28, 2016, 2:49 pm

      I feel zero pressure to be crafty or a pintersty patent. It just doesn’t interest me and it’s not what I’m good at. And I feel no guilt about that.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 28, 2016, 2:50 pm

      I don’t go on Pinterest and I try not to compare to other moms. There’s no point. Look, we’re all different people with different talents and different things we enjoy. We’re all going to be different types of moms. I accepted a long time ago that I’m no Martha Stewart. If other women are, then great, they should indulge that. But that’s not me. I have other gifts that I’ll give to my kids that those mom’s won’t. And we’ll each shape our kids based on our own (and our husbands’) gifts, and our kids will value things differently, and that’s just fine because that’s what makes the world go round.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph September 28, 2016, 2:44 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I recently also let myself off the hook a little on dinner. I was very rigid in planning 6 meals a week and then we take the leftovers for lunch every day. I’ve had to back off from that as I’ve had some health issues making it more difficult for me to plan in advance what I can eat.
    A little bit I miss the organization, but after I literally burst into tears while trying to meal plan, I gave myself permission to not worry about it so much. Sometimes we just eat hot dogs. And sometimes we eat leftovers and buy lunch.

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  • avatar

    Anonymousse September 28, 2016, 3:10 pm

    I’m trying to make my life easier by not criticizing and tearing myself down constantly. I’m a perfectionist and without working at a job, I’ve focused that energy on myself. It’s stupid. And I’m the first to tell everyone not to GAF, so why do I? I’m trying to relax and realize I’m a pretty great mom, and person, and I just don’t need to waste my thoughts on it.
    I never got into Pinterest. I know the mommy pressure happens, though. I just try to keep my family and my kids pretty happy and not worry about what other people are doing. Everyone’s got their own battles and things they aren’t good at.

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  • avatar

    ktfran September 28, 2016, 3:21 pm

    Yes to uber for convenience sake!!! Of course I could walk, or take public transportation, and I do most of the time. Occasionally, an uber or lyft is just so nice, particularly if I’m having a bad day and want to get home.

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  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover September 28, 2016, 4:31 pm

    I admitted a long time ago that I can’t do it all. Maybe it’s because I’m lazier than the average person (I am) or maybe because of how my career went. When I started my career, we were in this pressure-cooker environment trying to get a new product to market, and we were working every evening and every weekend for almost a year. Then a few years later I took a position with tons of international travel, where almost every weekend I was either taking a flight out or coming back home. Frankly that was a more hectic life than having kids. And I learned then that not everything has to be perfect. “Good enough” is good enough. I save my energy for the things that are really important to me, and everything else can be less than perfect. Plus my husband and I agree that the purpose of having money is to make our lives easier. If we can outsource something, or buy something to make things easier, we do it.

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  • avatar

    Stillrunning September 28, 2016, 4:36 pm

    I’m taking yoga classes and meditating which are helping me focus and relax. More and more I realize I can choose how I run my life, e.g. not worrying about what others think of me, deciding what I want to do with my free time and not doing anything I don’t want to do, and quit trying to be perfect.
    This has brought a lot of ease into my life.

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  • LadyinPurpleNotRed

    LadyinPurpleNotRed September 28, 2016, 5:30 pm

    I started taking a pole fitness class and it’s changed my life. It’s the first workout that I love and that I enjoy doing. It’s full body and KICKS MY ASS! Normally I would feel ridiculous for spend about $25 a class, but it’s so worth it. No matter how shitty I feel going into class, I walk out feeling amazing and with a clear mind. I’m so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try it.

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  • avatar

    Kate September 28, 2016, 5:53 pm

    Tbh, I’ve done so much to make my life easier that I don’t think I could survive a day in the wild.
    .
    –First and foremost, no kids.
    –I don’t cook. I know how, and have done a lot of cooking in the past, but I don’t get anything out of it, and I don’t want to spend the time on that (the shopping, the meal prep, the actual cooking). Plus, my husband works from home and I do too on many days, so we end up wanting to take a walk to a restaurant and spend time together out of the house. So we eat out many nights. On the nights we don’t, I’ll eat some canned soup and he’ll grill himself a steak or something.
    –I stopped trying to commute to work. Fuck it. My bosses and direct reports and most of the people I regularly work with aren’t even in that office, and I’m done trying to fight fall traffic to get there. Let someone else use my actual office to get some peace and quiet. I work at the kitchen counter with a heating pad on my back. I do shower, but I often just wear leggings and a gym top.
    –Working from home allows me to do little bits of cleaning around the house here and there so it doesn’t get dirty and stress me out and require a big cleaning. We also have a cleaning service come in every couple of months for the deep stuff. My husband is very neat and doesn’t mess the place up, but cleaning is primarily my thing.
    –I don’t shop, take care of my car, fix things around the house, and a bunch of other stuff like getting the dog groomed, calling a cleaning service, errands, etc. because my husband works from home and is able to do a ton of stuff.
    –I get blowouts once a week except in the heat of summer, so I don’t have to do my hair. I wake up, take it out of the 90s scrunchie, and it looks great. Dry shampoo keeps it fresh enough. In summer, I learned to do cute braids and other styles on damp hair.
    –I do everything I possibly can, including drugs, to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
    –When I travel for work, I take flights that are convenient for me, and don’t try to come home late at night and deal with delays and canceled flights. I just stay over and come home in the morning. I plan it that way for peace of mind. It’s not like I’m going to see my husband anyway, he’ll be in bed, and we spend a lot of time together. I also don’t rent cars when I travel, I do car service or Uber.
    –I don’t give a SHIT about family or what they think of me. I get together with my parents for dinner pretty regularly, but nothing like weekly. We keep in touch via text. I don’t engage in any family drama. Every once in a while they do something that bugs me, but I keep them at arm’s length and they are there when I need them. They seem to get it and don’t hassle me.

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  • avatar

    Kate September 28, 2016, 6:02 pm

    And not to keep trotting out my great aunt Florence who just passed, but when they asked her her secret to living to 100, she said something like, “I just do whatever I want to do.” I feel like I’m pretty close to that, meaning, I do what I have to do for work because I need money, but I don’t do stuff I don’t want to do. Like someone talked above about saying “no.” I say no all the time. Mostly in my head, like, nope, not gonna do that. If I care about something and want to do it, I’ll do it, but I won’t force myself to do things I don’t want to.

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  • Miel

    Miel September 28, 2016, 6:10 pm

    I’ve decided to allow myself to be lazy, basically.

    I love my job. Loving my job means that I do the long hours, I attend the meetings, I answer the emails, I get out of bed in the morning.

    But then I take so many breaks during the day. Because I need breaks, otherwise I just can’t keep my motivation up, and I become exhausted. I take breaks, I come in later than most in the morning, I don’t usually work on the weekend… Some days I think I just don’t do anything, because I don’t feel like it.

    I use to feel so guilty about that. I was telling myself “you’re so lazy, you have such bad work ethic, what is it with all those breaks? What is wrong with you coming in at 10am in the morning? Why don’t you work on the weekend like everybody else?”

    And then I thought: you know what? My boss likes me and is happy with my work. My strengths are my creativity and my analytical skills. So I will take breaks. I will come in later than the others. I will take the weekends off. Because that allows me to be creative, and it allows me to think straight. And at the end of the day I produce quality work.

    I’m sure my anxiety levels have come down a few notch.

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  • avatar

    Taylor September 28, 2016, 7:00 pm

    I started seeing a therapist again, and it’s making things a lot better. Today she told me it was ok to not worry over everything all the time and I blinked at her a few times, and my brain vaguely remembered a time when that was true. The person I like that is super close to work and very convenient isn’t on my insurance, so I’m sucking it up and just paying.

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    • avatar

      Kate September 28, 2016, 7:22 pm

      It’s true, you don’t have to. Not that it’s easy, but you can make a conscious choice not to worry about things.

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      • avatar

        Taylor September 29, 2016, 9:25 pm

        I loved your answer above Kate. Yeah, I need to retrain my brain. I work as a researcher, and tend to transfer all the chewing over data to everything else, and boy that’s a downer.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar September 28, 2016, 7:34 pm

    I go into office three days a week and on those days my hours are 11-3:30. I work from home the other days when I have to (about an hour or two a day) so I can spend time with my toddler. I love cooking so I do that a lot. We buy from the farm or grow our own vegetables so I’m constantly figuring out ways to sneak them in since my kid doesn’t like to eat. What I don’t GAF about is my home looking like an architecturial digest shoot. We have people over constantly and they have to sign on to toys and books and gear all over.

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  • Portia

    Portia September 29, 2016, 7:17 am

    I’m all about making my life easier these days! I started teleworking once a week even though I barely have a commute (15 minute walk) because it made my life slightly easier. We keep a car downtown even though it’s not easy so we can drive to grocery stores and I can easily get to ceramics. I haven’t volunteered to make any food for work events in a while, which I think is a step in the right direction. They’re not paying me for that and my time is better spent on me.
    .
    There are some things that I could probably not do, like cooking and crafts, but I cook when I want to because I like it and I only do the crafts I like. I follow my grandma’s wisdom: her favorite dinner was leftovers (Bassanio’s probably tired of hearing that, haha). My mom was crafty and I am too, but I only do crafts I enjoy and stay away from the Pinterest and Instagram and whatever crafts (that’s more of what she did, too).

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  • avatar

    Stilgar666 September 29, 2016, 8:22 am

    I am four months sober (booze and pot), buy groceries, got on anti-depressants and ADD medication, and began going to the gym and paying down credit cards. Starting to adult at the tender age of 32, but it actually makes life easier.

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  • avatar

    snoopy128 September 29, 2016, 9:08 am

    Saying ‘yes’ to more help has been the best. We could cut down on how often we use our dog walker during the weekdays, but it makes our nights so much easier when the dog get some love during the day.

    I’ve said ‘fuck it’ to having my house spotlessly clean. I vaccuum enough that you don’t get crumbs and dog hair stuck to your feet, but I don’t mop, or clean the cupboards and counters, or use toilet bowl cleaner, or vim my shower half as much as I should. We let clean and unfolded laundry sit for sometimes up to a week. We let ironing pile up until it’s absolutely necessary.

    The grocery store near us now lets you order your groceries online and pay $3 to drive up and pick it up. I love grocery shopping, but life’s so hectic right now that I’m happy to pay an extra $3 and just have someone else run around the grocery store for me.

    I also eat out a little more. I used to be rigid about sticking to the meal plan and not spending money on dinner out unless it was planned or at a delicious place. Now, I say yes to donair dinners from the shop down the street. Or ordering pizza even when we have some pizza dough in the freezer. One thing I do find makes me life easier is meal planning. It’s nice to come home and know what to cook and know it will be delicious. And I’m good at planning easier/quicker recipes for our more difficult days.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 29, 2016, 1:10 pm

      I’m almost to the point where I think I should just buy laundry baskets for the clean laundry. One for each kid. Because they have SO MUCH! And it’s hard to get it into their drawers, especially my daughter now, because whenever she’s out of her room I’m busy with her. The only time I have free from her is when she’s asleep, and then I can’t go into her room to load up her dresser. Our laundry area is pretty big, so it would be easier to just leave the clean clothes there as well. Just toss them in the baskets, they don’t really need folding even.

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      • avatar

        Kate September 30, 2016, 6:30 am

        A woman I work with has 4 kids, aged 1 to 7. She said she has 6 laundry baskets, one for each family member, and fills each one with clean folded laundry to take to the right room.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom September 30, 2016, 6:54 am

        We have shelves in our laundry room. We had them in our first house and it was so useful I had them built into our current laundry room. We fold clothes directly onto the shelves. Everyone but myself has two and then there is one for towels and a couple for sheets and pillowcases. I don’t care whether anyone puts their clothes away because there is space to put it on the shelves. There is also a bar for clothes on hangars.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 29, 2016, 1:13 pm

      Oh and I got a steamer and now I hardly iron anything. Just dress pants and the occasional blazer. My husband does his own ironing, but now his work has a charity thing where you can donate $5 and then wear casual clothes all week. So he does that and wears jeans and polo shirts or long-sleeve tees, so he’s got a lot less ironing too. It’s great.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom September 30, 2016, 6:57 am

        If something requires ironing I don’t buy it. I don’t have time for ironing. I use the dryer to take crumples out of things.

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