February 19, 2024

From Busy Bee to Essentialist: A Lesson in Simplicity.


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I have always filled my schedule, convinced that more productivity leads to a higher yield.

That’s what we’ve always been taught, right?

We are told from the time we are children that hard work pays off. We go in circles trying to get more and more done but never feeling as if we can reach the finish line.

I discovered essentialism by accident in the midst of my greatest identity change yet: becoming a mom.

Having a baby who demands most of your attention and time, you can only hope to get a single task finished daily, and usually it’s not something the world sees as productive but something you desperately need to feel human again, like taking a shower.

I viewed productivity differently with a baby. Really, I was being “productive” all the time, as I was breastfeeding a baby (a full-time job and a half) who was growing more and more chunky before my eyes. I was working 24/7, tuned into every need my baby had even if that need presented itself at two in the morning.

And yet, the world might view my level of productivity as low, as I was not accomplishing anything traditionally viewed as “work” since I almost never left my house.

Years later, as I became a stay-at-home mom, my to-do list dwindled. I had no more work to attend to, but I had appointments and dinners to make, breastfeeding to do, and naptimes to enforce. I had different to-dos, and I was exhausted trying to run around and keep my daughter busy with play dates and library events.

After my second child, it was too hard to go places. With a three-year-old who would scream and throw tantrums when we had to leave anywhere and a baby to carry, I found it too stressful and next to impossible to leave my house. I became a hermit and started to leave only when it was absolutely essential to load my two babies in the car and go anywhere.

While watching a video on the steps to a no-buy year, I discovered the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and realized what I had begun to implement without knowing it.

Essentialism is a lifestyle change of prioritizing what matters most and saying no to the rest. This can include clutter in our household, time spent in the office, and spending time on fruitless activities. It’s fostering the skills we’re best at, rather than trying to do it all. Essentialism is an intense focus on what we’re already good at and ignoring the rest to become an expert in one field rather than adequate in many.

Essentialism can be applied to everyone’s life differently but has the same principle: we need to do less.

I began reading enthusiastically and no longer felt bad about cutting everything out to focus on my home life. I was much happier with less busyness, and the book’s reinforcement cured my affliction to saying no. This feeling of centeredness and peace was all due to saying no to everything unnecessary in my life.

I feel relief in my day-to-day activities now because they are unscheduled. I follow what intuitively feels good in the moment rather than planning every second of the day. Of course, I still have to-dos to accomplish, but now I focus on prioritizing what really needs to be done, not putting something on the to-do list for the quick dopamine hit of checking it off.

Our appointments are more spread out. Rather than trying to stack all my appointments in a day back to back and feeling overwhelmed through rushing, I limit them to the essential and have one or two a week on separate days.

Another idea from the book is having a day for laundry or a day to check your physical mail or e-mail. I used to waste a lot of time trying to catch up on e-mail or doing laundry throughout the week. It really is a huge waste of time to have multiple days to do laundry. Accomplishing a bulk task in one day rather than spreading it out over many days increases focus on that task and gifts us with more time during the rest of the week.

I use this idea to plan my days. I pick an essential task (or two) I want to accomplish the next day and keep the list as short as possible, so I can spend the rest of my day focusing on my kids and leaving space for spontaneity. This gives me the space to feel into my body and decide where I can put my energy.

Am I feeling social? Plan an impromptu playdate. Do I need some connection time out of the home? Go to the library or park. Am I feeling drained? Prioritize naptime or go for a walk to get Vitamin D with the kids.

It has greatly improved our lives and my stress and anxiety levels to simplify the day through essentialism.


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