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As a stay at home toddler mom, cleaning anything during the day feels like a mix between hostage negotiations and guerrilla warfare, even if I have someone helping to watch the little one.

Usually my toddler is on to me as soon as I even think about arranging some sort of in house child care to catch up on housework. Even with a box of new toys and an engaging babysitter, once she realizes I’ve left the room whatever toy or activity was at hand for her to do becomes completely dead to her and whatever I’m trying to sneak off to accomplish becomes infinitely more interesting. At that point she’ll usually run up to me and say in the sweetest voice possible “I want to help mommy.” Instantly panic strikes at my heart, as much as I love her, because by now I’ve learned “I want to help mommy” is sometimes toddler talk for “I want to destroy everything you’re even thinking about doing, and then I’ll get to your hopes and dreams too”.

Okay, maybe not the last part, but when you’re looking down the barrel of a messy kitchen before you’ve even thought about making coffee, no further trouble is needed. And this is when I feel like I should’ve just cleaned up after hours and preserved the peace during the day because I know my plan has been foiled and its going to be a struggle to get anything done.

But truth be told, my toddler’s current developmental stage isn’t the only reason I prefer to clean well past midnight.

I simply enjoy cleaning the house so much more when I’m able to do so in solitude. When the house is quiet and I can get lost in my thoughts or an audiobook, things just feel right about that combination. During the day, when the house is naturally busy and a million things have to get done, cleaning on top of that already kind of chaotic environment feels like madness to me.

And honestly, during the day, I don’t want to clean with my toddler - I want to play with my toddler. Or teach my toddler. Or go to new places with her. Or run errands with her. Or nap with her. Or create something new with her. I’m happy to do any activity that can withstand there being a gap between what I want to do and what my toddler wants to do.

What I mean is this - lets say you want to teach your toddler to draw a frog but she only wants to build castles with her magnetic blocks. Not a problem, you might say - we can learn to draw frogs later, let’s build that castle. Now, lets say you want to organize your shoe closet yet she wants to take everything out of your closet and throw it on the floor. Or else. That there is a fundamental incompatibility, one that cannot easily be overcome without childcare or tantrums, at least in my experience but that largely depends on the temperament of your child.

With my child, I’ve learned that 80% of the time it is wiser for me to give up on getting my stuff done while she is up. That’s right, sometimes giving up is the better way forward. I’ll admit, that sounds really odd to say, especially in the hippy dippy culture we live in where everything is about setting super goals and getting everything done and being a boss “bleep” regardless of what’s going on around you. But not every toddler is willing to entertain themselves while mommy cleans or organizes, and when you’re a SAHM your productivity is largely tied into your toddlers temperament and their ability to self entertain and these vary greatly from child to child and cannot be so easily changed despite what old school authoritarian parents might suggest.

Now I know self sufficient toddlers exist, I’ve even seen them on the YouTube - but that is not everyones situation nor should you try to force your toddler to be something they are not. Soon enough they will fly the coop, so I prefer to work synergistically with what I’ve been blessed with rather than against it, which would make everybody miserable. And so on an ideal day I postpone at least 80% of my to-do list until after hours, and I try to pick 20% of it to do with my child if she will cooperate. I think in time that ratio will be flipped on its head and I look forward to that but in the meantime I will choose the peace of night cleaning when I can because no matter how many tantrums I survive, they still cause me tremendous anxiety and stress and I try to prevent them as much as possible.

It’s almost like the frequency of my toddler screaming happens to match the natural resonance of my soul and if resonance can take down bridges and buildings, what can it do to the soul of a tired mom?

Better not find out, but I can attest that not much is accomplished if baby is not happy, except giving mommy migraines which I don’t need anymore of. I am called to peace, and so I will accept less productivity (and even sleep sometimes) if it means more peace and harmony and happiness for my family.

Being able to clean (or do other work, like write or record videos for YouTube) after midnight when the house is peaceful and quiet is precious to me. On most days you can catch me tackling a big mess or working on a project sometime between 1:30 and 3 in the morning. The house is quiet, I know where everyone is and that they are safe, and I can hear the relaxing chirping of crickets outside while I ponder in blissful silence. I can almost palpably feel that “All is well with my soul” even if my physical house happens to be a disaster because the quiet helps get my spiritual house in order so that I’m able to think, pray, and act.

If the concept intrigues you, and you are as dedicated as I am to increasing peace and quiet in your life, consider a change in sleep pattern. I personally practice segmented sleep, a radical outside of the box way of sleeping that has transformed how I schedule myself and what I know my body is capable of. Changing my sleep pattern to radically seek after peace and quiet may seem crazy, but let me tell you - it was worth it.

If your body clock and routine allows it, and you are able to do so once in awhile - I highly recommend cleaning after dark. It’s a great way to get alone with yourself while getting something very useful and valuable done for yourself and your family.

Watch me chat about this very thing as I clean my kitchen at my least favorite time to do so - in the morning:

Just because a movement is aesthetically pleasing doesn't mean it is right for everyone or even sustainable for the majority, except for maybe the most fervent followers who treat minimalism like a religion.

Let’s take a sober look at minimalism - the constant war against stuff leads to a heck of a lot of thinking about stuff. No longer is a trip to the market safe - every item must be carefully considered past the point where living is carefree & simple.

While I like the idea of considerate shopping and I'm certainly against hoarding, I don’t like the idea of constantly thinking about the things that I own and whether or not buying one more thing is going to break me on a fundamental level. I'm also completely and steadfastly against the notion of connecting an arbitrary number of things owned to happiness or even productivity. In real life, it's just not that simple and I've learned the number one predictor of lasting happiness has nothing to do with things at all but rather does one have a connection with their Creator. Without this, it's all nonsense and eventually trash, whether you own 1000 things or only 43.

It seems to me minimalists have managed to transfer clutter from the physical space into the mental space, because things are now the enemy and must be contemplated beyond what is reasonable in order to justify ownership. The things a minimalist owns or doesn't own is now occupying a space in that persons mind, either justifying them or condemning them.

No thanks, I'd rather keep my stuff in the physical realm and enjoy a free mind.

I'm also at odds with the typical lack of creature comforts within minimalism. There is nothing enticing, for me, about sitting at a spartan desk for hours when the chair your bum is touching is barely a piece of hard wood on sticks. "But it looks good," they say. Well, I can't even slouch comfortably in that setup. Surely one can be a minimalist with comfortable items, but usually what we see are aesthetically pleasing uncomfortable objects or entire rooms with only a plant or a pillow on the floor. That is the eye candy the movement uses to allure. Just what is the point of being perpetually uncomfortable for the sake of owning less? Madness, I say.

Personally, I have found that I enjoy owning more than I precisely need. It allows me freedom to play around with the stuff I have, knowing that I'm not in scarcity. I like having an excess of pens, blank notebooks, even books to read. I even have dedicated storage for excess decor, which I enjoy now and again switching out so the eyes get something new to gaze at. Having more than I could precisely need means there is always something I can tinker with - a project to do, a book to read - and I find that very comforting and cozy. In fact, my most productive moments come when I'm "off script" and just let myself "play" with the excess stuff I have lying around.

All of this being said, I do subscribe to a minimalist Youtuber that owns no furniture, maybe 3 pieces of clothing, sleeps in a hammock and eats on the floor with her one multipurpose spoon. Strange people fascinate me and its probably because my own quirks typically run against the current. It’s interesting to look at and try to comprehend, but it is decidedly not for me.

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

Have you ever spent more time writing in a planner than actually implementing the things planned? You are not alone.

We all know the seduction of the Target planner section - dozens of well designed and notably colored planners in every possible palette and format (and floral) to choose from. Not terribly expensive (but certainly not free) only added to the allure.

My local Target could depend on my planner addiction to keep the lights on and for years I did not disappoint.

Sometimes I’d leave with only one brightly colored moleskin notebook, intending to fall somewhere between a page-a-day calendar planner and that minimalist hipster deck of index-cards-kept-together-with-a-binder-clip productivity thing that was fashionable for awhile. Eventually I even tried the hipster stack in a series of attempts to woo and inspire and flatter myself into increased productivity.

Planners and calendars and endless lists have never produced any good fruit in my life. On the contrary, these systems seemed to highlight failures and every single fail would become incrementally more disappointing and demotivating than the last. Ironically, I would meet such failures with even more militant schedules and exhaustive lists I'd try to force myself to follow and accomplish in a short amount of time. And miserably I’d fail again. And again. And again.

At most, the best planners ever offered me was the false hope of blank pages just waiting to be filled with accomplishments. Then there was that certain giddiness that would come on in the wee hours of the night as I’d be maniacally plotting perfection - “I'll just wham bam go to sleep at 9 pm (starting tomorrow of course), and then boom wake up at 5 am - squeeze in a work out at 5:15 am - drink a protein smoothie at 6 am, shower and be ready by 7 am, and so on and so forth.

If only I was a computer program that could blindly follow commands, then this kind of thing might work- but I’m not a computer program and neither are you.

Getting more stuff done in a pleasant and peaceful way was always the goal, yet I was fixated on coming up with a particular schedule or finding the perfect planner that would magically solve all my problems and unfortunately no, such a thing does not exist. At least I haven't come across it yet.

When I embraced adaptability instead of rigidity and stopped using planners, things started changing fast and for the better. Instead of boxing myself into a set routine or schedule as if I were an infant, I gave myself the option of choosing what was best for me depending on my mood, energy, and what I felt like doing. This gave me a tremendous sense of freedom and peace because it allowed me to factor in all the variables of my life into my chosen activities rather than be guided by a schedule or unrelenting list that couldn’t take into account whether I was tired or needed a day off without throwing everything out of order. It was also one less thing between me and doing things - it is so important to cut out as many "middle men" as possible in this arena as productivity systems have a tendency to become barriers to getting things done themselves.

It is important to me to feel like I own my time (although technically we are all slaves to Christ and He ultimately holds our breath and allotted time in His hands). By remaining outcome focused rather than routine centered, I’m able to take into account my energy levels, the amount and kind of work I have to do, what environment I want to do it in (i.e., in the morning when the house is busy or after hours when everyone is sleeping), and what I actually want to do on any given day. Such flexibility makes me feel like the boss of me rather than a slave to unreasonable ideals.

It means some days I am going to sleep early and waking up before dawn, and other days I am just getting to bed at dawn and sleeping in. As long as I am peacefully getting what I want done - and sleeping 6-8 hours per day even if in segments - everything is good. This flexibility has been clutch in getting things done. See, I didn't realize that the smaller the box I put myself in, the more confined I would feel and invariably want to break out of those constraints and do anything other than that which was planned. By treating myself like an adult capable of getting things done in a variety of ways, I am now free to pick and choose exactly how & when things get done and as such my productivity has never been better.

Instead of a traditional planner, I have created a system that works for me and makes my life simpler and satisfying and free while still keeping track of all the things I’ve done and still need to do. I rely heavily upon certain apps that allow for loose planning without being an actual schedule to follow. These keep track of what needs to be done and more or less when, but I can decide to follow my guidelines or not without throwing everything out of sync. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about this.

And guess what, I still own and use a physical planner here and there, but not at all for what you’d think! Consider this article a teaser that I will update as I post more specifics about this. In the meantime, allow yourself to use planners as loosely as desired and to the extent that they help you and don’t hinder you. Give yourself freedom, flexibility, and the final say on any task because planners are a tool - they should serve you and not the other way around.

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