In May 2019, I published my most popular blog post, “How I Keep My Sh*t Together”. Well, a lot has changed in the past 18 months and while reflecting on how my tricks and tips have evolved in this never-ending year, I thought, “it’s about time I provide an update.”
As with the original post, I share my success stories in an effort to support my fellow moms, military spouses, and human beings who might walk away from this post with a tiny morsel of help in these trying times. I also share from my perspective as an active duty military officer, a military spouse, a dual-income family (both remote working), and a mom of 2 girls (both in school/childcare). These are critical details that may define my personal and financial situation as very different from yours. What I ask from you: share the wealth. Not just this article, but go back to the source that brought you to this blog and comment with something that you’ve implemented that has helped you *somewhat* keep your sh*t together in 2020.
#1: SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE.
If you used to think that things were out of your control, welcome to 2020. We’ve learned this year that much more is outside of our influence than ever before. So what can you control and influence? One silver lining of this #quarantinelife has been a mandate to turn inward and slow down. That’s not just in reference to a shelter in place order, our kids have been home (many still are), response times for all processes in our lives have been delayed, and we have had to focus on those things that we CAN effect – which are typically in our individual or family bubble. You’ve probably felt inundated with monotonous, never-ending tasks over the past few months, with no end in sight. So, I’d like to share a few tricks that I have implemented to carve out my own space and time in 2020.
What are your hobbies? I used to scoff at this question each time I arrived to a new job and filled out the bio questionnaire. “Who the *insert explicative* has time for hobbies?!” Of course I answered with the politically correct response of “hiking, spending time with family, travelling,” knowing all too well that the real responses of “drinking wine, avoiding my children, catching up on laundry” would not be well received. Well, I’m here to attest that 2020 is a great time to adopt a hobby. I have taken up road biking and pursuing my sommelier certification. My schedule is highly predictable and consistent, my husband is always home, so help with childcare is available, and I’ve freed many tasks off of my plate (see #2: What Can You Outsource?), so I no longer have an excuse to avoid true hobbies. Consider what hobbies you can bring back or introduce in your life that are conducive to your COVID-19 environment. Bonus points if it’s also a physical activity!
Cut yourself a break. Another silver lining resulting from the COVID-19 quarantine has been the automation and delivery options offered by restaurants and businesses. I have a routine of meal planning (not meal prepping) each Sunday and have declared that we will order take out every Wednesday night. I have found that foregoing cooking on Wednesday night gives me a mid-week break and allows time to catch up on other tasks and events (which often means Wine Wednesday celebrations). Is there something small or simple that you could implement in your week to offer you relief? Is there a time in your week or day that you feel the most stress that you could ease by implementing a simple break?
Get out. Depending on the COVID risk in your local area and your comfort level with having someone come into your home, getting out of house for a date night has been an incredible solution for my husband and I. We’ve leaned on babysitters, neighbors, and even implemented an occasional kid swap to help friends get out of the house as well. Though things still look far from normal, bringing back a little sense of normalcy in our marriage has been a relief.
#2: WHAT CAN YOU OUTSOURCE?
I used to think I was the outsourcing queen until COVID-19 hit. There seems to be a clear delineating characteristic between businesses that are thriving after COVID-19 and businesses that are struggling: how have you made your products/services more accessible to consumers? The businesses who have answered this, are killing it! The businesses who have not adapted or are unable to adapt, are challenged. The successful businesses can make your life more successful as well, just be cognizant that it likely comes with a price tag. I’ve listed many of the products and services that I have outsourced since the beginning of 2020:
- Alcohol delivery – this is a shameless plug for Grape Juice Mom wine subscriptions and custom wine shipment services, but also we often place beer/liquor orders through BevMo on Instacart.
- House cleaning – pre-COVID, we were in our home, on average, about 15 hours of the day (with about 8-10 of those asleep). When quarantine started, that became 24 hours a day, and the cleanliness of my house showed it. We maintained a house keeper since Day 1 of the quarantine to prevent my OCD from flying off the handle.
- Grocery delivery – in early quarantine, this was a mess. Grocery delivery companies have done an incredible job of adapting and building in efficiencies that most days, I can now receive groceries within 2 hours of ordering. A special shout out to Costco who offers free Instacart delivery from their stores (just beware that prices are slightly increased to account for added costs).
- Home Improvement Store Drive Up/Pick Up – if you too have joined the craze of home improvement or gardening, most big box home improvement stores are offering no-contact drive up/pick up options where you order online and park in designated spaces at the store for no-contact delivery.
- Free Shipping – many businesses who rely heavily on in-store sales have and continue to offer free and discounted shipping.
- Childcare – this is all dependent on your comfort level, but I have found that babysitters/nannies and families are willing to transparently share their habits and risks in COVID to determine if they’re a compatible and suitable match for childcare. Due to the closures of many schools and childcare facilities, there seems to be a surplus of available childcare workers that are interested in helping with babysitting or nannying. We hired a nanny early in the COVID-19 quarantine as our work schedules became more demanding despite having children in the home.
#3: WHAT SYSTEMS CAN YOU IMPLEMENT TO ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE?
Not to go Marie Kondo on anyone because my home will never be Zen or highly organized, but while I have this time to turn inward, work from home, and have my pace slowed a little, it has given me an opportunity to look around and see what I can change today to make that inevitable transition back to normalcy a little smoother. Though 2020, overall, has not been an overly positive time, I do believe that we will look back fondly on some details. For me, it will be the slowed pace, the time at home with family, and the ability to work remotely.
Purge. If you’re like me, you’ve had time to notice all the unneeded, distracting things in your life. For me, that hasn’t only been material things – it’s included behaviors and internal/social pressures. The material things are easy for me to get rid of and I’ve done a few giveaways and Marketplace listings. Now that we’re starting to see some small slivers of normalcy, I’m identifying more opportunities to purge past habits. I’m feeling more comfortable with saying “I’m not going to be able to attend” or “I’m unavailable”. Purging these distractions from my life makes me feel as if I’ll be able to bring forward the positivity from COVID-19 (the free space on my calendar, the time with family) while gaining a little more control and influence in my life.
Create your space. I was in denial that quarantine would be a multi-month (shoot, year-long) event. So, I resisted establishing a workspace for myself in my home. I bounced daily from the kitchen table, to a closet, to a plastic folding table in the hallway to complete my work. Finally, when I decided to purchase a desk and some organization tools, I found myself able to focus. I have realized that the space that I established has given me space to work on non-work-related things too. That’s for the physical space. I’ve also carved out the calendar space for myself. I’m not going to call it “self care” because if you ever want to see the most dramatic eye roll of all time, Facetime me and say the words “self care”. For me, it’s just setting some boundaries and establishing the time I need to be the best wife, mom, and professional that I can be. That’s probably my “self care” but you’ll never hear me admit it.