I’m so excited to share this post with you, as it is the first post in my new guest post series called Managing the Chaos. Every Thursday I will share with you a new mother and her take on how she manages the daily chaos of motherhood in her life. You may remember my 30-day yoga challenge from back in May, yoga is the main thing that helps keep my sanity on a daily basis. Well, that and coffee of course. I think we all know I can’t survive a day with my crazy littles without coffee, but enough about me, let’s get on with my first guest post.
Today I’m sharing with you a post from Jelaya at The Eden Establishment and how Mental Minimalism helps keep her sanity daily.
Ah, motherhood. It’s one of the most intense jobs out there, and you don’t even get paid to do it! It’s draining, not only physically, but also mentally. Moms aren’t really joking when they say that you permanently lose 30% of your brain function when you have kids!
So many decisions bombard our brains every single day. What did you want to get done today? Do you need to take a shower? Exercise? What are you going to wear? Do the kids need a bath? What are they going to wear? What are you going to feed them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? And what about snacks? What did you need to buy at the grocery store again?
It’s very easy for us to go, go, go, only to crash and burn mentally at only 10 in the morning! It’s so easy to get decision fatigue. And decision fatigue for mothers is dangerous because once we have reached that point during any particular day, we begin to make poor quality decisions that aren’t the best for our families. Not to mention, we have very little left to give to our children and husbands once we’re mentally exhausted.
As mothers, it is critical that we fight to protect our mental capabilities so that we can make the wisest decisions and do our very best at this valuable yet often overlooked job of motherhood. The best way to do that is by practicing what I call mental minimalism, which is what I want to talk about today.
In this post, let’s walk together though through the importance of this idea and how it’s particularly helpful for mothers, and look at some very simple and practical to apply this to our individual lives in a way that best suits each of our families.
Mental Minimalism Defined
I like to define mental minimalism in this way:
Minimizing the MENIAL so you can maximize the MEANINGFUL.
In other words, Deciding what the most important things in your life are, and rearranging your life so that you can devote 100% of yourself to those things.
Practicing mental minimalism enables you to:
- have more time and energy to spend on the people and things you love the most, yet
- still allow you to get everything else you need to be done, but without becoming exhausted.
Doesn’t that sound appealing? The best thing is, anyone can do this.
How can we get to a place where we can spend more time and energy on the things we value most, while still taking care of things around the house?
The answer is to make as many things as you can into mindless work. Mindless work is simply being able to complete a task while spending no mental energy whatsoever. Being able to do things mindlessly allows you to conserve your precious mental energy to spend it on the “big ticket” items in your life.
If you’re no longer bogged down by a million little things, you’re free to think. You’re free to enjoy life.
How to Become a Mental Minimalist
The simplest way to describe how to do this would be to take what are currently exhausting decision points in your life, and replace it with an easy solution that will work every time.
There are so many ways to apply this method. You’re going to find ways to do this in ways that I’ve never thought of before. It’s going to fit you differently than it fits me. But it’s still going to work just as well.
Let’s look first at the basic method of practicing mental minimalism. You can take these steps and apply them to any area that works best for your particular situation. You can customize it to perfectly fit you!
In the next section, we will see several practical applications that I’ve incorporated into my life to give you some real-life examples. Maybe they’ll work well for you too!
The Master Formula for Mental Minimalism
Here are the steps you need to walk yourself through to start yourself on this journey. You may want to take some time to think, write things down, etc. Ask yourself these questions:
- What/who would I LOVE to spend my time and energy on? Do you want to have enough energy for when your husband comes home from work? Do you want to be able to enjoy your kids throughout the day? Do you want to be able to work on a hobby?
- What are activities that HINDER me from doing those things I love? Chores? Meals? Clothing? Grocery shopping?
- Choose one of those items and ask, What is something I can do or change to spend less energy on this? Write down some ideas and repeat for each item. This question may take the longest to answer. Feel free to look for possible solutions online.
If you walk yourself through these questions and start making some simple changes in your life, you’ll have more energy to spend on those things you listed in Question 1! You can apply this formula to nearly any situation.
The biggest thing to remember though is that this takes time. It takes time to establish new habits. But if you stick it out, one day you’ll find that suddenly everything is much easier, and that life has become more enjoyable.
Read on to see how I’ve taken this formula and applied it to my own life.
Real-life Examples of Mental Minimalism
Here are some actual ways I’ve modified my life to minimize the menial and maximize the meaningful.
- Chores: I used to be so exhausted just at the thought of doing chores! It felt like trying to keep a sinking ship afloat. So I did a quick search on Pinterest and selected a weekly chore chart that I felt I could stick to. For a few months, I hung it on my wall. Now, I have the daily chores memorized and the chart is put away. I no longer have to wonder what the last time I cleaned the bathroom was because I now have a routine that is second nature to me now. And the house has been consistently cleaner! Less mental energy spent on chores, yay!
- Clothing: I used to spend waaay too long trying to decide what to wear. And yet I had so much clothing!! It was so mentally exhausting. And I HATED my outfits. After reading about its mental benefits online, I decided to do away with 70% of my clothing and keep a capsule wardrobe! It only took me one day to make this change. Now, it only takes me a few minutes to decide what to wear every day, I always LOVE my outfits, and I never have to spend mental energy on my clothing. my capsule wardrobe!
- Bonus clothing tip: I loved my capsule wardrobe so much that I did it for the kids too! I pared all of their clothes down to one drawer each. Not only has it made choosing clothes more simple, but it has also drastically reduced my dirty laundry! Plus my 2-year old can pick her own outfits and not look funky! from one DRESSER per child… …to one DRAWER per child! Cue happy dance!
- Food: We eat overnight oats for breakfast every day except Saturday (overnight oats are delicious, healthy, and easy, perfect for mothers!). Zero mental energy wasted on deciding what in the world to eat for breakfast (when my brain isn’t even awake yet!). We save Saturdays for more labor-intensive family breakfasts such as pancakes or waffles. Also, every Sunday after church we have chicken salad sandwiches which I make the night before. Those two changes really saved me a lot of mental energy. Overnight oats are delicious and easy, perfect for us mothers!
- Bonus food tip: So many articles have been written on meal planning. It can be overwhelming. Don’t let the overload of information keep you from taking action and reaping its benefits. Keep things simple. Just go for it. You’re not gonna mess it up. Grab a calendar online or a chart you like, and just write down a few meals that will get you through a week. Take it from there. Too hard? Only plan one or two meals at a time. Too easy? Plan a month’s worth of meals. I stick to a week of meal planning at a time. It can be as simple as jotting some things down on a plain piece of paper.
- Crazy Schedule: We used to have crazy evenings. We used to never get anything done. It was so frustrating. So my husband and I sat down and talked about what we wanted out of our evenings, and then wrote down a schedule that repeats every weekday to make sure those things happen. It’s been amazing. I mean, my husband and I can spend more quality time together now simply because we keep this schedule! We are all creatures of habit and thrive on regular routines. A schedule was key to allowing us to maximize the meaningful. A snippet of our schedule
Now It’s Your Turn
It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But it has worked so well for me, and I wholeheartedly believe it will work for you.
Take some time this week to think about how you can apply mental minimalism in your life. You can start simple and just take one thing, just one, and find a way to modify it so that you can spend less or zero mental energy on it.
Remember that the ultimate goal is to have more energy to spend on what you absolutely LOVE and WANT to do. Who wouldn’t want that?
Mental minimalism isn’t one more thing to add on top of our already crazy lives. Us mothers don’t need any more of that, do we? It’s not a trick, hack, or fad.
It’s a different way of thinking. It allows you to take the existing chaos and replace it with something enjoyable instead. It’s a way to improve the quality of life itself.
I hope this encouraged you, fellow mama. That you have some practical tools to enable you to better handle this often overwhelming job of motherhood. I pray that this is a blessing to you!
Now it’s your turn. Start loving your life more today.
Jelaya Fairfield is a wife, mother, Christian, and life minimalism enthusiast. She blogs at The Eden Establishment, where she helps others reduce the chaos in their lives through simplicity and finding more joy, peace, and contentment instead. She lives in the California Bay Area with her husband and two daughters, with another little one the way. You can also find her on Instagram, @EdenEstablishment.
Getting to know Jelaya:
When did you become a mother? I became a mother when my oldest daughter was born three years ago in 2014. She just turned three a few days ago actually!
What’s the most rewarding part of motherhood for you? Of course, there are so many things I could list about my children that bring me so much joy, but I’d say that the most rewarding thing about motherhood is the growth that I’ve gone through because of it. Let’s face it, motherhood is one of THE hardest jobs out there. So many days I am brought to the end of myself, and I’ve found that that’s where the best personal and spiritual growth happens. Without my children, I wouldn’t have the patience I have today. I wouldn’t understand as much what it means to be so sacrificial like Christ if I wasn’t a mother. I wouldn’t have such plentiful opportunities to daily show unconditional love to others! I’ve grown in ways I never imagined as a result of motherhood.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced? The biggest challenge I’ve faced is my own depression. It’s something I battle daily, and it saps all desire and motivation to do anything. And we all know that when we stop spinning those plates, they come crashing down. The dishes pile up. The laundry piles up. The bathrooms start to look gross. The kids start going crazy because they know something’s wrong. And dinner hasn’t been made. It’s a dangerous downward spiral that’s hard to stop and just gets worse as time goes on.
That’s actually one reason I started my blog. I realized that my life was too crazy and unmanageable for me. It might not have been for others looking in, but for me it was. So I started analyzing my life and simplifying or getting rid of things that I couldn’t handle, and in this process, I realized that I had more opportunity for joy as a result.
I still struggle at times to muster up the strength to care for my family, but by God’s grace, I’ve been able to experience so much victory over this depression. It’s going to be a lifelong, daily battle but I’m confident God will continue to be faithful to help me through it.
A new post for my series Managing the Chaos will come out every Thursday, as long as things go the way I’m hoping they will. If you’d like to contribute a post to the series on how you manage the daily chaos of motherhood in your life please send me an email to ChaosinMommyhood@gmail.com
I’d love to hear from you and share with other mothers since we are all in this together.