I’ve been away for a romantic weekend with my dear husband. These tend to be times when we get clear together, making plans, setting choices, questioning our choices and patterns… While much of our exploration on this particular weekend has been around financial planning, the core lesson I’m bringing home is about striving to live within our means.
Ok, let’s start by conjuring up images of what it means to live beyond our means: Reckless and extravagant spending, no limits, whim as the primary determinate of spending rather than pure need… The notion of “means” I’m exploring, however, goes far beyond our family finances.
While the finances part of this is essential, for me, right now, it’s all about our “means of energy and time, and how we spend them. A friend brought this idea of living within our means up recently and I just can’t stop thinking about it as I go through my days. I put So much energy into living within my means financially – why is it so hard to hold those boundaries for myself when it comes to energy & time?
When I look at my life I see a lot of roles – mother of two growing boys, wife, 4 businesses to run, caretaker to a 5 acre farm with roughly 40 chickens, one cow, a baby water buffalo, and a cat, and the rather lofty goal of meeting 80% of our family food needs from our own land through year-round gardens, animals, and extensive food preservation.
Where do the “means” of time and energy fit into all of this? None of the above is even possible if I am too drained to function in a healthy way. A big part of it is knowing when to say “no” and “this is enough”. It’s letting go of the extraordinarily high expectations I have of myself and being comfortable with something that is less than my ideal, yet in all likelihood more than good enough.
Here are a few of my ideas so far – I welcome your ideas, or examples from your own life:
1. I’ve put on a far back burner a few work projects that I’ve been feeling guilty about not completing. Clearly, they are not a priority right now, so it’s time for me to respect that.
2. Frankly, preserving enough food for the winter has led me to question more than a few times what “enough” is – maybe 3 jams per month should be enough – instead of 5… To help answer this question, I’ve devised a new food tracking system organizing all our preserved food by month instead of type so we can see exactly what we end up using each month and how much we should make in 2012. And I suppose that the very fact that we’ve designed a spreadsheet should indicate to you how over the top we are – sigh…
3. Maybe it’s about planting more onions and potatoes, and less of the beans that need constant picking and canning…
4. I’ve made a work schedule for myself that includes a few blocks for creative time (I always seem to be too tired at night for this) and fitness. It adds up to a good 35 hours of work per week, but if it works my hope is that work time will feel more energized and focused because other needs are also being met.
This may be sounding like a dreadfully functional weekend away. Schedules? Food tracking systems? Garden planning? Fear not, we also enjoyed all of the wonderful things you might anticipate a couple doing on a weekend away from their children. Besides, I assure you – excel spreadsheets can be very exciting….