(Real Simple.com) -- No matter how much I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, the fact remains that there are just 24 hours in a day.
Subtract the eight hours of sleep I require a night (I am beyond envious of those of you who need only six or seven) and the 10 hours I spend at work, and I usually have about five to six hours of "free" time on a weekday.
I put the word "free" in quotes because it also includes showering and getting ready, preparing and eating meals, picking up around the house, and exercise.
The reality is that I only have about three hours of open time on a weekday evening. And, I'll be honest, I really like to spend these few hours doing something relaxing and fun.
Before getting too much deeper into this post, I need to say that I love my job. I put in 10 hours a day because I want to put in that amount of time helping people to be better organized and free of clutter.
Also, I work from home (no commute) and don't yet have children. If you work shorter hours or have vastly different responsibilities than me, some of the rest of this post may not work for you.
Seeing as I like to spend my free time doing things that are relaxing and fun, this means that I have to be creative with how I work my schedule. The following are a collection of tips that I have found to be helpful with preserving my free time.
Use a DVR
I like watching television, but I refuse to let a show's air time determine when I watch a program.
At the start of the television season, I make a determination about which shows I'll record and set my DVR accordingly. Then, as my schedule permits (usually Saturday mornings), I watch the shows.
I fast forward through commercials and through plots that become tedious. Eight hours of regular programming easily can be tackled in less than three hours.
I don't follow this rule in every circumstance, but I probably do it more than most people. I hired movers when my husband and I moved from downtown D.C. to the suburbs.
This summer when the exterior of our house needed to be repainted, I hired a painter.
When I need shoes, I go to a shoe store instead of cobbling up a pair myself.
I also have someone come into my home twice a month and scrub my floors and bathrooms (where we live, a scrubbing-only service is much less expensive than a traditional cleaning service).
One year, I paid a barbecue restaurant to smoke our Thanksgiving turkey.
Professionals dedicate their lives to their craft, and often do a job better and faster than I would if I did it myself. These services come at a price, but sometimes the services are worth the expense.
We've been talking about this issue a great deal on Unclutterer recently. A weekly meal plan streamlines shopping and food preparation, and rids your life of meal-time stress.
If you set aside 15-30 minutes a day to set chores, then you don't ever have to worry about tackling all of your chores in a giant block of time.
Routines keep you from becoming overwhelmed. Check out these tips for more ways to set up routines in your home.
You don't have to serve on every committee and your child doesn't have to be involved in every sport.
Decide what is important to you and your family, and get rid of the rest. If you want your child to experience the benefits of playing a team sport, then talk to your child and decide which team sport (singular) he or she wants to play.
Setting limits isn't about saying "no," it's about being selective about saying, "yes."
Let some things slide
A reality of life is that you can't do it all. Everything you do doesn't have to be an A+ performance.
If I wanted to have the body of a supermodel, I would have to workout hours a day and severely limit my diet.
But I don't need the body of a supermodel to be healthy. So, I walk 20 minutes a day, do a few pushups and sit-ups, eat a good diet, and am okay with my healthy body instead of a supermodel body.
The same applies to things like laundry (I don't match socks when I fold laundry, I just toss them in a drawer), fashion (I go clothes shopping a couple times a year and take my fashion-conscious friend with me as a guide instead of keeping up with the latest trends myself), and gardening (I only put native plants in my yard so I don't have to think about watering them).
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