How To Have A GREAT Weekend

Today’s Lesson: Less planning equals greater possibilities.

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I don’t know about you but weekends are serious business for Nicole and me. And that is the problem. We often plan our weekends like military extraction operations.

Our list of must’s typically includes mission-critical tasks like laundry, groceries, cleaning, grooming, taking out trash, changing litter, making meals, preparing for the coming week, clothes shopping, etc. That is before anything is planned for fun or relaxation, which sometimes feels like added chores anyway (we have to be at the movies by 10, so we can have lunch at 1, to get to the beach by 3, and leave by 6 to get to the grocery store… you get the idea.).

I have found sometimes the planning leads to paralysis-by-planning. Nothing seems to get done and we are more tired at the end of the weekend than when it started. Of course, I know we are not alone.

Here is a little trick I have found works wonders (but it is REALLY tough to adhere to). Whenever I plan my weekend like this, it allows for spontaneity, adventure, and fun, and somehow the mission-critical stuff is still accomplished (or, it turns out, some of it is not actually critical and finds its way postponed into next week).

Plan no more than 3 things each day. Pick the truly “must be done” things. “Wash the car”, for example, is something that is convenient to do on weekends but not critical. If it gets done, fine. If it does not, people will judge you about your car but they were going to judge about something anyway. At least you will already know you have a dirty car.

Keep the tasks simple–so simple you can remember them all day. Saturday: Pay bills, vacuum, groceries.

Do the crucial stuff first. If nothing is more important than making sure your budget is done on Saturday, then just do it first thing. When you put it off, you waste energy worrying about it, which means when you get to it, you have less energy and focus to do it right.

Keep a list for spontaneity. It sounds counter-intuitive, but we share a list in Google Keep. Whenever we drive by a sign or place and remark, “Oh, that looks cool. We should check that out some time…” it goes on the list. Then when we find ourselves bored, saying “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” We consult the list and pick something. The list is always growing so there is always something to do! There are parks, stores, events, bike trails, beaches, all kinds of things on our list. We don’t consult it very often (we usually know what we want to do) but it comes in handy on occasion.

 

I find this method of not cramming a long wish list into the weekend helpful but the hardest part is remembering to keep the weekend simple. Allow breathing room. The space between chores is where creativity, spontaneity, and even romance can occur. Otherwise, you are only extending your work week… and it is good to have a day off once in a while.

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The 5-Ingredient Meal

Use this trick to simplify your at-home meals…

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I enjoy thinking of new ways to embrace minimalism and live a simpler yet more robust life. Something Nicole and I have been trying lately and having some success with is 5-Ingredient meals.

I like to cook but I do not have much patience for the prep work and clean-up. Because I like eating more than I like cooking, I tend to favor eating out and skipping all the leg work of making a meal. I think eating out is a great way to add more diversity to your diet (unless you eat the same meal at the same place every time) but the food is highly processed, usually over-salted for flavor, and often cheap high-carbs and starches to fill you up at less cost and more profit to the restaurant.

In other words, it is good to prepare your own meals more often than not. Since I practice being minimalist and look for ways to simplify, Nicole and I have added a simple rule to our cooking. Our meals can have no more than 5 ingredients (spices not included, but also no more than 5 spices). To clarify, each dish has no more than 5 ingredients and each meal has no more than 5 components (including drinks).

Since a lot of our cooking centers on Mediterranean and Asian food, we have made one notable exception: we count garlic and onion as one ingredient! If they are both chopped fresh, sometimes we will count them separately. We play it pretty loose with those two.

Here is an example of what a simple meal looks like for us…

Tofu Scramble:
1. Smashed tofu (I love squeezing the water out of it with my bare hands and then crumbling it into the pan)
2. Spinach
3. Mushrooms
4. Onion and Garlic
5. Fresh tomatoes (right at the end)

Seasonings: Turmeric (to make the tofu yellow), Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Nutritional Yeast

Salad:
1. Spinach
2. Tomatoes
3. Cucumber
4. Chick Peas
5. Onion

Seasoning / Dressing: Olive oil, Mint, Salt, Pepper, Lemon juice

Normally, a salad and tofu scramble would have about 10 more items added between them, more spices, and definitely longer cooking time and preparation. The funny thing is, since we have started this little experiment, I have found limiting ingredients has actually expanded flavors. Now I notice the individual constituents of each meal and can savor each bite, identifying each flavor within it.

Today’s lesson: Eating can be super simple and simply delicious! Set limits on ingredients, focus on flavor, and enjoy more time eating and less time chopping, washing, soaking, and waiting…

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Simple Ideas Are The Best Ideas

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be true.” –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)

I switched from a laptop to a Chromebook (a Chromebook is basically Google’s version of a laptop–cheap devices that run incredibly smoothly, start-up fast, and keep things simple, automatically updating and running basically as glorified gateways to the internet). My Chromebook is an amazingly versatile tool and I can not imagine why any casual computer user would waste their money on a laptop anymore. However, one thing that has frustrated me about using my Chromebook is that Google and Microsoft are kind of snotty toward each other and neither one wants you to use the other’s products.

For better or worse, the one product Microsoft has consistently out-performed all competitors with is their Office suite (Word, Excel, and One Note, especially). There are alternatives such as Google Docs and Open Office but for sheer ease-of-use and richness of features, Office has not been beat. Sadly, there is no full integration of Office on a Chromebook. I can still do all my basic tasks with Office’s online applications but the one thing I am missing is a full-featured One Note, which has been my favorite tool for managing my blog. One Note allows me to create blog posts outside of WordPress (my website’s platform) and easily upload them while keeping a copy for myself in case anything goes wrong.

I can use Google Keep or ScribeFire to do the same thing but they are just not as useful or efficient as One Note. Anyway, I was complaining about this to Nicole and explaining I was worried about not having a back-up when I blog and she said something head-rocking simple. “Why don’t you just subscribe to your blog? You’ll have a back-up of every post in your email.”

 

Today’s lesson: when faced with a daunting problem… don’t over-think it.

 

 

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Efficient Or Together?

Is being highly effective or enjoying what you are doing more important? Well… I think it depends.

 

I love being efficient. My passion for minimalism comes from my passion for making life less complex and freeing time for things that are important.

For example, I only buy clothes that are machine washable and can be machine-dried.

This choice limits my options (being vegan and minimalist limits them even further). You might think this would make it harder to shop and choose clothes to wear but I often find limiting options grants freedom. It seems counter-intuitive but consider that limiting my options to machine wash/dry only clothes means I gain freedom over time not spent sorting laundry, finding a place to hang my wet clothes until they dry (which means more hangers or a drying rack and that means more stuff accumulating more space). Also, I don’t have to make a trip to the dry cleaner each week which frees money (dry cleaning adds up), time (no travel time to the washing machine), and space (no extra hangers and bags from the dry cleaner–no extra waste)!

Nonetheless, there are some areas where I am happy to give up efficiency. Although Nicole and I can be more efficient with weekend chores by splitting up tasks like shopping and cleaning (maybe she could buy groceries while I clean the apartment) or cooking (maybe she could cook and I could wash all the dishes after), but most of the time we do these things together. It provides us time to chat, and sometimes play or just enjoy each other’s company. Even something as mundane as grocery shopping can be a time to bond, or flirt, or laugh for us (or sometimes all three!).

Today’s lesson is: it is good to be efficient and work to simplify life… the better you are at this, the more effective you become. Just remember why you are doing it. For me, it is in part so I can be less efficient with other things, slowing down where it counts to enjoy the good (but necessary) stuff more.

 

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