I’m ruthless about how I use my time and money. They’re both limited resources and how I deploy them dictates the type of life I lead. That doesn’t mean I never waste money and time. In fact, it was two recent failures–a $78.59 shopping spree at the co-op grocery store and a dirty upstairs bathroom–that prompted today’s reflection.

My Priorities = How I Use My Time and Money

Date night with Mr. FW: definitely a priority

When I analyze how I spend my money (easy to do thanks to tracking my spending with Personal Capital) and how I spend my time (harder to do, but possible through a time audit), my priorities are laid bare.

For example, saying that exercise is a priority for me right now is demonstrably false since I put no money and very little time into it. Conversely, saying that my relationship with my husband is a priority is borne out by the money we spend on date nights and the time we take to eat dinner together every night.

I want to say that exercise is a priority for me, because it’s an aspirational priority, but it’s obvious I’ll need to throw some resources behind it to make it reality. It’s easy to rattle off a list of stuff we *think* we do or that we’d *like* to be doing, but much harder to come clean with how we actually use our time and money.

Your Priorities Are Different Than My Priorities (and that’s ok)

What I care about isn’t better or worse than what you care about. What I do is not best and I’m not saying that you should do what I do. I’m using myself as an example because I’m the only example I have. Everyone’s priorities are different and today is not an analysis of the moral rectitude of one’s priorities. Instead, it’s an analysis of whether or not we’re using our time and money in pursuit of our highest priorities.

Things I Don’t Do

In order to be ruthless with my time and money, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t do and don’t buy. I probably save the most time and money by consciously NOT doing stuff and NOT buying stuff. It’s similar to my argument that you can’t buy your way to environmentalism. There comes a point–in efficiency, in frugality, in minimalism–where you just have to stop doing things in order to achieve your ends.

Here’s a list of stuff I don’t do:

What with all this forest in my backyard I don’t feel the need to bring plants inside

1) Houseplants. I do not do them. A friend recently pointed out it’s unusual I don’t have houseplants. I hadn’t really thought about it, but her comment got me thinking about my priorities. I don’t give a rat’s tail about house plants and, in my opinion, they suck up time, money, and space. And so? I don’t have them. We have ample plant-related material outside our home and I feel no need to invite the flora indoors.

2) Rugs. Same vein as house plants. It takes me forever to vacuum on top and underneath rugs (not to mention the hassles of cleaning crayon/marker/milk out of them). Plus, my kids (and let’s be honest, myself) trip over rugs. Also, they cost money. Often a lot of money. We have hardwood floors, I like hardwood floors, so I don’t do rugs. The result? It’s cheaper to be rug-less and faster for me to clean our floors.

3) Daily hair and makeup. I’m all about MVP (minimum viable presentability). I shower every day, I put on clean clothes… that’s it. I don’t bother with makeup or hair-fixing because, on a daily basis, I don’t care enough to put resources behind those activities.

4) Take our kids to restaurants. Not into it. My kids are not old enough to appreciate fine dining experiences and, the few times we’ve taken them out, it has not been fun. Plus it’s expensive. Also messy. When they’re older, we’ll take them out. Until then, it’s not a priority for our family.

Littlewoods and me on a rare restaurant outing. I think her face says it all.

5) Cook dinner every night. Not happening. Homemade, healthy food is a priority for us, but variety is not. Mr. Frugalwoods (our cook) decided he’d rather spend time playing with the kids in the evenings instead of cooking a different meal every night. So, he cooks a huge batch of dinner once a week, we eat it all week, and we freeze the leftovers. In this example, since we’re not willing to compromise on homemade and healthy, we compromise on variety, which gives us back our time. More about this strategy here: The Dirty Secret Behind How We Cook At Home.

6) Pack kid lunches every morning. Mornings are always chaos so I prep Kidwoods’ lunches and snacks in bulk ahead of time. Kidwoods goes to preschool four days a week and I prepare two days worth of lunches at a time (once on Sunday evening and once on Tuesday evening). I use these amazing containers*, which are super slim, store flat in the fridge, and don’t take up much space. By packing two lunches & snacks at a time, I streamline the process and spend less time overall because I only have to get the bread out once, I only have to slice the carrots once, etc.

*although this an affiliate link to Amazon, we got ours at Walmart for about half the price.

7) Iron. I don’t iron anything. I’m not sure we even own an iron. Are our clothes sometimes wrinkly? You betcha. Do I care? Not in the slightest. This is one of those things I eliminated from our lives because for me, the return (no wrinkles) was not worth the investment of my time.

It All Adds Up

I want to point out that none of these things is seismic on its own. Rather, it’s the accumulation of things I don’t do that makes the difference in my schedule.

Totally unrelated photo of my barn in the fall

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s illustrative of how I weigh the return on my investment of time. It’s very much the death by one thousand paper cuts analogy and the “but it’s only $5” financial argument.

Adding $5 or $20 to your monthly budget isn’t going to make a difference, but adding six $20 items each month might. It’s unlikely that one single thing will make the difference–it’s the holistic picture of where your money and your time go.

Additionally, a lot of the things on this list save me both time and money. For me, that’s the golden ticket. The overarching goal here isn’t exactly frugality, but rather, simplicity. I’m looking to pare down the tasks I do in a week in order to give myself more time, and consequently more money, to pursue what matters most to me.

Things I Do

Here’s what I do order to facilitate my streamlined schedule:

1) Adhere to a household division of labor.

Actual photo of my actual house on actual laundry day. I think what I appreciate most is the little potty Kidwoods dragged over next to her sister at the doll bistro table…

Mr. Frugalwoods and I are each responsible for different chores, which saves us time and frustration. We don’t have arguments over who will cook or who is responsible for putting the baby to bed or when the laundry will get done–all of those tasks are enshrined in our division of labor.

We don’t feel the need to police each other or check-in on the timeline of a project–we just do our respective list of duties according to our…

2) Weekly schedule of chores.

To the extent possible, we operate on a weekly schedule such that chores get done on the same day every week. This reduces friction, creates opportunities for streamlining, and ensures that stuff gets done. For example, Mr. FW (our grocery shopper), goes to the grocery store on the same day at the same time exactly once every week. This makes it super easy to know when to make our list and meal plan.

Unrelated photo I took of a church through the fall leaves. You’re welcome.

Our schedule also removes my tendency to obsess about undone chores. If there’s a pile of laundry and I don’t know when I’ll get to it, I spend an inordinate amount of mental energy worrying about it (How much laundry is in there? Will it mold? WHY do my kids go through so much clothing???).

Since I do laundry on the same day every week, I find I have no problem ignoring the laundry hampers. It’s not jumbling my daily thoughts because I have a designated appointment time during which I’ll attend to it–there’s no reason for me to give it any energy before that pre-determined time.

I know this about myself because I don’t have a schedule for cleaning the upstairs bathrooms. Consequently, I find myself thinking about those bathrooms in the middle of the night. Dirty sinks are a ridiculous thing to think about in the middle of the night, but I can’t help it! I need to put these bathrooms on a schedule so I can get them out of my brain. The downstairs bathroom is on a weekly cleaning schedule and I never think about it… clearly I need to take my own advice here. I’d say I spend more time stressing about stuff that’s not scheduled than I spend actually doing the task. Once it’s scheduled? My brain is free to move onto other pursuits.

3) Plan ahead.

The undercurrent here is planning ahead. Sometimes we’re good at this, other times we’re not. Mr. FW and I are most effective when we can run on autopilot and do our laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning at the same time every week. Our downfalls are unexpected events that throw our routine off course. It’s hard for us to accommodate changes in the schedule and that’s when we miss or forget stuff. We have a shared Google calendar and we’re trying to be better about sitting down together at the beginning of each week to review any anomalies in the schedule.

4) Be specific.

Kidwoods running through the woods to the pond

We find that ultra-specificity is helpful in our division of labor and schedule. I don’t vaguely wonder when Mr. FW will take over Kidwoods’ bedtime routine; I know exactly when he’ll take over: he gets her out of the bathtub and handles everything from there on out.

This might be overly specific or annoying for some families and I’m not suggesting it’s a panacea. For us, since we’re both efficiency and routine-oriented nerds, this level of detail makes us a dream team. Know what works for you and build a system around it.

5) Schedule in leisure time.

We relax every day. I’m not productive at all times. The key, for me, was to schedule our leisure time. Every night at 7:30pm, my husband and I eat dinner and watch a TV show together (at this point, the kids are both in bed, the house is clean, and everything is prepped for the next day). This is sacred time and we don’t deviate from this schedule except when one of us has an evening board meeting or we’re hanging out with friends.

It’s not an optional part of our day–it’s a necessary chance to decompress and be together. I consider our 7:30pm dinner and TV time just as important as every other scheduled aspect of our days. For me, knowing that our routines allow for this daily leisure encourages me to follow our schedule all the more. Because if we don’t get the kids to pick up their toys before bed and if we don’t clean the kitchen and if we don’t finish our work in time, we don’t get to start TV and dinner on time at 7:30pm. Also, there is wine involved. That’s all the motivation I need to keep everyone clipping along on track.

I derive a lot of comfort in looking forward to this quiet, cozy time every evening. When both kids are screaming and the house is a disaster and I have a headache, I can take a few deep breaths and promise myself the end-of-day reward of TV, dinner, wine, and snuggles on the couch. Not gonna lie–some days I wake up counting down the hours to 7:30pm.

6) Look for ways to make boring, necessary tasks more enjoyable.

Schedule time to jump in leaves!

While I can eliminate a lot of unimportant stuff from my daily life, there’s still a bunch of boring stuff I have to do in order to be a responsible adult. Over this past year, I’ve been trying to tweak my approach to these rote tasks to make them–if not enjoyable–tenable. Since Mr. FW and I both work from home, we’re fortunate not to have daily commutes. But, since we live rurally, a trip to somewhere such as the doctor’s office entails a 45 minute drive each way. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that every day, but we do have to do it sometimes.

I used to LOATHE the prospect of time spent in the car. I’d dread those long trips and try to avoid them. But I noticed Mr. FW didn’t mind the drives he needed to take and I asked him what was up. His response? He views time spent driving as a peaceful, quiet chance to meditate, be in solitude, and also… listen to amazing podcasts!

In light of this, we bought this bluetooth thing-y to allow us to sync our phones with the car speaker in order to listen to podcasts in the car (affiliate link).

I’ve been binging Hidden Brain on NPR (also Mob Queens, The Dream, Throughline on NPR, Motherhood Sessions… ) and now I look forward to driving because I can’t wait to hear the next episode. Mr. FW also pointed out that driving in the countryside is relaxing because: there’s no traffic, the scenery is gorgeous, and there’s no stoplights or stop signs–you just sail down the rural highway. I’m shocked that I was able to transform how I feel about driving just by changing my mindset and enshrining a new hobby–podcast listening! In other news, PLEASE give me your podcast recommendations!!

How Does This Save Money?

All of these approaches save money because they mean we’re rarely scrambling for last minute solutions. Hint: last minute solutions are almost always the most expensive. Since we know when dinner will be cooked (and shopped for and meal planned for), we’re not scrambling to order take-out. Since we know when the kid lunches & snacks will be prepped, we’re not buying expensive convenience foods to toss into her lunchbox on the way out the door. Since we have daily leisure time, we’re not splurging on massive nights out to try and make up for a constant dearth of downtime and togetherness.

Judgmental toddler is judgmental

Let’s be clear: sometimes we most definitely scramble and have not planned ahead, but these expensive scrambles are the exception, not the rule.

A great example: my failure the other week to bake something ahead of time for my book club potluck. Since I happened to be in town with Littlewoods at a doctor’s appointment that morning, I figured I’d pop into the local co-op to buy a few things to take to book club. Well.

$78.59 later I realized what had happened: I’d deviated from the routine (once a week grocery shopping), I’d failed to plan ahead (had I baked brownies the day before, I would’ve avoided this), and I went shopping hungry, with a toddler, and without a list (I had to buy snacks for both of us… also a bottle of wine for me because it looked good and some really lovely cheese and then also a loaf of artisanal focaccia bread and garlic-stuffed olives… you guys, it was a total disaster).

Doing a $78.59 shopping spree once in a while isn’t a big deal, but doing it every week or every month would start to have a major impact on my budget and my use of time (we were in there for like an hour because I couldn’t stop reading cheese labels and then realized I could order a sandwich with one of the cheeses on it… ). Moral of the story: don’t beat yourself up for the odd failure-to-plan-spree, but if it’s a weekly (or monthly) occurrence, think about how to enshrine better systems in your routine. Not having a snack prepared for my book club does not constitute an emergency–it constitutes a failure to plan.

What If You Hate Schedules and Routines?

For people who recoil at this level of planning ahead, I like to ask–not sarcastically, but honestly–“how is that working for you?” If your response is that things always seems to work out and that you like spontaneity, then don’t change a thing! But if your response is that you’re frustrated because the kids always go to bed late and you never know what’s for dinner and the house is constantly a mess, then it might be time to think about enshrining a more ironclad schedule and division of household labor.

Further, if you establish a routine and find it doesn’t work for you, change it! This is hard for me because I am wont to wear grooves into a set system of doing things. It’s not easy for me to incorporate new things, but I find that the more willing I am to experiment with my routine–and my system of managing my life–the better off I am. Why keep doing things that don’t work for you?

Experiment to Find What Works for You

In all of the above examples of stuff I don’t do, I’ve experimented with doing them. There was a time when we had house plants. And rugs. We’ve taken our kids to restaurants before. I used to do full hair and make-up (not to mention nails) every morning. I was once a person who ironed clothes. Mr. FW used to cook a new and inventive meal every single night. What we realized is that none of that worked for us or was important enough for us to continue doing.

Fall leaves on our driveway

Tinker around with your routine. Experimenting helps me identify my priorities. There are plenty of other things I’ve tried eliminating, or cutting back on, and found that they’re meaningful to my routine and that I want to continue doing them.

Let’s take my daily shower as an example. In pursuit of saving more time, I eliminated my morning shower a few days per week. The result? Horrid. I really hate not showering. Taking a morning shower is crucial to me, so I do it and I don’t regret the time I spend. But fixing my hair? I realized I didn’t care about that aspect of the routine.

I think it’s easier to apply this heuristic when you’re thinking about doing something new. More difficult, but probably more rewarding, is applying it to the things you already do. As we age, we keep adding habits and tasks. Any one thing probably isn’t a big deal, but if we don’t step back and prune on occasion, we’ll end up continually adding to our plates in ways that might not add value to our lives.

Quiz To Take!

If you want to examine how you spend your time (and money), here’s a list of questions I find useful:

  1. What can I eliminate entirely?
    • In my above examples, I eliminated rugs and houseplants entirely.
  2. What can I batch for efficiency?
    • In our case, cooking dinner once a week creates massive efficiencies.
  3. My rug-free, houseplant-free home

    What can I do selectively?

    • I wear make-up selectively. If I’m going to an event I want to get fancy for, I get fancy. But since this takes time, money, and energy, I don’t do it every day.
  4. Experiment with what I’m willing to give up:
    • I am unwilling to sacrifice my daily shower. I tried showering every other day and was unhappy. That’s a clear signal to me that I want to spend the time (and the resource of water) to shower every morning.
  5. What am I doing because everyone else does it or because I think I’m “supposed” to do it?
    • Ironing. You guys, I used to iron our clothes because I thought I was supposed to. But it returned no value to me and so I stopped doing it.
  6. How can I improve–or create added value in–rote, necessary parts of my schedule?
    • I used to hate driving. Now, I look forward to it because I started listening to podcasts. I was able to transform my approach to this necessary task by changing my mindset and adding a fun activity.

Not everything can be a priority for your time or your money. Identify your priorities, spend time and money on them, and let go of everything else.

What are your priorities? How do you bring your money and time into alignment with them?

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  1. I love this!!!!! I had done the exact same things with house plants (I don’t have kids yet but 4 pets and a busy schedule are enough to keep alive), I also don’t iron, alway meal prep, and I don’t do nail appointments ever and the hair cuts are a bare minimum. While some people enjoy these activities as self care I just don’t so would rather spend time and money elsewhere. I used to feel insecure for being less into those things but this really helps me see that I am choosing to put my values first! Another funny example of this is that I don’t chop onions. It hurts my eyes and is difficult to me and I can never cook them quite right and don’t even love the taste of them! I use a bit of onion powder instead to make sure the recipe gets the flavor it needs, SO MUCH EASIER!!!! I am going to print your list of questions out and put it up somewhere to remind myself to reassess every so often. I feel like values change a lot with different life phases and it could be easy to get stuck in a pattern that isn’t even aligned with your current values. Thanks again!

    1. Awesome!!! I love your onion powder example–it’s so true that paring down all these seemingly insignificant outlays of time (and money) really can make a difference in the long run.

      1. Just a comment related to onion powder. It has a tendency to get really hard and difficult to get out of the jar unless you use it almost daily.I take dehydrated onions and grind them in a mortar and pestle or now with a spice grinder. I think it adds more flavor and I have less waste.

    2. haha we have the same approach to garlic. We used to chop garlic cloves, but it’s tedious and takes too long for the benefit. Instead we buy the jars of mince garlic and use it in pretty much everything. It saves us time and it doesn’t go bad. We lovingly refer to it as “jarlic.”

      1. I love coleslaw, but I have learned that the pre-shredded store brand you buy in a bag (for all of $1) mixed with a jar of Marzetti’s coleslaw dressing is the way to go. Delicious and ready in seconds! Sure beats washing and grating a head of cabbage when you’re exhausted and starving!

    3. You can buy frozen chopped onions in the freezer section. They are super cheap and saves time, too. I’ve started buying multiple onions at a time and prechopping them and freezing them in bags myself. It just a little bit less prep work I have to do for a recipe. I do the same for bell peppers, especially when they are on sale.

    4. Here in the UK we can buy chopped frozen onions for a very good price – I will never chop an onion again, for which my sensitive eyes are very grateful.

  2. Thank you for your candor; the timeliness of this article was perfect! I know this is slightly different than the grocery store outing but I am finding my area of weakness is amazon and nothing demonstrated it more than looking at the annual spending from the past several years. Holy smoke; WAY too much money! Don’t get me wrong, I love amazon but it’s too easy (for me) to get lost and buy mindlessly! A friend recently recommended the book “More than Enough” by Miranda Anderson and she has a podcast that you might like that walks through her and her husband’s journey of pairing down with three little ones- “Live Free Creative”

    1. Nobody I know can believe I don’t just pay for prime because it’s such a good value but it’s not a good value for me because I spend more on buying shit that is useful but I would otherwise probably manage to do without.

  3. Really helpful post! I will refer back to this one, as I’m currently tweaking my weekly schedule now that my kids are both in school. I love the idea of scheduling out those dreaded things that hang over your head, and having the imagination to tweak the chores you don’t like as much!

  4. We’ve slowly eliminated things from our life that we don’t value and it’s been liberating. At first, it can be scary because you’re so used to a particular thing and you can’t imagine a world where it’s not there.

    But you can temporarily remove it (just stick it in the closet) to see if it matters to you and if your life is better or worse (or unchanged) without it. We found so many things that we “temporarily” (just to get over the emotional hurdle) removed and completely forgot about.

    Your life gets to be a lot lighter without many of those things. Funny aside, we have an iron but we don’t have an ironing board. 🙂

    1. I too have an iron but no board. In fact I recently ‘upgraded’ my iron to a small travelling iron (the old one was toast). I do have an ironing pad so when I do have to iron I just put it on the kitchen island – ironing clothes I never do – but when I am sewing curtains for instance I need to sew the seam down. So the iron comes out every year or so (LOL). I used to put things I thought we could do without in a box, sealed it and stored it in the basement (with the date on it). When I looked at the basement if a box was over a year old I would donate it without opening it. Liberating. (I knew if I opened it I would find “something” I wanted to take back but in truth hadn’t missed.)

  5. I have a similar list to save time and money. Thanks to you, I no longer waste either time or money getting haircuts! And thanks to the video demonstration by Paula Pant that Mr. Money Mustache posted on his Instagram, I’ve found the best way to cut my hair. The three of you have saved me an immeasurable amount of time and money – the time being the most important.

    Like you, I don’t have rugs. I have carpet on my steps, but that will eventually come out. Rugs? They’re a thing of the past. My dog thinks anything on the floor, yoga mats included, must be a pee pad and treats it accordingly. I finally gave up the little throw I had in my bathroom because I got so sick of continually washing it. It’s much easier vacuuming hard wood than carpet and rugs.

  6. I don’t like to iron but I do hate wrinkly clothes, so I got a steamer. If you don’t care, ignore it!!! But I find a steam takes only a minute and I feel so fresh. Another compromise is just paying for things. I hate cleaning. So for now the compromise is have a dirty house. But as soon as I finish grad school, the compromise will be pay someone.

    1. Also in general I find houseplants useless, except aloe which is extremely hardy and useful for burns, rashes and cuts. Also that was the only plant in my house growing up and something just feels missing without it (when I get a burn in particular)

      1. Aloe is indigenous where I am and we use it for burns too, very effective, just grows wild in our garden and works beautifully for minor stings and bites too.

  7. I have been reading your blog for a long time now, and just wanted to thank you for all your posts. I so enjoy reading them. So thank you for all the inspiration!

  8. Chipped toenail polish grates on my soul. After my second was born I gave it up entirely out of frustration. I spent the entire winter “airing out” my toenails which were hideously yellowed after years of suffocating under polish. They grew in a normal color and my $0.99 four-sided buffing block brings them to a happy shiny place. I can easily accomplish this task while sitting outside the tub while kids bathe. No waiting for polish to dry. Just cycle through the 4 sides in order and voila!

      1. You can pick them up at any drugstore for a few bucks. I too recently recalled the one time I got one as a teen from a mall pop-up for $40???!?!?! But I had never seen my nails so shiny….

    1. I did the same thing over the winter, and it took months for them to grow out without the discoloration from wearing nail polish for years…it was worth it, and I’d never go back, as my feet look much healthier now 🙂

  9. Thank you for another spot-on discussion! I eliminated make-up application as soon as I read your book. I’ve only worn it twice since the summer (which tells me it really was not important to me and that I’ve only had two “fancy” events in five months… I’m not sure if that aspect makes me happy or sad…lol). Another thing I have implemented that may or may not be a time saver but it definitely helps me prioritize, is how I hang/sort my clothes. Once I’ve worn something it goes at one end of the closet or dresser drawer. Then, as I work my way through the season, I see what is left lingering at the front of the row that kept getting passed up. That item(s) is moved to my bag for Goodwill. I clearly did not need nor want to wear it this year so it’s time to move it along to someone who does. I started this after my Marie Kondo-style purge two years ago so the idea probably came from her book.
    Unrelated, but since you asked, my favorite podcast is the Moth which is a collection of short stories told by regular folks at a live event. It’s a great way to let someone else take over my brain for awhile.
    Thank you for another great post!

      1. I turn my hangers backwards in the closet (well on the rack as this house has no closets) and if it’s not been turned around by the end of the year it goes BYE BYE

  10. What a great post! One of my big priorities is slow mornings: waking naturally, being with my husband, doing yoga, reading a few pages of my book, writing, cooking/eating a nutritious breakfast together, meditating, and generally getting ready for the day. I can only do this by getting to sleep early and not getting distracted by things that don’t align with my morning priorities, which for me means unplugging myself from all devices (I’ve already deleted all social media accounts but news and email is still a time suck). It’s totally worth it to get my mornings!

  11. I live the English version of your life! We thrive on a good routine in our house. As a part time working mum (teacher) I’m very specific about when I do my housework. We eat the same meal plan Sun-Thurs every week and we have set times in the week when we do ‘admin’.
    The one thing I took from your article that we could add – is scheduling in ‘our’ time as a couple. We already have ‘family’ time built in and ‘date night’ but I think we could definitely benefit from a fixed time each evening to relax together.
    Thanks for the article – great read 🙂

  12. Great post! What we do and why (and how and when) is something to revisit from time to time. I did a time audit a few years ago (basically just set a timer for 15 minutes for a whole day and wrote down what I’d been doing) and I was blown away by how much time I was wasting on social media. Gave up fb and never looked back. I’m newlywed and just about to move to a new house-seems like a good time to do a time and money audit and see if it’s all in line. Glad to see your post I g a lot of articles again! They make my day!

  13. While reading your blog, I realize how this WAS my life. Getting married and raising children over a billion years ago, my life was ONLY many schedules of routines and they saved my life. With every phase and change, the routines changed. Nothing ever stayed the same. Looking back, there were so many times that I thought that the constancy of routines were making me body weary and brain dead. Noticing the change of seasons for example for me merely meant a new school year and the multitude of things to do before the holidays and winter set in. To deviate from a set pattern made me miserable. But, routines also gave me a sense of security and calm. Now I am 63 and a grandmother and I am watching my own children clinging to THEIR routines to be happy and survive. I will say that in my elder years, it has been lovely to live without plans unless I want to make them. To all your young bloggers, routines are necessary and can bring much needed calm to constantly changing situations in life. Just remember to breathe, take care of yourself and enjoy the ride. I miss it every now and then.

    1. great perspective! Sometimes it feels like ”it never stops” and these routines and organisational ideas are like life belts and how boring are we? BUT on the other side of that there is a different season where your time is more your own, and that’s a good thing to bear in mind!

  14. I have a black thumb and 2 cats who would probably love to dig in dirt so I have no houseplants either. That’s also the reason my husband no longer buys me flowers – the cats eat them unless I put them so high that I can’t enjoy them and they can’t reach them. We have laminate floors with no rugs. In so many interior design photos I see area rugs layered on top of each other and all I can think is WHY??? Sure they look ok but I’d trip and break a bone. Plus I can’t imagine trying to vacuum them. We do still have bath mats that can simply go in the washer and dryer when needed. I haven’t used an iron in at least 5 years. I should probably try to sell the nice iron I have and make some money. I find myself wanting to get back to the cleaning schedule I had which has fallen by the wayside the last few months. You’ve inspired me to do so with this post!

  15. Great article! I hope to critically look at what I am doing in my routines and make some changes. One thing I started last year was not going to social occasions I knew I would not enjoy- example: tailgates to Penn State football. While I enjoy the friends that go, I just don’t like tailgates games, waking up early to drink in a field to celebrate a sport I don’t even like or understand. I’d rather spend time with those friends doing something else. My husband does enjoy the tailgates so he still attends, which it perfectly fine. I think its so important to only spend time doing things you enjoy (or HAVE to do)!

    1. Totally agree, and have felt guilty about feeling this way! No more! Nothing wrong with not going and letting hubby enjoy it himself. Freedom!

  16. Interesting post! I think about these things a lot as well. Recently I re-evaluated my priorities and values and decided the gym IS indeed worth it for me, so I incorporated it into my weekly routine & budget, and my body is thanking me. Added bonus: I spend less money on going out for drinks during the week because I’m busy at the gym, and I don’t feel like drinking!

    On a similar note, last week as I reflected on some of my top values (authenticity, generosity, integrity), I was able to say no to a request for helping someone write their master’s thesis – which might have made me some short-term money, but went against my values.

  17. A solid bedtime routine for my kids this year has made my life so much better! Now I’m working on other routines. One issue we run into is that my husband doesn’t have a consistent schedule (this week it’s daily 7am-8pm, next week he’ll be off entirely, then he’ll work two or three night shifts (7pm-7am), then it’ll be a week of early morning (7-5) alternating with late morning (9-7) then a week off, etc. I’m struggling with: do I make a schedule to implement for each of his shift types…or make a schedule that works regardless of his shift type – if I do the latter I get overwhelmed because it tends to mean I do everything and he “helps out” when we can which doesn’t jibe with our coparenting style. But the idea of making so many schedules is dizzying. Any suggestions? Or insights from folks who have something similar?

    I’m ready to give up houseplants – I like that they filter the air but I kill so many of them. And when our fish dies we are not replacing it – holy unexpected time suck.

    When my husband was diagnosed with cancer last year we went into triage mode for 9 months and eliminated everything that wasn’t essential – it was a huge eye opener to all the things we were doing out of obligation. Now that he’s recovered (showing quarterly clear scans!!) we are fighting to not fill our time up with obligations again. I’m looking at you, fish.

    1. Congrats on making it through and the clear scans. My mom is a many year survivor of breast and lung cancer. Wishing the same for your family.

      1. Thank you susan! Hopefully soon he’ll graduate to 6 month scans next year and at the 5 year mark it’ll be an annual thing. Very happy to hear about your mom’s success.

    2. Dillon, I am wondering if your husband’s health is adversely affected by his irregular schedule? There is research to support the benefits of a regular routine. Just a point for the two of you to discuss.
      As for houseplants, I have nothing that can not thrive under benign neglect. So one pot of snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) is it!

      1. Thank you! His schedule is SO much more regular than it used to be. He was in the process of changing jobs when he was diagnosed and we’ve been much happier with this newer (though still wonky) schedule. He’s down to two night shifts a month rather than eight and we are hoping as he builds a little seniority here he’ll be able to eliminate nights all together. Ooo I’ll look into snake plant. I recently killed all my succulents…by caring too much? lol

    3. I have two friends that settled their children in fairly consistent daily schedules, with their husbands joining in around their chaotic work schedules. 3 things really helped make it work: 1. Whenever the working spouse was home on a weekday, they knew the daily routine and equitably pitched in with whatever needed doing. 2. Since the working spouse missed a lot of the daily tasks like dishes, they tended to tackle a larger share of the unusual chores like occasionally vacuuming the car out. 3. During the longer stretches of off days, both parents would swap time out with the kids (while still sticking to the daily routine) so each person got a break. They’d also take advantage of traveling & field trip opportunities to spend family time with the kids.

      1. Thank you, Beth! These are great tips. I think I knew the routine but my husband never really did – we talked and are going to add it to a shared note on our phones so he’ll know what should be happening and can jump in instead of waiting to be directed. I really appreciate you sharing those insights.

  18. Awesome and thought-provoking post! My time budget is one of the things I struggle with most. Thanks for identifying opportunities for rationalization and ways to better understand one’s priorities. As for the podcast – hugely recommend the Drop Out, which chronicles the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

  19. Thankyou for your beautiful fall pictures. We have been back in Florida for 20 years now and miss the fall colors. Going next week on a drive through the southern states into tenn, Virginia, Carolinas, etc. please continue posting those pictures because we will not make it that far north to see those beautiful colors. We also live by routine, on the couch at 7:30 each evening with our wine and taped tv shows. I always look forward to this also. My favorite days are when I have leftovers for dinner. Even if it is just the meat, it is so much easier to just add a baked potato and salad, love it!!! I also gave up makeup except on special occasions. I do use a moisturizer each day. I encourage you at your young age to do this, one with sun protection. I started late due to the cost of it when I was younger and ignorance of not knowing how important it is to your appearance in later life. We bicycle every day. Again, we live in Florida and can get outside every single day. Rugs and house plants are not used except for one rug at front door due to we have so much sand in Florida. I also have an aloe plant outside my front door in a pot for burns. It is simple to give it drink once a week or sit it out in the rain when it rains here. Love the pictures of your beautiful home. Thank you

  20. One thing I have given up is social media. I found that it did not add value to my life (actually quite the opposite) and was a huge time-suck. The people I truly care to keep in touch with I can text, e-mail, or actually talk to (sometimes face-to-face)! Time I would spend on Facebook is time I now spend with my husband, son and other family and friends. I deleted my account 4 years ago and don’t miss it at all.

  21. I think you’d really enjoy the podcast One Bad Mother–it’s really warm and funny, you learn about really useful parenting resources, and it really helped me be ready to fail at parent constantly (but also celebrate moments when you’re a parenting genius!) They also keep it real about mental health!

  22. I have to go to court nearly every day and have found that “steaming” my clothes in the bathroom works. I don’t own an iron. I do have that spray stuff in an emergency. I cut and dye my own hair. I grocery shop once a week, because I live so far from the nearest grocery store, when I also do my laundry. So, I try to do two errands at once.I don’t have a tv, but I now have an iPhone 6, which is a big improvement from my talk and text only cell phone. I cook enough for at least three nights, on the weekends. I also make sure I have enough lunch stuff for the week. I seldom eat out Monday -Friday. By Thursday night, I just open a can of green beans, or tomato soup and eat it with cheese toast for supper. I need to exercise more…because it is….occasionally……lol. Mainly, I go home, feed dog and cat, eat supper, play on iPhone and go to sleep. Rinse/repeat, unless preparing for jury trial.

  23. This was a really great article that helped me think of my own priorities.

    Like you, I skip the daily hair and makeup routine. I have thought about this recently since I am constantly getting mistake for someone in college rather than the 30 year old I am but trying to look my age by putting on makeup is just not worth it. And it’s not necessary for my job.

    Audiobooks and podcasts make my current two hour commute bearable. I am going to be leaving my current job because of the commute but finishing at least one book a week makes it feel like I am being productive.

    Unlike you I’ve realize having plants around is something that is worth it to me. They make me happier and living in Washington in the winter this makes the seasonal depression easier for a girl born in the Sunshine State.

    All of your advice on schedules is a great help to someone still trying to figure out their routine.

    Thanks Mrs. Frugalwoods!

  24. These are super helpful ideas for anyone of any age and stage of life. I’ve found as I’ve aged out of certain periods (kids in school, kids a leaving home etc), I’ve remained in the same routine. After a while I smack myself on the forehead and realize I need a change of habit. Super important to occasionally rethink. Your ideas are super and I thank you!

  25. We are big into batch cooking at the moment. I have a couple of make it ahead cookbooks on my kindle. I’ll decide which five recipes to make, buy all the ingredients and then spend a couple hours putting all the bags together. Most are marinated chicken and steak recipes. Some of the ground beef you cook right then and then freeze. You can easily rotate through the meals this way and not stuck eating the same each night.

  26. I love this!!! You’ve just inspired me to pass on my sad neglected orchids (all given as gifts) to my green fingered friend where they will be loved and cared for. No more guilt and more time freed up.

  27. Totally agree on this one. The further I get into adulthood the more I start to notice the things other people do, and start to think “am I SUPPOSED to be doing that? Do other people see me as childish because i don’t? Is –ironing/houseplants/perfect landscaping/not having fine china or using specific fancy dishes when I have people over– what it means to be an adult?” I noticed buying a house can really make you start asking these questions all of a sudden, as you all of a sudden want to impress your friends, whereas before you were fine with “I’m just a poor young adult, don’t judge me”. Thanks for the reminder!

  28. I find your streamlining and scheduling approach very interesting…. it’s a great perspective on planning ahead, which goes towards any goal-oriented task. There’s that old saying “When you fail to plan. You plan to fail.”

    I think something I can work on better is my morning work clothes routine. I find that I’m scrambling to figure out what to wear in a 5 minute span of time… I hate it.

    Another thing that I struggle with is the weekly food prep. While I find it resourceful and useful for the week, come Sunday I’m so darn tired from grocery shopping, running errands, etc that I don’t have any motivation to peel, prep, or chop! Something I need to go back to the drawing board on…. but you’ve given me a lot of good ideas.

    1. Try laying out your next day outfit the night before, perhaps on one or two of your bathroom trips in the evening. If you can just do your main entree on Sunday for the week or for 3 nights it will leave you with a quick job of making a salad and microwaving baked potatoes or instant pot rice pilaf. All very quick. Just having the meat or Mac n cheese or lasagna ready and leftover is a timesaver. Good luck.

      1. Just wanted to mention I started doing this with clothing after I put on two different tennis shoes and went to work and another time put my scrub top on inside out. Broke me from the quick throw it on and go routine.

    2. I’m the same way about prepping complete meals. It’s just too much. Sometthing I have been experimenting with the last few weeks, though, is prepping really simple ingredients for the week that I can use to throw a meal together quickly. The main things I am prepping have been hard boiled eggs (quick snack, salad topper, etc), black beans, and quinoa. It has been wildly successful for me to have these things sitting in the fridge for a quick throw together meal or snack and takes minimal effort to make since the black beans go in the crock pout, eggs/quinoa in the rice cooker.

  29. I incorporated the Flylady routine for my housework and that is working well. I used to be the woman who was going to give the bathroom a quick 10-minute once-over ,and 40 minutes later realized I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing baseboards while I had vinegar-soaked rags packed around the faucet to remove lime scale; meanwhile laundry still waited. Having a written routine has kept me from doing that anymore.
    I have a superwoman complex big-time; I’m somehow convinced I can do it all, and do it all perfectly, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. I am having to force myself to opt out of perfection and doing it all, and it’s been hard to make myself let go! This post is an encouragement to me to just drop some of this stuff already.
    Unrelated to this post: I notice a lack of curtains in your house photos. In your climate, would they not help in keeping the house warmer in winter? I’m not criticizing, I was just curious. You may have touched on this already and I missed it.

    1. We are indeed curtain-free because we love looking outside! Also, curtains would be just one more thing to buy, clean, maintain, repair, clutter up a room, etc. I think you’re right that we’d retain some heat if we had super thick curtains over every window, but it’s just not our style.

  30. Another reason not to have rugs? They’re tripping hazards and are VERBOTEN in homes with folks who are prone to falls/tripping (especially in the older set–a wise doctor will advise her/his elderly patient to remove all rugs once they’ve had a fall). I hate rugs and carpeting because I hate knowing that there is hair and dust inside them that I can’t get out, lol.

    I think when it comes to makeup, I used to avoid it because of the time and because I felt that as a feminist, I was anti-feminist by wearing makeup (plus it was harder back in the day to find attractive clothing for big & tall ladies on a budget back in the day so I kind of gave up on my appearance then). With more access to affordable plus-size clothing for big girls, I now can dress up and do the makeup so I enjoy the activity. I save money by using drug store stuff but I also understand folks who need/prefer the costly stuff and happily enjoy their youtube tutorials! I’m in a phase now where because I can do something for my appearance (within budgetary and time constraints), I want to do it. As you said, it’s all about balance and finding what works FOR YOU. 🙂

    I’m still working on other balance in my life, but I too am big on calendaring reminders for recurring tasks. I am not good with paper calendars so I use my Google calendar and it’s automatic reminders to do things. I actually put in my Google calendar a reminder each month to deep clean our coffee percolator, lol! It is what works best for me and ensures our household keeps to schedule.

  31. Ooo, I like those quiz questions! Some great stuff here about a topic I think a LOT about. As a mother to young children myself (with another on the way), I often find myself wondering what to do when a spare pocket of time comes up—should I use it to tackle the dishes? To read a book? To write a blog post? To call the doctor’s office? It can be overwhelming sometimes to prioritize when EVERYTHING seems important. I actually wrote a blog post about it myself, and as I was writing and thinking about the post, I came up with a mantra that works for me in deciding what to do when I seem overwhelmed: Spiritual over worldly, people over projects. It helps me to keep my focus as much as I can on the things that matter the most in the end, and if I feel I’ve put in a good amount of quality time on those most important things, then I tackle the other stuff. It at least ensures I’m doing things that align with what I say are my priorities regularly, anyway!

    I love that you’re including more of these philosophy/lifestyle/motherhood posts lately. I know they’re probably not for everyone, but I, for one, really relate. Thanks for writing this!

  32. I recently implemented the weekly chores routine, and I LOVE it. Life is so much better. For podcasts, try Better Than Happy and No Dumb Questions.

  33. I’d like to eliminate birthday and Christmas gift exchanging. Yes, I feel scroogey posting this, but none of us (me, and the people I exchange with) needs more stuff. I’m all for celebrating the 2 events, but I dont appreciate the gift exchange anymore. Not sure how to go about ending the vicious cycle.

    1. Vicious cycle indeed.
      I was met with a HUGE amount of resistance about it, though slowly everyone has come around. The policy has become “Is there something you need/want that you may not buy for yourself?” and that becomes the single present.
      Interestingly, most people can’t think of a single thing (because everyone already has everything at our age!) and the issue is eliminated.

      1. Another thing you might try is to give experiences rather than things. We have 9 grandchildren, which can get very expensive and they already have plenty of stuff. So we give trips to the zoo together, or a treasure hunt, things like that. Yes we still give the occasional toy, but it’s a nice alternative.

        1. one of the best gifts my children’s granny ever gave was a subscription to the National Geographic Kids Magazine. They absolutely ADORE it, are thrilled every month when it arrives, and has been fantastic.

    2. The adults in my family have mainly stopped gifting at Christmas (we’ll see if there are any hold outs this year) with a few exceptions. We still buy for the young kiddos and grandma (she will probably never stop gifting). I try for something useful and/or consumable. I love the idea of gifting experiences, but that can get expensive. Another member of my family and I decided this year that instead of exchanging gifts for Christmas and birthdays, we’re going to exchange adventures (trip to the zoo, dinner at a new place, overnight in a cool town, etc.). We get time to hang out and avoid stuff we don’t need.

      One thing to keep in mind when having these conversations is that gifting is some people’s “love language,” so they may be very hurt by the idea.

  34. Great post Mrs FW. Have been a fan for some time now and never fail to pick up a new hint or fresh perspective with every post. I agree wholeheartedly with cooking one giant meal over the weekend and eating every day for a week. Could you share some of these recipes/menus from Mr. FW’s repertoire? Have enjoyed the rice & beans/quinoa etc. but need more inspiration!

  35. One of my favorite things about your home when I see the photos is it’s simplicity – no rugs or carpet, no clutter, no excess. I long for the day when I get to that point. My husband loves carpet, so it will be a while until bare floors everywhere, but so far I’ve managed to get it out of the dining room and great room and am negotiating for bare floor in the hallway.

  36. Such a great post and gorgeous photos! We don’t do rugs either but that’s because our dogs would pee on them. I much prefer your reason though so I will reframe my mindset around why we don’t have rugs and will adopt your reasoning instead! One new thing I am going to experiment with eliminating this year is holiday cards. I’m hoping to save time and money. Podcasts are amazing. I do have to commute to and from work each day and listening to podcasts keeps me sane! I also have one of those bluetooth thingys. I mostly listening to personal finance podcasts which you probably already know all about but one that is really good and NOT finance related is Esther Perel’s “Where Should We Begin”.

  37. I can eat the same meals (especially lunch) for several days in a row but I think I’d go crazy if I ate the same meals for a week at a time. But batch cooking really saves a lot of time. Our solution involves freezing meals and putting them into the rotation for later weeks. For our family of two, we usually cook enough to serve ten. For example:

    Sunday: Eat freshly prepared, batch-cooked vegan chili (with green apples!) (Four extra portions refrigerated for later in the week and four portions frozen for future weeks)
    Monday: Thaw and eat frozen meal from a prior week (mushroom risotto)
    Tuesday: Eat leftovers from Sunday.
    Wednesday: Thaw and eat frozen meal from a prior week (rice and beans, plus fresh greens to make burrito bowls)
    Thursday: Eat leftovers from Sunday.
    Friday: Fun/easy night – usually frozen, homemade pizza or veggie burgers
    Saturday: Date night out

    I don’t obsess about mess and I hate fixed schedules for chores. (I’m still rebelling against my mother’s rigid schedules.) But we definitely need to do a better job of getting things done around the house. I haven’t found the right solution yet, but for me two things that work well are to have:

    1) deadlines; and
    2) a commitment to spend a certain amount of time each day and each week getting things done.

    For example, laundry, mail processing, and putting away clothes/stuff must happen at least once a week.

    So I commit to 30 minutes of weekly laundry, 30 minutes of mail processing/bill payment, and 15 minutes daily of putting stuff away. Personally, I do better with commitments to spend a certain amount of time than commitments to get something done. I usually get things done, but I feel less oppressed by a time commitment than a goal commitment.

  38. Please please please listen to a podcast featuring Johann Hari. He talks about why depression and anxiety are so prevalent now. It has helped me understand my own anxiety more than any other resource. Plus, one part of what he talks about (“junk values”) ties into frugality so well!

    My favorite podcast episodes that he is feature on are “This could be why you’re depressed or anxious” on TED Talks Daily and “Is modern society making us depressed?” on the Ezra Klein Show. I really hope you will listen!

    1. Also, Mrs. Frugalwoods, how do you fit in socializing? My husband and I’s constant struggle is balancing getting things done around the house and seeing friends and family.

  39. I agree SO much not to iron anything!! I should make a schedule and adhere to it for cleaning as I have to throw myself into it when I know we are having a party or game night at our house. I am also WAY into listening to people talking while driving! I used to work for the phone company and drive hours to work on a switch or cable or other network problem and enjoyed listening to talk radio. Now that I am at home all day podcasts are the way to go – I enjoy current events so I listen to Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, Mr Reagan, Dennis Miller, Dave Ramsey (financial freedom), home fix-it & cooking shows, and others – it’s a huge podcast world out there so anyone should be able to find something they enjoy listening to to pass the time driving or working around the house.

  40. Podcast recommendations:

    – The Goop Podcast (Gwyneth Paltrow’s podcoast, most often hosted by Elise Loehnen)
    – Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (great for easy listening – episodes are often 2+ hours!)


  41. Mrs. Frugalwoods- I feel like you would like this article abut life kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”), if you haven’t read it already (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/25/opinion/gender-marriage-spreadsheet.html). I suspect that you don’t need to implement it in your life because you are already aware of how you spend your time in relation to your priorities, but as someone who loves spreadsheets and data tracking, I’m sure you can appreciate the sentiment. I’m hoping to implement this practice to identify the areas where my “priorities” (in quotes because are they really my priorities if I’m not prioritizing my time in their pursuit?) don’t match up with with the time I allocate to those tasks. I can’t wait to implement your quiz questions with my spreadsheet!! *spreadsheet nerds high-five!*

  42. I have a 7-year old son, and taking the advice of Jane Nelsen in “Positive Discipline”, we have had family meetings every Saturday morning since he was 4. We start with compliments, end with a family game, but in the middle, we use the meeting for the family to suggest meal and snack ideas for the week, and to all get notified about what’s coming up on our week’s schedule. This helps us meal plan, complete our grocery list, and after family meeting, we usually do our big grocery shop for the week, also every Saturday morning. I love this routine and it has really helped us save time and money and feel like everyone is contributing! For anyone with kids, I highly recommend that book! 🙂

  43. My priority is flexibility. If I have a set schedule, I stress about sticking to the schedule! I do have a loose schedule I generally wake up, go to bed, cook and clean at the same time. But as a working mother with one teen, one preteen and one toddler, I find a strict schedule be stifliling. Our schedule can fluctuate from week to week. Sports event get cancelled or re-scheduled, the teen decided to go to a club meeting and needs a ride, I have to travel for work, hubby decides to cook dinner, the kids decide NOT to eat at a weekly church event so they come home hungry, hubby has to stay late at his job there are just so many variables at this stage of life. I am a lot happier if I and give myself some room to be flexible and some grace if things aren’t perfect. At the end of the day, we are happy and healthy. That is what matters to me. Hubby and I both enjoy cooking so we cook about 4 times a week and have leftovers on the other days. Also, family dinner is an important time for us to visit and talk with the kids, especially the teenager and preteen!

  44. I really subscribe to this. I have a few splurges in my budget that align with my priorities:

    –While 90% of my reading comes from the Library, I do pay for an annual Book of the Month Club membership and maybe 4ish times a year will buy a book from the local bookstore (NOT amazon). Reading is my favorite hobby and this way I can support the industry on some level.

    –Fitness is my other big hobby. Yes, there is a lot you can do for free, but that means I am missing out on other fitness type activities that I get a lot out of. So I do invest in fitness equipment for home, and I also pay for a $180/year membership to an online gym that provides an absolute ton of training resources and workout plans. I get a significant amount of use from this membership and having some of my own equipment and this online membership is a whole lot cheaper than going to Crossfit. Most of my fitness equipment is relatively inexpensive ($100 or under), but I am splurging this month on an Airbike for home. I know it’s an investment I will get a significant amount of use from and it won’t turn into a very expensive clothing rack!

    These additional expenses are worth it for me because I get a lot out of them.

    I also don’t really do the plant thing (I have a few but not really interested in getting more) or the rug thing, though I do have a few small ones for my kitchen and one colorful one for my baby’s room. I do wear a little makeup–primarily b/c the foundation I wear also has SPF 20 and so I am getting my sun protection with it!

    My mother was appalled to find out I don’t fold my baby’s clothes. I just throw them in the appropriate clothing bin. It’s not like the baby is going to any meetings where it needs to look presentable!

  45. I also hate driving, but I do love The Dream! As far as limited-run podcasts, I would recommend Surviving Y2K and Running From Cops. I’ve been disappointed by a lot of true crime podcasts, but was surprised by The Shrink Next Door. And of course there’s S-Town.

    I should say we were driving around Vermont on Columbus Day weekend for leaf-peeping, and the driving was glorious!

  46. I really needed to hear this today! Thanks for the kick in the pants. Lately I have been feeling panicked because my administrative tasks have not been getting done (bill paying, filing, etc). I realize from reading this that I need to schedule time for this, and that some other activities may need to go. The hardest thing for me is giving up things I enjoy doing but that I really can’t afford the time for. This includes a Bible Study at my church. I want to be part of it, but I don’t really have time for the meetings, much less the homework. Maybe there’ll be another season in my life when I can do these types of things, but now is not it!

  47. I loved this piece, I think your approach of keeping what works for you and you enjoy and minimizing or letting go of what doesn’t makes so much sense! I’m trying to work on the laundry one myself. When I lived in an apartment I did it once a month and really liked that it was a set time and then I didn’t worry about it any other time. I’m living in a house with a washer and dryer now and feel like I’m constantly doing laundry and feeling guilty for not putting it away fast enough. I’m going to try assigning it to a day and seeing if I like it better.

    Podcast Recs: Planet Money (NPR), The Indicator (NPR), Freakeconimcs, Matrimoney (couple talks very openly about their money, raising two small kids and efforts to improve sustainability), Young House Love Has a Podcast (design based podcast with a husband and wife duo who take on life improvement challenges ex no sitting on furniture to encourage a more active life) and Live Free Creative (money, family, and pursuing a creative job). Have you tried audiobooks? I get mine for free from overdrive through my library and love having one on while driving or walking my neighborhood. Another driving improvement for me is bringing my drink of choice hot tea or in the summer iced tea from home to enjoy while I’m in the car.

  48. Great post! That doll bistro table scene made me laugh though. It looks like the scene in the first Godfather movie when Michael Corleone is done shooting up people in the restaurant. 😉

  49. Love, love, love this post especially the questions at the end! You have convinced me to go back to the schedule I had when my kids were at home. I had a chore a day (since I worked outside the home) and it had to be done before the TV came on. For examples, bathrooms were cleaned on Mondays, Dusting on Tuesday, Vacuum on Wednesday, etc. If we had something that took all of Tuesday evening, then the chore waited until the next week. If Tuesdays routinely were interrupted (i.e. dust was an inch thick) then a permanent change was made to the chore chart. Like you said, it got the running list of “to-do’s” out of my mind!

    As far as podcasts: Chris Hogan’s Retire Inspired is my current favorite.

  50. First off – podcast recommendations!
    – Freakonomics (how behavioral economics influences daily life)
    – 99% Invisible (short stories about how the design of stuff we use every day influences us)
    – Ear Hustle (produced out of San Quentin State Prison)
    – What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law (Really informative, surprisingly not-as-political podcast about constitutional law)
    – IKR (shameless plug for my church’s women-run podcast)

    Now on to the comment…I LOVED this post. I am an engineer and my husband is a freelance creative, so we definitely operate a little differently, but over the past four years of marriage we’ve gradually explicitly divided up more of the chores, and batched & scheduled more of everything. He’s even started making spreadsheets for plans! (He knows the way to my heart.)
    As an automation fiend, I’ve slowly built up an arsenal of tools that keeps me sane. I schedule just about everything in TickTick (down to calling my mom), book recommendations travel from GoodReads -> Overdrive -> Kindle, we have a standard grocery list that we use every week, and Apple Maps automatically texts my husband when I’m heading home from work. All the little things add up to more stuff getting done with less effort, and a happier me.

  51. I love your post! I too streamline all routines. I do wear makeup, but only allow myself 5 minutes. I’ve been preparing my lunches, using you quinoa recipe, and it’s saving so much time. I would like to develop an exercise routine. Also working on grocery shopping one day a week. It’s terrible when the Trader Joe’s clerk says, “See ya tomorrow!”

  52. Make ahead is my favorite! I bought a sandwich cutter/sealer and make two loaves worth of peanut butter sandwiches at a time and freeze them. I turn the leftover bread crusts into french toast bake or some other tasty breakfast treat we can eat on a weekend my stepson is with us.

    On Sunday night, I prep lunch bags with veg, cheese, and milk, and in the mornings my stepson is with us, I grab a bag out of the fridge, toss one of the freezer sandwiches in and I’m DONE. Yes, I’d love to use a lunchbox (and thermos) but those things don’t always come back from his mom’s house so we resort to paper bags and shelf stable milk.

    I admit I made several sandwiches and tossed them in the freezer at work so when hunger strikes, I’m prepared! 30 seconds in the microwave thaws it out nicely.

  53. The Parenting Junkie podcast is great.
    Your post was right up my alley. I have a spreadsheet for every aspect of my life (so nerdy, I know, but it saves my sanity). I think my husband finds it a bit extreme, as he likes to freestyle a bit more, but I have found that being able to see what I spend time on on my spreadsheet really helps me to evaluate my priorities and scrap the things I don’t want to do.

  54. We are another couple who have never argued about the division of labor. Early on we sat down with a list of stuff that had to be done, both daily/weekly and seasonally (talking about snow and law mowing and gardening). We each put down what we would not mind doing and what was left we traded back and forth—I hate the bathroom but I will do that if you will fold the clothes and sweep the garage, for example. It ahs worked for 37 years…We also make a huge pan of soup on Monday and eat it M-Th, with homemade pizza on Friday night with Netflix. Saturday and Sunday we cook fancy meals and the bread for the coming week; we both like to cook and bake so we do it together and chat or sing Broadway musical songs. We do not own an iron, I own no make up and we cut each other’s hair. We have always enjoyed each other’s company more than anyone else’s—the greatest praise my husband gave me was that being with me was like being by himself. I feel that way about him. We have worked together for much of our career life and now that we retired at 50, we pretty much are hermits. Our life now is simple, filled with reading and travel and gardening. And our dog.

    1. I should have said since we retired at 50, not that we are 50 now. That would have made us 13 when we got married. (Although my mother and father were 14 and 17 when they married…)

    2. This sounds so much like my husband and myself. I love that he is my best friend. We do everything together such as shop, cook, wash the cars, travel, etc. we are older than you. I am so happy for this closeness, very comforting to me. I know many women do not have this relationship with their husbands. We talk about everything and enjoy spoiling our chihuahua too. Life is good!

  55. Those questions are so useful! Great post. This is really helpful as we plan to move and so will have to change our routine.

    I found becoming a parent really eliminated the unnecessary from my life. Whatever was left mattered, whatever we pined for but couldn’t access (date nights!) was a long term goal, but what wasn’t finding its way into our lives anyway wasn’t worth chasing. Other life changes will do this too, of course. I’ve moved a lot so having a lot of stuff is unappealing for that reason. Right now it’s quick dinners because we have to, but let me tell you I can’t wait to get back into more elaborate cooking again when I have time and when we are willing to savour it instead of just shoveling it into our gullets.

  56. I know from reading your blog that yoga has been very important to you – there are some really fascinating interviews/discussions between yoga teachers on podcasts e.g. J Brown Yoga and Kathryn Bruni Young Mindful Strength.

  57. I love this and have done so many of these things! We got rid of our washing baskets a few years ago. When things are dirty, they go straight in the machine. When it’s full, someone puts it on. No stressing ever about catching up on the washing. I also get all my food delivered (farm veg box, pantry box, milkman) and so hardly ever need to actually go to a shop. We also have an incredibly dorky desk in our hall called the organisation station (really) and any mail, tasks, things that need sewed etc go there to be dealt with when we have time where we walk past it every day so we won’t forget and don’t have to try to remember it (mental load!). We both have adhd and will forget everything without systems, so it just takes the stress out of running a household. Glad I’m not the only weirdo that does this stuff!

  58. I am so glad that I am not the only one who schedules laundry! And please don’t interrupt my schedule. You’re right about not thinking about doing it until it’s scheduled and about the bathroom getting on the schedule. Thanks for the input!

  59. You’ve just perfectly summarized my philosophy about how I keep my sanity – right down to the podcast addiction! I unfortunately (VERY unfortunately) have a long commute that threatens said sanity daily. I also listen while doing my routine chores like weekly meal prep and scrubbing the shower and changing the bed linens, etc. A $20 Bluetooth speaker was a truly worthwhile purchase for me for that purpose (but I don’t have kiddos to “help” with those chores).
    I think you would love Terrible, Thanks For Asking! Really, Nora McInerny is a DELIGHT and not to be missed. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll laugh so hard you cry.
    Also: Radiolab (fascinating!), Science VS., Reply All, and Heavyweight (SO. FUNNY. In a quirky and deadpan way that KILLS ME.)
    You might need to find more reasons to drive to fit in all the podcasts you want to listen to!

  60. I have basically given up cleaning. I spend $0 and minutes rather than hours per week cleaning. All that vacuuming? It happens monthly or bi-monthly for us. And yes my toddler gets crumbs on the couch and floor and staircase, etc. I point them out to the dog for licking up and call it good enough. Socks are necessary to walk across our floors. We are into minimalism so there is never clutter, but cleaning and sanitizing are most often addressed by our policy “let’s don’t and say we did”!

    Do I spend a small fortune and hours of time each week knitting, sewing, and crafting? Yep! Am I embarrassed when people are disgusted by the state of my sinks, floors, or god forbid the underside of our toilet seat? Not a bit. Priorities! Everybody gets to pick em!

  61. You should definitely check out the Nursing and Cursing podcast for your drives – I think you will love it!

  62. A podcast I enjoy is The Minimalists. All about eliminating unnecessary purchases, and finding your purpose once you have no clutter in the way.

  63. Thank you for another beautifully written post chock full of thought provoking content! My podcast recommendations are – How I Built This with Guy Raz and Bagman with Rachel Maddow. Riveting.

  64. We too have our chores. It keeps us structured. She cooks, I clean. She pays the bills, I maintain the cars and the yard. Sixteen years of marriage so far and everything is going well.

  65. Loved this post, thank you! Having never bothered with make-up/ ironing/ window coverings, it’s so refreshing to find others who don’t do things that don’t matter to them personally (regardless of whether they’re those same things or different ones). This post is especially timely for us, as we have just moved to a different country and changed roles (I’m now working outside the house and husband is home), so there’s been quite a lot of restructuring of time, money, and labor.
    I have a question about food: how do you manage to cook enough to make it last all week?! There are 4 of us (kids are 4 & 11) and whenever I think I’ve cooked enough, they eat way more than I planned for. I don’t think I can fit a whole week’s worth of food in my cooking containers! So would love to know how Mr. FW does it (even accounting for your kids being smaller).

    1. Good question! He cooks a gigantic batch in a certifiably huge pot–it always looks like enough for an army. We put a lot in the fridge, but then we also freeze a bunch in quart-size ziplock bags, which store flat (make sure to lay them flat in the freezer so they’ll freeze flat). We also cook brown rice to accompany our dinners and I make a salad (once a week or so), so that certainly stretches it.

  66. Podcasts!
    – Stuff You Should Know – charming podcast about literally everything you can think of (frogs, The Simpsons, vegetarianism, the moon landing, action figures, horror movies, free-range parenting, history of ice cream, and everything else in between) . Josh & Chuck are funny and always make me laugh even when its a serious topic or one I know nothing about. Also often kid-friendly (but not ‘for kids’), so who knows, your kids may even learn something by osmosis if they are around too.

    This post reminds me that its ok to not Do Everything. And I can also see the headlines ‘Millenials Killed Irons’ and ‘Those Darned Millenials Killed Rugs’ which makes me laugh!
    We do not iron. I don’t wear makeup; my face ‘needs’ it, but I never learned how, and now I just don’t care to! We don’t have a coffee maker or clothes dryer. I too dislike rugs (we rent, and every place we’ve rented has had full carpeting, which I hate! So much harder to keep clean).
    I have found that routine and schedule really REALLY helps my depression and anxiety. It isn’t ‘cured’, but it helps me manage. Now that I’m a full-time student and don’t have to leave the house every morning for work, I NEED that routine to simply get out of bed. So, I always feed the cats and prep breakfast. Every weekday! Funny thing about cats, they don’t care how you’re feeling, they expect FOOD NOW! The *one* morning my husband tried to be helpful and feed the cats as I was still in the bathroom, I nearly yelled at him. I did my best to explain that he had to STOP and just let me finish that task, because holy macaroni I NEED TO. He’s a patient soul 🙂

  67. Check out “The Moth” podcast! It’s wonderful, and they have a huge archive in case you get hooked! True, first person stories told live.

    I’ve also recently discovered “The Land of Desire”–a one-woman podcast about France and French history and cuisine. She has a truly pleasant voice to listen to, and the show is really well written and put together.

    If you have a long car ride, then definitely check out Hardcore History! The episodes are so long (4-6 hours!) and so interesting! I listened to one while doing a deep clean of my house. 6 hours later, I was almost sad that I was done cleaning because I already had the next episode queued up!

  68. Those containers are great, but I find if you put something “dry” in one compartment (like crackers) and something “damp” in the other compartment (like apple slices) the crunchy thing ends up super-soggy. Anyway, we just use a bunch of little containers now.

  69. I actually found your blog, ages ago, while looking for meal-prep ideas and decided to try cooking only once a week too. What a total game changer! It frees up so much time and I spend a lot less on groceries. No more ducking into the store every other day and buying mostly convenience crap because the idea of cooking after a full work day sounds like torture \o/

  70. This is a great post. Your ideas are so practical and work for you and your family. I think you bring home the point that if you focus on what is important and stay consistent, time and money is saved! It also helps that you and Mr. Frugalwood are on the same page. Not many couples are and it leads to problems. I think I will use this post as a motivation to look at what is important to me and stick with it.

  71. It’s so difficult when my values and the realities of my resources conflict. My values include sustainability and zero waste, so I’m unwilling to buy packaged or pre-chopped foods, and I want to grow lots of things in my backyard. But I live in my house alone, with a dog and four chickens and a full-time job and plenty of house maintenance, and I don’t make enough to pay someone to take care of my yards…or buy lots of healthy, fresh, ethically-raised food. It’s challenging to find the balance.

    Podcast rec: If you haven’t listened to No Such Thing As A Fish, you’re missing out. Four British people sharing fascinating true facts and making hilarious jokes about them? It doesn’t get better than that.

  72. This is great af im expecting my first kid soon!
    May I recommend the NPR podcast Embedded and the liturgists for a progressive Christian podcast

  73. People who like planning and scheduling are never going to understand those who don’t. To me it is like poking an eye out with a pencil day in and day out. Is it working? Well, most of the time it does kind of like how things mostly work out for planners. Sure, of course I do some planning when I absolutely have to but most of the time things just sort of work out.

    I do agree with cutting out stuff that you don’t feel are necessary regardless if they are sort of expected. I like my house plants but like you I am very low maintenance with no make up (ever) and an easy to style hairdo. For other people there are other priorities. I wish I could eat the same thing for a week but I can’t, eating the same thing more than two days in a row makes me completely lose my appetite. And no, I don’t eat the same things for breakfast either since that is often the argument against not being able to eat the same thing all the time. I have less variation for breakfast than other meals but I have at least three different alternatives and sometimes I eat something completely unexpected even then.

    I think there are some people that just don’t do that well with routine and I am one of them.

  74. I iron material when I am sewing. I would iron if needed.Just don’t need it often.

    I don’t use a dryer, we either line dry or drying rack daily. That’s a routine that is pretty well set. Even Hubby hung his laundry on the clothes line while I was out of town and was the talk of the Amish men for a month. I have found 1 load in the morning and 1 at night dries well on the rack.

    We start our mornings with coffee at the table by an oil lamp(yes we have electric) . Found it “slows” down the desire to rush into the day.

    We moved in a year ago, still struggling with routines and unpacking way to many things as we now have not only our stuff but 2 kids stuff that they gave back, Mother’s and Pop’s stuff and now Daddy’s stuff.

    Thank heavens we have a 8000 sq ft barn so don’t have to pay for storage unit.

    Goals for this year (we are retired) to cut the budget even more (already cut $2000 a month) and get rid of STUFF. ..Routine needs to reflect both of those.

  75. Hey Mrs Frugalwoods! You (or more accurately, Mr. Frugalwoods) can cook a big batch of something once a week, AND ALSO have a different meal every night! What my husband and I do, is cook a big batch of something once a week, eat one portion that week, and freeze three or four additional, family sized portions (enough for me, him, and our toddler). So one night each week, we have whatever meal we’ve prepared that week, and on the other nights, we usually dine on one of our previously frozen meals. This means we get a different meal every night, but we’re still only cooking once a week. It initially takes a few weeks of cooking two or three times a week, to build up your freezer stockpile, but then you’re set. We invested in a freezer for our basement to support this practice. We figured, the freezer pays for itself by giving us back the time we would have otherwise spent cooking every night (and thinking about what to cook), and the money we would have wasted cooking and shopping on the fly (also, we’re able to stock up on sale items and freeze them, and freeze a lot of garden vegetables, another way the freezer pays for itself). We try to cook meals that include everything… grains, veggies and protein… but sometimes we’ll pick up a fresh vegetable or some salad fixings, to go with that week’s meals. This week, we used our gigantic family-sized crockpot to make a big batch of chicken tikka masala, with cauliflower, green beans, and brown rice. Out of the freezer for the other nights of the week, came chicken verde with sugar snap peas, red peppers and brown rice; rice and beans with peppers and onions; salmon cakes (for which we did buy fresh rolls and salad fixings); shepherd’s pie; and pad thai. Saturday we’ll be getting in late, so we’ll have frozen pizzas, and Sunday we figure we’ll make boil a box of spaghetti, and toss in a pan with a jar of mother-in-law canned garden tomato sauce, a pound of ground turkey, and a bag of frozen spinach. Healthy, frugal meal plan for the week set, with very little cooking involved, and variety every night 🙂

  76. Great insight into the thought process behind ordering ones life. How do we pack it all in? Clearly it’s different for everyone depending on family circumstance and aspiration. Always good to rethink what we’re focusing our energy on.

    ps the photography is amazing in the post, your fall is stunning.

  77. I hope this doesn’t get lost in the ether.

    The Missing Cryptoqueen

    Both you and Mr Frugalwoods will love it or your money back. Seriously, if you aren’t hooked by end of Ep1. I will eat my hat…or something.

  78. I can’t wait to share this with my sisters and mom! And to go through the exercise at the end. Also, thanks for making me feel better about cooking just once a week! I always felt like a slightly lacking wife for doing that (even though my hubby and kids have no problem eating the same week repeatedly or having tofu, rice, and carrots for dinner). And my sisters and I have a podcast celebrating diversity in motherhood that, in my biased opinion, is worth giving a listen to 😉 It’s called Booster Chair Experts. Thanks for continually helping me to improve my life!!

  79. The bible says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and we take this verse to heart. This weekend we have been looking at the past year’s expenses to make sure they are in alignment with our hearts. The big three-housing (can’t be avoided at this stage of life), giving followed by food. Check, check, check. Although when we split food into groceries, alcohol and eating out I can see some room for improvement so I just signed both of us up for the famous UFM. Thanks for all your support!!

  80. I really love this post and am inspired to post about my priorities on my blog! This reminds me a little bit of the advice in the Four Hour Work Week (I only read the first half, before it got really technical). There are so many things we “think* we are supposed to do — but we don’t really need to do. So much more important to spend our limited time wisely.

  81. You might enjoy the Lazy Genius Podcast. Kendra helps you be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t. She does not tell you What matters, because that is different for everyone, but she gives helpful advice on how to figure things out for yourself. The episodes are pretty short, mostly 20 minutes or less, so perfect for a short trip. I love the podcast, because she is so practical and down to earth.

  82. Look through Flylady.net routines and use what makes sense to you. I resisted the one load a day of laundry idea….BUT…for me, it’s not the laundry….it is the fold and put away step I can’t do. So, by doing 1 load a day and it only taking 5 minutes to fold and put away…my laundry is COMPLETELY done! I also like her even baked hard boiled eggs…

  83. My wife and I recently read “The 12 Week Year” and it has some great info on how to plan ahead throughout the year. The idea is to chunk the year into 4 12 week sections, and set goals based on those periods, along with each week. We’ve only recently implemented the concept into to our lives and we’ve had success so far!

  84. I am so glad to have found your blog a couple years ago- I love your writing style and the way you express ideas. I am also super-glad to see you do not have curtains either! I thought I was weird for not having curtains, but gosh darn I need all the natural light I can get in this darkish house! Also, you have persuaded me to stay away from area rugs, for they are, indeed, a pain to clean around. You inspire me to continue being frugal so that I can slow down to part -time working while in my early thirties. Thanks for all your great writing!

  85. I gave up makeup, haircuts, and hair dye about 20 years ago when my son was young.
    My “man-bun” is now finally the done thing. I’ve always just kept it long/longish so I can chop the ends off and tie it up.

    I gave up shampoo and conditioner in bottles, and switching brands all the time. Now my hair doesn’t get dandruff (I worked out that changing brands is what made it itchy/flaky/scabby etc). I also worked out that the thing in them that keeps your hair soft an unfrizzy is the nut/plant oils, so I use macadamia oil when I need to.
    I’ve been using a shampoo soap bar (paper packaging) by Ethique NZ, and only need to wash when I get really sweaty after a long run, about every week. The shampoo soap bar lasted months, still got months left, and cost about AUD$30.

    I gave up drinking two years ago. Oh, the benefits!! Don’t get me started on how great it’s been. A REAL treat for myself, unlike the contradictory justifications for drinking. The money I saved let me pay off our mortgage early so now we can redraw if we want a low interest loan.

    I never started to drive, ie never got a licence. So I’ve never needed to buy a car. I did go through a depressed/drinking phase where I used a lot more taxis and did barely any walking, but that’s over.

    I brought my lunch to work for the past 4 years till recently being made redundant. That helped me lose weight AND save a lot of money. I put that money away each week to save up for running shoes and events.

    I do my meal-prepping once a week. That makes it far less likely to do an overspend after work when “hangry”.

    But I made it through that through walking again, then running and making friends at parkrun, and becoming happier and more confident.

    I never did any ironing either, like you. 🙂 We have quite a few things in common.

    I gave up buying flowering plants for the garden. I let the garden die off till only the tough things survived. Now I’m putting in food plants and planning a greywater watering system for a vegetable garden.

    I joined an “Unpackaged” food group for locals, where we order in bulk online once a month, and split bulk orders of different and interesting food items. That’s saved money, and removed a lot of temptations and decisions at the supermarket, and helped with meal planning, because of having interesting, new, and nutritious things to try that more thought has been put into.

  86. Hi I’m new to your blog. I love it so much I subscribed!

    I am also a blogger about passionate about financial independence with a family.

    I hear what you are saying about not having house plants and other unnessasary clutter. I live states away from my family and when my dad came to visit he asked, “Where is all your stuff?” Like it was a bad thing not to have clutter! You’re right, all that “stuff” just takes up more time.

    Also, if you don’t have carpet – I highly suggest getting a robot vacuum. My robot vacuum was the best purchase I have ever made!

  87. Wow! This is my favorite post of yours so far!

    I like routines a lot, but mine are daily, rather than weekly. I tend to do my planning on Fridays or Mondays, abs then each day, I look at what’s screaming to be done, and that’s my priority for the day. The only task that gets done on the same two days each week is cleaning the cat boxes. Laundry is every day (work aging pets, it’s rare that their laundry basket is empty!)

    All of my other basic tasks shift from week to week, and i keep my housework simple, for two reasons: I have a disability, and I like being outside to help my fiance cut firewood or mill lumber or garden. As long as the house is clean, I’m happy.

    I rarely iron, and I never iron clothes. The only thing I have that I might iron is tablecloths or fabric for one of my sewing projects.

    He does most of the cooking, and he handles it like Mr. Frugalwoods. I like to cook, but only occasionally, and it’s usually something that takes me hours and lasts a couple of days. Day to day, I’d rather focus on other things.

  88. I just bought a rug for our hallway…and now I’m returning it. I don’t need it. And like you mentioned, everyone trips on it (esp my mom and brother who both walk with walkers. BAM, $60 back in my pocket. Thank you for the inspiration!

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