When our fourth baby was about four months old, I decided to switch into what my husband and I call “Bare Minimum Mode.” This is a temporary paring down of our lifestyle where we cut out all non-essential activities so that we can stay sane. We try not to stay in this mode more than six months at a time, since it’s a mode of surviving more than thriving, but it sure is a lifesaver during those periods. I haven’t needed it as much this time around since my oldest kids are old enough to help, but it’s comforting to know that I can always pull the lever and declare us to be in Bare Minimum Mode if I need to!
Since I often see people searching the site to find that old Quick Takes post where I mentioned it, here is a recap of what Bare Minimum Mode looks like for me:
- We stretch our budget to get more babysitting help than we could normally afford. Sometimes we’ve taken a pre-determined amount of money out of savings as our “survival babysitting fund.”
- I cook only about six different dinners. Each of these meals has the following characteristics: it’s easy, healthy, can be made ahead of time, and can be made from memory.
- I don’t worry about how much TV the kids watch.
- I don’t socialize more than twice a month.
- All home improvement projects like scrapbooking, closet cleanouts, garage organization, etc. are put on hold.
- I turn down all requests for freelance work.
- I make the kids’ nap time sacred space on the calendar: nothing short of a true emergency interferes with them (and me!) getting that down time.
These sorts of things used to happen anyway during times that I was overwhelmed, so I found it helpful to articulate those activities that were just too much for me right now, cut them out, and embrace that as a proactive strategy, rather than walking around feeling stressed about what wasn’t getting done.
Also, I think it’s important to note that this isn’t one-size-fits all advice; Bare Minimum Mode is going to vary by temperament. For example, I’m an introvert who finds cooking difficult but loves to read, so I cut out as much socializing and cooking as possible, but kept time in my schedule for reading; whereas an extrovert chef who is not a bookworm might cut out reading time to give her more calendar space for socializing and cooking.