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.
Have you ever done Bare Minimum Mode in your own life? If so, what did it look like for you? (Give us an idea of your temperament so that others with similar personalities can get ideas!)
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