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How Do You Live Sustainably, Build Community, And Make A Living Too?

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I receive this question a lot.  If you are doing all the things we discuss about here at One Green Generation, chances are you are asked that question, too!  I believe I receive the question most from those of you starting to make some changes in your life, and trying desperately to figure out how to find the time to do more.  So let’s see if I can answer it…

We’ve discussed finding that balance between work, home, and community.  It’s not always easy, and I am often making adjustments.  Here at One Green Generation you may notice I’m writing daily for weeks at a time, and suddenly I drop off because I just don’t have the time to sit and write (how sad that makes me!).  Truthfully, I’m overwhelmed with all I have to do sometimes. Nobody has the ability to do everything they want to do – there just isn’t enough time in the day.  But here’s how I do my best, and the best is all we can hope for!


The Rule of Three


My husband has a “Rule of Three” he swears by.  It usually works pretty well.  The basic idea is that you can only really handle doing 3 big top priorities at once.  So, for instance, right now I am doing: 1.  Re-Vision Labs Work, 2.  Strategic planning for community development consulting, and 3.  Writing at One Green Generation.  Problem is, really there are more than three right now:  4.  Gardening (at the p-patch and the family allotment), 5.  helping a friend redo her business website, and 6.  Sustainable Capitol Hill.  Let alone family time, which is always a priority.

When you get away from three, there are 3 that usually suffer.  In this case, One Green Generation sometimes suffers (sorry, everyone!), the gardens suffer (we’re still within frost, and the family allotment has been under construction until recently, but I could have been planting cool weather veggies by now!), and Sustainable Capitol Hill suffers (I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be lately, even though this weekend I am trying to write a grant application to host sustainability classes once a month).


But I work hard to prioritize.  No one can be everywhere at once – that is just our nature.  Fortunately, in the case of Sustainable Capitol Hill, there are others who are working more than I, and doing the work that needs to be done.  Fortunately, the garden will still do ok, and we can still eat local cold-weather crops from the farmer’s market and  And fortunately, you all will probably hang in there and forgive me for short bouts of absence here (right??!).


Utilize Your Community


It’s not always easy to let other priorities lag, but usually it’s ok until you find a new balance. This is especially true if you have already done the work to build a community. That is one of the beauties of community, afterall:  as a community, you are there for one another.  If I am too busy to help now, there are others who can step in.  Later, if they are too busy, I can step in and help them.  First create your community, and establish healthy lines of communication so that you can communicate effectively within it. Then, all you have to do is communicate with others that you are just a little bit too busy, and thank them when they fill in for you.


Even more important, as we have discussed before, is that as a member of a community you don’t have to do everything.  In fact, you are more effective if you’re not doing everything – so delegate responsibilities and work, and let each person do what they do best. 


Take Time To Regenerate


I’m probably the least good at this of anyone I know! But here’s something to keep in mind:  this does not have to be a big effort.  I regenerate on my walks home from work, in the shower, when I read before I go to sleep at night, when I garden, and when I recap the day with my husband.


You don’t have to go to yoga class every day (though if I could, I probably would), you don’t have to go on a weekend vacation – all you have to do is give your brain the ability to synthesize all you have learned and experienced, and wash away the tenseness and ill feelings that may have entered your body.


Take Good Care of Your Body


Eat whole, unprocessed foods.  Have well-balanced meals where you sit down and eat together as a family.  Sleep on a comfortable bed, and sleep 6-9 hours each night.  If you take medications and/or vitamins, be diligent about taking them regularly.  And exercise, exercise, exercise!  Walk, swim, work out at the gym, garden, whatever strikes your fancy – do it regularly.


I hope that helps answer the question.  I really just do the best I can, and I am still learning to be ok with just the best I can. You remember those three things I was having a tough time changing on my path to sustainability?  I’m not much further along than I was back in January. And in truth, you’ll never do everything you want to do.  But if you balance your time effectively and take care of yourself, you might just be able to do most of it!


Please feel free to share any thoughts about how you are able to do all you do!


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9 comments to How Do You Live Sustainably, Build Community, And Make A Living Too?

  • I love this theory of “The Rule of Three.” No wonder I’m overwhelmed. I’m managing an entire volunteer organization on my own, coordinator for another group (also volunteer), I have my blog and also post periodically for 4 others, I have 250 square feet of garden in the back, I’m the one that does all the house and yard work, and I don’t have a car so I have to bike/walk all our errands. Sheesh!

    Ok. I’m going to go work on what my three should be. Thanks for this GREAT reminder!!!!

  • reposted on twitter at compostinmyshoe……great post!

  • Rob

    Yes- these are good but why not take the occasional weekend vacation? We need a well rested Melinda. An overworked one is not good. for us or you! It is important to stop and smell the roses once in awhile.

  • Only three things?! Lessee, I have three classes (only two of which I really focus on), the two classes each have two or three big assignments this week, I’m supposed to upload photos “for all my friends to see!” (right, because they’re really appreciating the effort I put into THAT … oops, cynical), I have a blog, a “I’m stressed out” Livejournal, a journal, letter writing, art/creativity, knitting, going out and having fun… Nope, I really can’t see myself reducing it to just three. No wonder I’m stressed.

    I do completely agree with taking time to regenerate and taking care of your body, though. I wish I liked cooking and had a family to eat meals with regularly. That would make meal times much less of a chore.

  • I’ve been working hard on setting more realistic expectations for myself. And prioritizing, it always seems to come back to that.

  • Melinda as usual you wrote a beautiful post. I’m trying to remember my rule of 3 right now too. :) Thanks for everything you do!!

  • Yah, one has to let things go, trusting others to take them up. I work full time, Beloved works 3/4 time, and we both jobshare a job that is about 1/2 time. So we work 2.25 FTE, and one top of that, we have poultry, a garden ,an orchard, and major homeowner maintenance. (!!!!!) A nightmare.

    It’s in this context that I’ve begun turning down speaking engagements on diversity and discrimination issues, and am giving up two nonprofit board slots. Someone … else … will … have … to do it, or it ain’t … gona … happen.

  • monica

    I just received the catalog from–oh my gosh! The ideas and concepts are wonderful! I am really getting to think that even with me not working, we can still make it. I even see there is a book for growing vegetables OUTSIDE IN MAINE in the winter. If I can’t get a good job right now, I will maintain my certifications and keep looking for a job. I am so full of hope for the future–The present is pretty bleak, but the future is brighter.

  • Your post really resonated with me. I also have far more than three things I’m trying to get done. There’s the garden (3/4 of an acre), cooking/baking/preserving food, sewing, knitting, writing a novel, not to mention homeschooling my daughter. Some days I really feel overwhelmed as to how to fit it all in.

    Your husband’s rule of three makes a lot of sense, and once I think about it, I do tend to cycle through all these activities, probably doing about three at a time. It’s a very interesting concept, and hopefully it will help me with further working out how to manage the many activities I’m trying to fit into my day. Thanks for sharing it.

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