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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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The Ebb And Flow Of Sustainable Living

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How do you two do it all!!!???


Work, read, blog, interact with your community??? You inspire me and amaze me and sometimes make me feel guilty LOL How DO you do it all?”


This was a comment from Shawna on Sunday, and I wanted to share it because it made me smile. Note that Shawna lives in a family of 9, so I’m going to take a wild guess that she does a lot too!


How do I do it all?


  • With a calendar to be sure – I looove my Google calendar. I would completely loose track without it.


  • Living close to work, play, friends, and stores. That’s incredibly time-saving.


  • Prioritizing. Oh yeah, I definitely focus on the big things – for instance, sometimes tidiness wins over spic and span clean in our household.


  • Being efficient with my time. I consolidate tasks if I can – we do the majority of our errands one day a week, I sometimes write more than one article at a time (on a good day!), I have regular days that I meet with friends so we don’t lose sight of one another, and other things like this.


  • Not watching television. We do watch movies, but we don’t have cable or a digital box or anything of the sort. Without television, we have a lot more time for reading and writing.


  • Determination. I know it sounds strange maybe, but what drives me most is knowing that the climate is changing, people are needlessly dying, animals are going extinct, … and I can do something to change it. So I feel I must do whatever I can.


That said, I’m certainly not perfect. The past few weeks we’ve been gearing up for our business launch on March 2nd, so I have been working non-stop it seems. This weekend I finished creating our logo, built our business blog from scratch, worked a lot on our website design, and filled out a good deal of our Marketing Plan.


That took a lot of time, so I didn’t have time to cook each meal from scratch (though we still ate locally-sourced foods). I did have a couple of drinks on Friday night just to soothe my soul (mind you, they were seasonal: one made from blood orange juice and the other made from pear juice!). I did neglect you all here, because by the time I sat down to write I was mentally exhausted. And I hardly left the house for 2 days!


There is a give and take, because there is only so much time in a day. Health and sleep come first, of course, because you can’t save the world if you’re sick in bed. And after that, every day has a different priority. That’s life – at least my life.


And this sounds like my life is chaotic, but while sometimes it’s full, it doesn’t feel chaotic. I take the time to relax if I’m feeling to anxious, I debrief about the day with my husband (and best friend) each evening, I play with our animals and drink tea and go for walks and … remember to do stuff that makes me feel good.


I can’t fret about what I don’t do. I can only work as hard as I can on the things I do do. And tomorrow is another day, full of new possibilities, ebbing and flowing with the seasons of life.


How Do You Do It All?


I know I’m not the only one who crams a lot into a day – how do you do it?


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17 comments to The Ebb And Flow Of Sustainable Living

  • I know I don’t do all that you do and know that I waste tons of time every day that I shouldn’t. Especially in winter, when I just tend to “hunker down” more. More time on the couch with a blankie, my dog and a good book, winter comforts.

    Even with all that waste though, I know that most of us who embrace a certain lifestyle, sustainable and/or (urban or suburban or country) homesteaders, tend to have an “accomplished” list that far and away exceeds the average American dweller.

    For me, I use a series of calendars. A garden calendar and houseold calendar, aside from my daily office calendar. I really do need the black and white reminders to keep all of it straight.

    And I also prioritize. Sometimes things have to make room for more important things, even when that thing is just plain resting. Like you said, you can’t do the work if you’re sick in bed, so resting is very important.

    I look forward to seeing how all these other amazing people do it!

  • I know from comparison to my friends, family, and coworkers that I have time to do the things I want to do because I don’t watch (or have) a TV, I don’t shop as a recreational activity, and I don’t socialize just for the sake of being out and about (I’m just not extroverted enough).

    Prioritizing and managing time is huge. I set myself time limits on weekends so that I get everything done that I want to. For example, right now every Sat/Sun that it isn’t raining I spend 3 hours in the garden. I’m only allowed to look at three blogs a day during the week. One day a week I have to stay at home (unless someone wants to come get me in a car or it’s a short walk). I set myself lots of little guidelines. I need to structure my time or I tend to focus on just one thing that I really want to do or am interested in. :)

    I wish that I lived just a little closer to where I work, but it’s my time for knitting or walking (I bus half/walk half when the weather is nice enough) so it’s working out okay.

    I so agree about cleaning. I could never be accused of being “spic and span,” tidy is good enough.

  • there’s so much pressure to achieve, what about just relaxing, smelling the proverbial roses ?(after you’ve sprayed and pruned them of course)

  • We incorporate much of the same tactics you do: no t.v., prioritize/be efficient with time, and run errands on one day. We do not live close to shopping, with exception to the little grocery in town; tends to be more expensive so we pick up just a few things to carry us over to the next ‘town’ shopping trip (30 min to 1.5 hrs away). I do have a calendar though I use that primarily to keep track of kids activities and such. I believe my families biggest challenge is not to berate ourselves for not getting done as much as we wanted to. You made an excellent point: there is give and take. Priorities can change mid project especially when a problem is uncovered. =) Sleep and health do take priority.
    I write when I have the time, sometimes creating an entry while at work only to finish it after I get home. Write when the muse visits. =)
    Thank you for the reminders!

  • I lost my job in early December, but before that I had a 45 to 90 minute (depending on traffic) commute one way each day, and a job that routinely required 10-12 hour days. I was sure that one of the positives of being slapped in the face by the economy was going to be a surplus of time. Oddly, I am not getting all that much more done. It’s interesting to me to read about how others schedule time.

    It seems the common ground here is no tv. I do watch TV, although I knit or do other hand-work, or cook when I do. As the year warms up, the tv is on less and less, though, until in the summer all we watch is a movie or two a month. I just can’t imagine sitting and knitting without something else going on. A friend listens to books on tape, but I am not auditory enough to be able to follow a plot that way. TV is more mindless, I guess.

    Willa

  • Renee

    Right now our focus is on our children:) They are now 14 and 11 they help with the house-work and gardening:)

    We live a simple and quiet life…we don’t shop much, we hardly watch T.V a few movies every once in a while. I don’t like talking on the phone which I think wastes so much time. I agree tidness is more important then a super clean home.

    We all have hobbies in our home…my daughters stay busy and are never bored:)

    We eat at home during the week and we might have one meal out on the weekends….giving mom a break:)

    The only books I read are the Bible, gardening books, homesteading and ways to save money. I want to learn as I read:)

    I try to keep my hands busy during the day sewing, crocheting ect..

    We mostly drink water the girls like tea once in a while. I believe water is healthy and that is what we should drink.

    We do visit friends once a week and family as often as possible.

    I am an early bird I like going to bed early and get up early…..there is only so much time in a day so I try to not waste any time that I could be up and doing something:)

    The worst thing I know I do is spending to much time on the computer…I love reading other peoples blogs and there is so much to learn from others. I am trying to limit my time on the computer.

    Many Blessings,

    Renee

    gardendesk.com

  • We don’t watch television either, and that helps immensely! We also don’t have a lot of other noise (radios, etc…) around our house and it is remarkable how that lack of noise frees our minds (if you consider screaming children pushing noisy toys a lack of noise). And I have also set time limits for myself. I make myself get in bed at 8 every night and out of bed at 5 every morning, this allows me time to relax, read, meditate, etc…before falling asleep, and time to myself (even if it’s just a few moments) before the chaos of the day begins.

  • >Not watching television

    +1!!!!

  • Di

    Yep sometimes it’s stressful but for the most part I like having a busy life. Like you I use google calendars, and I have a hard copy for offline times (trying to get off the computer more!). We also do the no tv thing aside from watching greys anatomy online. I think no tv definitely helps it frees up time for other activities. Now not to say we’re perfect cos we definitely aren’t, the house could be cleaner for example. But given a choice between cleaning or exercising/gardening, its gardening or exercising for my health that wins.

  • I think the biggest key for us is just doing the next thing. Sometimes, with everything facing you all at once, it is easy to become overwhelmed and freeze up… at least for me, anyway. Jason has been a great influence on me by saying “just do the next thing.”

    Actually, it’s more like just do the first thing, then do the next thing. Start with one then go to the other. With us, this usually leads to a few tasks going at the same time. For example, while we are gardening, Jason will have bread rising or baking and we have something on the stove cooking or in the crock pot. Since I am an insomniac, it helps me with the writing and my knitting. And, now that we are getting rid of our cable box, we will have even more time and Jason will be able to get more of his sewing in.

    Do the first thing… then do the next…

    edited to add:
    Definitely agree with you about the motivation factor. If you have a passion for what you are doing or particularly enjoy your tasks, it is MUCH easier to get everything in because it has such meaning. We love what we do and do the things we do because we know it is necessary for either ourselves, our community or the world in general.

  • I started calling my “to-do list each day my “intentions” and I have since found that what I choose to put on it is more meaningful, and I feel more committed during the actual doing of the items. I feel lighter and more purposeful by “fulfilling my intentions” rather than bogged down by “doing my chores.”

  • I love pattie’s idea of “fulfilling intentions” — and I just had to say I’m impressed you shoot for tidy. We just skip right to squalor! That accounts for all of our purposeful making of food from scratch and gardening!

  • Rob

    I prefer to live my life without a calendar- I like chaotic, seat of your pants stress! Some days I get a lot done, most others not. I do have a yahoo calendar though

  • We love Google calendar too. I love that my partner and I can both see it (even if he’s working in the city for the day) and we could both see it when we worked in different places. Of course, it doesn’t work when the internet is down or the power is cut, so it’s not perfect.

    We do use the calendar to keep track of where farmers’ markets are each week (they rotate around here) so we can plan weekends around that. Sunday, for example, we’ll be meeting a friend for lunch in the town where the market is, to kill two birds with one stone. We also tend to consolidate tasks, some people might call it “putting things off”. So last weekend, when we had a dinner invitation in the city we’d have to drive for, we also shopped for the things that have been on the list. We were able to find all of them in one shop because we’d done the thinking first.

    There are a lot of things on my list that never happen. Mostly I’m ok with that.

  • For me what helps is not a calendar but a to-do list written the night before of all the things to do and in what order to do them. That way I know exactly what I need to do and I don’t procrastinate on it all. I’m good at procrastinating. SO much easier to read blogs and chat with people online than other productive things that are swirling around in my head! A concrete plan keeps me on task.

  • [...] week Pattie wrote a comment here that started me thinking.  She wrote that she calls the things on her “to do” list her [...]

  • [...] my own health and well-being. I want to save the world, now now now! But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to remember that you need to be healthy and happy in order to be truly [...]

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