I have just returned from three weeks abroad. Three weeks abroad and only one bag of luggage – mostly filled with things for the tiny human. And I did not miss a thing. In fact, returning home was a little shock to the system – opening a wardrobe full of clothes when I just lived on about 1/10 of its contents.
The thing is: My clothes are already quite limited and I am living the benefits of a capsule wardrobe – with the occasional statement piece thrown into the mix (including a wedding dress!). I like dressing well, I like high-quality clothing, and I dislike shopping enough to have quite a slow turnaround on clothing items. I love well-cut, tailored pieces, base colours, and timeless fashion. I still have one (well-fitting, well-made) pair of shorts from my school days and I simultaneously have no issues parting with items when their time is up.
So why the feeling of slight overwhelm? Reflecting on it, I didn’t think this was about my clothes at all. I think this was about the mental workload of having to chose what to wear each day. Choosing, planning, and deciding costs mental energy. And mental energy is a limited resource – so how can we ensure spending it on the things that matter most?
1. Make a meal plan
I used to pop into the corner shop on the way home from work, only thinking about dinner as I was browsing through the shelves. This meant I invested at least half an hour per day on food shopping. In contrast, meal planning means you can do all your shopping (and thinking!) for the week in one go – reducing time, mental energy, financial cost, and food waste.
2. Make a dress plan
Now, that’s slightly more controversial. But just as you can plan your weekly meals, you can also plan your clothes for the week. I got the idea from my business travels. Prior to each trip, I write a list of what I am going to wear each day – yes, shoes and accessories and all. This means I only pack exactly what I need and, when I am there, don’t waste any precious time on what is usually a very tight schedule.
3. Develop routines that work for you
Prior to the tiny human joining our life, I used to go to the gym after work. I never really thought about it – I just took my gear to work, went straight to the gym afterward, worked out, went home. And this is the key – “I never really thought about it”. Of course I did – ONCE. Then I just made it part of my weekly schedule. I have a dear friend overseas that I struggle to speak to on a regular basis.
We used to waste a lot of energy (and text messages) on arranging phone dates – until we decided to fix a phone call for every first Monday of the month. This meant she is booked into my calendar well in advance. Of course, we sometimes have to rearrange – but it costs much less time and energy than having to arrange every single phone call.
4. Plan the week ahead
Every Sunday, I have a look at my schedule for the forthcoming week. It allows me to prep for anything coming up that week, writing the food/ clothes plan accordingly, and allowing me to make sure there is enough empty space available to us. It’s five minutes of my day that provides a sense of calm for the whole week. My little bonus (because I work like this): I always think about a mantra for the week – this week (with the start of school/nursery/work looming on us) it’s “Getting ready”.
5. Plan the year ahead
I mean this both in a literal as well figurative sense. As part of a bonus family set up, we plan cover for the school holidays a year in advance. I plan ahead for birthdays, upcoming trips, and other big events. But I also set myself some goals for the year, both for work as well as my private life. It helps me stay focused and provides a useful reminder when I am losing sight.
6. Don’t kill spontaneity
Yes, planning ahead saves you time and mental energy. But it can also mean you’ll become too rigid in how you spend your days. Don’t just do/eat/wear something because you wrote it on a list. Leave space for spontaneity. Make sure that each week you reflect on how you spend your time. Reevaluate your goals. These tips are meant to work for you, not make you work for them.
About the Author: Leni is a professional writer and researcher, currently on maternity leave from a busy full-time job. She is passionate about minimalism and mindfulness and their potential for self-improvement.