5 Lazy Ways to Simplify Your Days

by Ivory Soap

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WOW, that calendar is blue, huh?  Trick of the camera, but the more important thing is that it’s also really EMPTY. And this is a really busy week for me!

1.  We shop only once a week and refuse to go back. If we’re out of milk, that’s just how it goes, drink water.  If we’re out of apples, eat oranges.  There’s no need to have one of everything we like in the house at once.  Except toilet paper.  I will go back for that, but nothing else.  Multiple trips to the store to pick up this or that really crowd my days, so I don’t do it!

2. We use a calendar–everything on the calendar is a commitment, nothing is a commitment until it’s on the calendar.  And the calendar stays at home.  Which means, I can’t agree to anything until I think about it.  And don’t buy one of those ones where a day is a whole page, you might actually be tempted to fill it!

3.  We only agree to do what we really want to do. Saying NO is a very important part of keeping your day simple.  Just because someone else thinks we SHOULD do something as often as they wish has little impact on our decision.   “Sure I’d like to volunteer.  You can have me once every six weeks.”  “But, but, but…”  “I’m sorry, that’s all I can offer.”

4.  The day is organized around benchmarks. I have four things on my mental to do list.  8:35, 3:45, 5:00, and 7:30.  When the kids are off to school, when I get in the car line, when hubby gets home, and the kids’ bedtime.  There’s no scheduling to the minute, ever.  I just know what has to be done for those four things to happen.

5.  We have one planned activity per day. If it’s swimming lessons, then there’s no going to the PTA meeting.  If there’s a party, then there’s no meeting friends at the park.  Now, I know that sounds drastic, but if you’re like me, planning one thing a day means you’ll probably end up with two. But setting the bar that low means when something springs up on me, (as it always does) I have room in my schedule to deal with it.


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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori (The Book Lady) August 25, 2009 at 5:07 am

These are great tips, especially, for us #4 & #5. Thanks for the list.

Annie Rasmussen August 25, 2009 at 6:16 am

This post makes so much sense! I love the idea of “benchmarks.” I found your blog through a friend’s blog and I will certainly keep reading…

renee @ FIMBY August 25, 2009 at 6:38 am

I loved this! Though we homeschool our weeks follow similar guidelines.

Emily August 25, 2009 at 6:45 am

Love it. I really have to work on the only once to the grocery store thing. I’m always forgetting something, even if it’s on my list.

Great tips, thanks.

Beegirl August 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

Doing better on the shopping now that we have a list. I love having an open calendar. Nothing better!!

Summer August 25, 2009 at 11:02 am

Great tips! I tried organizing our day to the minute, but the big blocks with benchmarks works so much smoother for us. And I feel less stressed and rushed!

Pat August 25, 2009 at 11:40 am

Great, great advice. I am going to make a copy of that and firmly imprint that into my brain–and calendar! Thanks, thanks a bunch!!

Mike August 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

I disagree with #1. We shop for fresh food daily, I do not like to buy meat a week before I eat it, and I hate to eat frozen foods. Kind of hard to shop once a week like that. Veggies and meat need to be purchased every 2 days.

Vera August 25, 2009 at 11:50 am

This is great advice. I have been thinking a great deal lately about the “one-time-a-week-to-shop” thing. Very good advice, esp. about keeping the activities to one a day. Thank you.

Michelle August 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Fabulous! I’m blessed to not be as busy as many people, but I love your simplicity!

jamie August 25, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Geez, I’m incredibly wishy washy compared to you! I like to think my mind is “organic” and “ever changing”, rather than wishy washy, though.

Kids really do make your time all scattered. I’m an artist and no longer have the 5 hours to sit and work on a project like I used to. I think I’ll get that back someday, but for now I have to be happy with the 1-2 hours I can find in a day.

A calendar might help me though, one that I carry in my purse at all times. I’ll think on it…

Cori August 25, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Simple and brilliant! (Oh, and we use washable cloth rags for TP a lot too – so there’s really no need to go to the store…)

Jacquelyn August 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Great tips, I could see putting those to use in my life, too! Thanks!

Lisa August 25, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Love it, Ivory! I have two mantras that I live by:



And our food storage really helps with simplifing trips to the market.

Lisa August 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Almost forgot…we even have a years supply of toilet paper! 🙂 We just replenish as used.

ben August 26, 2009 at 7:16 am

i love it ,it’s so good

Peggy August 26, 2009 at 7:21 am

good ideas!! Had to tell you I am getting 4 baby goats in the spring, saw the moms and dad last week. so excited —about fencing I’m the same one that has a friend where the bear got the goat. their others there are fine now – the lama is still on guard big time

Anji August 26, 2009 at 9:45 am

I’m not even married..but its fun to read your schedule and how you plan your day!
I’m a planner myself ..I plan my study schedule at B-school..so can identify with you!
Especially the part which says ‘Shop once a week’ and ‘benchmarking around timings’

Maxi Malone August 26, 2009 at 11:19 am

Great list … for grandparents also. We have our granddaughter a lot and this will help.

Sarah August 26, 2009 at 3:07 pm

This is good. I wish more people would follow this type of plan.

Cori, I use washable wipes for my baby, and I’ve often wondered what it would be like to do that for me, too. But…ew. I’m not sure if I could. (I know, maybe a bit hypocritical.) So I just always stock up when TP is on sale!

ashley August 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Oh a simple life by choice is fantastic. You just feel lighter, easier, and happier. I do a lot for this planet but cloth TP.. you’re a stronger person than me! I’ll do right by the planet and spend the extra change to buy 100% recycled toilet paper and paper towels when I need them.

Margaret August 26, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Great article, thanks. I do this without thinking about it; I’m rather introverted and need a lot of downtime. If I overbook, I forget stuff.

Amelia August 26, 2009 at 10:21 pm

I love this list, I just stumbled on your blog and this post was great. I can’t however do the once a week trip to the store. I do the farmers market twice a week and try to get to the regular grocery store once a week, maybe twice for meats and other things!

The benchmark part is a great idea, especially since I feel like my days are SO busy! Thanks, I’m looking forward to reading more!

MrsB August 27, 2009 at 7:03 am

“We shop only once a week and refuse to go back. If we’re out of milk, that’s just how it goes, drink water. ” Um, okay. Water on cereal would be gross, but honestly there isn’t space in our fridge for all of the milk our family drinks. And it’s nice to buy fresh veggies through the week.

Mark August 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Why would anyone ever get into a car line? How about parking it? Walk to where the kids will be, then walk them to the car. This means there will be no pointless, air-fouling idling and that the kids learn they have a part to play in the daily adventure. Teach them to walk, not to expect a ride will be given. At least you’ve cut down driving to the market. Keep improving as I will too.

Ivory Soap August 27, 2009 at 6:46 pm

@Peggy- OOooo, I wish I could have more!!! But I’ll get to play with the babies when I breed…

Ivory Soap August 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm

@Lisa–Yeah. My garden and freezer do that too. Oh, and my super simple taste in food.

Ivory Soap August 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm

@jamie–did you notice that there are ages between my first two benchmarks? Almost the whole time the big kids are at school is writing/flextime for me.

Terry Kobernick August 27, 2009 at 10:51 pm

LOVE IT!! Im 50 w/a 10 yr old. This is how I live. And I enjoy almost everyday. And can make memories instead of headaches.

morningstar August 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

These are great tips. I am not an over achiever, so I never set any guidelines for my times. These tips help me do more because they make things do-able.

Great. Thanks.

Clint August 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

This is brilliant, and I am very glad to see this approach published. It is much the way I run my life. I do tend to look at it from a security point of view and find that this way of life results in safety. Safety as opposed to the “stacking of chances” I see others doing and wondering why their lives fall apart so readily. The day is only so long, and each day has evil sufficient to itself. When we stack chances, or live more than one day at a time, it always ends in disaster sooner or later. Thanks

Edie August 29, 2009 at 1:39 am

Fantastic tips! I’m sure these tips help organize your day. I especially like the one planned activity a day – that really makes sense. Also, if it’s not on the calendar… If it’s not on my calendar, I usually forget about it anyway. Thanks for sharing, you’ve given us much food for thought in planning our day.

Cindy August 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm

You have some really good ideas. The only thing I really disagree with is the once every six week volunteer thing. So many things in our childrens lives depend on the hard work of volunteers. I’m afraid that by offering your time so scantly, you are requiring other families to pick up your slack. I think 1 hour per week per child is more like it.

Tomato Lady August 30, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Hi Cindy–TL here. I don’t want to speak for Ivory, but I believe she referred to telling each individual who requested her help that she had to space out her volunteer hours. If multiplied by the various individuals who ask, between classrooms, church, community, the gal is got to be booked up at least an hour/wk/kid. Thank you for your comment and hope this makes sense.

Sam August 31, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Must be nice not to have to worry about two other times — when to start work and when to end work (not to mention the calendar at work that can’t be dealt with by claiming that you need to check it when you get home). I’m not suggesting that a housewife’s/husband’s schedule isn’t hectic or worth simplifying, but the tips above need to be qualified — they apply to housewives/husbands… The name of your website implies that, but your “start here” page does not say anything about it. I just made a few enemies didn’t I… (rhetorical question) — I’m just bitter cause I have to make another grocery run sometime after work this week, unless a meeting gets scheduled, in which case I’ll have to rearrange everything…

Anon September 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm

These are areally stupid, not really practical. And why shouldn’t you give some of your time to freinds, family and/or charity?

Jennifer September 5, 2009 at 4:48 pm

What great tips, I am looking to simplify right now and have decided not to take on a few things, so that life won’t get crazy.

Jenn @ Beautiful Calling September 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Great ideas! I too try to stay home as much as possible and only plan one or two items per day. It keeps things simple, the children and I are much more relaxed and I spend less! LOL.

Amy Keffer September 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I think I need to print this out and put it on the fridge. (DH won’t go for the “once a week and if we’re out, we’re out” food philosophy, though. LOL!)

Laurie November 7, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Excellent tips. I love to hear how others keep their lives in a routine of some sort. This is definitely getting copied and handed out to several people that I know who just can`t get organized.

Darci November 20, 2009 at 11:17 pm

I definitely use the “benchmarks” approach to my day. I have an 8 month old son, and my day revolves around 7:30 am, 10ish am, 3ish pm, and 8ish pm….baby wakes up, baby goes down for morning nap, baby goes down for afternoon nap, baby goes down for the night. 🙂 I never schedule appointments for the hour or two after nap-times…other than that, my schedule just sorta flows. 🙂 I absolutely love this website, and just about every article I read either gives me a new idea or totally strikes a chord.

Ivory Soap November 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Thank you, Darci! I’m glad you’re enjoying the site!

Rana January 2, 2010 at 8:59 am

#’s 3 & 5 are big ones at our home. This is a great list. Thanks for sharing. Stopping by from Organizing Life. Looking forward to checking out more of your blog.

turnitupmom January 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Number 5 is a great tip! I only have one child at this time, and one planned activity is generally all I can handle. Although I have to say that it’s good for me to have that one thing to look forward to (esp. when you’re a new mom). What I like about this list is that it’s simple and helps you to live in congruence with your priorities.

Tally Hill March 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm

WhooHOOooooo! I thought was a B*TCH for running my house EXACTLY as you just illustrated. After fifteen years, I feel TOTALLY vindicated.


I especially love the part about only one activity per day. I have been doing that for years, and other **ragged** “super” moms always strained to make me feel guilt.

Never worked. 😉

MP3 August 16, 2010 at 8:55 am

Nice tips. You can do groceries once a week and still buy fresh vegs and meat but it’s not easy – particularly if the local farmer’s market is only one day a week, and it’s not the day you do the big shopping. One way to do it is to make sure you have a couple of meatless dinner meals a week (great way to eat healthy as well). I freeze my meat but if fresh is what you want, then have a few meatless meals during the week. It’s more important for me to stay on budget than the time saver of shopping once a week so I am write down each expense to stay on track. That way I don’t go over budget and if it looks like I will, well then, it’s fridge amnesty day. Which means whatever is in the fridge is what gets cooked – the internet is great for punching in ingredients you have on hand with the word recipe and coming up with something you can make with what you have in the cupboard and fridge.

Im50 August 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

I am not surprised to see negative comments, but I am always shocked at the limited mental capacity of those individuals. Good for you to have the good sense to balance your days in a way that makes you happy, and provides the ultimate necessity for enjoyment of life. Time. Keep that calendar clear and can I please tell the negative Nellie’s to get off their treadmill and get a life?

Ivory Soap August 20, 2010 at 5:22 am

Im50. Thank you! It’s nice to have positive support.

MamaJ November 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Just wanted to quickly address the comments made about not volunteering your time enough. I completely disagree. Stay at home moms are in a season in life when too much volunteering outside the home would be detrimental to the household. Yes, please do volunteer with your children to set a good example. But most outside activities will have to wait until the kids are grown and there is more time to devote to that. I don’t believe in retiring to sit in the rocking chair and do nothing. I think that time is perfect for contributing to society in ways that are difficult with kids at home. Just my two cents.

Carpet Cleaning Melbourne December 18, 2010 at 4:39 am

I wouldn’t call this lazy at all, more like how to get by without giving yourself an anxiety attack 🙂 lol Everybody needs to simplify the day, these are great suggestions.

Lisa May 14, 2011 at 7:16 am


Would you consider updating your thoughts on this now that your kids are a little older and you are homeschooling? I wonder if you are sticking to this plan or if you have tweaked it abit. Just curious.

Ivory Soap May 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

HA! I didn’t realize how old this is. Actually, homeschooling was a way to further simplify. No room moms calling wanting me to do all kinds of things.

Now that I look at it, I still do all of this. Even the benchmarks, though around different events, are at the same times.

Appliance Parts San Francisco July 30, 2011 at 3:16 am

Everybody needs to simplify the day, these are great suggestions.

Camille August 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I love, love, love this! We are starting homeschooling this year with — right from the get go as we have a 5 and a 2 year old. I am just dreading having a “schedule” (even though I am a very “scheduly” person!). I keep thinking I need a daily schedule and a “household binder”, but I don’t feel like I actually really need one. I love your guidelines and the freedom this system creates.

Wanda October 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm

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Mary October 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm

This is a great idea. Thank you!

Farmer Doug October 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

These are great tips! As someone recently laid-off, so consequently now a full-time “farmer”, I can appreciate the temptation to fill my days with busy-ness to justify not having a formal income currently. Your tips will assist in keeping my planned accomplishments balanced and in perspective. Best regards, “Farmer Doug” at “Ladybug’s Mew in Yellow Point”.

Sara November 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Came back by to double check the laundry recipe, and saw this post. I love you! Thank you for helping me to feel less “extreme!”

I spent my children’s younger years doing way too much volunteering – newsletter and leadership for church women’s group, and similar roles with a community singing group and parent-teacher organization. Then I found I needed to homeschool.

In the course of transitioning to this new lifestyle, I realized just how much precious time I had given to these outside groups and how much I had neglected my family. Of all of these organizations that I spent so very, very much time serving, not one is in touch with me now. There were no lasting relationships – not even at church – once I wasn’t “working” for them. It was somewhat deflating to face this truth.

My scheduling has become similarly “tight” and I worried and wondered if I was reacting in this way to protect my feelings, or simply being a wiser mom. Your post is encouraging me that perhaps I’m reaching a place of balance with our commitments. Thanks so very much!

Andrea Martin June 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I *love* everything about this!
As a new mom, I have found myself “spinning my wheels” for the past 5 months (guess how old my daughter is) and desperately feeling like I need a schedule or SOMETHING to keep me feeling semi-productive. So, thank you for posting this.
I realize the most important thing I’m doing these days is raising my child – but I think I can squeeze in a few other things, too.

Ivory Soap June 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

Andrea, I was just talking to a friend the other day that is a teacher. She is home with three litle kids for the summer and is going through the same thing. It’s a weird adjustment to be off the clock. It’s like begin a farmer, where things are dictated by when people need feeding and napping. But what do you do in between? You can’t GO anywhere. I went through so many hobbies and stuff. I turned to writing and gardening to fill the time and give me a sense of accomplishment.

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