About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Getting into a rut

A common theme in self-development advice is breaking free from routine. Routines stifle us, say the lifestyle gurus say*. Break out of the rut and set yourself free! While it can be true that blindly following a routine can be limiting, what about the flip side? What if you don't have a routine at all?

Without the demands of children or a job to structure my days, I'm left to decide how to fill the hours. Particularly when mental resources are low, decisions can be taxing, and there's a danger of sliding into the easy, tempting option of browsing the internet. So many interesting things!

I have a problem with hours disappearing as I follow links from facebook, read blogs, and look up the answers to various questions - either prompted by claims on facebook or things I was just wondering about (Can we really live on potatoes alone? What acids are produced in kombucha? No, and acetic and gluconic acids, respectively).

The thing about routines is that they make things easy. This is why it takes effort to break out of them. That's not to say that they're easy to establish; it takes a while before you get the thought popping into your head, Now it's time to do X. Of course, you don't have to make a decision every day while you establish the routine, just find a bit of motivation.

I didn't think it was realistic to construction a whole day's worth of routine all at once and in any case, I wasn't sure I even needed all of that. My main goal was to stop losing entire days on the computer. I've been piecing it together over the last year, and I think it could do with quite a lot more tweaking (as I still spend far too much time on the computer), but this is what I've got so far:-

  1. Get out of bed and go to the bathroom
  2. Fuss cat
  3. Get dressed into underclothes and soft trousers
  4. 10 min worth of exercise
  5. Change soft trousers for jeans
  6. Breakfast WITHOUT switching on computer. Read something in Welsh instead.
  7. Wash the dishes. Listen to the radio (also in Welsh) if I feel like it
  8. Tea break. If I listened to the radio, the computer is switched on by now, so I'll probably look at it.
  9. .....
  10. Lunch
  11. .....
  12. More tea
  13. .....
  14. Prepare, then eat, dinner

You'll noticed that George has added one item to this list. He gets plenty of attention at other times of day, too, but it's first thing in the morning that he's most interested. There are also little jobs that get done at this time, like kneading bread dough or putting laundry in the machine.

The ten minutes of exercise was inspired by my sister and her husband, who've taken to doing a brief workout every evening after the kids have gone to bed and before dinner. My sister said that if she had my lifestyle, she'd do it first thing in the morning, and I agree. Whereas they're focusing on strength and fitness, I have problems with tense muscles in my back, so I'm doing a bit of half-remembered chi gong and some stretches.

I was going to write do something in the gaps between meals and tea breaks, but if I'm honest, that doesn't always happen. That's the idea, anyway. Stuff I need to get done is so varied that I can't include it very specifically in a schedule, but if I have chunks of time when I'm expecting to get on with whatever project is on the go, then hopefully I'll make some progress. Even if I don't, at least the kitchen is less of a bombsite these days, which makes me feel a lot better when I need to use it.

With this blogging challenge, I was hoping to find a time of day for regular blogging, and maybe manage to shoehorn other computer stuff into that time slot, too. As you'll have noticed, the challenge has suffered a bit of a setback lately. We went away for a few days and it was more difficult to get into a writing frame of mind. I could have done it if I'd had some posts lined up before we went, but I'm not that organised. Before that, though, I was starting to find that the afternoon tea break felt like time to start writing a blog post, so hopefully I'll get back to that. Maybe I'll even resist looking at the computer earlier in the day, but that takes will power, and the whole point of a routine is to avoid needing to rely on will power too much. Hmm, needs more work, I think.


* At least, they used to. Judging by how difficult it was to find an article to illustrate this point, I guess this advice may have gone out of fashion.


  1. My morning routine is much more set and regular than the rest of the day- I think because nothing comes along to disrupt it. It helps that I naturally wake up early, and therefore am undisturbed.
    I've recently added 'vacuum house' to the morning routine (between 'start cooking breakfast' and 'eat breakfast'). Vacuuming every day sounds excessive, but with three cats and a dog there is always lots in the vacuum each day. I've also added a bit of stretching in after the vacuuming (we have porridge for breakfast, which I just leave on a low heat, so it takes a while to cook, hence having time for all these things!)
    I think adding one or two things at a time helps, otherwise it's too different and too difficult!

    1. I think I have most detail in my morning routine just because I started at the beginning of the day and worked forwards.
      Yes, vacuum every day does sound excessive, but then I have a very high tolerance for dirt!

  2. I am really, REALLY bad at sticking to routines. And I'm not even talking about something as grandiose as you are describing - I have trouble just getting ready for bed!

    It's not that complicated, but before I go to bed I need to: brush & floss my teeth, take my evening supplements, take my bc pill, wash my face, put on my Breathe Right strip, clean my mouthguard & put it in, and use my allergy nose spray. I try and try to set up a routine to follow, but at least half the time I'll crawl into bed, turn off the lights and then remember that I've forgotten to do something on that list.

    Seriously, this list has not changed in many, many, many years, so I'm just at a loss. How can it possibly be so difficult?!? I've tried everything I can think of. I've tried making myself check things off a list, I've tried strategic placement of the various items, I've tried hanging signs for the most often forgotten things... nothing works!

    Anyhow, people always talk about how wonderful routines are because they don't have to think about it, but my brain just doesn't seem to work that way. So if you figure out the secret, please let me know! :-)

    1. I have to disagree with you here: I'd say it really is that complicated. My bed-time routine consists of: clean teeth, turn off lights, get undressed, get into bed. I'm willing to bet three items on that list are also part of your routine, but you didn't bother to list them because they're not things you forget. Added to the nine you have listed, that's twelve things to remember.

      The thing about routines is that they make things easier once they're established. Getting them set up is pretty hard going. Notice that both Nicola and I are adding things to our routines one at a time and letting that settle in before adding anything else. Even though you've had the same list of things to do for years, I don't think you have a routine established.

      Here are a couple of mnemonic tricks that might be worth trying, if you haven't already. The first is to cut the length of the list by lumping things together. If you can find some connection between items, then one will remind you of the next. For me, I'd put supplements and pill together, as all being tablets, then things that involve water - wash face, brush teeth, which then leads on to flossing, then it gets a bit complicated because the obvious groupings don't fit well with what I guess are constraints on what order to do things. You have two things to put in/on your face, and each of those has an associated preparation: Nasal spray then strip; clean then put in mouth guard.

      I've ended up with three lists, which have two, three and four items in each:
      Take supplements, bc pill
      Wash face, brush teeth, floss teeth
      Nose spray, Breathe Right strip, clean mouthguard, put in mouthguard.

      I would find this easier to remember than nine disconnected items. It also includes '2 things, 3 things, 4 things' as a cue. You might find a different grouping more natural.

      The other method is more contrived: You make up a story involving all of the things you need to remember, and go over it a few times until you've memorized it. This shouldn't be too hard as we're generally good at remembering stories, relative to disconnected information (though I'm not very good at making them up). Then you have to tell yourself the story every night.

    2. Wow! Those are great suggestions. I think I sorta do have them lumped together in my brain, but come to think of it, that may be part of my problem.

      It's like I have things grouped mentally in a way that makes sense for me, but for various complicated reasons I can't do all of one group before I move onto the next group - like I have mouthguard grouped with brush & floss teeth... because they're all related to teeth. But I always start my bedtime routine with brush & floss teeth... but then I can't put the mouthguard in until after I've taken all of the pills ('cause it takes up so much of my mouth that I can't physically take a drink once it's in) - so my group gets interrupted.

      Likewise, I have wash face, Breathe Right Strip and nose spray grouped in my mind because they all have to do with nose (I have to wash my face before I put on the strip or the thing won't stick.) The problem is that because I'm paranoid about inhaling tap water (long crazy story about brain eating amoebas) I try to wait at least 5 minutes after washing my face to do the nose spray so I don't inadvertently inhale any tap water. So once again, the group gets interrupted.

      Hmmm... perhaps I need to restructure my groups so they are lumped together by which things can be done in a group rather than by the mental construct (teeth, nose, etc) that links them together.

      Gosh... maybe I'm not crazy after all... maybe I just have my systems working crosswise to each other. Thanks! I'll let you know if it works or not.

    3. Yup, that's what I noticed when I tried to group them. There are obvious semantic groupings that don't work with the order you have to do things. I'll be interested to hear whether you find a more effective grouping that actually helps.


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