Are You Making Your Life More Complicated (And Expensive) Than It Needs To Be?

Many of us find ourselves pressed for time and/or money, at least some of the time. And while it’s true that life can be harrying with it’s demands of cooking, cleaning, work, childcare, and maintenance chores, it’s also true that we bring some of those demands upon ourselves by doing way more than we need to do. Whether it’s because our mothers did it that way, or because it fits into society’s image of what a certain person is supposed to do, we sometimes take on things that are unnecessary and incur a lot more stress and expense as a result.

Here’s one example: I have a neighbor who washes and folds her family of five’s bath towels, washcloths, and sheets every day. Every single day. She says she hates doing it, but she believes that sheets and towels aren’t clean enough for more than one use. Her mother did it that way, so now my neighbor does, too. In addition to the time it takes to do this chore daily, it’s also costing her money in electric and water bills, detergent, and increased wear and tear on the linens. She’s always complaining about being stretched for time and low on money and I can only think to myself, “Try washing your stuff just once or twice a week.” Unless the people in the house are absolutely filthy or sick, sheets and towels are good for several days before they need washing.

I have another friend who must clean her bathrooms every day, all three of them. And not just a quick wipe down, either. She fully cleans the toilets, sinks, tubs and floors every day. Again, this is a waste of time and money unless you live with pigs or someone is sick. Think of the money she’s spending on cleaning supplies every year, not to mention the time involved. A quick wipe down of the most frequently used surfaces would suffice, and even that is overkill in most homes. A bathroom really only needs to be thoroughly cleaned once, maybe twice, per week. This is another person who regularly complains of having no free time and little money. She’d free up at least an hour a day if she let the bathrooms go.

There are other things we do, as well, that we don’t really need to do so often.

  • Oil changes every 3,000 miles: Most cars can make it 5,000, so unless your car has specific requirements, waiting that extra 2,000 miles can save you money and time spent at the lube shop.
  • Driving kids all over town: I know people who seem to do nothing but drive their kids around all day. They drive them to and from school, then to activities all afternoon and into the evening. Yet the school offers a bus and two other people on their street are going to the same activities. Save time and money by putting the kids on the school bus and organizing a carpool for activities, or cut down the number of activities your kids participate in.
  • Mowing your grass every week: In many places in the country, there are only a few “peak” lawn weeks per year when the lawn grows at a crazy pace. In the spring and fall or during a drought the grass grows much slower. Yet I see many people out every weekend mowing their hearts out, whether the grass needs it or not. If the grass isn’t out of control, let it go for two weeks and save the time and the gas money.
  • Going to the grocery store multiple times per week: A lady I work with stops by the grocery store every afternoon after work to pick up food for that night’s dinner. While I applaud her for not eating out, I shake my head at the time and money she’s wasting. Every trip to the store is at least thirty minutes. And we all know, the more time you spend in the store the more you’re likely to spend on impulse buys. I suspect that these trips are eating up much more money that she realizes or plans for. If she sat down and planned some meals, only shopped every other week, and bought a lot of sale items, she’d save money and time.
  • Going to the salon every week: I know many women who go to the hair salon every week or every two weeks. Yet they could probably stretch it to three weeks, or even a month without much difference and pocket the savings of time and money. If your style is that demanding, maybe you’d be better served by a simpler ‘do.
  • Volunteering for every activity: Do you volunteer to host or organize every school or church event, at your own expense of time and money? Maybe you feel it’s expected of you or you feel like no one else can do it right. Whatever the reason, think about saying no. Volunteer for one or two things a year and let someone else pick up the rest. If it doesn’t get done or done well, so be it. You’ll enjoy a huge savings of time and money.

If you find yourself pressed for time and money and feeling stressed out, ask yourself how much of that you’re bringing on yourself. What tasks do you find yourself doing that may be unnecessary and waste time and money that could be better spent elsewhere? What things are you doing out of habit or expectation and not because they really need doing? Think about your day to day routine and identify the things that you can change or do differently to free up some time and money for more useful, fun things.

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9 Responses to Are You Making Your Life More Complicated (And Expensive) Than It Needs To Be?

  1. Jennifer, like most of your articles, You bring up valid points. Time wasted is life wasted, is money wasted.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  2. Courtney says:

    How about kids activities in general? Vacations in general?

    I know kids that are greatly overscheduled because their parents feel they “need” to do team sports, buy the latest video game, and participate in every extracurricular activity. I got by with a backyard creek and a treehouse – so our family needed only one car, my mother could be a stay-at-home mom, and my dad didn’t have to work long hours, so he could spend quality time with his family.

    Likewise, we “vacationed” by going to Grandma’s house for two weeks while mom and dad got some well-deserved time off.

    People do make things much more complicated than they need to be. I’m not saying that every family can afford to get by on one income, and definitely not saying that every family can have two parents – but I see my single-mom friends killing themselves at work so they can afford martial arts lessons for all of their kids, when all their kids want is for mom to come home for dinner. Very sad.

  3. Dawn/FFL says:

    Kids are such a waste of money anyway… just ask my mom! (j/k)

    Good examples of how time = money

  4. Diane says:

    I don’t know anyone personally who cleans even 1 bathroom every day, or washes sheets & towels for 1 person every day. Anyone who has a life is too busy for that~!

    Still, most women I know are overwhelmed with household upkeep & family duties. My boyfriend does his share by grocery shopping, cooking & cleaning up and I’m still pressed for time.

    And my youngest son has a car now, so he drives himself to practices. I still attend every game & event, which involves considerable time, but that’s not optional for me as it’s what I really want to do. Volunteering to keep those activities going is part of the package. If everyone gave just a little time it wouldn’t be so much work for anyone.

    My take is that many of us have way too many possessions, clothes and STUFF. It takes up space, time to buy it, clean & repair it. Things must be moved to clean under & around them… For me, less stuff equals less maintenance and less time cleaning.

    I’d rather spend time watching my son play varsity football or soccer than spend it dusting collectibles or moving gadgets & appliances to clean the kitchen counter!

  5. Cristina says:

    Biggest time waster is the Internet. That being said, I am up and the computer goes off.

  6. Robin says:

    Good discussion. I has someone leave a short story about a trip to Kenya, and the simplicity of life there.

    She took a photo of a man showing off his prized possessions — a bar of soap (new) and a small comb. He was looking pleased with life because he had enough to eat and was surrounded by his friends and family.

    Contrast this with how we collect possessions in America. Our possessions change our lives by requiring more locks, more cleaning and organizing, more space, more insurance, and more time and energy.

    Here’s to simplification and setting priorities that match our values!

  7. Gail says:

    Washing all those sheets and twoels daily also wears them out much faster thus needing them to be replaced. I also knew a woman who initially washed all her sheets daily and then she finally saw the light that it was a backlash from an alcoholic mom who didn’t clean and she lived and slept in a filthy house where the sheets never got washed. She had finally settled into a sensible pattern for laundry. I’ve learned to sit back and let many chores go undone as I just don’t have the energy usually to do them. They get doen when I can. Life sometimes comes in and teaches you things you couldn’t learn any other way.

  8. Eileen says:

    This was thought provoking and welcome as a not-so tidy housekeeper.;-).

    So many things that might be admirable, a super clean house, exquisitely wrapped gifts, volunteering in 20 arenas, perfect nails, home baked goodies, also have costs. You do a good job pointing out while we may get compliments and even feel good about going the extra mile for germ-free bathrooms, if it is causing more stress than bringing contentment, it’s time to let go of such expectations.

    Best wishes! Signing off with my polish-free nails and ever in envy of women who manage those beautiful shades of perfect pink at the tip of each coiffed finger;-). Eileen

  9. Cindy M says:

    I think most people would be so much better off if they could just get away from the brain- draining wasteland of TV and talk radio junk and even quit the newspaper and magazine subscriptions for a good while if not permanently. How much better to use your time to get a good nap, take a long walk, cook something great or accomplish something physically that really needs to get done around the house or yard for yourself or someone you know who needs that. We worry way too much about what we’re TOLD is true and that we must fix, a great deal of which most of us can actually do almost nothing about anyway.

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