I have recently been mulling over the commonalities across the individual and unique simple lives - mine and those I see in my geographic and virtual community. I think routines is probably one of them. Whether it's a routine for milking your goat, a routine for baking bread, a routine for getting yourselves out of the house in the morning, we all have routines.
I've made several attempts in recent years to develop my routines to encompass more of the activities I want to undertake. Ideally - in the fantasy life in my head - my routines cover all aspects of housework, cleaning and maintenance, as well as my own health and wellbeing. I go running, I mop the floors, and it all happens easily and almost invisibly because it's routine.
As anyone struggling with self-discipline will know, anything that is already routine is SO MUCH EASIER than pushing yourself to do something out of the ordinary. I want to bring more activities into this.
However, I've made several attempts to 'construct' routines. Last spring, I sat down, listed all the jobs that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis and divided them up, breaking them into one thing a day throughout the year. It was beautiful and balanced and it lasted about three weeks before it just fizzled out. It was too much too quickly.
Last autumn, I tried again with something smaller. I tried adding one small task - wiping down the bathroom sink - to my morning routine. That also lasted about three weeks before it just fizzled out.
This month, something rather unexpected has happened. Rather than setting out intentionally to add something to my routine, something has just, well, fallen into it. I've started washing up the breakfast dishes before I leave the house. Haphazardly. I wasn't setting out to do it, I wasn't planning a New Year's routine change. It was something I just happened to do on my first day back at work this year - no particular reason, it just occurred to me to do it, as I was running a little early for once and looking for something little to do in that time - and somehow I've kept on doing it.
It's teeny tiny but is having a rather welcome impact on my life. It means I go to work feeling already ahead with the day, feeling in control, feeling good about having achieved something, even something so pathetically small. It means the washing up after dinner in the evenings is less work, which in turn means I procrastinate about it less, do it earlier and have more enjoyable evenings. I suspect it makes for a cleaner, more pleasant kitchen for my boyfriend to cook in because he's even done a bit of evening baking (normally reserved for the weekends.)
It also means I get to do something domestic in the morning. To be honest, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I am starting to find washing up rather relaxing. It's slow. It's meditative. As I wipe the bowls and put them back in the cupboard, I can look out on the balcony at the early morning sunshine and think where I am going to put the herb pot, I look around the tidy kitchen and feel good about the newly oiled chopping board all warm and golden. It gives me a moment of slow and simple living before my mental space and energies are drawn into my job.
I'm not stressing about this. I hope it stays but I'm not going to push myself. I'm now at just about the three week mark, so this might also fizzle out, but I hope it doesn't. I wonder if there are any more habits which might just naturally fall into place? I rather like the idea of organic routine-building, each new leaf gradually unfurling one by one, and no clear idea where the next will be.
Do you have any preferred methods for adapting and building routines?