Setting limits with a Super Simple Month

I’ve declared February as a Super Simple Month in our house. To me, a Super Simple Month is defined as no travel for work, one social engagement a week or less, no shopping except for necessities, and no new large projects (craft, writing, organizations, etc.). The goal is to finish some items already in progress on my to-list, relax as much as I can with my family, and be as low-key as possible.

This Super Simple Month idea came to me last Thursday after I returned from my second of two trips to New York in four days. I was exhausted, and the idea of getting in the car and driving to Richmond the next day made me incredibly anxious. When I woke up Friday morning with a fever, I picked up the phone and cancelled my third trip for the week. I had hit my limit. Out of 31 days in January, I had been home fewer than 20.

I realized that if I am to achieve my first quarter New Year’s Resolution of gaining more energy that I had to make some serious changes. I’ve been doing great with my resolutions to eat well, exercise, and get eight to nine hours a night of sleep — but these resolutions haven’t been enough. I still don’t have the energy levels I’d like. (I do wonder, however, how awful I would have felt at the end of January had I not kept on track with these things!)

Have you ever declared a Super Simple Month for yourself or something similar? What rules did you impose to keep your schedule low-key? Was it a success? Do you wish you would have done anything differently? Three days into Super Simple Month and I have to admit that I’m really loving it. I’m sure that by the time March begins I’ll be interested in adding more activities back into my schedule, but, for now, a calm February is exactly what I need.

51 Comments for “Setting limits with a Super Simple Month”

  1. posted by Vanessa on

    That’s a great idea, Erin, and it sounds like exactly what you needed. Bless. :) I think I’ve been leaning toward a Super Simple Life (more of an ongoing simplicity). When I start getting bored, I know it’s time to take on a new project.

  2. posted by Barbara Tako|ClutterClearingChoices on

    Awesome idea! Sometimes I simplify my life and unclutter my home and finances at the same time.
    I do this by taking a couple of weeks to make an effort to clear clutter from my closets, drawers, and cupboards. I also make an effort to stay home (minimize shopping and unnecessary running), to eat from the pantry–that is, to eat what we already have instead of going grocery shopping, and finally to donate or re-purpose what I find as I unclutter when I do this.
    I am often amazed that when I discover items I think I need to go buy, I can usually find something else I already have that will meet the same need–especially when I have vowed to be home and take the time to focus more on finding a solution right under my nose!

  3. posted by Jelliebeans on

    I love the idea of this. I sometimes do something similar for a week, but I love the idea of extending it to a whole month. Will you update at the end of February with how you found this?

    BTW, First time commenter, long time subscriber. :)

  4. posted by Dawn F. on

    While I haven’t been able to declare a Super Simple Month, our family does enjoy a Super Simple Weekend at least once per month – I literally write it in our family calendar so other plans can’t creep into it. :)

    No running around, no shopping, no outside socializing, no major projects – just our small family (hubby, wife, kiddo) hanging out at home having time of relaxation and fun together. We always feel rejuvenated and re-focused after our Super Simple Weekend. It’s times like these that we treasure the most.

  5. posted by Cindy on

    I highly recommend trying this light thing. It really helps give you more energy during the winter and for those of us with desk-jobs (without windows!)

    http://www.costco.com/Browse/P.....lipsgoLITE

    Me personally, I’m done with my life not having enough new and exciting things. Every day is starting to feel like rinse & repeat :-( I have hobbies, but not enough time to really do any of them well (until this spring when I MUST do my gardening stuff!). So here’s hoping you get your Super Simple Month and I get my more-exciting life back!

  6. posted by Handy Man, Crafty Woman on

    I’ve been trying to keep our schedule a bit more low key lately too. Less running around. I’ve streamlined errands and such, and try to order things online to be delivered to me to save time when possible. I’m having a LOT of trouble sleeping right now; and I’m working on going to bed earlier and trying to get more sleep, which will help with everything all around.

  7. Profile photo of

    posted by PKitty on

    Great thoughts Erin. I quite often have “No November” because I find when the kids go back to school and the extra-curricular activity level heats up I am exhausted by the end of October and the idea of all the Christmas preparation is overwhelming. So “No November” was born when I would say no to volunteering, extra social invitations, etc. and hunker down to get a handle on life.

    That being said, now that my kids are older it is not such a big deal but I totally get what you are saying about needing a Super Simple Month.

  8. posted by Plain Good Sense on

    I also applaud your efforts with the Super Simple Month. I realized as I was reading this post that I am grateful to my husband for ensuring that nearly every month is “super simple” in our house.

    We are both introverts, and get worn out easily by things like travel and social obligations. We love to travel and we love our friends, but we need plenty of downtime after spending time doing either to re-coup. Although this has always been true of me – my people pleasing tendencies led to me to often ignore what it was that I needed in favor of what others wanted from me.

    However, now that I need to factor in my husband into our social and travel plans, I find myself putting a limit (no more than 3 social obligations per month) on ourselves because I know how miserable he would be if I didn’t. Somehow, it’s easier to say “no” for the benefit of someone you love than it is for yourself. That’s something I need to work on this year….taking care of myself as much as I take care of my hubby. :)

  9. posted by Kendra L on

    I did something similar in January. I bought only the essentials. My weekends were 3 day – Friday through Sunday. During this time my focus was on completing unfinished sewing projects, some started long ago. I completed 3 projects. Also the quieter time has helped to restore my energy. Thanks for spreading the “Quiet Month” idea. I feel lots better knowing that I’m not alone in doing this.

  10. posted by Margaret on

    If you constantly feel run down, it is worth getting your thyroid tested. My mom’s family all has low thyroid levels, and they said it made a world of difference once they started taking thyroid medicine.

  11. posted by Vanessa H. on

    Erin, this is a really cool idea! It makes sense, too, to take a break like this after the holidays and at the beginning of a new year.

    I try to keep the concept of the Sabbath in mind. Although I’m not a religious person, I like the idea of having one day a week where you allow yourself to rest. I have a hard time actually doing that, but when I do, I feel ready to take-on the week. Also, I think Cheryl Mendelson’s book on housekeeping mentions traditionally having Sundays to rest because laundry day was Monday and that required physical labor. I think we can use these ideas in our world today too.

  12. posted by Ang. on

    Great idea – I’ve never done this, per se, but I think I’ll talk to my b/f about giving it a try in March.

    I have done something similar with my finances, though. For a number of years I have tried to make every February “Frugality Month”. Although, this does have a somewhat similar effect in that I don’t go out much or do anything that requires money.

    Enjoy your rest!

  13. posted by JC on

    My mother did something similar, but it was a month of mourning and recovery after her father died. She had spent the prior 3 years taking him to chemo and all his doctor visits in addition to continuing helping with her mother who had her first of many strokes 15 years prior and could not drive. She told people after the funeral that she was going on and extended vacation. That if it was an emergency, they could contact her through me. She actually stayed at home, but got an answering machine and didn’t even go to church. We dropped by with fresh eggs and milk a couple times. My aunt lived in the same town and we lived within 45 minutes so there was someone to help Grandma.
    Even though it made several people angry, one being my aunt who had to step up to the plate a bit more, Mom says its one of the best things she ever did.

  14. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Margaret — I had a physical. All is good. I think my depleted energy levels are directly linked to having a baby in the house :)

  15. posted by momofthree on

    Oh to keep things super simple would be wonderful. Venting here and now: I am substituting for a school secretary today whose desk looks as if a tornado hit last week. One drawer has enough pens, pencils, finger tips and erasers to choke a horse. Then there are the three staple removers, at least two dollars of loose change, and other scraps of paper that are too small to identify.

    The best part (SARCASM): Notes that serve NO useful purpose for me as a sub. Just generic “hi and thanks for being my sub today”. At another school I was at last week, the sec’y had the school calendar for the week, any sort of information I could possibly use, and more. Oh, yes, I liked being at that school.

    I am all for keeping it simply simple!!! Life in the fast lane is exhausting and all it got me was tired and cracky, and for a mom, that’s not good.

  16. posted by Simple Pittsburgh on

    Erin,

    I haven’t ever declared a “Super Simple Month”, but I do have a habit of having Do Nothing Days. They are actually more involved than doing nothing for the day, but I find that afterwards I feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.

    I’ll have to try out a month of Super Simple and see how it goes.

  17. posted by Rina on

    @Plain Good Sense – I’m in the same boat with you. My husband and I are both introverts (him more so than me). I used to overdo my social activities instead of taking the downtime I need. But I’ve been with my husband for a couple of years now and we have a standing rule that we don’t have more than one social obligation more than once during the weekdays, and once during the weekend, but we prefer to keep it to once a week.

    I also developed a personal rule that I’d never take on more than one craft/creative project at a time. As a serial project starter who was really bad at finishing things, and an over-buyer of crafting materials, this rule has made a big difference for me. After clearing out my backlog of in-process projects about 2 years ago, I’ve broken this rule a few times, but have mostly stuck to it.

  18. posted by Sarah on

    I occasionally declare a moratorium on scheduling social events, which buys me a fair amount of time and space.

    Recently, I moved away from the city and into the suburbs. I’m only in town two nights a week, and *that* has super-simplifying effects of its own!

  19. posted by Shelby Radcliffe on

    When I decided that 2010 would be the year I finished my master’s degree, I declared the WHOLE YEAR a super simple year. Other than studying, exercising, and eating a healthy meal, I am allowing only one weeknight activity per week. I am going out of town no more than once per month. I am utilizing my lunch hour to see as many local friends as possible. I am telling everyone about my goal (finish!) and asking for patience and support. I’ve encouraged friends to keep asking me to do things, but to understand (and not to tease me) if I decline. As a highly social person with a rich and deep network of friends (I am so lucky), this is very hard for me. So far, my friends and family are exhibiting patience and kindness. I know that they will all be there to help me celebrate in January 2011, when I have defended my thesis and can leave my student days behind me!

  20. posted by chacha1 on

    I guess I am lucky (?) because I am the one who Plans Everything. We have some close friends, but they tend to drop out of sight unless I issue an invitation or suggest an outing. DH hasn’t been a social planner since we were courting! So when I need a Do-Nothing-Day, it’s easy to plan ahead for it: I just don’t plan anything else.

    I am going to propose a Super Simple day/week/month to DH, who is going through a rather overwhelmed time. I am hopeful I can convince him to work a little less and spend a little more time at home. Working on his backlogged projects would be great, but sleeping would be not a bad idea.

  21. posted by Mel on

    Oh yes! After a week or two of everyone going in ten different directions, I always (out of desperation) declare a week of staying home! No eating out, limited social “dates”, turn off the laptop and turn on the relaxing music. Throw the phones in the drawer, light the candles, and grab some books. It’s time to recharge!

  22. posted by Sooz on

    @ JC, your mother was very smart to carve out time for herself to mourn that way.

    @ Plain Good Sense, I hear you because my DH and I are also introverts and very much need our down-time.

    I have become totally unapologetic about marking out private, quiet time for myself as needed, and for DH and myself as a couple. I usually try to set aside either July or August to NOT do anything or go anywhere unless we want to. And we took 10 days off at the end of December and stayed home, refusing all invitations; it was GLORIOUS and very restful to nap as much as we needed, read books, do some de-cluttering (yes!), and just have quiet time.

    We live in an apartment in a city, and one of the ways we enforce our quiet time is this: at the start of the weekend, we turn off ALL the phone ringers, and we actually also turn off our doorbell (DH modified it some years back specifically for that purpose). We will check for phone messages once or twice over the weekend, but we don’t turn the phone ringers back on until Monday morning.

  23. posted by Queen Lucia on

    A year or so ago, in response to demanding family obligations (not fun ones and not necessary ones, just demanding and irritating ones), I started declaring a weekend here and there as “Closed for Business.” I plan nothing at all and spend my time getting back in touch with my laundry, my kitchen, my reading and my couch. I need that grounding every once in a while.

    “Closed for Business” is a reference to what I say whenever we get phone calls before 9am on the weekends (which is annoyingly often): “I guess we’re open for business!”

  24. posted by Just Breathe on

    A couple of years ago, we bought a large upright freezer, and whenever we find a sale on items we use regularly, we stock up. I find I only have to shop for groceries about once every ten days, and we save money in the long run – not only on the sale prices, but by not making impulse buys on frequent trips.

    It is very good to know that we could survive, healthfully, for at least a month, possibly two, with the items in our freezer and pantry.

    I grew up on a farm, and we canned our excess garden produce, as well as produced our own meat and dairy products. Maybe that is why feeling somewhat “self-sufficient” is satisfying to me.

    That said; Erin, I read a few years ago, that greatly increasing levels of exercise, as in preparing for a marathon, is seen as “stress” by the body. When the body is stressed, the immune system can be somewhat weakened.

    Having a Super Simple Month, even though you keep excercising, should help reset your healthy immune response as well.

  25. posted by Leslie on

    I’m so glad you mentioned this. I’m putting a Super Simple Month for July on my calendar right now. June is always crazy with the end of school and family birthdays and this year it will be even more complicated by traveling out of state for our older son’s wedding. A month “off” to recover and get used to new phase of life is a great idea.

  26. Profile photo of

    posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Erin – glad you’ve had a physical and can rule out various deficiencies.

    For everyone else, as well as getting thyroid function checked, it can be worth getting other blood-work done. I have a tendency towards low B12 and (currently) high iron, both of which can make one tired (among other issues).

  27. Profile photo of

    posted by HelofaMess on

    I’ve already tagged this as Monk Month in our household… for us it’s going to be eating healthily, drinking less, and only buying food. Let’s see how we go…

  28. posted by Leah on

    I’m doing a very similar thing this month. We’ve just finished summer school holidays in oz, coming after a full of fun December. This month I am keeping social engagements light – coffee out, no entertaining, no all day visits etc and focusing on getting our daily routines entrenched again and build some good habits. I am doing some projects but after 2 months off them for the most part, the time is ripe :) I warned my friends in advance lol

  29. posted by Lynn on

    I am 57 years old and still learning how to pace myself. Once I hit 50, I realized that I could no longer go-go-go and not pay for it. I turn my phone off at 9pm on weeknights. I’ve been home, sick, for a couple of days, and have mostly slept, but I also created a spreadsheet outlining my debt-retirement plan for the next year and a half. I learned, when the children were small, not to be embarrassed by the phrase “can’t afford it”. I will be doing a lot more cooking at home (on Saturdays), and either next payday or the one after that, I will sign up at the local gym. I had a free trial membership a couple of weeks ago, and I loved how I felt when I was working out while other folks were sleeping (there is absolutely no competition for the recumbent bikes at 4:00am; just sayin’). So, simple food, regular gentle exercise, and lots of happy knitting. Now if I could only convince my body that I would like more than five hours of sleep a night…

  30. Profile photo of

    posted by STLMom on

    Wow, I was thinking that I should START scheduling one social event per week, rather than become a hermit over the winter! I guess everyone has different needs.

  31. posted by Ruckus on

    Hehe. I kind of enforced a no-going-out-on-weeknights policy because I live in LA, work a lot, and its hard to get across town in the evening. I have been sticking to it for the most part, but sometimes scheduling social activities during the week gives me something to look forward to. When I need some downtime, I try to stay in for the weekend and turn down social invites.

    I like this idea, and while I haven’t applied it to a full month, I generally do it in smaller chunks – Simple Day (when I have a holiday or I have freed up a Sunday), Simple Week (usually after a hectic week or two), and now maybe Simple Month or even Simple Year!

  32. posted by Ruckus on

    I wanted to add – its nice to know I am not alone in my efforts to think through and limit social activities! I am also an introvert…with many extroverted friends who sometimes look askance at my peculiar ways…

  33. posted by Shang Lee on

    It’s Chinese New Year celebration this month. it will be anything but simple… maybe next month. ;)

  34. posted by Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com on

    I had a really simple month when I decided to get up at 9am every day as my only goal. Worked great. This month I’m writing to my blog for 1 hour each day.

  35. posted by JakeT on

    About 3 years ago, I changed jobs and moved. When I did, I made a decision to not over-commit myself like I had in the past. It’s been great, but I’ve found after more than a month, it becomes really easy to waste the extra time you gain, waste more time online or watching TV, etc.

    Simplicity is a great idea–just make sure you’re taking advantage of it as best you can.

  36. posted by Deborah on

    Great idea. I do that in January, usually, and sometimes it spills over into February because I enjoy it so much. Ah, who am I kidding? I do it all year long! I’m a huge fan of a simple life. Enjoy!

  37. posted by Ivy Vann on

    This sounds like what I do for Lent every year. It’s all about turning inward and paying attention. It’s a good practice —

  38. posted by Declare A Super Simple Month To Help Set Limits | Lifehacker Australia on

    [...] Setting limits with a Super Simple Month [Unclutterer] Tagged:clutterproductivitytime management [...]

  39. posted by Kelly W on

    What a great idea! Like a few other posters, I feel like Jan and Feb are natural slow months for us, but formalizing it is a great idea. We’re actually hosting a party for my daughter’s baptism, but we will be keeping the menu and preparations VERY simple. We should be able to do all the prep the day before.

    I’ve been staying in and trying to organize as much as I can – fully implemented GTD over January and have been cleaning out all files and my childhood stuff since. Next, my school files! (I’m a grad student).

  40. posted by Jo Ann on

    “Posted by JC – 02/03/2010

    My mother did something similar, but it was a month of mourning and recovery after her father died…”

    I did something similar, but it was actually before my mother died. She had a three year battle with cancer, and when I knew the final stretch was ahead of us, I shut down for one month. I did nothing that was not absolutely necessary. It’s true, some people get angry with you. (My mother included.) But I knew I would not be able to handle what lay ahead if I did not.

    I think the point is: we can do it when it is a matter of survival. We should make an effort to do it when we aren’t, it could even be more beneficial.

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  43. posted by Cathy on

    We “take the summer off” every year. Other than work, we make no plans, the kids don’t play sports, take dance lessons, etc. That way we have time to relax, enjoy each other and have time for impromptu gatherings with friends and family. It really makes summer special!

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  49. posted by Denise on

    Thank you for giving me a usable title for the lethargy that I am experiencing right now with trying to acclimate my body to working a graveyard shift — though I have plenty of days off in between my days on, three weeks in and I am still finding myself to be largely unproductive and lethargic during waking hours and, with an very large amount of uncluttering to do (I fear I may be a hoarder), I so desperately cannot let this continue for much longer! That said, however, I am adopting a super simple attitude by embracing your Super Simple Month philosophy and letting myself and my body take the time it needs to rejuvenate itself which will soon allow me to do the things I need to do to live a remarkable life! Thank you.

  50. posted by Saturday’s assorted links on

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  51. posted by Elaine on

    Occasionally I will try (with limited success) to disconnect from the depressing side of life by avoiding the news. I’m an information junkie and feel genuine physical withdrawal when I spend more than a few hours away from the Internet. But there’s a lot of doom & gloom out there — enough of it and you come away with a “what’s the use?” attitude. Who needs that? But I’ve never been able to keep up the disconnect for more than a week.

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