How not working ain’t what I thought it would be

Stress is the perversion of time. ~ John O’Donohue

Since leaving full-time employment at the beginning of December, I’ve struggled with how to structure my days. This is the first post on how that’s going for me.

Every full-time employee dreams of being able to call her time her own rather than trying to squeeze her life into and around the 40-hour, Monday through Friday workweek.

When I was working, I dreamed of owning my time, of getting up when my body was ready to get up instead of when the alarm woke me. I dreamed of doing yoga and meditation each morning before a leisurely breakfast and then working productively on my writing, meeting friends for lunch, going for walks, taking or teaching the occasional yoga class, taking my laptop to a coffeehouse for a chai and wi-fi just to get out of the house. In the evenings I’d read or watch movies, cook, have friends over, and occasionally go out.

Well. That was the ideal, not what was real. It’s been more of a struggle than I anticipated.

I had just put my house on the market before leaving my job, so I’d already done a lot of downsizing and cleaning. My goal was to get the house listed by the end of November, which happened. Yay, I reached my goal!

But to reach it, I had stuffed a large pile of papers (mail, bills, receipts, papers I had no idea what to do with but couldn’t just recycle) into a cardboard box and stuck it on a shelf in my study to make the house look tidy for prospective buyers.

(I feel compelled to explain that I am messy by nature. I like being able to see things, having them out in full view. Staging is the antithesis of that. You make your house look impersonal. You take down all your photos and get rid of your clutter. You start living in a house that doesn’t feel like your house. It feels like somebody else’s house — somebody who lives in a magazine.)

It took a few days to get around to that box of papers after my job ended. The first weekend I spent as an assistant at NLP training. The second weekend I participated in an Evolutionary NLP workshop. In between, I’m happy to say, I did get that pile of papers sorted and filed.

And there was the excitement of being contacted about possibly being on a TV show, Sell This House. Ultimately, my house wasn’t chosen, and I don’t know whether to feel sorry or relieved about that. All this during December, with holiday events and parties and activities galore.

For Sale

The other thing that brought my dream schedule down to earth was showing the house. Realtors would call about showing it to prospective buyers either later that day or the next, and I would need to clean up and leave, usually right before they arrived.

I’ve got this down to a quick routine 5 weeks later, but it took awhile to learn to tidy one room at a time.

  • In the kitchen, wash the dishes, dry them, and put them away. Then clean the sinks, countertops, and stove top. Eyeball the room for anything out of place.
  • Take my caddy of toiletries out of my small bathroom and hide it in the laundry room. (This is so people can imagine their stuff in my bathroom!) Eyeball the room for anything out of place.
  • Shove my desktop-type clutter of calendars and bills and receipts and magazines into a basket and stick it on the shelf in my study. (See, I learned well and upgraded from a box to a basket!) Eyeball the room for anything out of place.
  • Check that my bed is neatly made and dirty clothes in the basket, preferably not with my underwear on top. Eyeball the room for anything out of place.
  • In the yoga/meditation studio (formerly the second bedroom), roll up my yoga mat and put my foam roller away. Eyeball the room for anything out of place — except I decided that people need to see that yoga mat and foam roller out and being used. Seeing these items out makes them (that is, me) feel good.
  • Make sure the house smells nice. Clean the cat’s litter box and sweep up around it. Take out the trash and recycling. Upend the fragrance sticks in the entry hall to diffuse the aroma.
  • Eyeball the entire house, porch, and yard for anything out of place.
  • Leave. Don’t come back for at least an hour.

Sometimes there are two or even three showings a day. I’ve done so much housekeeping in the last five weeks, I could become a maid.

The truth is, I appreciate my new habits very much. I enjoy living in a clean, tidy, spacious, decluttered house. It feels very Zen.

And now it’s January 8, and I still haven’t settled into the kind of structure I imagined. I go to bed later and get up later. When I do get up, why, sometimes I get sucked right into my laptop (Facebook, email, and blog stats are like crack) before I’ve done any yoga or meditation, and the next thing I know, it’s 10 am and I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. And then a realtor calls and wants to show it at 11….

I want to do better than this.


10 thoughts on “How not working ain’t what I thought it would be

  1. I’m not working very much right now and work at home when I do, so I can relate. I have a very loose “structure”: breakfast, walk the dog, journal, spiritual reading, meditation, and long exercise in the morning. The afternoons are taken with things like looking for more work or doing work, doing some of those long-put-off to-do items, paperwork, etc. The evenings I will read, blog, watch a little TV, surf the web, and often look for work again. Having this loose structure is enough for me. I can feel my mind slowing down and my tight muscles starting to loosen after doing this for a while. Time begins to have less importance and I like that.


    • Diane, I’m curious. Have you made it a rule to not get online before you’ve eaten and walked the dog? I think I may need to do that. I like your loose structure a lot. Glad you are reaping the benefits. This culture seems to encourage chronic stress.


  2. I think having a “no internet” time in the morning (and maybe other times during the day, too) is a really good practice! That’s something I’m working on for myself, too.

    I also love that you’re bolding important statements — it makes it so easy to ready your entries quickly. Thanks!


    • I am coming to that very same conclusion, Katie. No getting online before 9 am, or something like that. And I could limit Facebook to 15 minutes twice a day.

      Yeah, one day realized I could make the text more interesting visually. I’m getting more interested in adding photos. Expect to see more!

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. I found the same thing when I left my job in 2009 — I tried to ‘do’ all the things I hadn’t had time for, but didn’t realize how deeply exhausted I was from the nonsense at the day job. If I were to do it over again, I’d *intentionally* take 4-6 weeks and give myself permission to *do nothing*, and not try to _push_ myself to keep going. Somewhere around week 4-6, I’d *intentionally* add one or two things onto my calendar (I’m more likely to do something when it’s on my calendar), and every couple of weeks I’d see about adding another class or something.

    During week 4-6 I would also look more seriously at the option of a p.t. job simple as a way to structure part of my day/week. Or, alternately, spend more time with regularly scheduled volunteer activities.

    Of course, as long as you have a car, you have more options and way more mobility than the bus-bound. I’ve found that I experience ‘bus fatigue’ from all the riding and waiting and waiting and waiting and riding just to get around. So having a car is a great help in being able to structure your day effectively. Trust me on this. 🙂


    • It does help to really tune in to our bodies and to get perspective. I like what Diane said in her comment, that quieting her mind and opening to receiving good and abundance in her life has brought her work.

      Each day I’m feeling more centered in my life and more clear about my long-term goals and the variety of ways to get there.

      I’m sending it to the Universe that you need a job close to your home!


    • Wonderful, Diane! I’m very happy to hear this. It’s inspiring!

      What’s been working for me since I wrote this post is using a timer when I’m at my computer. I set it for 60 minutes, and when it goes off, I get up and do something else. Housework, yoga, reiki, running an errand — doesn’t matter as long as it’s moving my body and/or energy.


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