Young@Heart: Tips for Guilt-Free Couch Time

Have you ever traveled a long way and upon arrival to someone’s home the host asks, “Would you like to freshen up?” Indeed, freshen up after a long journey sounds fabulous! Often, right before my dad came home from work, my mom would say to my sister Peggy and me, “Girls, your dad’ll be home in 15 minutes, I’m going to go freshen up.” She’d be in the bathroom for about ten minutes and when she’d come out, she looked fresh. What I didn’t realize back then was my BO mother was setting the stage for her leisurely evening with my dad.

During your day, find as many ways as you can to get things done so that you can stop work at 6:00 pm. Consider it quitting time. If you tend to be frazzled in the evening, you’ll love my 4 tips for making guilt-free couch time a reality

1. Get Organized

By getting organized and creating a routine, you’ll work smart in your day, and give yourself leisure evenings. Peggy and I were in bed by 8:30 and that gave my dad and mom time alone to relax and enjoy their evenings with each other, Pam and Peggy-free.

When I had kids of my own, I remember wanting that same goal, but because I was disorganized, I didn’t have good habits and wasn’t in control of a routine that enabled me to get the kids in bed by 8:30. Instead of heading to the bathroom to freshen up before my husband got home for dinner, I’d be thawing steaks in the dishwasher (no soap)(pre-microwave days) and deciding whether to get dressed or just stay in my pajamas. We’d eat late, and the kids would be in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 if I were lucky.

2. Make ahead Meals

   Freeze Some Free Time

Having a freezer is like having a time capsule. With a freezer, you can actually freeze free time. For example, when I make chili and soups, I make enough for four to six extra meals and freeze in Zip-Lock freezer bags to use when I’m super busy or I’m not in the mood to cook. Since you’re going to make a mess anyway when you cook, you may as well get more meals for your mess. When you cook double a couple times a week and freeze your entrées for another night, you become your own convenience food company. By freezing meals, you save the prep and clean-up time for those frozen meals to be served later.

When I make a salad for my husband and me, I make enough for two nights and before I put dressing on it, I put half the lettuce and vegetables (tomatoes, green onions, fresh parsley, radishes etc.) in a Zip-Lock bag for the next night. I make my own salad dressings (a week’s supply at a time) and add it to the salad and toss, right before serving.

The convenience food industry would love us to believe that they are helping busy moms, get food on the table quick and easy, but in reality, it takes the same amount of time and energy to bake a chicken, roast some healthy sweet potatoes, and toss a fresh, green salad as it does to prepare stuff from a box, and when you prepare enough for another day or two, you’ll be freezing free time for the future.

3. Learn to Delegate

Think about all the chores that can be done before six and get the family into a routine that involves them accomplishing those chores. Kids can bathe, set out clothes for tomorrow, and tidy up their rooms before dinner. They can also help with laundry, vacuum, dust, set the table and meal preparation. After six, when dinner is over, delegate kitchen clean-up to the family and go get in your jammies.

In my book The Joy of Being Disorganized, I wrote about the art of delegation. It is an art and most moms I know are not very good at it. Here’s an excerpt from the book about the art.

What’s very interesting about delegating is that once a job has been assigned to someone else and you are no longer responsible for doing it, you’ll find that you’ll be more willing to do that job as well. For example, my husband Terry does all dishes for every meal and, with that chore off my shoulders, I feel free. In that freedom, often I’ll have the thought, “I’ll surprise Terry and wash all the pots and pans before I call him to dinner,” or “I’ll tell him after breakfast that I’ll do the dishes because I know all the extra work he has to do right now.” Also, when jobs are delegated and there is an offer to help by the delegator, there is so much gratitude for the help! Before you know it, the delegatee will return the favor and do one of the chores on the delegator’s list. It’s a beautiful cycle!

4. Enlightened Selfishness

Be selfish about your personal time. Make a list of down-time activities like luxuriating in a bubble bath, reading, watching a movie, playing with a hobby that relaxes you and such.

Learn to say, “NO”

Get into the mindset, if you’re not already, that you deserve help. Getting help doesn’t mean you are some poor soul who isn’t strong enough to do it all. I remember in my young motherhood, taking on more than I could possibly do, just to be liked. When I figured out what was behind my unreasonably overbooked schedule, I started saying “NO,” If you’re a people pleaser; this is going to be a new skill you’ll need to learn.

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