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Take Full Advantage of Limited Free Time

By Rachel Meeks

Some days my lists of plans and projects is a mile long. It reminds me of all the activities and clubs that Max Fischer leads at Rushmore Academy during the first minute of the movie Rushmore (watch the movie clip by Wes Anderson).

Flashback nearly six years ago: I was a brand new mom who started staying at home with a baby who slept five hours each day. I left a corporate job, and I was enjoying free time the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years.

I could read. I could daydream.

While my baby took naps I had time to cook meals, clean the house, and I still had lots of time to read. I like to learn how to make and do things, and not only did I have time to read about it, I could do it! I had free time and plans to fill it.

The internet gives me more ideas to try. Baby pants! Knitting! I made soap. I sewed. The only thing stopping me from starting an urban farm with chickens and bees was the fact that we had no backyard at our apartment.

My first child had been a champion sleeper, but my second child never wanted to sleep.

I changed from being a stay-at-home mom of one baby with loads of peaceful quiet time to a mom of two little kids who would not nap nor sleep at night.

I’m an introvert, so I become recharged by having quiet time to reflect. I was starved for peaceful quiet time. My brain was tired. My body was tired. My list was long, and time was short.

When once in a while someone would help me with the kids, I was surprised by the result. I finally had some coveted free time, but I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

The babysitting time never seemed quite long enough to really get into something, so I often found myself doing what I normally do: I looked at the mess and started cleaning up. For a few amazing minutes the house was clean! It was a relief, briefly. And then the kids came home, we lived life, and the house went back to its usual state.

I finally started learning not to clean during the small amount of time that I have to myself. I don’t get very much of it, so I use it to concentrate on quiet work such as writing. Sometimes I just lay face-down on the floor and absorb the silence. Last week I paid my thirteen-year-old neighbor to come over and babysit for an hour so I could be in a room by myself and paint my nails. It was the most frivolous use of time, and I mean that in a good way.

I don’t try as many hobbies as I did a few years ago. Now I’m more inclined to focus on few selected projects for work, though my list is still long. Sometimes I trade childcare help with a friend, or once in a while I have some babysitting help during the daytime, and I’m getting better at using that time in a restorative, purposeful way that will recharge me.

I save the cleaning for when my kids are with me, and I make them help. They can talk away while helping me fold laundry, and we’re better for it.

Do you wonder about how to best take advantage of limited free time too?

About the Author

Rachel Meeks

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to b...

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to be a parent when you’re not surrounded by a ton of stuff.)

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i can identify with this post soooo much. i really relish quiet alone time but between my partner and my 1 year old i am so busy that i scarcely have any time to myself. saturday night my partner had to go to a work function and i stayed home with the baby who was soon in bed asleep. i didn’t know what to do with myself other than enjoy the peace and quiet. the tv was not turned on, no tidying was attempted, i just lay on the sofa with a book. it was blissful. sometimes we just need… Read more »


Oh my misery, I hear you loud and clear. I have a 4 year old and a 6 year old and work full time. Once you add on volunteering as a soccer coach and girl scout leader, I am exhausted. My problem is that I still can’t just take the few moments of “quiet time” I get and be friviolous with them. Now that the kids are a little older, they are great at playing quietly and together and I work so hard to clean during those moments. My bottom line is that I need to be ok with sitting… Read more »


It took over half a year for me to get free time for myself. The first week or so I basically just sat and stared. Then I tried to tried to do chores around the house but soon felt that there was no time for my personal pursuits. Now I prioritize what I isn’t possible to do when the kid’s awake first (personal projects, approaching deadline items, the next book chapter, etc) and try to get the other stuff while he’s playing (laundry, cleaning, light organizing). It may take 3 times longer to do the latter, but it’s worth it.

Margo, Thrift at Home

This is exactly how I budget my time! If it’s something that can be done while I’m chatting on the phone with my best friend or with the kids around, I do NOT do it in my precious alone time. Now that I’ve started working outside our house 2 days a week, most of my childcare is used for that work time. I miss having childcare here and there for just ME, to be at home by myself. Maybe if I told my husband how sweet this is to me, he would help it happen instead of other gifts 😉

Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

Funny, my M-I-L normally takes Eleanor for a few hours every other week. Usually I use those hours to blog or read. But this week I spent them cleaning and grocery shopping. So I worked like crazy all Monday morning – cleaned the whole house from top to bottom, went grocery shopping, and put the groceries all away. And, during naptime the last 3 days, instead of having to clean a little every day like I normally do, I’ve just sat around reading, or wasting time on Pinterest.

So I guess my experience this week was the opposite of yours! 🙂

Kim @ Extra Organised

I often feel overwhelmed with free time, and pressured to make the best use of it! I definitely try to leave any tasks that can be done with others around until they are; and prefer to enjoy the peace and quiet and time for reflection to recharge.


So timely! Today I had 4 hours of babysitting time at my disposal, and after dropping my middle child at preschool I did the following: a workout, a shower, a takeout lunch eaten outside, plus reading while lying in the grass.
I am going through a stressful time, and this recharge in sunlight was exactly what I needed. What amazes me is that something that in my single life that would’ve felt nice now feels like a MAJOR indulgence, so much so that I have to fight the urge to feel guilty about it.