6 small changes I’m glad I made

21 February 2024

Inspired by a recent Lazy Genius podcast episode, I thought we could chat today about a few small changes I’ve made recently that are bringing me outsize joy. To be clear, these are inexpensive, small, one-time changes, not necessarily steps on the way to a bigger change (though, of course, even small changes are always leading us somewhere!).

Not many of Kendra’s examples could be copy and pasted into my life, and I’m guessing mine wouldn’t fit exactly into your life, either — but hearing her changes immediately got my wheels turning, and I hope mine can do the same for you!

1. We bought a giant umbrella. As many of you know, we walk or ride bikes to elementary school each day. For the last few years, we’ve grabbed one of a handful of normal-sized umbrellas (each in various states of disrepair) on rainy days, then did our best to fit a grown-up, child, and backpack underneath.

Then! John bought this absolutely enormous golf umbrella a few months ago, and everyone can fit under with ease. Rainy days are positively luxurious now.

2. I leave ten minutes early for preschool pickup instead of five. I used to brag that it took three minutes to go door-to-door from our home to our two younger kids’ preschool, and while on the best of days that might be true, five minutes is a far more realistic average. Plus, they’ve changed a light pattern between here and there in the last year, and traffic has generally picked up on this particular stretch of road.

All this to say — I often made it in time leaving five minutes before pickup, but it was stressful. A few months ago, I committed to walking out the door with ten minutes on the clock, and it is the easiest-breeziest feeling to know I will arrive with time to spare.

(I wrote about this more generally a bit in my 2023 best-of recap!)

3. I set my alarm ten minutes earlier. I’m an avowed snoozer — I do not like to get out of bed at the first chime of my alarm. While I don’t think there’s a moral component to snoozing or not, it can put a kink in my morning routine.

Recently, I had the somewhat brilliant realization that while it would not matter to my body or brain if my alarm went off at 7:20 versus 7:30, I would have effectively moved my start time up by ten minutes as long as I committed to a single snooze. So I did, and it worked! Friends, you would not believe the difference ten extra minutes has made in my morning routine — I think I’m going to write a separate post about it, because this and a few other tiny changes have really added up.

4. I say yes every time John asks me to go on a midday walk. John and I both work from home three days a week. On those days, we’ll often go for a brisk 13-minute walk right after lunch. (Yes, we’ve got our normal loop down to a science!) Some days, though, I’d be in the middle of a task, or just feeling behind, and I’d beg off.

No more. Now, I always say yes. Nothing in my job is so urgent that it can’t wait 15 minutes, and my days are greatly improved by getting outside in the sunshine with the person I love most.

5. I listen to a podcast while making kids’ lunches in the evening. I have been known to grumble about how I don’t have enough time to keep up with the podcasts I subscribe to (especially now that I don’t commute to work). In an inspired application of the behavioral intervention temptation bundling (basically, combining something you have to do with something you want to do), I decided to take the extra minute to pair and pop in my earbuds before pulling out the lunchboxes each evening as I try to develop this habit. Catching up on Coffee and Crumbs, Risen Motherhood, or Honestly makes this somewhat-tedious 15 minutes something I look forward to.

6. I park far away. While I’ve been a default-stairs gal for awhile (my OB’s office was on the third floor and I took great pride in the fact that I never took the elevator through all three pregnancies, ha!), I’ve recently recommitted to parking in the back corner of the lot. Not always (not at night, not when I’m crunched for time, you know the drill), but when it’s at all reasonable, I do it. Every little bit of activity throughout the day helps! Plus, I kind of delight in making the “weird” and “slow living” choice :)

I tossed this question out to the Articles Club gals on our group chat and thought it could be fun to share a few of their answers, too! Here we go…

I have duplicate cleaning supplies on both levels of our house, which means our bathrooms stay much cleaner… though cleaning a bathroom still doesn’t make me happy. — Pressley

I plan out all my Peloton workouts on Monday and “schedule” them all, down to the exact class, so I don’t have to think about it the rest of the week. — Chelsey

We moved our socks to our dining room buffet. So much easier than walking back upstairs when we need to get out the door! — Ginna

On Sunday afternoons one of us now makes lunches for all four of us (two parents, two kids) for Monday and Tuesday. Not having to make a lunch on Monday evening delights me every single week! — Bethany

I keep a “gifts” note on my phone with gift ideas for… myself! My mind used to go blank when someone asked me but now I can just pull it up. — Chelsey

We bought giant containers of ranch and taco seasoning – no more worrying if we have a little packet in the pantry! — Libby

I taped a note by the front door of essentials we have to have when we leave the house on a weekday morning. (Me = phone, laptop, lunch; son = lunch, book bag with folder, water bottle; daughter = bottles, low supplies). Simple but effective! — Kelly

I’d love to hear: what small changes have you made recently that have made a difference? Please join in in the comments!

P.S. If you like this post, it reminded me of this one about my “decide once” list (also inspired by Kendra!), this one on low-screen living cues around our home, and this one on things I don’t do (written in 2018 – I think it’s time for an update!).

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February 21, 2024 5:54 am

I love this idea and my wheels are totally turning! Recently I gave in and started slicing up my daughters strawberries for lunch Sunday night so I don’t have to grumble while I try and slice them Daily every morning!

February 21, 2024 10:38 am

These are my favorite types of posts! I keep socks by the back door (with all the shoes). I wash and dry at least one one load of laundry per day (6 people’s clothes adds up quickly!). I pretty much always make slow cooker pot roast on Tuesdays, our homeschool co-op day. It’s one less worry when we get home tired and hungry after a long day. And my favorite these days…I keep a waste basket and trash bags in our van for all the car trash. 😅

Judy
February 21, 2024 11:48 am

random post request, related to one of these, but would love more real-life mom examples of how you (or others in your life who are not striving for insta-perfection, but decent variety of nutrition) handle packing lunches. I feel like you probably have a great system and in general it just takes way more brain space/effort than I want it to with only one kid. How would I handle more?! I clearly need to do a better job at establishing go-to staples, but it’s been such a mental block for some reason.

Leigh
February 21, 2024 12:00 pm
Reply to  Judy

Hi, real-life mom here packing lunch for a 2nd grader at a nut-free school. I have a note on my phone of tried-and-true main dishes (e.g., turkey and cheese sandwich, cold cheese tortellini, cream cheese and jelly on raisin bread, egg muffins) and on grocery list making day (Friday) we pick two lunch mains for the week. He then adds one fruit and one veg based on season and sales. I finish the lunchbox with one homemade, whole-wheat muffin (flavors vary by season/pantry staple, I make a standard batch of 12 every two weeks and freeze) and one salty snack. Thinking of it in terms of 5 elements and rotating through streamlined it for us; I hope this helps you!

Kristen M
February 21, 2024 2:37 pm
Reply to  Em

Echoing Emily – my kids (one is 8 and in 2nd grade, the other is 4 and in full day preK) like to eat the same thing every day for almost weeks on end – it ends up usually being turkey or salami rollups with colby jack cheese (they too don’t really like bread?!); fruit, carrots or cucumber slices, something salty (for my oldest it usually is nuts but my youngest it’s often goldfish bc her school is nutfree), and a little treat (usually a cookie, but near holidays it tends to be like, one or two mini chocolates just because they’re in the house). Occasionally we’ll have weeks of bagels (the exception to the bread rule) with cream cheese instead of the rollups or a week where we pack a yogurt along with the meal. It makes it easy to just have the same things on the grocery list, I know they’ll eat it all, and it’s now so ingrained they often are the ones that pack it (we always pack lunches the night before – that’s one of my small changes!). I always had a pbj, fruit, yogurt, and a treat in my lunch box growing up so I guess they’re wired just like me!

Megan
February 22, 2024 11:03 am
Reply to  Em

Yes! I have to say, Em, that you inspired me to standardize my toddler’s lunch every day. He gets: 2 mini muffins (hidden veggies and fruit inside), a sunbutter and jelly sandwich OR black bean and cheese quesadilla, fruit and veggie, and yogurt. Even in our current toddler finicky phase, this usually meets with approval.

Stephanie
February 21, 2024 4:23 pm
Reply to  Judy

Greetings from the lunch-packing trenches! I pack for my first grader (dreading the day I have to start packing two!) and she almost always gets an almond butter and jelly sandwich. With crusts cut off, because she’s high maintenance like that! Then berries, canned peaches, or grapes in the second compartment, and plantain chips, potato chips, hummus and carrots, babybel, olives, or something in the third section. Also a piece of Halloween candy that we seem to have year round :) Sometimes I send yogurt or lunch meat or a bagel instead of the sandwich. But the change I recently made was letting her pick hot lunch more than once a week (once a week was our routine in kindergarten). It usually ends up being twice a week but it still feels like a break! Highly recommend if that’s an option.

Cara
February 22, 2024 12:59 pm
Reply to  Stephanie

Growing up I ate sandwich, fruit & veggies, something salty (pretzels, Chex mix, crackers, etc.,) and something sweet (fruit snacks, cookie, etc.) in my lunchbox. I still do the same as an adult! :) I prep fruit & veg at the beginning of the week so the only thing I make daily is a sandwich

Jewel
February 21, 2024 12:04 pm

After nearly 11 years married, I finally let my husband have a designated weekday to be responsible for dinner (cooking, taking us out, ordering in). This was difficult for me because I love cooking at home and I love eating good tasting food. I’m not an “eat for fuel” person. I need to enjoy what I’m eating. And my husband…only knows how to cook two things. My husband has offered and urged me to let him handle dinner sometimes and I’ve refused to relinquish any days to him, until now! I had to admit that now as a working mom with a more demanding job, I just can’t cook it all! Lol So now, every Thursday, I surrender to whatever he’s decided to serve us, even if it is spaghetti again (a meal that I grew out of craving every week when I was 16). Small changes.

Pressley
February 21, 2024 12:59 pm

I cleaned a bathroom last night while listening to an audiobook and using my upstairs cleaning supplies. Still didn’t make me happy. I might need to add one more level of temptation/treat to that bundle for true joy, ha!

Sarah
February 21, 2024 5:49 pm

Small recent changes I’m glad I made:

  1. A note by lunchboxes the night before with all the morning before-school reminders, (library for kid x, closed shoes for excursion for kid y, after school activities/bus vs car pickup line, etc.) Plus, I can write my breakfast/lunchbox plan on this!
  2. After watching the Blue Zones in January, Sunday dinner is now designated “Soup & sourdough” night! This has clicked Sourdough into a good rhythm, (I prepare anytime on Saturday, chill formed loaves in the fridge overnight, and bake Sunday morning, leftovers get sliced and frozen Sunday evening). Plus, soup (hubby requested Minestrone-ish),is easy, healthy, and any leftovers are great for my lunches on subsequent days!
  3. Printing instead of pinning recipes I want to try – forces me to be a little more realistic in recipe selection, easier to use in the kitchen, and a breeze for menu planning!
  4. Buying books that are paper instead of saving the money and going digital. I want my kids to see me reading, (at age 6 & 8), so the extra financial investment is worthwhile this year! A pleasure to read :)
  5. I’m finding a few ways to track bigger picture goals into my planner….loving these really small tweaks for decision making. A little more fine tuning to do!
  6. Preparing a batch of concentrate drink (cumquat/mint water, spice molasses latte, iced coffee), and having easy to access ice on hand!
  7. We swapped to smaller dinner plates! They’re easier to stack and store, I eat less, and I like that as a family we all use matching now (Instead of smaller for the kids/larger for the adults) :-)
Lauren
February 26, 2024 4:09 am
Reply to  Sarah

I did the same thing for number 3! It’s been so good. I also try make one new dish a week, in between the usual fare and found that it stops it from getting overwhelming ha ha. Side tip: I saw this thing on Instagram where you type cooked.wiki/ right at the beginning of a recipe URL and it condenses it for you (I really didn’t think it would work). I like reading the blog posts for tips but when I want to print it I just want the summary without all the background text. And then stick it on the fridge ready for the week :)

Beth
February 25, 2024 3:36 pm

Add me to the moving socks club! I just moved mine downstairs to a basket near my shoes are and what a difference it makes! I wouldn’t have thought such a small change could
make such a big difference!

Cherith
February 25, 2024 10:16 pm

I’ve been noodling on the socks by the door and now I’m convinced based on all of these other votes for it.

What a great idea to podcast while packing lunches!

February 27, 2024 1:46 pm

We started collecting all of the library books in a pile on the stairs by the back/garage door once they are read. That way I know those are read and ready to be returned, meaning I don’t have to go find all the books and ask the kids which ones they read/which ones might need to be extended etc. Small change, but is making my life a lot easier :)