Having a new baby means you have to let go of many expectations of yourself and settle for lots of “partial solutions” (as Tsh calls them). For example, I am not currently exercising regularly or journaling daily and I miss these two habits a lot. Reflecting on what is working for me right now is a helpful exercise in gratitude.
Lots of things are tricky in this season, but there’s plenty of progress and forward momentum I won’t take for granted. My Good List includes a thing, a habit, a work of art, and a philosophy that’s making my life better right now.
1. My Kindle
I know that there isn’t anything new and revolutionary about a Kindle, however because I spend so much of my time sitting and nursing a newborn, being able to read with one hand and “turn” pages with a tap has been significant in bringing joy to my life recently.
I have a Kindle Paperwhite and being able to read in low- or no-light situations is also really helpful. I didn’t have a Kindle 10 years ago with baby #1 and I remember all the funny ways I tried to figure out how to prop up a book and turn pages while nursing.
The other reason a Kindle is on my good list is because my husband and I are currently doing three months of not buying anything that’s not a consumable (food, cleaning supplies, etc.). Not only can I get e-books from the library, but I realized I have so many books already on my Kindle that I bought on sale (usually recommended by Anne Bogel) and have not yet read.
2. A weekly meeting with my husband
With four kids, one of them just a few months old, to say date nights are rare and precious is an understatement. In December, we went on a date and spent almost the whole time discussing things I would consider “business” or “admin” items: schedules, a budget discussion, home improvement projects. Not so romantic or helpful to deepening our connection.
Although important in order to run a household and raise children together, we both wanted to find a way to separate those conversations from date nights. I also realized that trying to discuss many of those topics on a normal evening wasn’t working because I just don’t have a lot of patience left at 9 p.m. to discuss anything that may involve a compromise.
It’s been only one month of having this meeting one morning per week, but it has helped our relationship and my stress levels so much. It is so helpful to know there is a time set aside to discuss those things, and I don’t have to worry about when we will find time to talk about them.
3. A beautiful book written by a friend
I recently read an advanced reader copy of All of Me, by Chris Baron. It is a middle grade novel in verse and will be available this summer. Disclaimer: The author is my friend-in-real-life and neighbor and of course I want everyone to go buy his book and support him. But also, reading this story stirred up such deep compassion in me. And I realized that’s one of the things I love most about reading: stepping into someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. I am so thankful for people who do the work to put their stories into the world.
4. “Outer order contributes to inner calm.”
This is a quote from Gretchen Rubin and also the topic of her forthcoming book about decluttering: Outer Order, Inner Calm. I was able to read an advanced copy of this book as well and the format of the book, offering lots of strategies to try (instead of one step-by-step method that should work for everyone), really resonated with me.
The concept of outer order and its connection to inner calm may be obvious to most people, but I recently had a revelation that it was actually true for me. When I was a kid I had a poster that said: “I’m not messy. I’m creative.” Let’s just say that my room as a child definitely reflected this attitude. Unfortunately, my living spaces as an adult also continued that trend. And I’m very creative.
In college, I would do my best to keep things neat enough to respect my roommates. Since being married I have attempted to contribute to keeping our home tidy out of love for my husband because I know it deeply affects him. But I genuinely thought it didn’t bother me one way or the other. I was just doing it for other people.
I recently realized that my stress level goes down when there’s less visual clutter. Mind blown.
I should mention that this realization doesn’t mean I’m currently focusing on major decluttering projects. I have a still-new baby and let’s be real, I’m in the stage where being able to take an unrushed shower sparks joy more than almost anything else. But shifting my mindset and realizing that I want to declutter because it matters to me, not just as an act of service to others, is huge.
• Listen to the podcast episode about this post.