In Defense of Non-Productivity

by Katy on November 17, 2015 · 14 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!


I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I could conceivably clean, cook, organize and generally work on my house every waking moment and never, ever run out of stuff to do.

Yes my house is big, but it’s not monstrous. There’s just one bathroom to clean, (this is the positive spin with which I choose to view the just one bathroom issue) and most of our everythings have a place to go.

But if I prioritized being productive over quality of life, I would never find the time to snuggle with my children or take a walk with a friend on a sunny day.

Which is why I value non-productivity.

Leaving the dinner dishes out so that I can watch a movie with the kids; allow the piano to grow a layer of dust so I can visit with a friend.

This may sound like I’m shirking my duties, but I’m really not. Everyone has clean clothes, food in their belly and money in the bank. I work two to three days per week as a labor and delivery nurse, and I stretch the dollars so that I can have time to goof off.

It may look from the outside like I’m just bone lazy.

But I hardly think I’ll lie on my deathbed and be thinking about my shiny kitchen floors and super-organized paperwork. No. I hope that I’ll feel I’ve spent my time on the people and activities I love.

I can certainly push my whirling dervish button and demonstrate a style of productivity to rival Martha Stewart’s. (And I do this about once a week.) But I have zero interest in maintaining this pace. I’d rather be the mom who walked slowly to the library and then snuggled up with a kid while watching a movie.

You can have your to-do lists, I’ll be upstairs. But shh . . . I may be taking a nap.

Five Things You Can Do Today To Support A Non-Productive Lifestyle

  1. Allow yourself to just say no to demands on your time. It’s perfectly okay to prioritize downtime.
  2. Accept a less than perfect house. Keeping your house clean at all times is not a natural state. My dining room is currently decorated by some half-finished art projects and a scattering of felt tips. This is okay, as it means actual people who engage in actual activities live here.
  3. Practice Conscious Frugality. The less money you spend, the less you need to earn. This frees up time and energy; and helps you from getting burned out at work.
  4. Join The Compact. (Buy nothing new.) By stepping away from autopilot consumerism, you free yourself from the unwinnable competition with the Joneses.
  5. Choose one day per week to dedicate to accomplishing as little as possible. This is not the day to finish projects or run errands. Sleep in, read novels and simply — relax.

Are you a go-go-go whirlwind of activity? Do you allow yourself time to do the things that give you pleasure? Do you wait for your one vacation per year to actually read a novel? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dale Emanuel November 17, 2015 at 4:51 am

You are a rare person who sees the value of taking care of ones spirit and making sure to celebrate the essence of people you love. I may be a wee bit late for work today. Thank you for the nudge towards contentment, Katy!


Diane November 17, 2015 at 5:29 am

I struggle with this. I hate sitting still to watch a show or read or do what my husband calls “relax” (though I like having a show on in the background). Unless it’s a life-changing show or book, I feel I’ve wasted my time and I could have been doing so many other things. When I’m stressed out, it doesn’t make me feel better to be still, it makes me feel better to fold laundry or sweep up the drifts of dog hair or get lunches ready for the next day. I do have to make a conscious effort to stop and pay attention when one of my children wants me to cuddle or read a book, but I still feel that “pull” of wanting to get a chore done.


Christine November 17, 2015 at 7:38 pm

I’m right there with you, Diane. I don’t stop long enough to watch tv and I find the thought of a movie unappealing because of the thought of sitting that long. I am a woman in constant motion, for better or worse.


Isabelle November 17, 2015 at 6:05 am

When there is stuff to do and I just sit down and try to relax I feel guilty. And I can’t rest until all is done. Also, I don’t do well in chaos. I can’t relax if the house is a mess. I literally feel like I’m breathing better when all is put away, the floor is clean, the dishes is done, etc. That said, I am not a “cleaner”. I do the day-to-day chores that needs to be done, but I’m not one to go on my knees to scrub the floors. I maintain.
I have the chance to have 1.5 hours “for myself” every afternoons to do all the tasks at home (dishes, prepare lunchs for the next day, do supper, laundry, fold and put away clothes, vaccum, wash bathrooms, run errands, etc), then pick-up the kids from school/daycare at 3h30. So when hubby comes home from work at 5h we have supper than we can “kind-of relax” all together until 7h (bed times for the kids), then the two of us from 7h30 to 9h30 (hubby bed time), and myself until 10h30 (my bedtime).
Still, I often feel like it’s too much, like it never stops, so I can’t imagine working full time (Up at 6h, dropping off kids, then working 8h to 2h right now), I would be miserable and the family would be stressed.
This post makes me think that I want to sit down with hubby and figure out how we can carve out more REAL relax-times and family quiet/fun time. I feel we are both stressed at the moment and not really taking the time to BE with our kids… It’s a lot of go-go-go.


Sarah November 17, 2015 at 7:05 am

We usually save Sundays as our ‘lazy day’ or our hiking day – depending on our moods and the weather! Either way, it usually involves family togetherness and not a lot of chores or scheduled activities, which is great! We had a really busy October and didn’t get to have our lazy Sundays then. Things have slowed down for us in November and it’s been really nice having that one day to relax and regroup. Also, we do a family movie night every Friday night, which we all look forward to!

Katy, I have a random question for you. I live in the Portland area (far SW) and I have some coffee that has been opened but not finished out. It was a gift, we tried it but didn’t like it. Can I get it to your group somehow? I just can’t bring myself to toss it, even in the compost pile!


Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life November 17, 2015 at 7:48 am

Funny enough, this is my stay at home morning before work where I focus on getting really into a book, putting thought into a diary entry and overall not worrying about the to do list for one day. In reality I feel like I get a lot done for me which is wonderful. There is cat hair floating around and I don’t know what’s for dinner, but in reality it really is okay.

If I didn’t have this once (sometimes twice) a week, I would feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff life makes for people.


Beth November 17, 2015 at 8:06 am

As a previous commenter said, I maintain. I try to do my dishes every night (but I own nothing that can’t be put into the dishwasher), I hang my clothes back up or put them into the dirty clothes bin every night, and I put things away where they are supposed to go when I’m done using them; this way, my house may not be the cleanest, but it doesn’t look like a complete disaster all the time. My husband is currently working a job where his weekend is in the middle of the week when I’m at work and he works Friday and Saturday when I’m off, so we tend to hang out on weeknight evenings and I work hard to make that a priority and not schedule things for myself on weeknights or get caught up cleaning our house/doing chores/working on projects.


JD November 17, 2015 at 9:08 am

I struggle so with this! Like Isabelle, I don’t function well in a messy house. I also don’t find myself with time to relax. I’m usually gone from the house about 10 hours a day, five days a week with work, and I’m in a dead run to get evening tasks finished before it’s time for bed every week night. On the weekend, there’s laundry, housework, church, grocery shopping, projects needing to be started, continued, or finished, and before you know it, it’s Monday again. Maybe this post will be the inspiration I need to find a way off the merry-go-round!


Christine B November 17, 2015 at 9:42 am

So so so true. I am mildly OCD in relation to my house being neat. I tend to feel like a lazy failure if things aren’t extremely tidy. But I have a three year old and a one year old, and constant tidiness isn’t possible. I have to daily force myself to let some things go, in the interest of playing with my kids, who are growing up so fast. Like you said, when they are grown and I’m on my deathbed, I’m not going to think about whether my house was sparkly clean all the time. I will be thinking about my husband and children, and whether I showed them enough how much I love them. It’s such a daily discipline to practice this mindset. Our culture basically despises any downtime. If you take some time to put your feet up and just fiddle or ponder or talk, it’s viewed as lazy and wasteful.


Bee November 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm

My mother gave a little framed print when my children were younger . It said:

Dusting and cleaning can wait ’till tomorrow.
Babies grow up much to our sorrow.
So go away cobwebs! Dust go to sleep!
I am rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!

Never feel badly about caring for your child. Time passes much to quickly. Those memories will always warm your heart — more than a shiny sink.


Vickie November 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

Your Mother was a SMART lady!!!


Christine B November 18, 2015 at 11:04 am

I have a beautiful framed sampler of that poem; it hangs in my living room. I love it; it’s a wonderful reminder of the importance of intentionally savouring each moment with our kids, before they’re grown and it’s too late. ❤️


Vickie November 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

I definitely don’t have a problem with non-productivity these days. The people in my life take precedence over housework and outside activities.
I had to work on the saying “no” thing several years back, but it definitely got easier as I got older. I read the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” and it truly helped.

As a young Mom I let myself feel guilty way too often, when asked to do a social or church activity. For some reason I thought I was supposed to be super-mom. I wish I had learned to say no to requests on my time a LOT sooner.
My advice – don’t make the mistake I did, learn to say no to too many outside demands on your time as a parent or spouse.
Like Katy suggests, leave the dishes, the laundry and the dusting to spend quality time with your kids and spouse. You will never regret it.


AnnMarie Johnson January 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

Always glad to hear of others who think and act this way. It’s taken me years to feel comfortable with all the reading I do (my main hobby–I read almost 200 books last year!). I could be cleaning the house, dusting (I don’t think we’ve dusted once in the 2 years we lived in this rental….), decluttering, etc. I feel like I never do enough. But I love to read, it’s my favorite thing to do, and it’s OK!


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