In Defense of Non-Productivity

by Katy on April 28, 2009 · 13 comments


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.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela April 28, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Yes to taking walks and snuggling!

I love this post! I must be a pro at non-productivity, because I’m already doing #1-4. So now I’m going to start doing #5. Woo hoo!

And I like your positive spin on the “just one bathroom.” We also live in an old house (1920s) with just one bathroom. It bothers my husband more than me. The family that owned it before us raised 4 children here, so apparently they managed with a family of six, and there are only 2 of us! So spoiled…


Loretta April 29, 2009 at 4:30 am

Definitely agree with all of your points. I am a SAHM with 2 primary school-age children. I’d rather read 200 books in a year than dust. We mainly cook from scratch, rarely eat out, buy clothes and books from op shops (charity shops), don’t go on vacations, etc. I certainly *could* be a lot better housewife but I’d rather live my life each day!
PS We have a small house with one bathroom. So much quicker to clean!


Debbie April 29, 2009 at 5:00 am

Good post. Glad I’m not the only one.

There are times where I feel guilty about reading a book or hanging out with the kids because the floors need vaccuming or the bathroom is less than sparkling but they are few. There is only one bathroom in this house too. We talk about putting in another one but I secretly hope we never get around to it :).

The whirling dirvish doesn’t come into play until we are expecting company. Unannounced company gets the full impact of my non-productivity.


Jinger April 29, 2009 at 5:20 am

I love your philosophy! I am 65 years young and try every day to be as non productive as possible. Although I work part time, I want no “encore career”, just enough to live my my life of simplicity and enjoy living every day. Taking time to really see what is around me…the blue heron down by the creek, the blaze of wildflowers in the meadow where I walk, the sky’s changing colors during day and evening, family, friends and of course, a new novel, at least once a week!


Jeanine April 29, 2009 at 7:00 am

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.

^^^^^^^^simply howling with laughter^^^^^^^

Really? One day a week? Wow.


Kate April 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Am I the only one with more than one bathroom? 🙂 I think it’s super important to have leisure time and not fill up each and every day with activities. My weekends are often ‘full’ of downtime and my family loves it.


Julia April 29, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I’m a big napper, I take one a day usually. I call them “power naps” because it takes only about 20 minutes. Usually, my kitty lies on my tummy, and my son is either next to me on the couch (reading or watching a show), drawing at the nearby table, or working on the computer in the next room. Heavenly. We have a small house and I don’t work (well, I don’t work for pay, just kisses and hugs!) , so there’s plenty of time to cook the food and get the housework done. I LOVE this slower pace of life now that my son is a homeschooler. I’d rather watch the birds and chipmunks with him than rush around getting ready for school or argue about doing his homework!


Jennifer April 29, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I like your philosophy of valuing quality of life over being productive. You are a wise woman.


Sierra April 29, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Wow! thanks for posting this. About a year ago, I made the decision to clean my kitchen just once a day, before dinner. I realized I could spend all my time cleaning just that one room and never have time for anything else, so I let it go.

Now, I have a messy kitchen, happy kids, a blog, friends, a few hobbies and a mountain of unmatched socks threatening to take over the master bedroom.

I’m a lot happier than I was a year ago.


calimama April 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Well, I think it’s been said 10 times already but it’s true. I agree. We could all be Martha’s, but if the rumors are true (her house is immaculate but she’s not a joy to be around), why would we want to?

I’m much happier with a superficial clean, a happy son and a well fed husband. Of course I look forward to the day my son will actually partake in the superficial cleaning (is 20 months too soon?) but until then I don’t sweat the pile of shoes by the door. Even when I trip over them every day.


alunachic April 30, 2009 at 5:40 am

Katy as a self employed gal, I took this posting to heart! If I am not at my desk working, prospecting or thinking about how to work and prospect, I am not creating income.
This mentality is exhausting and frustrating, particularly since I work in a business where success is based on public whim and money often doesn’t equal time spent on a project.
Thank you for reminding me, in your always sweet and personable way, to take time to smell the peonies, plant the spinach, water the sunflower seeds sprouting on my deck and to SLOW DOWN.
You are such a valuable read everyday and I am glad I found you.


Kristin @ klingtocash April 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

This post was very well timed. Yesterday was the first day off I’ve taken in a long time. I updated the blog, ate some lunch and then took a 2-hour nap. It’s not my fault I took the nap; I blame the cats who all (we have four of them) decided to curl up on or around me. You just can’t win in that scenario. I felt so much better and was energized to get some work done that night.

I’m generally a whirlwind kinda person, but yesterday was great. Thanks for the encouragement!


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