Houses, desks, and inboxes aren’t the only places where clutter can collect. A calendar can also become overflowing and chaotic, and as much in need of a spring cleaning as a garage or attic.

A few years ago, my daily schedule was in desperate need of a good scrub. It was full of commitments I’d half-heartedly taken on, uninspiring coffee dates with casual acquaintances, and structured activity after structured activity for my toddler.

I said “yes” to everything: every favor someone asked of me, every party invitation, every preschool program that came my way. My days were busy, but it was all fluff and very little substance. And like a bag of cotton candy, it was not sustaining me.

I wasn’t giving myself enough time alone to recharge or relax. I also wasn’t forming meaningful connections with the mothers I spent afternoons at the park with, our only similarity being that we had children. There were random neighborhood potlucks, but ithose was the only time I saw my neighbors and could barely remember their names. My son went to pricey arts-and-crafts classes, and forgot about them the next day. I was both overextended and unfulfilled.

Around that time, I decided that I needed to stop saying “yes” to everything. Overnight, I became unforgiving with my time. I began declining invitations with lukewarm acquaintances, and focused on getting together with close friends, whose company I missed. Instead of trying to attend every festival and event my city had to offer, I picked one a month that seemed the most interesting to me and my kid. When work colleagues invited my husband and I out for dinners, we went once in awhile, but spent most weekend nights enjoying dates together, reconnecting as a couple.

Nowadays, our family pace is slow. It’s relaxed. Living in an incredible city with two kids, there are endless ways to fill every minute of the day, from playdates to classes to museums to parks. But instead of trying to do it all, I’m trying to do all things with thought and intention. I’m mindful of my time in a way I’ve never been before in my life. I value it. I don’t give it away carelessly. I spend it on the people, places, ideas, and activities that matter most to me.

There are always family obligations, appointments, and the general niceties of existing in society. Those remain on my agenda, along with school committee gatherings, grocery shopping, and attending local town hall meetings. It’s a balance, and it’s ever-shifting. But at least now, my calendar is a thoughtful one.

Where is the clutter in your daily schedule? What can you strip away, and what will that make room for? How can you be mindful of your time this month? 

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