How To Simplify Your Life: Anne Riley’s Guide To Mothering, Working, And Writing

There is a certain question I’m asked consistently. So consistently, in fact, that it’s one of the first questions I answered on my FAQ page. Everyone from my friends to my students to my agent to complete strangers have asked it at one point or another:

“How do you balance being a mom, working full time, and writing?”

Well, Grasshoppers, first I must tell you that “balance” probably isn’t the best choice of words to describe what I do. Secondly, I’m hardly the only person who ever lived to do all those things at once.

And thirdly, I’ve found some shortcuts.

See, the secret is to simplify your life to the point that the multitasking becomes manageable. But HOW do you simplify? And WHAT do you simplify?

Allow me to explain.

1) Become a ruthless grocery shopper. Going to the grocery store can be extremely time-consuming and can eat up valuable minutes that might have been spent writing, or maybe napping. So how can you speed up the process?

Blow through that place like it’s your own personal NASCAR track. You’ve got a cart, right? USE IT. Slam into the slow shoppers from behind; if you apologize enough, they won’t get mad, but they will stay out of your way.

Aim for speeds of twenty miles per hour when going down the aisles. And if you’ve got a small child, put them in one of those giant carts that looks like a car. Then you can REALLY make some progress.

If all else fails, make a siren noise with your mouth. People are hardwired to react to sirens. I guarantee everyone will get out of your way.

2) Never do laundry. When your clothes get dirty, simply throw them in the fireplace and burn them. This is especially effective in the winter as it saves on heating costs.

And before you shout “But what am I going to wear?” Well, just buy new clothes every week. Go to Wal-mart. They’re cheap there, and they don’t have to last because you’re only going to wear them for a week.

Sure, you’re spending more money on clothes, but you’re saving on water and heating costs. It totally balances out!

3) Quit cutting your grass. Buy a goat. Boom. DONE.

(Bonus: Goats also eat trash, so no more dragging your trashcan out to the curb! And if you’re not paying for trash service, that’s more money you can spend on clothes at Wal-mart.)

4) Trick people into giving you free childcare. Friends want to have dinner? Invite them over. When they show up with a salad and dessert, act all embarrassed and say, “Oh, I thought you wanted US to go out while YOU watched the kids! How awkward!” and put on your best trapped-and-overworked-parent face. Maybe work up a few tears–don’t let them fall, just try to get your eyes a little wet. Make sure your bottom lip trembles at least once.

If your friends don’t babysit after that, they’re dead inside. Get new friends. Ones who are easily guilt-tripped.

5) Take your laptop to the gym. Vending machines, childcare, nice restrooms…who says you can’t exercise your creative muscles by using one of the ab machines as a desk? Think of all the writing you could get done! And if somebody wants to use the machine (your desk), simply look at them and say, “Sorry, they asked me to do this. You’ll have to take it up with Don in the office.”

By the time they figure out Don’s not a real person, you’ll have 2,000 new words in your manuscript, AND you can say you went to the gym. WIN!

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If you’d like a serious answer to this question, please see the blog post I wrote here. I promise, it’s for real.

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6 thoughts on “How To Simplify Your Life: Anne Riley’s Guide To Mothering, Working, And Writing

  1. Dean from Australia says:

    My face nearly melted “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” styled at the “Quit Cutting Your Grass” tip.

    Only because I have become something akin to an artisan when it comes to mowing my lawn. I have only – ONLY – stopped short of using a string line and a wooden stake to mark the lines where I should run the lawn mower so I can get that football field patchwork pattern happening on my front lawn.

    I have, as yet, not ruled out doing it in the future…unless my wife threatens me with fire.

  2. Gail says:

    I think I prefer this response to the “real one”. Thanks for the laugh.

    Having read the real one I see that the way you “do it all” is by focusing on what’s important to you, making a schedule that includes the important things and excludes everything else, and then trying your best to stick to that schedule. That’s how any of us get things done. It’s when we try to do everything all at once that it becomes undo-able. No one can work full time, study, have family and household responsibilities, volunteer, write, and have a bunch of other hobbies or obligations.

    Good on you for knowing what’s important and focusing on them!

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