What Have You Done for YOU Lately?

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The following is a guest post from Lain from 30MinuteMartha.com:

I’m a dedicated hobby hoarder. I have skeins of yarn for my knitting, boxes of supplies for my scrapbooking, and shelf upon shelf of books to read. I admit – I love my stuff!

But when talking with other women, I have discovered that stockpiling golf clubs or books on novel-writing or yarn or paints often becomes a replacement for using them. Somehow along the way to adulthood, we got the idea that we aren’t allowed to have hobbies anymore unless they apply directly to our children and families. Painting scenery for the school talent show? That’s okay. But painting watercolors for ourselves? Nope.

Sure, it’s crazy to think about how to fit one more thing into our nutso day. Where in our jam-packed schedule would we possibly fit time to paint a landscape, never mind paint our fingernails? We’re typically too busy expressing milk to express our creative selves.

I hear you. I have three kids, a few businesses, aging parents, and a husband who occasionally wants some attention. It’s not easy. But I still manage to read 150 books a year, knit socks, write, and teach classes. No, I’m not Wonder Woman, nor do I want to be (I’d look awful in a strapless tank suit!). But I realized years ago that my creative time is critical to keeping me sane and happy. I can’t handle all the other myriad things that my day throws at me unless I have a stockpile of ME to give to my family and friends.

Getting that creative time isn’t just one more thing to get done in any 24-hour period; it’s an opportunity to reconnect with the fun deep inside me, even when I’m covered with dog hair, kid vomit, or goop from the back of the car. Here are some ways I’ve managed to make time for my creative pursuits:

1. Know what you love the best.

Hobbies aren’t like kids; you’re allowed to have a favorite! I’ve winnowed down my outside activities to my very favorite: Reading, exercise, scrapbooking, and occasionally some knitting. I didn’t try out for the local theatre production this summer, I skipped the baking class, and I gave away my stamping supplies.

2. Make it a priority.

Just as you wouldn’t let your child skip her daily amoxicillin for an ear infection, giving yourself time for your passions should be a top priority. If you had to do it for your family or kids, how would you fit it in?

3. Look for “found” time.

Most of my hobbies are portable. That’s because I spend a lot of the time on the go – at baseball games, sitting pool-side, or driving hither and yon. I rarely have two uninterrupted hours, but I often have two uninterrupted minutes – and I use them! I have a project in the car at all times, I listen to books on CD, and I carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas, or write down stories for my scrapbook pages.

4. Involve the family.

One of my most successful strategies is to get my family involved in my hobbies. We read aloud together, my girls scrapbook with me, and I’ve taught all three of my children how to knit (yes, even my son). Now “my” time becomes “our” time.

5. Lower your expectations.

I accepted long ago that I’m probably not going to be able to write the Great American Novel or sculpt a statue to rival “David” while sitting in the elementary school carpool lane (unless I’m sculpting with Play-Doh). If you expect that you can produce Pulitzer-winning poetry during nap time, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself.

Hobbies aren’t just “pastimes,” as in, ways to pass the time. Instead, they give structure and color to much of my other activities, from making lunches to making Halloween costumes. When I’m in my “happy place,” I become more creative, more fun, more relaxed – in short, a better person.

Lain Ehmann is the founder of 30MinuteMartha.com, where she helps women create fun, fabulous home lives, with less stress.