How Using What I Have Has Improved My Daily Life

Lifestyle

Using What I Have on Hand | Wit & Delight
Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

I often pride myself on being prepared. I always have a backup on hand of our favorite supplies (something I acknowledge is a privilege) and a plan in place in case something goes awry—endless conversations of what might happen are scripted in my head.

A sneaky benefit, if you will, to living with anxiety is always being aware of the state of the world around you; always being aware of what you might run out of, what you might need and what you might do, say, and feel if any particular scenario were to happen.

Sometimes, this persistent forethought leads to good things—like how I can whip together a cheese and wine party on five minutes’ notice. Other times, it leads to clutter. Half-used tubes of toothpaste, shampoo, and detergents line my shelves. In my home, there are partially read books, a random but full pantry, and an incorrect Amazon paper towel order from 4 years ago that I’m still working my way through.

Over the past weeks and months, while confined mostly to our home, I’ve been taking cooking inspiration from some of my favorite home chefs who are making the most gorgeous meals with what they have on hand. Watching them has made me motivated to do the same—to slowly but steadily work my way through the foods, art supplies, and plans we already have.

Old habits die hard though, and as a designer who spent twenty-five years in retail, I tend to LOVE the research + shopping part of a project. In cooking, in art, and in life, I start a project by thinking through supplies. Specifically, what goods I can purchase to make the meal, the painting, the thing PERFECT because I love the thrill of the hunt, the experience of retail, the discovering of the new.

I’ve found that being unable to run to the store on a moment’s notice has been a surprising relief to me. It’s led me to be more creative, more resourceful, and more focused on what I have on hand.

But recently that process has changed, and I’ve found that being unable to run to the store on a moment’s notice has been a surprising relief to me. It’s led me to be more creative, more resourceful, and more focused on what I have on hand.

One way I’m leaning into this great pause and reset is taking advantage of the time I now have to be slow and intentional with work, projects, and life. I’m focusing on fewer things and creating new ideas, meals, and projects with (mostly) what we have on hand. Below are a few of the positive ways I’ve implemented this shift in my life.

1. Improvising while cooking.

I’m usually a meal planner, planning 1 – 2 recipes to make during the week and buying JUST the right amount of food for those meals. Prior to the shelter in place order, I had stocked our freezer + pantry and it’s been nice to slowly cook our way through whatever is on hand, deciding what to make each day and improvising a recipe to make it work for us.

Our focus now is on simple preparations and meals that can be stretched for at least one meal of leftovers. I’m learning that butter and lemon can make almost any meal a success.

2. Simplifying my daily decisions.

Things like what to wear, which route to take on our evening walk, and what to eat for breakfast have become areas of my life where I’m no longer making a decision. I wear the same 3 – 4 outfits on repeat, take the same path each night, and have a green smoothie most mornings. Saving my energy and decision making for the things that matter is something I’m definitely taking into my daily life going forward.

3. Being mindful of what I consume in media.

At the beginning of this, I found myself spending hours reading the news, scrolling social media, and obsessing over every new report. I was exhausted, more stressed, and less informed.

Since I realized the negative effect the scrolling was having on me, I’ve intentionally stepped back my daily consumption. It’s helped me to plug a bit more into real life and a bit less into the noise and chaos happening on a daily basis.

4. Finishing what I start.

I’m a person who always, always has too many projects going at once—a half-finished painting, partially started articles, bits of projects at various stages of completion with my daughter. With the extra time at home, I’ve been putting less and less on my to-do list, remaining mindful of what has yet to be completed. Being someone who finishes what I start and learning some new skills along the way is helping me keep a sense of routine and normalcy in a time that is anything but.

5. Creating beauty from what I have around me.

I love fresh flowers, but in the absence of those, I’ve enjoyed scavenging our yard and neighborhood for leaves, acorns, and fresh branches to bring some nature in. I am itching to see the ocean and sit on a beach but in the interim, I’m painting tiny beach-inspired landscapes in calming colors while burning my favorite ocean-scented candle.

Instead of focusing on what I am missing, I’m finding creative ways to bring the best of what I need into my life, with what I can find around me.

This improvisation, this focus, this simplification of days and life is bringing me more balance. More ease. More small moments of joy. Amidst the great moments of fear and unknown, I’m leaning into these lessons and taking the wins where I can find them.

BY Jill Elliott - May 15, 2020

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Shelley G Freeman

Well said. I agree this pandemic has brought about a paradigm shift for many. I hope it will stick and when things get back to “normal”, we’ll remember what we’ve learned.

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