Inbetween Days
October 26, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

What tasks should I accomplish during a week off in between jobs to improve the state of my soul?

I've just concluded five years of a job that was very taxing, and have taken a week off to try and give my life a semblance of order before the new one begins. One of my reasons for switching jobs was a sense that my life was often fraying at the edges : perennially messy house and car, laundry piled high until it became unbearable, being delinquent in responding to letters and emails from friends, and a chronic frazzled state of affairs that was unpleasant for myself, my partner, and my family.

Aside from laundry, cleaning the fridge, getting the oil changed and the car washed, sorting through old clothing and donating extraneous things, I'm seeking practical tasks I can accomplish that will yield short-and-long term benefits.

Practical details: both I and my partner work full-time and have two kids under the age of four. Live in Minnesota so we're girding ourselves for winter. Children will remain in daycare for the week, and I'll take some time each day to do things I enjoy (museums, walks, write to friends with whom I've fallen out of touch, coffee by myself and with friends). We have a cleaning person who comes every two weeks but often spends too much time "tidying" rather than deep cleaning.

I've familiar with Apartment Therapy's "Home Cure" and am looking for something similar, extending beyond the physical confines of the house.
posted by thenewbrunette to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Yay for a week off!

I was recently in this situation too. My suggestion is to take at least two entire days to devote to yourself rather than spending some time each day getting things done and taking some time to do things you enjoy. It feels so much more luxurious to spend an entire day doing nothing but what you want (at least until the kids come home). On one of those days, schedule things -- get a massage, go to that place you've been wanting to go to. On one of those days, don't schedule anything and just do whatever you want to do right at that moment all day long.

For "cure" type things, in addition to getting through your to-do list, you might want to take a morning or afternoon to focus on personal grooming. Check out your skin, nails, hair, eyebrows, wardrobe -- anything you want to attend to? Make appointments, go shopping, catalog your closet, put on a face mask and give yourself a home manicure.

Also, keep in mind you'll have more time after this week is through -- don't feel like you have to cross everything off your to-do list by the end of the week.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:09 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Find a local charity that could use some help for a day or two. Any volunterr time is generally appreciated, whether you're stuffing envelopes in an office, helping deliver meals to shut-ins, or anything in between.

Be a blessing to someone! :) Enjoy the week off!
posted by DWRoelands at 1:14 PM on October 26, 2013

is there a yoga studio or somewhere near you that has "intro week?" you could start each day with a yoga or meditation class. here a typical yoga intro is about $20, so it's a bargain if you decide to use it every day.
posted by andreapandrea at 1:17 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't set your sights too high. (Maybe not an issue for you, but I think I'd be prone to perfectionism in this context, and risk ending up more stressed out than I began.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I totally second the idea to take two full days and check out of all obligations. Don't check email, don't worry about where you need to be, just disengage and do what you want in the moment.
posted by mercredi at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've taken off a week before to do things like re-organize the kids' toys (matching up all the sets and puzzles and what not), and to go through and de-clutter. Last time we did this we got a couple dumpsters full of junk, and two car-loads to Goodwill.

Agree with others about not setting the sights too high and making sure to have time to yourself, but instead of a "two days" kind of thing, I'd recommend an "every afternoon" kind of thing.

The kids are at day care and you have the time all to yourself? Use that shit. Spend your mornings de-cluttering, etc, but after lunch, roll out on the couch or in the tub with a book or a movie, and just enjoy all that kid-free time.
posted by colin_l at 1:29 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would honestly do nothing during the week. You've changed jobs in order to make things easier on yourself, so let that process happen when you're at the new job. What you may need is just time to decompress, not have stress, and get yourself into a place where you're ready to hit the ground running, as it were.

There is a great deal of healing power in unstructured time, and getting some is a gift you shouldn't take lightly.
posted by xingcat at 2:05 PM on October 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would go and spend an entire day in nature. Either in the forest or near a creek.

There is always time for errands or cleaning up the house. There is never enough time for nature by yourself.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:31 PM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Unfuck Your Habitat.

Don't try to do too much. Focus on enjoying yourself for the week.

Get to start a new habit for 75 days, tomorrow being the first day of the rest of your life. In your case, I would suggest the "OHIO" habit - the Only Handle It Once habit for incoming mail. Get a gift in the mail? Let the first thing you do, after unwrapping it, be writing the thank-you letter and stamping it. Junk mail? In the recycler and/or shredder pile. Bill? Either pay it, or set up one of those accordion file thingies with one section per day of month, which you look in every day.

You see what I mean - if you can't respond right away, figure out what is needed in order to respond and when you will have that, and set up your system for that response.

If you don't have these things already, then order: a good cross-cut shredder, some envelopes of shredder oil (put one through the first time you use the shredder in a given calendar month), some accordion files, some stamps of various denominations, some 100+ GSM Monarch paper, some DL envelopes in the same shade as the paper, some printer ink, some post quarto sized paper for handwritten correspondence, and a cartridge pen with black ink. You will be well set, if you have all these things.
posted by tel3path at 2:47 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Things I do on school holidays (as a teacher): get the cars serviced, get my hair cut, eyebrows waxed, go to the dentist, review insurance policies/banking arrangements, do some baking/cook the healthy meals I always imagine I will, weed the garden, prune the garden, do regular exercise, spring clean.

While having a couple of days rest is a nice idea, I find it very satisfying to go back to work with my affairs in a better state than before, and often the first week back is a little easier because I don't have a build up of jobs to do from last term, I have frozen muffins to reheat, neat hair, etc.
posted by jojobobo at 3:34 PM on October 26, 2013

Best answer: Another vote for planning to do none of those things. A week between jobs is a very short time to decompress, then get ready for new challenges.

If you can afford it, get a cleaning service to come in for a full days cleaning, you can be there to help manage some clutter, but let them do the cleaning. Serious uncluttering is tiring, so save it for a weekend (and help from your partner).

Based on personal experience, my guess is that you are still in "OMG GET THINGS DONE" mode from your stressful job, and are automatically scheduling yourself to keep achieving things. You need to take the week to get out of that high stress state and into a more relaxed and refreshed state of mind. Staying home on the couch actually isn't a good choice IMHO, because you will keep seeing things to do around the house, and feel like you wasted the week. I suggest scheduling some relaxing and interesting things to do each day for 4 days. Go visit a favorite cultural place, or go see a matinee movie, get lunch with a friend, visit a new place you've been meaning to check out, take a day trip somewhere, then spend Friday on the couch. By scheduling these things, it satisfies the OMG MUST ACHIEVE bit of your brain that is still in overdrive, but making them relaxing things to do helps transition you back to normality.

Decompressing is hard! Be kind to yourself.
posted by Joh at 3:45 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Perhaps think about things you can do to extend this week of peace into a longer time frame. What things can you do this week that will give you life space as you transition into your new position? (Congratulations, by the way!)

A few thoughts:
If you cook, there's nothing like stocking your freezer with some hearty family meals to settle the soul. Also, here in Minnesota, it's chili weather!

See if it would make sense to move routine purchases to Amazon subscribe & save delivery.

If you use a dry cleaning service frequently, consider switching to one that picks up & delivers. There are quite a few options if you live in the metro area or a near suburb.

Plan some date nights with your partner in advance. Since you have the time, you can go all out with the details.

Enjoy your week!
posted by Kalatraz at 8:33 PM on October 26, 2013

I agree that I would use this time to set up my life to be easier. For me that would mean decluttering aggressively, fixing anything broken around the house, deep cleaning (though I think with your cleaner this isn't a priority) and filling the freezer with "ready meals" as cooked by me.

I would also be taking the opportunities to look at my systems and see whether there's anything that doesn't make sense or could be easier, like the idea of touching mail only once, or moving things in the kitchen to where they are actually used.
posted by kadia_a at 3:06 AM on October 27, 2013

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