We chose a pretty calm week–one in which there was spare time–to observe the kinds of things we do individually and as a family in our spare time.
Before we started we did a little assessment of what we considered spare time? We decided to define it as any time outside of work, school, homework, sleeping and reasonable food preparation and consumption (we love to cook and could spend a day preparing a meal so anything longer than an hour for food preparation, we considered spare time). We considered housework, yard work, laundry, shopping, errands, cooking and baking, volunteering, reading, playing games, entertaining, watching television and surfing the net spare time. Lillian’s extracurricular activities–cello lessons, scouting, horseback riding, swim team, birthday parties, weekend events at school. I think you get the picture!
The first thing we realized is that we do a lot of running around for all this stuff–two cars and a lot of driving. The second thing we realized is that there is a hierarchy of spare time those activities that are up to us when they happen and if they happen but must happen at some point. These were considered spare time activities because the need to do them was a result of choices we made (like buying a house with a large yard).
The second tier of spare time activities were those that are truly optional. Most of Roy’s spare time is spent taking care of the yard and house projects. Most of mine is spent getting Lillian to events and activities and planning for them, and food shopping. In the truly optional category which probably averages about 10% or less of our week we opt for things like exercise, Roy rides his bike (a very environmentally sound activity) I opt for the gym or use powered elliptical trainer at home. We love television and movies on the weekends, we try not to watch TV on the weekdays. We use our computers and “surf the web”, play games with Lillian, and do crafts. Sometimes we go out to dinner, but not very often.
We have been talking a lot about reprioritizing spare time activates, making more of them home based and minimizing the number of activities Lillian participates in outside of school and home. I realize that Roy carries a lot of the home management burden and that I should be spending more time on this. While we did look at the environmental impact of our spare time choices and how we could reduce them. The greater value of this exercise was looking at how crazy our lives are–90% self imposed, or as Roy would say 90% Jane imposed– and identifying lifestyle changes that could free up more time for truly optional spare time activities and bring more balance.
Spare-time activities with less pollution:
Giving up TV and computer time was no problem, and instead of going to the gym and using powered exercised machines, Roy road his bike and I went for walks and hikes. One beautiful and completely unscheduled Sunday I gave Lillian the choice of going for a bike ride or going on an adventure walk along the Billy Goat Trail which follows the Potomac river. She would have preferred to stay inside and watch television, but since it was not offered as an option she opted for the Billy Goat Trail, and she loved it. We saw snakes, salamanders, turtles, ducks and caterpillars. The trail was very rocky and challenging and she did great. As we were eating our trail mix that we brought from home and sipping water on a sunny rock next to the river, Lillian exclaimed that this was the best day of her life. As I write this it still puts a smile on my face! That day was the farthest she had ever hiked without a complaint and it was great mother daughter bonding time. Best of all it was free!
This challenge happened to coincide with two planned camping trips, one with the Girl Scouts and one with friends and family. Both trips were weekend long endeavors. We used no electricity at the campsites and made sure to carpool. Everyone had a great time learning new skills, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors! It poured rain all day long during our Girl Scout camping outing, but the kids were troopers and found ways to entertain themselves by searching and collecting the abundance of earthworms floating around! We brought ours home and put them in the garden.
What was great about this challenge is that the simpler pleasures in life–being outdoors, enjoying the surroundings, and spending it with people you care about are the best forms of spare time activity. We need more of this and will work to put more in our lives.
By Climate Pilots Jane and Roy Rathbun