Too Many Hobbies? How I Simplified.

When I was little, my mother often accused my father of being a member of the hobby-of-the-month club.  Dad dabbled in woodworking, leather tooling, boating, camping (backpacking and car camping, as well as trailer camping with the family), fishing, target shooting, running, birding, photography, and biking, and he’d rotate through projects associated with various hobbies regularly.

Of all my father’s traits, this is the one that I picked up the most strongly.  I love:

  • travel (in general)
  • visiting historic houses, boats, cities, sites, etc.
  • museums
  • watching theater, opera, and ballet
  • ballroom dancing
  • zoos and aquariums
  • visiting gardens
  • reading
  • amusement parks
  • photography
  • birds
  • entertaining
  • hiking and adventure travel
  • boating, particularly rafting and kayaking
  • gaming: console, board games, card games, computer games
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • interior design
  • art and architecture
  • sewing, especially cosplay, historical costumes, or doll’s clothes
  • cooking and baking
  • embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch
  • knitting, crochet, beading, weaving, tatting
  • miniatures
  • fine woodworking
  • music (choir, violin, piano)
  • amateur drama
  • gardening–vegetable and flower
  • learning languages
  • doll-making
  • lotion-making
  • TV and movies

Have I mentioned that I have three children who are homeschooled and run my own business?  Yeah, I have three homeschooled children and run my own business.

Over and over, I’d either spend time learning how to do things I had no time to spend doing or, even worse, try to start a project and then find it impossible to complete it.  There have been many things that I’ve wanted to share with my daughter, like teaching her to sew and embroider, that I have never been able to get around to, and stuff I’ve wished I could do with my sons, like miniature ship-building, that never has taken place.

Over the last few months, I’ve begun scheduling my days tightly, and as a part of that, I’ve scheduled in “play” time just as strictly as my work time.  And I’ve discovered that after work and exercise and cleaning and meals and the usual overhead of having children, I have about an hour and a half each evening left over, aside from my hour-long bath and wind-down period that I try to guard from any kinds of structured activity.

An hour and a half.  That isn’t very long.  And in that time, there are a number of things that need to be done, such as any cooking that I wasn’t able to do earlier in the day while the kids were doing their evening tasks.

Fortunately for me, cooking is one of my hobbies.  (My husband appreciates this, too, as his cooking is restricted to smoothies, things out of boxes, and specialties like hot dog fried rice.)  So that slots in neatly into the window of time that I have for hobbies.  But there are so many other things that I’d like to do, and after cooking (which I end up doing in my “leisure time” block usually three nights a week), I only have about six hours total left of unclaimed time each week plus most of Saturday, which I have set aside for family activities.

I’ve realized, however difficult it is for me, that just because I like something doesn’t mean that I need to make it a part of my life right now.  I can enjoy something and simply not do it–for a year, for a decade, for two decades.  Right now, I’m an entrepreneur and a mother with a young family.  I can’t have it all right now, but I can have what I want most for this moment.  As the kids get older, what I want most will change, and so will what I make time for.

I’ve made the decision to be very selective in my current hobbies so that I can devote enough time to them to actually enjoy them.  The hobbies must be things that are fairly easily interrupted and that, whenever possible, they should also be things that are dual-purpose.  The cooking, for instance, is fun, but it also feeds the family.

Using this set of standards, I’ve chosen to schedule in these hobbies that make the cut:

Cooking.  I do it several times a week, from many different cuisines, usually constantly new dishes.  This is usually three of my seven nights of activities.  I cook in an unconventional way, so even though we only eat out once a week and rarely eat convenience foods, this covers all our meals.

Photography.  I’m just learning to take pictures, and photography is great as a hobby because I can combine it with the activities that we do together as a family–two in one!  Plus, the relatives all love me having this hobby, and the kids do, too.  They get as much fun looking back on the things they’ve done and talking about them as they do doing them.

Reading.  Reading is great to do during my hour of quiet and wind down time in the evenings.  I also read in the bath during these times.

TV/Movies.  I usually watch these while cooking or during a special movie time with the family.  Sometimes I watch during my bath.  Netflix streaming and the occasional Redbox rental have us covered.  We go to the theaters less than once a year.

Gardening.  I’ve scheduled in gardening as an alternative to part of my workout a few days a week whenever the work is needed.  I also do it on Saturday afternoons after a short day out.  Again, doubling up.

Gaming.  I’ve chosen not to play solo games right now, though I really like them.  (I do play if I’m too sick to work or workout, but that’s it!)  I play co-op console games mostly with my husband for evening time together, or I play board and card games with the family.

Entertaining.  I’m trying to ease into this, mostly on Fridays or Saturdays (in place of other family activities).  Now that my house is 95% clean 90% of the time, this is more possible for me.  I want to double-stack this with gaming (particularly board games) and/or cooking.

Ballroom dancing.  I’ve recently made the decision to pick this back up again.  My husband loves it, and he would like to dance with me (not just his partner) again more often.  So I will be going out just once a month to go dancing with him again.  This will take up my Saturday evening.

Family-centered activities and travel.  We live near the capital beltway, and we are in the privileged position of being near world-class arts, museums, and activities.  So every weekend, I try to schedule something for the family to do.  It seems like missing the point of living here if we don’t enjoy it!

Right now, I have time for nothing else.  My house is constantly being worked on at the moment, which eats into my discretionary time (the house was built in 1965, and most things are original to the house and needing replacing).  I’m no longer doing the remodeling (if I were, I’d have no hair left), but it’s still highly disruptive to my work and home life, both.

When the remodeling done, though, next year, I’ll look among my other activities and pick something–likely solitary, quiet, and not something that I’ll lose serious progress in if I don’t spend much time on it–to enjoy in my spare moments.  Right now, though, I’m not doing justice to photography as it is because I don’t have enough time to read up about it and come up with things I want to experiment with our next trip out.  When I feel that I have as much time as I want to spend on photography, I’ll add in one more thing.

Ava Lovejoy

Ava Lovejoy is a budding essentialist. After years of trying to keep too many plates in the air at once, she is doing more by choosing less. Central to the struggle is her genetic neuromuscular disease and a rare and severe sleep disorder, which add serious challenges to her life. An entrepreneur, a mother, and a teacher, she balances many roles and demands on her time.