Living a full life while maintaining margin

If you know me, you know that I am a big believer in having margin / breathing room / white space in your life. I have learned over the years that in order to truly live intentionally, you have to make time for the things that matter to you. That means that you have to be intentional with your time and live with margin so that you don't get burnt out on hustling so hard all day every day. Often times we think we have to have one or the other - an overly busy life or an empty one. But it doesn't have to be that way. We can live a full and busy life and still have room to stop and breathe.

If you are familiar with Valerie from Val Marie Paper, you know that she is a big believer in margin too. In fact, a lot of what I learned came from her book The Finishing School and her words about margin and balance. I'm thrilled to have Valerie here to share some more thoughts and encouragement with you on how you can still live a full life while maintaining margin.

If you talk to me for 15 minutes, you are bound to hear me reference margin in some way. I’m slightly obsessed with this idea of living a simple life. Not a boring one by any means but vibrant and full with the good stuff. In this quest for margin though, I can forget what I’m fighting for. I am fighting for that white space so I can be spontaneous, serve, live well and make lasting memories with loved ones. Instead, I can keep my eyes on those things that are supposed to simply be an avenue to get to the vibrant life.

I kept my eyes on the number of clothes in my closet.
I kept my eyes on the number of to-dos on my calendar.
I vowed that once I cleaned my toddlers closet, went through the garage, finished this commitment, I’d have time to live in the margins.
I asked for one more Saturday to catch up on work while my husband took our kids somewhere fun without me.

Even in moments where I had white space, I filled it up in the most efficient way I knew how. This looked like:

Saying no to the pool because it means we will get a late jump on bedtime, which means no time to tidy after the kids go down.
Saying no to letting my toddler help in the kitchen because it would add to clean up time.
Saying no to getting splashed in the pool because I don’t want to wash my hair that day.

I’m stealing little moments from my family without even realizing it.

So I’ve been trying to find this balance intentionally doing things to make my life simple and leaving room for whatever comes our way. I’ve recently started reading “Hands Free Life” by Rachel Macy Stafford and these thoughts didn’t just step on my toes, it trampled them.

“My need for control was holding us all back from fulfilling life experiences, meaningful connection and transformational growth. By micromanaging our lives in small and big ways, I was missing the joy found in carefree living and lumpy loaves of bread made with love. ... Surrendering control allows everything and everyone to simply be. Because you are no longer managing, predicting, or regulating people and situations, you have an expanded view. At last you are able to see opportunities to connect to what really matters in authentic, spontaneous ways.” - Rachel Macy Stafford

I want to live right there. In a place where I have eyes to see opportunities to connect with what matters. Not distracted from my sweet infant and trying to cross just one more thing off my list before I pick up my toddler from school. Having margin work for me not against me. Not being so obsessed with white space or time or a vacuum that I forget the whole reason I started this journey in the first place.

Last night, I took this message to heart. My toddler woke up in the middle of the night (something she never does) right about the time I finished nursing my infant and pumping. Even though she was quiet and not making a fuss, I went in there and cuddled and ended up falling asleep till morning. We talked for a little while and she nestled in so close. The dimly lit night light helped me to see her tiny little features that I never want to forget. It was the sweetest time.
But I had to fight off a lot of thoughts. Thoughts that told me, you have a two month old and your tired. You should get some sleep. Her bed it tiny and your back has been hurting. You should go in your own comfy bed. You shouldn’t go in there. It will start a habit of her waking up and demanding you to stay in her bed.

Efficient Val wanted me to skip this moment. But I’m glad I took a break from efficiency and remembered WHY I hope to be efficient with my time in the first place: so I have time for more of these little moments.


Do you embrace margin in your life? What does that look like for you?