Four Things I Choose Not to Have Time For

Nicholas said to me in 2005, using his sharply-tuned crap-o-meter, that saying ‘I don’t have time for that’ is, consciously or otherwise, code for ‘I don’t want to do it.’

I’ve been hyperaware of the phrase ever since. I think I’d just told him I didn’t have time for getting back into yoga. Oops.

Clearly, we all have the same amount of time, and with varying degrees of freedom of choice, education and opportunity, we allocate our 24 hours a day to the things we prioritise.

4 things I choose not to have time for

People who ‘don’t have time for’ piano practice, fitness, Facebook, cooking or reading just have other things they’d rather do – which is fine. There’s no law about piano practice (now that I’ve left home).

Since Nicholas’ incisive comment I’ve felt liberated! I don’t have to pretend my time is out of my control.

I’m not going to mow the flippin lawns. Ever! It’s not that I really want to but am not getting around to it. I choose not to have time for lawns.

So, in this spirit of intoxicating freedom, here are four things I don’t have time for. And probably never will.

I don’t have time for ironing.

It’s amazing how few clothes really need it (and how you can dress for a professional job without buying the ones that do).

Certain people in my household will look even less crumpled when I finally enact my Mum’s trick of hanging up business shirts on coathangers to dry. But all shirts look equally smooth after a couple of hours of wearing them anyway, right?

Well, no, they don’t. But my husband and I still prefer to remove the task of ironing from our radar entirely and put up with the odd cheeky comment about creased collars.


Extreme Ironing (Photo credit: b1ue5ky)

Just to be clear, this is about not caring about ironing and not enjoying it enough to bother. If you love it, be my guest! My friend Clare loves ironing. Loves it! So, not surprisingly, she makes time to enjoy it on a Sunday night. Which is of course just fine by me. If she lived closer I might take up wearing clothes that need ironing.

This is my list, not yours, and I’m not anti-ironing for anyone else. Unless you hate it. In which case: embrace the freedom of ‘not having time for’ ironing!

I don’t have time to mow the lawns.

Early in our marriage we decided that neither of us particularly enjoyed mowing lawns. And both of us had lots of things we wanted to spend more time on.

So we prioritised $37 every two weeks in summer or three in winter to pay someone else to mow our lawns. Money well spent – though I appreciate not everyone has the financial flexibility for that course of action.

We’re currently wondering about buying our first home, and choosing one that has, shall we say, an appropriate amount of lawn for our lifestyle, is on the wish-list.

I don’t have time for television.

Not entirely true: I do watch dvds in box-set bursts, and the odd show on demand. I guess I don’t have time for ads (New Zealand doesn’t have any commercial-free channels, sob!), or for having to watch something when the network wants me to.

This is a bit different from the ironing and lawnmowing. Television, and the next heading too, are things that I enjoy but have decided aren’t the best use of my time. If I watched tv, there would be a lot more things that ‘I wouldn’t have time for.’ I can capture more time for, say, blogging and making pudding if I get tv to walk the plank.

And, wow, the time you save to use on something else when there’s no tv in the house! The average Kiwi watches over four hours a day. Which is enough to build a few Wikipedias between us each year.

If you would appreciate some entertaining inspiration on this front, have a look at a couple of videos (irony noted): Annie Leonard‘sΒ The Story of StuffΒ and Clay Shirky’s Gin, Television and the Cognitive Surplus (written version here). This is a teaser for a future blog post series, I suspect.

I don’t have time to be a control freak.

Also not entirely true. Shall we call this aspirational?

It’s something my husband and I do for the sake of efficiency, but it can be adapted by people in other living situations, particularly flatmates and good long-term friends.

Inspired by the joking of our marriage mentors, who later became SBJ’s godparents, we have adopted an HOH portfolio system. There are a bunch of things in our life that we assign a Head of Household to, cutting our respective home admin loads significantly.

I am Head of Nutrition, which means that my husband doesn’t need to think too hard about whether we should put wholegrain oats in the muesli or which brand of chopped tomatoes to buy. I also get to be in charge of how much junk food is in the cupboard. (You may see a flaw in this plan, but stay with me.)


Chocolates (Photo credit: Shelley & Dave)

He is Head of Technology. This isn’t a gender thing. I have lots of opinions about whether we should buy a new stereo (my 1997 Sony GR7 is still going strong, thank you very much!), what operating system to put on the computer and how to organise backing up the three thousand photos of our baby (not kidding). But in the interest of ‘saving time’ I choose to cede control over this stuff and leave it to him.

I still need to learn how to use the remotes, and I don’t want to be lost if he goes away for a week, but I also don’t need to duplicate all the time he is already spending on considering all of that stuff.

Sadly, the HOH system depends on what we are interested in and is therefore not comprehensive. We have no HOH Finance (our bank accounts are still only partially merged after three years of marriage, purely because of inertia) and no HOH Gardening, though I would love (someone else) to do that.

If anyone out there wants a portfolio, let me know, ok?

So that’s four things I don’t have time for right now.

I imagine there will be more things on this list, or different things, as SBJ gets older. Frequent chauffeuring to extra-curricular activities might make it on, though I benefited greatly from my parents’ investment in that myself, so we’ll see.

What’s on your list?

What most-hated task could you move from the guilt list to a taste of freedom?

What have you decided not to have time for? What do you make time for instead?

I’m very keen to hear what else I can forget about. Inspire us with your prioritising, please!

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31 comments on “Four Things I Choose Not to Have Time For”

  1. Cate S Reply

    What I hate is when people say to me, “I don’t know how you find the time for that!” with an incredulous expression. That comes across to me as, “Wow, I can’t believe you allocate time in your life for such a useless pursuit.” Like you said, we all have the same amount of time, and we all make choices about how to spend it. What I can’t make myself have time for is going beyond maybe a B+ level of cleanliness in my house. I cover the basics, clean the kitchen after dinner, remove toys from thoroughfares, but just don’t spend that hour every day to pick up all the miscellaneous things that are lying around on random surfaces in the house and file mail into organized folders. I’d much rather take the time to, you know, read your blog πŸ˜‰

    • not a wild hera Reply

      I love the description ‘B+ level of cleanliness’ – very helpful! And Cs get degrees, right?

      I think there’s an awful lot of subtext whenever we talk about ‘time’. Don’t get me started on the phrase ‘I’m so busy!’ (Or maybe do. Another day!)

  2. Dr GF Reply

    Would like to join the no ironing club but still a slave to it for now. When I was in my last year at school, my mother was ill and in hospital for a few weeks. The school chaplain asked if I was managing living by myself- but the only bit of his advice I remember was ‘The efficient bachelor doesn’t iron, body heat will suffice’…

    • not a wild hera Reply

      ‘The efficient bachelor’: brilliant! I aspire to that! (Well, you know what I mean.)

      You may do this already, but seriously, hang those shirts on a hanger when they come out of the washing machine – you may still want to iron the collar or something, but it’s amazing how good they look! Really must start doing it here…

  3. Rebekah Noakes Reply

    Folding washing, specifically baby clothes. I would love to have tidy organised piles inside all the draws especially when my very wonderful very tidy mother-in-law goes in search of a jumper for Isaiah, but its too frustrating- clothes never stay in tidy piles. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, I don’t fold.

    Nor do I sort my husband’s ‘floordrobe’ more than once a week. We have a convenient wardrobe right next to where the floordrobe sits, so I open the door and shift the pile on occasion.

    • Andrew Reply

      Glad I’m not the only bloke with a floordrobe. All the stuff i care about not getting creased go into another pile atop the dresser.

  4. Robyn Ryan Reply

    I wish I “took more time” to enjoy “little boys (sons)” … My Mother insisted a “tidy, clean, house” was more/most important so our house got a huge clean up when Mother was due to visit … Our son that died used to call me “Mrs. Vacum Cleaner” because, he said, his memories of a boy growing up was Mum always having the vacum cleaner in her hands !!!!!!!!!!! Ouch …

  5. Alex Reply

    Wise words, wise words. I’m with Cate on this as far as housework is concerned, although I suspect I only really get to about a C+ most of the time, stretching to B+ when we have visitors… I don’t have time for cleaning my kitchen floor – sweeping, yes, hoovering, occasionally, but getting down and scrubbing it? Nope. I don’t have time for cleaning windows. I don’t generally have time for dusting. Sometimes if there’s something else I’d rather be doing (tv, chatting to my husband or visitors, whatever) I don’t have time to completely clear up after dinner until the next morning. However, I’m still working on getting to the stage of being completely comfortable with these statements – there is still a large nagging voice saying that I *should* make time for them, at least sometimes. And there are definitely still a lot of things (reading newspapers, exercising, exam preparation etc) that I know I really should be making time for and currently hear myself saying “I don’t have time to…” But it’s good to be reminded every so often that really it does just come down to the choices we all make about how to divide our 24 hours.

  6. Caroline Reply

    Without wishing to be controversial, mine are:
    Twitter – I just don’t see the point and have given up trying to do so – I just don’t need to be THAT connected. Sorry!
    Making my own Christmas pudding / Christmas cake – would love to try someday, but it’s just not going to happen at the moment and I’ve come to terms with that. Microwave ones are just so much more convenient (unless anyone can give me a recipe that does not involve steaming the pudding for hours on Christmas day itself to reheat it).
    Reusable nappies – I tried. It was OK with one child, but just too much with two of them. I will just have to do my bit for the environment some other way.

    I’m with Clare on the ironing. It’s the only way to spend a relaxing evening.

    • Alex Reply

      With you all the way on twitter and the nappies. Can’t help you on the puddings front though I’m afraid – don’t have a microwave (never had one and don’t want one) so will have to stick with the hours of steaming!
      Sort of agree with you and Clare about the ironing. It can be relaxing… But not sure I’d go so far as to say *only* πŸ˜‰

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Well, I love that there are so many ironing-loving weirdos here πŸ™‚

      Just kidding. What I love is that we can all have our own completely different lists; that’s definitely the point. So no apologies necessary for ANYTHING. Do what you want to do, don’t do the other stuff.

      We don’t really do Christmas puddings at all in the Antipodes (I’m sure some people do but I’ve never heard of someone in my generation making one) – too hot in December (ha! I wish…), so I guess that’s just one more reason for you to move here?

  7. Angela Reply

    i. I think you should take up extreme ironing in lieu of the yoga.
    ii. I LOVE Nicholas’ insight on this – just brilliant. If only we could say “I don’t want to” instead of “I don’t have time for.”
    iii. In a roundabout way I am reminded of a teacher who told us during senior school exam time that we had time to do everything we wanted to do. If we planned our time we could do it all!
    iv. Last night I heard Ray McVinnie say we can take the time to plan ahead with meals and make time for cooking. There is time to do this if we choose to. If there wasn’t time, he said. there would be no extra marital affairs!! If we want to do it, we MAKE time for it, whatever it is. But I digress – yet again.
    v. I’m afraid the thing that came to mind when I read your post was people. Dare I say that out loud? I don’t have time for people that drain me, I need energising people. I don’t have time for socialising that I don’t enjoy. Maybe that’s just the sapce I’m in at the moment, but I plan to keep it this way!
    vi. I LOVE Christmas Pudding, and don’t want a Christmas without it. I do have a British mother-in-law who makes it these days, but one day I will.

  8. Jody Reply

    I don’t have time to brush my teeth with an electric tooth brush. I have no idea why this is the case.

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  16. Angela Reply

    ha love it!
    I am very firmly a “don’t have time for ironing” kinda gal. Have always felt that way to my mothers horrer! Oh and the other one is don’t have time ‘to wash the whites seperately”…and now I think of it “don’t have time to grow vegetables I don’t like eating even if they are easy to grow i.e brussel sprouts….!!!

  17. Sharolyn Reply

    This isn’t really one of my official list, but in response to your NO TIME FOR IRONING; I don’t have time for synthetic clothing that leaves me feeling sticky all day. Partly I am trying to avoid plastic in all shapes and forms for environmental reasons, but also on a practical level I want clothes that are breathable and comfortable – and quality enough to last well. As we live in Brisbane, Australia the humid heat lasts for nearly 6 months and thus I have decided only to purchase natural fibres – organic cotton, linen and so on. Machine washable is the way to go, but with quality clothing, this is usually no problem. I usually wear these un-ironed, but thankfully if there is a special occasion that calls for extra class, my husband is a meticulous ironer – so he’s happy to do it for me. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fashion junkie by any means. Just trying to live my values practically and comfortably. Do you find that you have to wear a lot of synthetic stuff or blends to avoid the iron?

    • thaliakr Reply

      Hi Sharolyn,

      Great to hear from you!

      I’m with you on the natural fibres, and the vast majority of our clothing is in that category: cotton, bamboo and (when in NZ or the UK) wool.

      The only compromise we make to avoid ironing is in not caring if we’re wrinkly πŸ™‚ It really doesn’t bother either of us in the slightest, and neither of us wants to spend time ironing, so we don’t.

      Thanks for chipping in! What else is on your list?

  18. Sharolyn Reply

    Thank YOU. When I re-read my comment I realise I may have come across really douche-y. Sorry about that. I am also happy to go with the crumpled look most of the time.

    Also on my list – I recently gave in and got a smartphone. BUT I don’t have time to be on it ALL day – as tempting as it can be. I’m trying to limit it’s use and turn off notifications so that it’s not pinging away all day.

    Things I DO have time for this year – running (it’s really a slow jog, but I’m moving forward and that’s the main thing!) – a new healthy hobby of mine, drinking water, ENJOYING my children (and not just enduring them which, sadly, I felt like I had resorted to at the end of last year).

    Lots of other things I’m still trying to articulate. Thanks for making me think!

  19. thaliakr Reply

    Ooh, thanks for that list. Sounds like a good year ahead πŸ™‚ Feel free to update us!

    Nah, your comment was great! Always pleased to have thoughtful conversations here. Keep ’em coming πŸ™‚

  20. Verity Wood Reply

    I don’t have time for gardening or baking which leaves me sad and alone in a UK county surrounded by people who think birthday cakes must resemble zoo creatures. I fear it all ends up as poop eventually. So we eat sandwiches and veg- often for breakfast. My boys have recently taken up ice hockey on a Sunday evening and one friend asked in astoundment, ‘who stays home to cook,’ I of course replied that ice hockey or not, cooking wasn’t an option. I got a filthy PM about not giving my children a hot meal so I replied that they had had baked salmon and jacket potato for breakfast. Response? “Such an unconventional mode of time management cannot be constructive for their mental well being. “- direct quote. Now I don’t have time for Caroline.

  21. Spaghetti Reply

    Love that the comments for this post span 5 years! I don’t have a lot of time for it but I do love ironing (I iron teatowels!) – most of my work tops are synthetic and dry on coat hangers, but I get around the clingy feel by wearing a merino/natural layer underneath. I don’t have time for lawn mowing either, and must confess I don’t do the dishes every night (easier as its just me and I have enough plates/cups etc – no dishwasher). I do have time for knitting, and spending time with family and sleeping in on a Saturday πŸ˜‰

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