4 December 2017
Every so often I receive an email from a reader asking for ideas about something they're struggling with.  Here we have one such query which I present below and hopefully, between all of us, we can give Amy a range of possible solutions.

I hope you don't mind me asking a question...
I wrote to you around 3-4 years ago about wanting to quit my job and stay home and you addressed it in a November blog post. Well, it's taken me awhile...but I've done it...I finally quit my job. I'm burnt out (from my job) and have no direction right now. How in the world did you find your "way" around your home and get into a routine after working for so long? I've only been home for 2 weeks and need to adjust to it all...but how?
What is my first step?
Where do I start?
How do I plan?
I wake up each day with good intentions...but find myself aimlessly wondering around.
Can you offer any suggestions?

I'm sorry to hear you're burnt out. I remember that feeling and it's not nice. I hope you're spending time doing nothing but the basics so that when you're rested and ready you can take the next step in your new life with optimism and confidence. What you need is a plan.

Sit down with a coffee, paper and pencil and work out what changes you need and want.  Remember, this is about a new life for you and your family so the only ones you have to please are yourselves.  The priorities are to keep a clean and tidy house, feed everyone, work to a budget so you live the life you choose without running up debt, maintain the house and garden and possibly to make a few things you currently buy. I'm thinking mainly of laundry liquid, cleaners, dishcloths, napkins, aprons, bread, cakes, preserves etc. But keep in mind that you make the items that will make a difference in your home.  We're all different.

I would start by dividing your day into three sections: 
  • Morning, which will be from when you get up till around 9am - remember, all this is adjustable.
  • Daytime, 9am - 4pm. This is the bulk of your time when you'll do your shopping, ironing, cleaning, sewing and whatever you choose to do for your own pleasure. That might be reading, gardening, talking to friends and neighbours, sewing etc but it includes what YOU love doing.
  • Evening, 4pm - bedtime. Evening meal, cleaning up, thinking about tomorrow's meals.

In the morning and evening you'll usually do the same thing most days. In the morning it will be cooking, breakfast, getting other family members off to work or school, laundry, cleaning up, making the bed, feeding animals, watering plants, general tidy up.  In the evening it will be preparing the evening meal, washing up, packing the dishwasher, thinking about tomorrows lunches and possibly preparing them, or deciding on what you'll cook the next day so you can defrost what you need.  The more you can get done at night the less you'll have to do the following day but you don't have to push yourself because you'll be at home and you can do extras during the day.

The rest fits into the main part of your day.  It might help you to list all the large tasks you have to do in your home that aren't covered in your morning and evening routines. Tasks such as cleaning bathrooms, doing the washing and ironing, food shopping, vacuuming and mopping floors, dusting, cleaning the fridge and oven, washing windows etc. If you can make a list of these tasks and assign them to a certain day, that will help you cover your housework by doing your morning routine, your daily routine, which will include one of those larger tasks, and your evening routine. The main thing I urge you to do is to take it slow. You have many tomorrows ahead of you and as long as you're making yourself happy by the changes you're making, you'll be on the right track.

When you have these life essentials sorted out, or at least on their way, you can fine tune the other things that need it and add what you enjoy doing.  I found when I started my new life that when I started changing things, one thing lead to another and I just followed along.  If might not be that way for you so just see what happens and do what you think is right.

Other things you can look into include:
  • make a list of your priorities, values and how you would like your life to change. When you have that in place, it will show you what you need to do, change and learn to make the life you want; 
  • create a budget; 
  • work out a shopping strategy, including reasearching where you'll get the best value for money;
  • look at the rooms in your home and working out if you're making the best use of the space, 
  • menu plan; 
  • start a stockpile cupboard; 
  • make up a rag bag; 
  • if you don't know how, teach yourself to sew, mend, knit and garden;
  • work out how you can remove cleaning chemicals from your home.

Life will be slower now. What you're about to do is to make a new life and to redefine what a normal day is for you. It's different for everyone so start by getting the essentials of food and shelter sorted out and then concentrate on the rest. Once you settle on a way to organise your days that suits you, you'll probably find that housework is less of a burden and more about making your home a place that supports and comforts you and your family.  There is no need to fret about moving all this along fast. It will take it's own time and it will change as the years pass by. Homelife is never static, there's always something to do as well as time to sit quietly and appreciate what you have.

Don't be pressured into having a rubber stamp of a life. One of the benefits of living this way is that you no longer have to live to a rigid timetable or one where recreational shopping has any importance.  Good luck!  I'm sure our readers will have more suggestions for you. Now, my friends, it's over to you.


  1. Burnout is challenging.

    Give yourself permission to rest.


    Do those tasks that are necessary (eating, sleeping, clean clothes, taking out the trash...).

    Spend some time in self-care:
    - exercise (walk, yoga, weights, dance...)
    - rest, time outdoors to just be
    - do things that give your heart joy (for me, that list includes reading, singing, creating - sewing, knitting, art, coloring, and sometimes cleaning/dejunking because that opens up space in daily living. Your list will be your list ;-) !)

    And give yourself time - a new focus and rhythm will appear.

    --Jean Marie

  2. I think you are in shock when you first leave a job that has been very stressful, and you do need recovery time. My advice intially would be to be sure that your shopping stays within budget, and that you stay on top of the laundry. All the rest can come later, but you mustn't run into debt and everyone needs clean clothes! The rest can come later when you are ready to cope. Make sure your family know how you are feeling and ensure that they pull their weight, just because you are at home does not mean all the work is yours, you don't want being at home to leave you just as stressed, you are the manager not the slave! It will all work out given time. Enjoy xxx

  3. My routine is very similar to what you describe above Rhonda, especially the morning. I have set days for parts of the housework, menu planning etc. Having something for yourself is so important and that will be different for everyone. I make sure I have something to look forward to one day a week. This is apart from my daily joys such as cross stitching, reading and cooking which I love doing. The weekly thing is usually a coffee or lunch out with a friend or my family. I look forward to that every week.
    Each day having a to do list as well as another list for odd jobs. If you find yourself wandering around aimlessly do something from the odd job list or simply refer to your daily list.
    It will come slowly however you and your routine will finally mould together. All the very best Amy.

  4. I agree. Firstly, Allow yourself time to heal from burn out first. It is a massive mental health issue that is rarely acknowledged.

    1. So very true. I have now been home for 2 years just keeping up with the household chores and feeding animals. Only now have I recovered enough from burn out to be creative with my art and craft.

  5. Positive reinforcement is a good thing, you could keep a small note book and keep track of your costs and subsequent savings from making laundry powder,cleaners,home made cooking vs take away or eating out.
    Find like minded people , farmers markets, health food shops etc. Other mums in the park. supportive, sharing friends are important.

    Make op shops your first stop if you need anything, you will be amazed what people and businesses donate.
    If you include these activities in your routine you will have a strong base to support your new way of going forward.

  6. When I quit working full time many years ago, I didn't realize how the skill set I had learned was so different than my new reality. I went from having more money than time to just the opposite.

    It takes time to adjust but asking for advice from one who did it successfully is a great start.

  7. This is so relevant and timely for me right now, thank you! I too am finally retiring from a stressful job that increasingly felt like I needed to be available 24/7 - some of which was my own fault because I worried too much about the small family owned business. When I realized that it was not even MY family business and I was spending more time worrying about things at work than paying attention to my own family, I made the decision to retire at the end of this year...only a couple more weeks woohoo! So this blog post on making the transition is so welcome. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  8. Home is my Haven is pretty much what I would say.
    I am absolutely immovable about my washing days and will even do some and hang it inside if it is raining. Tuesday is bathroom washing, Wed is my sheets and all the rest and Sat is child's sheets and all the rest. This way 3 school uniforms will always be ready. I am also rigid about keeping on top of the ironing and putting away. I used to have a fridge clean out the day before I shopped and use up all the left-overs. It is surprising what pasta, rice and scrambled eggs will mop up. Have had a few bad years myself and am going back to this. Make sure you have a day set aside to enjoy. I am also a cheat reader. I do a bit of work then read a chapter or two. Used to be big on washing the breakfast dishes and making the bed before leaving the house but am more relaxed about that now. One friend used to do her day's work then write her to do list on the basis of what she had done. Ticking off all those items is very fulfilling but a bit of a cheat of course. Who cares? You only have yourself to answer to. Later you might like to pick a major project to be involved with but you are in recovery mode so keep it down for now.

  9. The only thing I would add to Rhonda's list, Amy, is if you have the space, start a small veggie garden and plant some fruit trees. That will keep you busy but also provide really useful and healthy food which you won't then have to buy. I find it incredibly rewarding growing some of our food, especially herbs and salad leaves which are expensive to buy and go off very easily. It's great just going out to your garden and picking what you need as and when you need it. Wishing you all the very best.

    1. And maybe some chickens too. Nice blog post, Rhonda.

  10. I gave up work many years ago and slept for the first 2-3 weeks. It took me about 12 months to establish a routine I was happy with. It is hard after working full time for so long to give yourself permission to sit and sew during the day, a pastime I love so always saw it as a fun time. Don't be so hard on yourself. xxx Hanna

  11. As others have said, "give yourself time", don't beat yourself up if you haven't got a routine yet, it takes time to adjust. Give yourself permission to have a holiday, allow your body and mind the time it needs to recuperate; sleep in, watch TV, go for walks, relax and enjoy; do things you love doing. I stopped full time work in early October and I'm still adjusting. Make sure you keep on top of the daily chores, dishes, washing, meal prep, but having said that, get your family to help with that too.
    Lists - some people like them, others don't, I'm in the "don't" category as I find if I don't get what is done on my list for the day completed, then I feel I've failed - so I don't write them. Find out what works for you.
    Good luck and enjoy the freedom of not having a paid job.
    Cheers Lyndie

  12. Giving up the regular pay check and realisation of looking at your life post leaving the house everyday, does take time to adjust. I in in my 2nd year. The 1st was easy, still plenty of money in the bank, my daughter and husband moving nearby for a year while having their 1st child- most of the activity revolved around them. This year was all about me and the other half. But routines for me are important. Like Rhonda, I love the freshly made bed each morning, washing up after meals to see a clean kitchen. Exercising regularly is also important, doesn't matter what but keep moving. I made it the main aim to adapt a lifestyle of eating healthy- fresh made sourdough bread (easy), sauerkraut, kimchi, lots of veg. Being self funded, I still occasionally worry about money but plan to be more self sufficient. Remember to sit back now and then to count your successes! Learn to like what you achieve and believe that there are more things yet to master. Gook luck, Erin

  13. I slept for about 12 hours every night for weeks when I retired. You need time to rest and recover. Just do the basics as mentioned in other posts. Food, clean clothes, don't stress about the house too much, and keep in mind it will come together for you.All the best for your new adventure.

  14. Hi Amy

    Four years ago I was exactly where you are now.

    The first thing I did after leaving paid work was to lie on the couch for a week with a box of chocolates and binged on all the TV shows I'd taped but never got around to watching i.e. I allowed time for rest and recovery. Then I felt ready to get up and start a new life. That involved implementing essentially what Rhonda has outlined above.

    I worked out a daily routine to cover the daily/cyclic activities like cooking, cleaning and laundry. I allowed big chunks of free time during the day to tackle bigger projects some of which were chores (e.g. house maintenance), others for me (e.g. getting healthy). I focussed on only one project at a time and did not set a time limit for completion.

    This 'slow and steady' approach has resulted in my being the healthiest, fittest, strongest and happiest I have been in my life (including losing half my body weight - 42kg).

    My suggestion to you is to work out what you want your life to look like then think about what steps are required to achieve it. If it feels overwhelming make just one miniscule change at a time. Sometimes you'll get it wrong and that's fine - it just means you need to try a different approach.

    Take it slowly, tread your own path.


  15. How exciting to be starting this new chapter of life! I've been out of the paid workforce for 20 years now (and have been raising my boys for the past nearly 19 years), and I do remember how daunting it seemed. Somehow, things that I used to fit in around my work and commute hours stretched to fit all of my time, or so it seemed.

    For me, as much as I believe home making and keeping is my calling, I find that parts of it work best when I treat it as my vocation, as well. I know that I need to keep everyone fed, 3 meals (+ snacks) per day, and that means planning, shopping, cooking, and a good part of the clean up. It means I need to know what I have on hand (inventory) and I need to know the good prices (like any good manager). I don't plan meal based on recipes and then shop; instead I shop for our basic foods based on price and keep a stocked pantry/larder, refrigerators, and freezers.

    Just yesterday I planned out our meals for December. Sometimes I can plan day to to day, but December is busy and I know that without a solid plan we're apt to want take out. I took a quick inventory of the freezer and make a weekly plan that could be repeated (so rice and beans every Monday, etc.) I don't plan side dishes out ahead because I don't know which produce will be on sale. I also have a basic breakfast plan for the week. We eat a noontime main meal and a lighter, but still cooked, supper.

    Knowing what we are going to eat isn't enough for me. I look at this as a project, so I project plan. I determine what needs to be defrosted, pre-cooked, baked, etc. and put it all on a calendar. it helps me stay on top of things, but it also makes it all seem more manageable.

    Of course, life throws curveballs at us, so I don't expect the plan to go perfectly. I've done a month plan before, so I know I can be successful with it, but part of that is being flexible. My family has a motto, "When it doubt, the eggs come out". That that means is that if it looks like we won't be able to make a planned meal (say we are at urgent care), we eat eggs and toast with whatever fruit is in the house. We all know that we can scramble eggs and toast bread faster than any takeout can be gotten, and we all know that once we actually eat, we'll feel satisfied and the take out will sound like it wasn't as good an idea as it sounded when we were hungry.

    After all that, I allow some grace. Sometimes something happens and we can't stick to the plan. An older parent may have a health emergency, or we may lose a beloved pet. I try to remember that in the end, one meal here and there won't break the bank or ruin our health.

    Enjoy your time!

  16. Hi Amy, all the comments above are my thoughts too and I have been home full time for 3 years now. After you have given yourself time to "recover" I think it is important to make sure you have friends to spend time with. I now love being a homemaker but it is also important to have friends and sometimes to make new friends. I found that many of my friends were still working and my life at home was now different to their, and they were not available during the day when I had time, so I decided to join an art group which was something I had never had time for during my working life and this has proved to be a great way of mixing with like-minded people. If you are home all day on your own you might find it difficult to adjust, as I did, and your life is now different from the life you had when working. I think I actually went through a "grieving" period, even though I was ready and happy to leave my employment. I wish you all the best in your new life at home.

  17. welcome aboard Amy
    as others have said, rest up & take it slow for awhile before tackling too much. Rhonda's books are a great one to have too.
    take time to really look around at what you have & already do & let the rest just fall into place. Rest up first ...
    good luck in your new adventure.
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

  18. Thank you Rhonda for responding to my email so quickly...and to your readers for all of their wonderful suggestions.
    I do agree that I am in "recovery" mode right now...but didn't realize that doing nothing was exactly what I needed to get back on track. The holidays are busy enough...without me feeling like I needed to buck up and get into a routine right away. I'm so looking forward to your posts in the new year Rhonda about going through your book...I need it!
    Thanks again everyone!

  19. You will be fine. Just give yourself time to adjust, and remember also to give yourself credit for the things that you do accomplish during the day. Each one is a success! It is a journey and you won't get there all at once. It takes awhile to get into a routine that suits you. But you will get there.

  20. Whether you enjoyed your job or not, all new retirees have to figure out what they are going to do now. A book I read many years ago recommended that you need to replace the three Ps of work...People, Purpose and Pattern. Everybody has to figure out how they are going to do that but having routines helps with the pattern part or you can end up napping or surfing the internet all day. Enjoy the new adventure.

  21. I, too, say give yourself time to heal and decompress from the paid work force. Be kind to yourself.
    When you're ready, find the routines that work for you. Know that you can always fine tune them or even abandon them altogether. This is your life and you're free to design it the way that suits you.
    I've been out of the paid work force nearly 8 years. I'm still fine tuning my routines.
    Most mornings, I like to put my house in order before I do anything else. Make the bed, put away the clean dishes and do the dirty ones, take out the trash, open the curtains. Basic things really. On Mondays, I wash the sheets. On Fridays, I wash the towels. I find that having certain routines is quite freeing since I no longer have to put them on my to-do list.
    It is a process but a rewarding one. You can do this.
    SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  22. Amy when I gave up full time work I found myself feeling quite guilty that I wasn't doing enough. I felt that I needed to have a house that was perfect but really didn't know where to start. I ended up sitting down and looking at being at home like I would any of the challenges that I had at work. I broke things down, just like Rhonda has said, and then I started. I made sure that I was dressed and the bed was made. I made sure the dishes were done and put away. I then developed a routine for when the washing would be done. I still do towels and sheets on Thursdays. This also leads to Thursdays being the deep cleaning day for the bedroom and bathroom. I spend the mornings working on the house and afternoons working on something I want to do. Give yourself time to settle into your new role. In a month or two you will have found a rhythm that suits you.

  23. Personally, I would get stuck into something like decluttering a room or a cupboard, just a simple task that you can complete that will give you a feeling of accomplishment quickly. That will make it easier to start the next task and keep going. Feeling aimless is part of the problem and if you can't think of anything to put on your list yet, just start something and you'll get the hang of it :)

  24. It has taken me almost two years to 'get over' having to work everyday. Now that I have gotten used to the idea and I see that we can make it without my paycheck, I am really enjoying being home. I find myself more and more thankful!! I breathe the words "I'm thankful" many times during my week, that I am now 'able' to do 'this'. Rest!! take your recovery time... your new routine will develop. For me, making a daily list keeps me on task. Otherwise, I walk around aimlessly, too. Congrats! on being at home!

  25. For now just take it a day at a time. What has to be done today? I find assigning each day a task or two helps a lot (not a new idea, it's in a Little House on the Prairie book!). For example, in our house, Mondays are vacuuming and laundry, Tuesdays are change the towels, etc.
    Best wishes to you as you learn to adjust and enjoy this next phase of your life.

  26. I have just decided to retire. So I am back to reading the down to earth blog. It really resonates with all the values important to me. But I am aware it will require some adjustments. I have another 6 months to work but am practising slowing down and making what changes I can. Looking forward to the Simple life!

  27. Hatto and his little helper. I really love that photo. It says so many good things.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  28. What a fantastic post, Rhonda. Thank you. I find having a list really helps me to prioritize. Right now I feel like I'm trying to do too much, and it's wearing me down. You can do a lot of work in your home, but it's important not to overdo it. Between the etsy shop, blog, housework, garden, and dog walking, I can get overwhelmed. I think each person has activities that ground them. For me, cooking is my favorite. It's so nice to know that you have healthy meals prepared and that they are ready to be heated up and eaten. My main lesson has been not to let too many people get dependent on me. Sometimes when you live this way, people assume that you have a lot of free time. I've had to tell myself, "That's not my responsibility."

  29. I think I'd add - make sure you take at least one moment a day to notice something beautiful in your new life - something you might not have seen when you were hustling at your day job. Take pictures, or write it down. It will help you re-learn how to observe and be present, and slow down. Good luck!

  30. Dear all,
    most likely I am not a very typical reader on this blog, but I enjoy your thoughtful posts very much. They have always left me with a new and fresh perspective. I am a young artist and had a severe burnout three years ago, just at the same time I went completely freelance. It has been a hard and steep learning curve - but I am forever grateful to life forcing me to really look at what I want from it, and where my priorities lie. So, though I never commented here I thought I share what really helped me getting back on track. And a track which feels like I found it on my own terms for the first time. Maybe it proofs of use to any of you:
    1. Firstly, congratulations! A burnout means you so exhausted your ability to fulfill the expectations of others, your job, et cetera that now you are forced to honestly look at yourself and start treating you well. That might be a first... sp now finally you have time to be curious and excited. Accept the state you are in and begin with doing exclusively only things that give you some form of positive energy. It is OK that you feel exhausted, can do little to nothing and it will take a long while till you are back to old levels of 'bounciness'. That is fine - I realized then and there which things or influences I had to remove from my life, as I simply had not any spare energy to deal with them. Create a clean slate to rebuilt your new days around aspects you consciously choose according to your very personal needs, interest and values.
    2. Going for a walk before noon.
    And in any case daily: some form of movement, some fresh oxygen and - depending on your situation - either one from of human face-to-face interaction or respectively some time entirely to yourself.
    3. A very big sheet of paper on which I wrote EVERYTHING that was undone, not taken care of, in disarray, needed organizing, repairing, annoyed me - you name it. All the big and the small things that otherwise kept turning in thought loops. It took me till very recently to finish that giant to do list, but it worked. Even if it takes years.
    3. Tossing the alarm clock. We all need sleep and enough of it. It helps me tremendously to just wake up naturally. Surprisingly that is much earlier than it used to be and I can now even control when i want to wake up. I
    only recommend you treat yourself to a natural sleep cycle, now that you have the luxury of that possibility!

  31. 4. A very fixed morning routine. It grounds my day and I have already done some things that are of priority to me, so however the day goes from there I'll be fine. Mine looks something like: waking up with the sunrise, make a coffee and porridge, go back to bed to consume both and read for two hours. Then I draw and write for half an hour each. Only then do I start social, digital or any other interactions.
    5. Have a close eye on your biorhythm and structure the day around it. That includes conscious breaks you can dare to enjoy during the low points of the day.If I paint between 4-5pm I can be sure to mess it up and loose all the work time already put in, I will beat myself up, be annoyed and grumpy - it is much nicer to just decide beforehand you have your tea and doing-nothing-time scheduled then...
    Apropos rhythm: It is good give the week a structure, assign certain tasks to certain days and also to have fixed resting days. I do not know your age, but I had very good results with structuring my entire (working-)month by my cycle. Two weeks more outward focused , two weeks more inwardly and a few days to give everything a deep clean while bemoaning all that annoyed me the past month... ;) During my period i try to stay away from people that go on my nerves (especially men that mock) and rather reflect on the past and prepare for the coming month.
    6. An actual hourglass that runs for half an hour and a list of things I decided are good to do like projects, errands, self studies, household things, gardening and so forth. The hourglass was a real game changer - just decide the task and do it till the sand rinses through, then stop. This small mean to frame time has worked wonders for me and you can apply it to literally anything.
    7. Stop writing in your agenda what you should be doing, just write the day down like they actually happened and what you did do. It gives a better overview and feels tremendously more fulfilling. And you will like going back to it much like a happenstance dairy.
    8. A Spreadsheet - horizontally the days and vertically a list with a mix of habits you want to foster (sewing e.g.) and observations on yourself (did your socialize,how stressed did you feel, healthissues e.g.) Every evening I fill in the boxes and close my day with this ritual. Its rewarding to see all the little steps and the correlations to how my well being was. It helps me judging how I am doing much more objectively.
    9. Finding meaningful and enriching social interaction. Whichever form that takes for you - its crucial!
    9. Do things with your hands, see time as the luxury it is, appreciate your freedom, stay curious and find a purpose : )

    Well, I know why I never comment - I did not mean to write an essay actually..: )
    In any case best of luck - and thanks again for this fine blog!

  32. I really wish I could leave work and am sorely tempted to do so because of the terrible conditions there, however, we are trying to finish renovations to the house so that we can sell it and move into a smaller unit which we have already purchased and we are waiting to move into when the lessees move out and we have sold this place. I know it will only be a matter of weeks and I will be able to give it away but I don't know if I can physically and mentally wait that long. Money is the issue and if I leave now I am worried I will not have enough to get us through. I do not have much super' at all and I don't want to use what holiday pay I might have coming to me. We were self employed for a number of years and until recently I was employed on a casual basis so there has not been a lot of opportunity to put a lot of money aside and I don't want to retire a complete pauper. Any one out there with any suggestions as to what I can do, please?

  33. Burnout is real. I just quit the stressful job that I was at after 19 years (and a 2 hr commute each day) and got a part time, low stress job that is 10 min from home. The difference is palpable. I am less stressed, less tired, less irritable and have more time for all the things I need to do, plus spending more time with my family. Ideally, I'd love to be a full time homemaker but going to the 3 days a week (BIG pay cut) was hard for my husband to swallow. It's been about 6 weeks now and he has seen it is not the end of the world, that I am much less stressed and able to do more around the house. It's been a win-win. Once the children go back to school, I thought about picking up a second part time job (I signed up for 2 per diem home care jobs but have not taken any work as I want to spend the time with my children during the summer). But now that I am out, I'm thinking that I do not want to do a second job... I want those 2 week days to be about my home and my well being (as well as my family's). There is always work to be done, so I know I'll stay busy. So glad to see many others who have the same frame of mind and what their suggestions are. :)


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