30 Minimalist Self Care Ideas for Busy Parents

Red coffee cup

I am not the first—nor will I be the last—to suggest that a healthy self-care regimen is necessary for maintaining a healthy self and a healthy family. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first. It’s one of those common-sense things we know but don’t always follow, like basic finance. But why?

Parenting in this country carries with it the enormous weight of unrealistic expectations and self-imposed guilt. Pamela Druckerman tells us in Bringing Up Bebe that American parenting, motherhood in particular, is plagued by the belief that the more one suffers, the better parent they’ll be. So we push ourselves, deny ourselves, doubt ourselves, and criticize ourselves.

On top of that, whether we go to work or manage the home, we’re also really damn busy. Most days it’s a miracle if we get everyone fed, dressed, clean, where they need to be, then home and into bed at a reasonable hour. When are we supposed to find time to hit the gym, make homemade whole-food meals, sleep 8–10 hours, and do it all again the next day?


We get into trouble and talk ourselves out of self-care when we try to do it all. We can’t commit to all, so instead we do nothing. But it doesn’t have to be that way; there are lots of small steps we can take each and every day. And a lot of them take only a few minutes, cost nothing, and can be done without any extra things. A minimalist dream!

I used to think a self-care regimen wouldn’t fit into my minimalist life. That I was too busy decluttering, planning and savoring authentic experiences. That even if I had the time, I couldn’t invest in it anyway. But minimalism reminds us of our priorities. It reminds us what matters. You get to be one of those things.

I’m here to tell you that you have the time. You have the right to take the time. You work hard, and you deserve to be taken care of. It’ll make you a better parent. It’ll make you a better human being.

You don’t have to go to a spa, or go shopping. You don’t have to indulge in anything over the top. You don’t have to do it all. Try one thing, or try 10. It doesn’t matter, as long as you try something.

Here’s a list of 30 minimalist self care ideas for busy parents, whether you have a few minutes or a few hours. Most cost little to nothing and don’t require anything special or extra. What could be better?

A few minutes

  • Sip a warm drink
  • Close your eyes and breathe
  • Take a walk around the block
  • Light a candle
  • Watch a TED talk
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Turn on your favorite song and dance
  • Walk into a room and close the door behind you
  • Stretch your neck, arms, and legs
  • Make yourself a snack (and don’t share it with anybody!)
  • Practice meditation
  • Make a gratitude list
  • Forgive somebody

An hour

  • Organize a space
  • Take a nap
  • Find a fitness class (minimalist bonus points if you can take it for free!)
  • Go for a drive or a bus/subway ride
  • Read a book
  • Delete unused phone apps
  • Purge your social media feeds
  • Watch your favorite show or movie
  • Enjoy a long shower or bath
  • Write in a journal
  • Ride a bike

A few hours

  • Turn off your phone
  • See a movie
  • Go window shopping
  • Find a museum
  • Visit the library
  • Take a hike

Starting a self-care routine can feel daunting when you think of it as all or nothing. But there are lots of little ways to do it every day. Ways that, for the most part, will only add to your health, wealth, and wellbeing.

Note: I have the privilege of living with a co-parent who can care for our child and free me up to take care of myself; I know this isn’t always the case. If you don’t have access to help, I suggest taking full advantage of naptime, even if all you do is catch your breath before you move on on the next thing.


Mother’s Day Wish, 2017

On this, our day, may we pledge:

  • To make room for what matters (and let go of the rest)
  • To slow down when and where we can
  • To honor ourselves and our values without fear or regret 
  • To treat all mothers (including ourselves) with grace and compassion
  • To accept whatever we feel at any given time
  • And to trust that we’re doing it right. 

Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you–may it be simple and slow and filled with what matters most!

Minimalism, Now More than Ever


Somewhere between the fall and spring I lost my center. Between the national election (and the divides it created in my organizations and families), the anniversary of our unexpected birth experience, and the allure of more (always more!) to be busy with, I lost sight of my goals and priorities. I lost myself. Fortunately, I won’t be that hard to find.

Why? Minimalism.

Minimalism is the answer when we feel this way. When we’re unsure of ourselves or our futures. When we find ourselves asking,

  • “Who am I?”
  • “What am I doing?”
  • Where am I going?”
  • “What do I want?”
  • “Why?”

Minimalism helps us answer these questions and silence the wondering. Here’s how:

  1. Minimalism helps us remember what’s important. Rather than an absence or an abstinence, minimalism is simply the thoughtful cultivation of a life worth living. It helps us identify our core values, priorities, and beliefs. When we do that, we see more clearly what gives our lives real meaning.
  2. Minimalism removes the unnecessary. When we commit to minimalism, we make room for the things that matter most, and we clear out the rest. By doing so, we start to realize how many of the things that tie us down or cause us anxiety have little to no bearing on our priorities. And if we don’t really need them, we can look at removing.
  3. Minimalism creates headspace and heartspace. We create space by eliminating the unnecessary. Once we eliminate noise and distractions and give ourselves room to think, we’re able to hear our own voices more clearly.
  4. Minimalism allows us to honor our values. If we remove the things that don’t honor our values, all that’s left are the things that do. If we’re diligent in this (in keeping our spaces free and clear), we can’t help but live authentically.
  5. Minimalism teaches us to let go of things. If we practice minimalism, we’re likely to purge things: physical items, calendar appointments, commitments, thoughts, and worries. Over time, we learn to let go. And each time we do it, the act of losing becomes a little less painful. We learn to hold tightly to what matters, but to loosen our grip on everything else. We see that all things serve a purpose in our lives and that it’s okay to say goodbye once that purpose is achieved. We learn to let go: either to enjoy it, or to let it hurt just a little bit less.

I don’t mean to make light of serious questions; finding and honoring ourselves takes work, and a lot of it. But we can make that work a little easier if we practice minimalism and choose the pursuit of a meaningful life.

Sick and Tired (Literally) from Too Much

I am sick and tired—literally—from too much stuff. Seriously. Between a busy stretch at work, the beginning of the school year, and our little one starting daycare, we’ve just had too much to do, and we tried really hard to get it all done. Then we all ended up sick.
Which got us behind. So we worked harder, which wore us out. Which got us further behind. And the cycle continued. For two months!

We’re just coming out of it now, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but  it’s clear some things need to change.

We’ve been minimalists for a while now, but I believe there’s always room for improvement. After spending four years focused primarily on simplifying our things, we’re ready to start simplifying other areas of our lives, so here’s what we’re working on these days:

There will, if the universe is willing, be more  regular content coming your way shortly. Stay tuned, and thank you for your patience!
In the meantime, how do you reset when your stuff and schedules get the best of you?