Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reader Request: Fitting It All In

I got a really lovely e-mail yesterday that I thought I'd share. It's in line with others I've received, as well as comments from readers, so I figured it was time to tackle this subject. It has to do with time management, or really my perspective on fitting in all the stuff that I do every day. I'm hoping I can provide some helpful insight! Here goes the letter, edited down a bit:
I've been following your blog for quite a while now and honestly, I'm quite jealous.  Apart from style differences, you are doing with your blog exactly what I've always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten the courage/gumption/time to do.  I know it's largely a matter of will on my part, but I'm curious as to how you do it.  You have the blog, you are writing a book, sewing garments and documenting their construction, painting fabric and the list goes on and on!  Are you still working for someone else?  Do you sleep and do laundry?  How much time does it take to maintain your blog? Make a video blog?  I am just continually amazed at how much you have going on.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you are able to make time for everything that you do, and I'm sure others would as well.
First, the basics. I have a full-time job editing books, and it's a creative and interesting job. It can also be pretty high-pressure, but I try to keep the bulk of my work at the office. I read manuscripts on the train and at home, so the job doesn't keep me chained to a desk for super long hours. (If you want to know more about my job, I happened to do an interview on the subject just yesterday. My interviewer was also my husband, so the post title may be a wee bit biased.)

As for my home life, I'm married but don't have kids. I imagine the "kid-free" part of the equation is what helps me pursue my hobbies more than anything else. I sleep about 7 hours a night. I absolutely don't do laundry! A grand thing about living in New York is that you can drop your wash off at the laundry in the morning, and pick it up, all clean and folded, on your way home. They charge by the pound and it's worth every penny. I wash my handmade dresses in a tupperware bin at home and let them line dry in the shower. I don't clean as much as I should and my husband does most of the cooking. (I wash the dishes.) I also don't go to the gym as much as I should.

The work week is pretty routine. I get home from work around 6:30 pm, and I usually have a little free time to relax. Usually this means sewing (or in the past week, painting a little), but sometimes it just means collapsing on the bed catatonically. After dinner, I get my second wind and that's when I get my real work done. I write a blog post for the next day and set it to go up at 7:00 am, a full hour before I even get up. I would say I work on my blog for 1-2.5 hours on the weekdays. If I have time left over after writing my post, I'll do something creative like work on a sewing project for a bit. Or sometimes Jeff and I put on a pot of tea, make some cookies, and watch sitcoms together. Then I shower and go to bed around midnight or so.

The weekend is when I get bigger projects done: working on my book, making a video tutorial, or just sewing for hours on end. I always sleep in. (People are generally worried about me being sleep deprived, but I'm really not!) I would say I put in a good 6-8 hours a day on the weekends working on various book, blog, and sewing projects. I break up my days into tasks I know I want to get done (i.e. finishing a chapter, hemming a dress, writing a post). Videos are quite time consuming, as you guessed. Even if they only take half an hour to shoot, the editing takes twice that usually. One thing that seems to fall by the wayside is answering reader's e-mails. (Sorry about that! I try; I really do.)

Those are the nuts and bolts of my schedule, if you will. But it's less robotic and much more intuitive and emotional than it sounds. My blog writing is generally about whatever I'm feeling most passionate about at the moment, whether it's shoes or bound buttonholes or silk painting. It's easy to be motivated when something is really speaking to you. I also keep pretty close tabs on how I'm feeling. Last week I got really overwhelmed (stressed, tired, and anxious), and that was what prompted me to take a week off blogging. I'm definitely ambitious, but I'm trying to learn when to back off and give myself a rest.

Speaking of being ambitious, I would definitely describe myself as someone who's always looking toward the next level, so I really related to this e-mail. There are so many creative women out there who seem to have it all (pattern companies, fabric lines, multiple books, etc) and I often compare myself to them. I wonder if I should be trying to make a living out of what I do in my free time (even though I think my day job rocks), or if there's something more I should be pushing myself toward, or if I'll ever be good enough to get there. When I fall down this rabbit hole of anxiety, I remind myself that it's all a process and we're all at our own place.

I didn't start my blog until after I turned 30, and I've recently been feeling so inspired creatively, like I'm getting closer to what I'm supposed to be doing. When I'm 40, maybe I'll be even closer. I'm a work in progress, no doubt.

Things will change a bit in the months to come. I'll be sewing garments for the book, so I won't be able to share what I'm working on. And the entire thing has to be finished (edited, revised, photographed, etc) this summer. But it will be a temporary thing, and I guess I'll figure it out as I go along! More to come on that front.

I hope this helps answer the question! I'd love to hear from all of you what your perspective on this matter is. How do you fit it in everything you want to do?


  1. This was a really great post. I've wondered the same thing-- how you fit it all in. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I'm pretty new to your blog so this ost really interested me. I have my own business and struggle to find time to do my stuff but then I do know that I do organise well enough my time! Congrats on finding the key but also know that it has to bend sometimes, like taking a week off blogging, we can do it all, we just have to know sometimes there is flexibility in the system!

  3. Thanks for this post - don't know how many times I've wondered the same thing; working full time with a young daughter, there are occasions when I feel that I'm living my creative life vicariously through you and other amazingly hard working bloggers. But thanks to you, I'm sitting at the office in my newly hemmed Crepe!

  4. Hmmm a problem for me too with twin 4 yr old boys, 10 month little girl, work 2 days a week, 3 meals a day to cook (with a wheat free boy to cater for), mountains of washing and tidying, exercise to do to fit into my georgous clothes. Love love love sewing and baking mostly cupcakes. Dont have a sewing room at the mo either so have to pack everything away.

    My method is to chose one or two things for the week and focus on that (like sewing and ironing) and then do something different the next week (tidying and exercise). Never have enough time for it all and I need sleep!!!!

  5. Thanks so much for this post! I so often feel like I should be able to do more with my time than I do. Seeing your schedule, I realize that you have made a very serious commitment to your blog and what you are doing. I think intuitively, I knew that, but it always helps to hear it from the horse's mouth.

    As for my schedule, I really struggle. The way I see it, I have three areas of my life that I need to maintain: 1) career 2) relationships with others and 3) relationship with myself. Really, everything I do in a day that takes time falls into one of these categories, and I find I can only be on top of 2 of those categories at a time. Lately, #3 seems to be what is suffering.

    Because of all this, I find that I am a crafting binger. I muster tremendous energy and focus for, like, a weekend. I just wallow in creativity. Then I come out of my stupor and realize that the sheets need to be washed, I have work email to sort through and my friends think I'm dead because I haven't returned any phone calls.

    I don't like this way of living. I want to sew and be creative everyday. It's who I am and it's really what makes me happy. I started sewing when I was 10 and 29 years later I still love it. I could seriously spend 8-12 hours a day, every day, on my crafting.

    Which is all to say, go Gertie for finding that elusive balance! You've given me hope and inspiration try to be better about prioritizing my time so that I can live the life I want.

  6. I should also note that I'm not married and don't have any kids, so I feel doubly that I don't have any excuse for feeling time strapped. I have no idea how mothers, working or stay at home, do it.

  7. Hi Gertie,

    That's a really enlightening post! I study one day a week and work 9-5 for four so really struggle to do homework, excercise, socialise, housework etc and still find time to do crafty things too!

    It's quite nice to know you aren't super human, just good at managing the free time you do have :o)

  8. Thanks Gertie for this post, your blog and your dedication is always an inspiration! I wonder how many bloggers squeeze their hobby in, when they have a day job to attend or kids to rear, though these days you can count yourself lucky to have a day job to fall back on. Blogging is not something that I take lightly, so rather than posting any old stuff on a daily basis, I feel it's better to take my time and prepare a really informative and enjoyable post.The key, either way is to enjoy yourself, and trake pride in being creative.An important point I'd like to make here [ and I may do a post on it myself, is that Blogger is sadly limiting in it's ability for successful bloggers to expand to a proper site and blog.Many bloggers leave Blogspot and move to a self hosted Wordpress site,and if you want to retain all your google ranks etc, it involves a scary bunch of 301 redirects, and I'm sad to say that unless Blogger can very soon provide an install for a proper site builder here, it's almost certain that'll I'll need to move.

  9. Fab post!!! Thanks for sharing your routine :)

  10. Very interesting post, and I certainly can relate. I can relate to feeling ambitious - a yearning to grow creatively. This wonderful life force that keeps me happy, satisfied, fulfilled even when I have concurrent feelings of doubt, anxiety or insecurity.

    And, I related to the child-free part. Now that my child has grown into an adult, I am just wallowing like a pig in mud. It's like a re-birth to have all this free time outside of my job.

    OK, one more thing I relate to - doing the thing you feel passionate for at the moment. That way, things get done and there is still time to chill. I don't cook or clean too much either.

  11. I just want to say THANK YOU for this post. I struggle a lot with "keeping up with the Joneses" and feeling like I don't get "enough" done. But your comment "When I fall down this rabbit hole of anxiety, I remind myself that it's all a process and we're all at our own place." hit home. Even though I'm a bit younger than you, it still is a lot of pressure to do it faster and take on more and more. I can only do so much right now before my poor brain goes on overload and I shut down. lol.

    I have always admired how deftly you are able to juggle things and appreciate all the hard work you have put into sharing and teaching here. I have learned so much from you over the past couple years--and consider myself very lucky to "know" you as a seamstress and fellow blogger. Oh, and may I also add that I am incredibly jealous of all you New Yorkers who are able to drop off laundry to get it done?! I HATE laundry; it gets done once-a-week, but whether it gets folded and put away is another matter. *stares at pile of clean, but jumbled laundry* Just think of all the extra sewing time I could gain... haha.

    The sad fact with me is that I often don't fit in everything I want to do (mostly because I'd have to have an army of clones to get everything done!). Sometimes it's the sewing that suffers. Other times we eat leftovers for days at a time because I'm too engrossed in a project to do more than pop something in the microwave. I try to schedule my days out a bit and usually prioritize things based on what needs to get done, what I'd like to get done, and what can roll over to the next day if needed. My biggest problem is underestimating how long something will take. Case in point: one weekend I had figured I'd prep several image-heavy posts, shoot a couple video tutorials, and cut out a new dress. Oh, and also spend time with my husband. Needless to say, it didn't all happen. ;) lol.

    I'm looking forward to reading more about your book once it's closer to the release date, and admit I'm totally intrigued by the mention of "designs". One thing you might want to consider if you want to keep things going during the times when you're buried under the book-writing process is guest posts. I've been discussing this idea of having "back up bloggers" with another blogger recently, and it's a great fall-back. Just an idea! ;)

    ♥ Casey

  12. Thanks for this post. As someone in a similar situation (work-full time, married, no kids) I related to it a lot.

    Sometime I'll get jealous of some other bloggers I read that don't have full-time jobs. But if I really want get something done there truly is the time for it.

    If I'm really into a project I'll work on it before going to work and skip my usual morning blog reading or after dinner and skip tv.

    I do find that it helps a TON to have dedicated sewing space (however small). Not having to pull out (and put away) the sewing machine every time makes it that much easier to sew a seam or two as time allows.

  13. I've always wondered how you do so many things at once.I love your blog; it's more than a sewing blog.

    I guess my biggest problem is that I've never pushed myself.

    Good luck with your book.


  14. I'm single and childless and I can't figure out where all my time goes. I blame it on commuting, but it's not just that. I get home at 6:00, eat, walk the dog, walk/jog myself (my dog is 15; walking her is time-consuming but doesn't count as exercise for me), do the dishes . . . and then it's bedtime. And I know I don't get enough sleep, anyway. I leave the house no later than 6:45, so I'm gone 11 hours a day in the first place. (Wait, you don't get up until 8? I have to be at work by 8. Do they not count a lunch hour into your work day??)

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that working is what keeps me from crafting myself to death. If my job didn't take up so much of my time, I'd be so busy with hobbies I'd lose my mind. Ha ha!

  15. Editors are naturally organized and able to accomplish so much that others just gape in awe. LOL. Seriously, if you don't have kids, your hubby cooks, and you can get your laundry done cheap, that frees up a *huge* amount of time. I work full-time, cook, do the laundry, clean sporadically (is a holiday coming up?), chauffeur my DS, do volunteer work, and squeeze in the sewing when I can. This explains why the wool for my Lady Grey coat is still sitting on my worktable! It will get done ... eventually! Keep up the good work, Gertie. I tip my blue pencil, er, delete key to you ;-)

  16. Thanks for sharing this with us! Yours was one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. I was so surprised to hear that you too fall prey to that "rabbit hole" of anxiety sometimes. When my mind starts to go in that direction I try to remember that negative thinking is only a hinderance to creativity. Like you said- everyone has their own path- so true.

  17. Thank you for this. I am a stay at home homeschooling mom of two kids, and some days I feel like all I can do is get dressed and put my hair up! I really try hard not to compare my life to others', and to remember that this is just where I am right now. Sometimes it's hard to see "everyone else" out there doing what you would love to do. Good for you for keeping it in perspective!

  18. Great post! I love the part with your laundry - wish I could get this service too.

  19. When I lived in NYC I would go to the laundromat and sit and sit. Then I found out about drop-off laundry service and oh how happy was I! And so nicely folded. And not even that much more expensive than doing it yourself.

    I get sewing done after work too, and on the weekends. I get the "should I be doing something more?" question too, but you're one of the people who I think is really doing something about it so I was surprised you also think this! I have to step back and realize I am doing stuff, I'm just a bit of an overachiever :)

  20. Great post! I have a full-time job, work freelance gigs, and am at the dojo 3x a week for an hour to three hours at a time, so I definitely know what you mean about having no time! A lot of time I feel like I don't have enough time to get everything I want to do either. I've learned since to scale down my goals and to schedule my sewing time accordingly -- complicated tasks like drafting and cutting for the weekend, and assembling the garment during the weekdays. I also never cut out exercise from my daily routine just because I can't -- again thank you for this post! :)

  21. I think that as soon as your readers saw the post about fabric painting....that was it, we knew you are GOLDEN!

    The balance to flow with your creativity yet still maintain a constant routine sounds crucial to your success. You do a great job of making your followers feel supported, and noncompetitive. I work 12 hours as a nurse, and am whipped when I get home. Then I cram my sewing, blog, photoshop etc into the other days. I turn around, and like another reader noted, all the laundry, cleaning and maintenance stuff is piled up. Makes me hard to live with :)
    I am going to work harder on more structure to my schedule. What has kept me going over the years, raising family, working hard, and trying to maintain a healthy relationship, is an attitude of "I get do to this today" , instead of "I have to do this today".
    Hey, being a nurse, I see everyday, how lucky we are to be able to have all these choices! Smoochies!

  22. I have kids, so I don't have as much free time as someone without kids would have, but I still seem to have more time to be creative than my friends, they claim. The answer to that is easy: I do not watch television.

  23. When I think of the most creatively productive times in my life, these were the factors that made it possible: No kids or husband, no long commute; dinners were usually microwave TV dinners, or large one-pot meals cooked 1-2 times per week and then eaten as leftovers on other days.

    I would come home, eat, and start my sewing. Oh, and my sewing stuff stayed out all the time and most of it was in my living room. So I didn't have to "go away" to the sewing room. It was right there in front of the TV, staring me in the face every day.

    Nowadays, there are more demands on my time but I find that blocking out sewing time on my schedule is very helpful. Dishes and laundry don't always get done. :)

  24. This was a great read! I often wonder how on earth you do all you do. :)
    I drive myself pretty hard and them am always disappointed I don't have time for "me time". Ah well, I still need to learn balance.

  25. You drop off your laundry? My heart just swooned. I gots to find me some of that.

  26. I'm a bit jealous. :)
    I'm a single mom of 3, two with special needs. I work from home in what should be a full time job. I try to blog and sew as much as possible. I'd say I get to do about 15-20% of the stuff that I want to do. I do the bare minimum to my house now...I wish I had more time or could go on 3 hours of sleep each night! It does get hard to see all the things that so many others do and know that I could do some more of that, too, if I could just get more time.

  27. I liked reading this because it's nice to see a great sewing blog (or any blog) that doesn't try to be a business with lots of ads and 'sponsor shoutouts'. I love that you have a day job and let me guarantee that your friends appreciate that you have a 'real life'.
    I have lots of different hobbies and people always seem to marvel at how I fit it in, but I'm like you-- it just happens. I love seeing, reading about, meeting, or hearing about fellow multi-taskers!

    If you ever had 'center time' in pre-school, where you got to choose what theme/area you wanted to play in, it's really the same thing.

  28. I love this "day in the life" kind of stuff. Thank you for posting it!

    Free time isn't my trouble--it's that every step of a project seems to take a long time. I'm still new to sewing, so I guess I'll get faster as time goes by. But I've had to consciously stop beating myself up about going slowly. I even had to unsubscribe from The Sew Weekly, which I love, because I kept comparing myself to Mena's pace. (A dress done in three hours? I probably take that long just to do prep work and cut my fabric.)

  29. I'm guessing that with your hubby being a writer, he's more than happy to "let" you have your 6-8 hour weekend work binges. ;P Can't wait for his book to hit!

  30. Reader Nic: Things will be very different when those 4-yr-old twins are old enough for school. You will sew again. And sleep! Take it from the mom of triplet kindergarteners.

  31. Great insight! I also have a full time job but no children so evenings and weekends are mine. My partner has his own hobby so we're happy to do our own stuff in our shared creative space. I am also very jealous of your laundry arrangements.

  32. Thanks for being so generous with your experience! It is very helpful to see how other creative minded folks do it!

  33. Thanks for a little window into the life of Gertie. I've also thought about the career thing. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder about pursuing my crafty paths. For now, juggling both seems the best solution.

  34. Thanks for sharing! I've always wondered how you do it :) Especially because you have such a variety of things on the go - writing a book, sewing, leading sew-alongs, teaching, travelling!
    When I was working full-time, I found that I just *made time* for sewing and blogging, because that's what made the daily grind worthwhile. That couple of hours in the evening was something to look forward to! Although I had moments of wondering how on earth some of my favourite bloggers managed to do it, and so cheerfully, too! I'm ambitious too, but that can be my downfall as I have a tendency to take on too much. I suppose the best thing is knowing it's your choice, it's your blog and if you feel like taking a break, it's your right to do so!
    So excited about your book. Are you using the same patterns as the original Vogue book, making your own, or using modern patterns? Probably it's a surprise - but I'm sure it will be fabulous! :)
    ps. How fabulous about the laundry! I'd totally take advantage of that service, too!

  35. Congratulations for all that you do! It's impressive. I work full-time myself but I only manage to post once a week. BTW, Nice to see you work as editor. I did that to for a while!

  36. Great post Gertie, looks like hard work pays off!

  37. Great post, and really great comments too. It's very reassuring to see we all have different time constraints, and different goals, and our own ways of prioritizing.

  38. I'm now inspired to get my bottom in gear and get things done!! Sometimes having too much time is even worse because then you procrastinate and don't prioritise. I have my productive days and then my slack days, wish there were more productive ones!

  39. Thanks so much for a great post. I've often wondered the same thing about you as well as other bloggers. You seem to make it look so easy. I too would love to make crafting/sewing a full time career, and I'm thinking I'll be able to do it in about 30 years when I retire! Lately I've gotten really slack at blogging and sewing, so my new year's resolution was to do something crafty every day. So far I'm right on track, but we'll see how the rest of the year goes! I can't wait to see your book. Keep up the great work.

  40. I've only seen the film adaptation of "The Best of Everything." I assume the cover was posted in a spirit of irony. That is one of the most depressing, and happily, somewhat dated movies I've ever seen about young women in the Big City.

    I always assume that people who get a lot done are healthily ambitious and very tired.

  41. Aah "balance" is strange thing. Constantly changing. I'm at home with 3 kids and just when I think I might have the balance thing in sight something changes and chaos continues!
    Perhaps the lesson is not to fight it. Fit in what we can, when we can and make sure there is a piece of cake/chocolate/glass of wine (insert crutch of choice here) close to hand when we can't!
    Thanks for sharing. Goodluck with your book.

  42. Oh Gertie! This was such a wonderful post! I too, have often wondered how you do it. How do I do it? I don't. And lately its been me having a crises every week, breaking down and not getting anything done at all. It's a hard cycle. Unfortunately my day job has nothing to do with anything that I want to do or be and so I have that added aggravation on top of the struggle to still have a life outside of work.

    I also have the problem of measuring myself against other women who do seem to have it all. I love their creativity and ingenuity but I do so envy them that sometimes the envy truly feels like really rotten jealousy. But I also have to remember, that I don't walk in their shoes and they probably have their own demons to battle.

    You have such a fantastic blog and have produced and continue to produce such high quality material, I'm constantly impressed by how much you do. You are such a credit to not only the home seamstress community, but to the blogging community as well! However you do it, we all love it and appreciate it and completely understand when you need time off. Thanks for helping the rest of us all still feel human too!


  43. Thanks for telling us how you manage all your gigs! When I read "I break up my days into tasks I know I want to get done (i.e. finishing a chapter, hemming a dress, writing a post)." I thought D'oh! I need to start actually following through on my to-do lists, otherwise I can't wonder where all the time went...
    I have read your blog since almost the beginning and I really am grateful that you choose to spend your spare time sharing sewing knowledge and providing inspiration. I know it is natural to compare yourself with other creative ladies, but when that happens I hope you remember that you have already achieved so much! And you are only going to go up from here! :)

  44. Thank you very much for posting all that, it's very inspiring and give me hope.

  45. Hi, I have dedicated a post to your site in my vintage collection:
    Hope you like.

  46. I love "day in the life" posts like this! I'm forever amazed at how much you and several other sewing bloggers get done! You're all an inspiration! Can't wait for your book!

  47. Hi Gertie,

    I was another reader who felt super-baffled after the fabric-painting post regarding your time! So, I too thank you for demystifying. I have kids, and really, that's the key to serious time-management problems as an artist/sewist with a very involving day job (I'm a public school teacher). One thing I learned from your post, which I'm definitely going to try: if I sit down and describe how I spend my time on weekdays and weekends, I might see patterns and places to make different choices.

    Keep it up, and I am yet another who is cheering on your book progress. I'll be one of the first in line!

  48. What a great question! I have been reading your blog for a while, and I was always amazed (and so happy) to see you post so frequent. I've also seen you grow "into your blog," with the ability to really educate and provide some really great topics for discussion. It's a bit corny, but you're a big reason I finally started my own blog to journal my crafting and sewing adventures. Thanks for always sharing!

  49. Long time lurker on your blog, love your work! (first time commentor).

    I just wanted to add that something that helps me is "don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today". Even if it is just a little thing like tidying up the kitchen bench or putting away the dishes before going to bed.

    There was a time where I made every single item of clothing I wore and I could whip up a dress in a couple of hours. Children pretty much brought that to a screaming halt. My sewing projects are far fewer these days due to all the running around involved with Mr15 & Miss12. However now that I have dropped back to only working 2 days a week, sewing is back on the agenda, I have a sketch book full of fabulous drawings for a Spring Racing Wardrobe. Complete with hats and gloves. Luckily I have until November to get this accomplished.

    And I am insanely jealous of the laundry service, there is NOTHING like that in Australia, we do our own washing and hang in out in the sun to dry :)


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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