SLT059: Make the Most of Your Margin
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So now that you’ve been working on building some margin in your life, maybe it’s a good time to start thinking about how you can make the most of your margin to make your life fuller. Not fuller with with stuff, but fuller with satisfaction.

We named our teardrop “The Guidon”. Maybe we should have named her “Margin”?

Once in a while when the topic of our simpler lifestyle comes up, someone will ask, “Well what are you going to do to fill all your extra time?” It’s a valid question, I guess, but one we can easily answer.  Read more…

Topic: What “Make the Most of Your Margin” Means for Us

So how would you answer how you planned to fill your “extra” time”? Actually, anyone could make an endless list of things to fill their “spare time”. But I think what separates us from our former selves (our pre-simplification selves), and what makes those of us on this simplicity journey a bit different, is that we would likely answer it very similarly. We’d say, “Well, first of all, I don’t feel the need to fill my margin, but if I choose to use some of it, it will be doing things that are important to me. Things that help fulfill my Life Plan.”

First, let’s review what we mean by margin:

This is how we define it: We define margin as “uncommitted time and space in your life.” Margin is what gives you options. Margin is what allows you to be spontaneous. Margin is what makes you feel more free. Just as there is a place for work and commitment in our life, there must also be a place for margin.

Margin on a page helps us appreciate the written word, the content and the context. But if those written words went from one side edge to the other, and from the very top of the page to the very bottom, the written words wouldn’t nearly as enjoyable. Those margins give us a place to make a little note; to record a thought or a question. The margin helps keep the written words, the message, in focus.

I know we’ve all been working on building more margin in our lives. Here are some things we’ve done to achieve more margin:

    • Decluttered
    • Reduced voluntary commitments
    • Streamlined our processes and systems
      • Setting up routines for all the must-do items
      • Making room for the want-to-do items

But, there comes a time when we’re faced with the fact that what we’ve let into our lives has stolen our margin from us. Here are some ways margin slips away from us…

    • When you answer “Yes” to be on that committee you really would rather not be a part of
    • When you say “Yes” to that dinner party invitation even though you really don’t want to go
    • When you’re guilted into being a chaperone for the field trip…you just gave away some of your margin. 

But when we decide we’ve had enough, we can vow to take that margin back. That is the first step. What follows is a stream of questions that all seem to start with “How?”

    • How can I get my time back?
    • How can I have more options?
    • How can I stop feeling like I’m juggling chainsaws?”

Making the Most of Your Margin

Here are some key things you can do to make sure you do what you can to make sure you make the most of your margin:

    • Be careful how you fill it (Parkinson’s Law corollary)
      • Parkinson’s Law states: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
      • Corollaries include:
        • Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity
        • Data expands to fill the space available for storage
      • Well, we’re pretty sure that applies to margin, as well!
    • Make sure you choose things that are congruent with your Life Plan
      • Things that don’t require too much “stuff”
      • Things that don’t take all your margin
      • Support as many of your Life Plan pillars as possible (no magic number here, just the more the better.)

Here’s What We’ve Chosen for Us and Why

    • Yours will be vastly different and that’s fine…but here’s some of ours:
      • Camping>teardrop vs Class A motorhome>minimal>forced outdoors>go off grid, if desired (fulfills Freedom and Family Pillars)
      • Tenkara traditional Japanese fly fishing>out in nature>minimal>stores easily in teardrop (fulfills Freedom, Family and Fitness Pillars)
      • Gymnastics>minimal equipment (Fitness Pillar)
      • The way we cook:
        • Big Green Egg >multi-use>grill-roast-smoke-low /slow-hi/fast (Fitness and Family Pillar)
        • Making sausage (Fitness Pillar)
        • Dehydrating: veggies, fruits, jerky (Fitness Pillar)

Major Takeaway

Know that you don’t need to fill your margin, but if you choose to use some of it, make sure you’re doing things that make the most of your margin. Choose things that flow right along with your Life Plan. Be frugal with your margin, be conscious of how you spend your margin…just like you are with your money. Invest your time in quality activities, not a larger quantity of activity.

You’ve worked hard for your margin. Make sure you take time to enjoy it!


So, how do you spend some of your margin? Have you considered which of your life pillars you’re supporting by your activities? We all enjoy different things in life, so tell us your favorite activities that you invest your margin time in! We’d love to know.

 Be sure to leave a comment below.

Thing Segment:

Our daughter mentioning while we were camping this past weekend: “This is the life!” 

Qs & Comments Segment:

Miriam commented that she’s made great strides at meal planning:  “…now each week I pull out the monthly plan, copy over the coming week’s menu and tweak as necessary.  So simple.  With enough variety but not opening up the entire world of choices which mostly get rejected and just cause me stress to sift through.  Since I plan at the start of each week I can change the plan a little or experiment if I want to, but from a position of stability.”


  • I’m working with our friend Joel Zaslofsky of Value of Simple on a “simplicity summit” of sorts, called SimpleRev, short for simple revolution. SimpleRev will be 200+ passionate simple-living advocates. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist will be there, too! To learn more, just go to or
    • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Date: October 3-4, 2014
    • Venue: University of St. Thomas Downtown Campus
  • Joel released a fantastic “All It Takes to get There” page on at As the name implies it covers all your transportation options, lodging, what to do, how to get around…everything a conference attendee would like ask about the area. It’s great, so check it out.
  • Special thanks to all of you who’ve left reviews for us on iTunes. It really does help people find the show.

So here’s a shout out to:

      • iTunes Review: Marsha for leaving us such a nice review on iTunes.
      • If you’d like to leave a review, just go here on iTunes and click “View in iTunes”, launch iTunes, and then click “Write a Review.”

Finally, sign up for the Edit & Forget It Challenge! If you’re already on our Edit & Forget It Challenge email list, that’s great. If not, you can sign up here.


You can download a PDF of our show prep, too.

Resources and Links:

 Photo Credit: Daniel Hayes

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