Beyond the Daily Tasks of Motherhood: The 80/20 Principle

After Monday's post about What It Means to Be an Intentional Mama, it's only fair that I share some basic ideas for simplifying your home life and making purposeful daily choices. Let's look at some percentages for a minute:

In the early 1900s, an Italian man named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of the peas from his garden were produced by just 20% of his pea plants (not unlike my toddler, who makes up 25% of our family and produces roughly 80% of the daily mess on our dining room floor. But let's get back to the story!) After reflecting on the 80/20 ratio, Pareto also noticed that 20% of Italy's population owned 80% of the land in Italy. Today, the Parento Principle (aka the 80/20 rule) is frequently used in a business context to explain that a small percentage of something can hold power of the majority of the results.




In relation to mothering, here are two ideas to help ensure that 20% of your efforts can lead to 80% of what you want to accomplish: 


1. Create a family purpose statement. In a nutshell, what do you want your family to be about? It may seem silly to treat your family like a business plan, but nothing else could help you focus your lives more conscientiously. Start thinking about what you want your lives together to be like, and bring your husband into the conversation. As a family and as individuals, are there a few key principles for how you want to focus your time?

I've been mulling over these questions for a while, and tonight my husband and I started discussing our family's focus. Loving, learning, and promoting peace & progress seem to be key desires for us. Perhaps our statement is a bit broad, but it encompasses our passions and values pretty well. (I gladly credit Tsh Oxenreider for sharing the Family Mission Statement idea at and in her clear book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living.)

Here's a brief film from Dave Stone, a Kentucky pastor, featuring some Christian couples and their family mission statements.

2. Delegate housework tasks to others. By nature, motherhood includes repetitive tasks. Dishes, laundry, setting appointments, buying groceries--these activities matter, but they're not as important as being fully present with our spouse and children, or getting to know the neighbors, for example. If you and your spouse both work full-time, hire a housekeeper--there's simply no other way to have true quality time with your family in the limited time you have left at home. And for all mamas, don't hesitate to have your children help you in whatever ways they might be able. (I love Elizabeth Pantley's point in The No-Cry Discipline Solution about having young children clean up after themselves so they grow into teens with well-established habits.) Even the youngest children can habitually put their clothes in a hamper and take their plates to the sink.

Image courtesy of Kylie at

Image courtesy of Kylie at

Much more could be said for simplifying the tasks of motherhood, but these two ideas alone can help you refocus the little free time you have towards quality relationships and joyful pursuits. I wish you the moments of reflection you need to focus your time.