The Positives of Subtraction: Behaviors to Keep Post-Covid | Sixty and Me


We are entering a gradual post-pandemic period. Over the past year and two months, there are a number of subtractions I have made that have been positive. Going forward, I would like to hold on to the positive subtractions that came about during a forced time of change and adaptation. I’d like to keep my life as simple as possible as I enter into my 7th decade.

Here are seven very positive subtractions I will keep post-pandemic.

I’ve had fewer trips to the store, and honestly, I haven’t felt deprived of anything. Or course, it is simple to order online and have things delivered, but I find that I just have not purchased as much as I was used to buying pre-Covid.

Recently, I did go into a store, and it felt weird… and I didn’t buy anything because I had just gone through my closet to purge items I haven’t worn in a year. Having subtracted a suitcase (headed to Mexican indigenous families) worth of clothing from my closet, I couldn’t imagine any need I had.

The positive of not going into stores is that I have made many fewer spontaneous purchases, and I am more thoughtful about my spending.

For the past year, when I have run out of onions or bananas or garam marsala or milk, I’ve put it on a list and waited until we have other needs at the store. I’ve been creative (brave?) with substitutions in the kitchen and most have worked well.

I have been cooking for our family for almost 50 years, so I should have some kitchen confidence! Waiting until a grocery stop is easily scheduled with other necessary outings was an adjustment initially, but now it feels like a relief.

The positive of subtracting hopping in my car to go buy one ingredient is that I’ve saved gas, time, and money. And I’ve discovered that I am creative in the kitchen!

There haven’t been any social events, so this one is not something that I have been intentional about, but I find I don’t miss “having” to show up for events that were common pre-Covid.

I have missed casual lunches with friends and a weekly walk with a young friend, but even subtracting those, I have adjusted to living a less social life. Not having to be somewhere every day of the week has given me time to be outdoors to enjoy the seasons and to watch birds at our feeders and to learn some of their songs.

The positive of subtracting social events is that I enjoy being by myself more and I know my own thoughts better. I am content to sit at my desk and read or write. I don’t feel guilty relaxing in my hammock since there is nowhere else to be.

Ha! Doing laundry the other day, I noticed, again, how many different types of black “yoga” pants I have. Thin fabric, fleece lined, long ones, capri length, and of course, various shades of black. I am not the only one who has lived the pasts 14 months in yoga pants, I’m pretty sure.

I went through my closet the other day. My usual “pitch” criteria is “if I haven’t worn it in a year…” But in pandemic times, there are a lot of nicer dresses, professional pants and jackets, and dressy shoes that I have not worn since March of 2020.

My criteria changed to “if I don’t want to ever wear it again,” and the pile grew. I kept a few items that will cover me well in various environments, but I did not keep anything that is not comfy.

The positive of subtracting uncomfortable clothing is that I anticipate moving freely for the next decade.

One lovely thing about not being around many people in the past year-plus is that the temptation to compare myself to others (women, in particular) is not an issue. Staying at home, I have not noticed what others were wearing or how their hair was fixed or what their makeup looked like.

I have not thought that others might have more social appointments or fewer options for fun or a better relationship with their sisters or a worse time dreading holidays. I haven’t known what other people are doing on a daily basis, so I have not had to think about whether or not I was or should be or didn’t want to be doing the same or different things.

The positive of subtracting comparing is that I can settle into what I am doing that gives me energy and that floats my boat. I am freer to celebrate others when I am not comparing. And that floats my boat, too!

Well, I still have opinions about what I want to eat for lunch or how early I want to get up in the morning or what podcast I listen to. But I have stopped thinking that I need to have an opinion about every social or political issue that comes along.

Vaccinated? Do it or don’t… I am and I’m happy about that, but I have no opinion about whether you should or should not be vaccinated. Vegan/vegetarian/keto? Eat what you enjoy.

I will try to do what I can to eat so that I can avoid daily pharmaceuticals and obesity and hypertension and diabetes, but I will express no opinion about your choice of diet. (True confession, this one. I MAY have a little internal sigh, knowing diet is key to staying healthy and fit and active, but I have given up having opinions about what other people should be eating.)

Having opinions seems to mainly raise blood pressure and divide families. Instead of having an opinion, I try to find a way to listen, to ask questions, to express acceptance, to love.

The positive of subtracting having opinions is that I am much more open-minded to hear other people’s experiences and perspectives. I like having my world gradually expand as I hear and read and understand that we all have valuable perspectives based on the lives we have lived.

I see that life is complicated. Societal problems are complicated. There is a measure of corruption and self-aggrandizement in the powers that be that should not be ignored. But there are no easy solutions. I have come to settle into the reality that I will not change the world or the nation or the state or the city.

BUT I can make a difference daily in how I treat people, what I say to people, how I react to news, and whether I do something positive or simply complain and harp about what “should be” different.

The positive of subtracting the focus on the problems of the world is that I can actually make a huge difference in my little corner of the world.

I can recycle and mulch. I can grow organic veggies and share. I can smile and not complain when an employee makes a mistake or takes too long. I can hug my grandkids and listen, without judgment, to a friend complain about her husband. I can look for opportunities to give honest praise. I can be ready to meet a need that becomes obvious to me.

As I’ve spent tons more time at home and have been forced to adjust, I see that I have subtracted some habits and practices in my life. And those have been positive subtractions.

What have you subtracted from your life because of the pandemic? Which subtractions are you keeping and which are only temporary? How do you feel about your life of less? Do you think you can manage better this way? Please share your thoughts!

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