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The relationship between consuming & producing

Real talk time: I didn’t get a chance to work through my hot spots this week. Chalk it up to life and a holiday weekend, I suppose, but there it is. I did not work on decluttering.

I very much plan to, still, and I’ll still report in how it goes (several drawers and our laundry area are calling my name). But there’s another, more significant, reason I didn’t get around to decluttering:

My brain and body are officially in consumption mode.

Here’s what I mean: I’m a big believer in producing before I consume, at least when it comes to work. I write first thing in the morning, before my brain has a chance to be consumed by my email inbox, the chatter on social media, or even all the needs and ideas my kids throw my way when they wake up. If I get a chance to produce on paper (or screen) before life throws its stuff my way, my writing—my art—is much better.


As a general rule, I prefer to produce before I consume. The producing is purer and more authentic, and the consuming afterwards is more intentional, richer, and overall more beneficial.

Sometimes I can’t produce first. Sometimes I shouldn’t produce first. There are times when I need the inspiration of others, or of God, before I’m fully ready to create. And this is a good, right, healthy thing.

Going even deeper: This isn’t solely a daily rhythm. Sometimes I have weeks like this—an entire day of just consuming that’ll allow my creative side to produce better stuff the rest of the week, had I not taken a day to just consume. To read, watch a movie, eat out, listen to podcasts, hear my friend’s latest thoughts, absorb the wildly imaginative ideas from my kids. Those things can be life-giving.

And then there are times when it’s more than a day or a week—we have whole seasons that ebb and flow with producing and consuming. My family is officially entering a much-needed season of consumption. We need a break from producing.


It’s been a year since we’ve returned from our travels (how is this possible?), and this year has been rough. We moved across the country, we found new rhythms, we settled in to a rental house (where we’d live longer than any of our guesthouses from the previous year, but still not long enough to call it ‘home’). Our kids started a new school, which for us meant a new way of “doing” school. One of our kids switched schools mid-year. I wrote a book. Kyle started a small business.

We have been producing like crazy people this past year: new books, new woodworking projects, new school assignments (which has not been a good thing for us), new new new. We’ve had to outpour far more than we anticipated.

And so, with the edge of the school year just a few days away, we are more than ready for a break from a season of production. We need to be poured into. We need to consume.


This is my long, round-about way of explaining that I didn’t sort through our laundry room this week. It makes sense in my head.

I just couldn’t muster the strength, with the last few days of school knocking at our door and a lot of summer changes waving in the ever-looming distance, to sort through my paper piles and the messy stack of towels on top of my dryer. (Perhaps this is an encouragement to you?)

We are all so. tired. around here, and so, we are unapologetically entering a season of consuming good, right, healthy things that will give life to us.

I’m still writing here weekly, of course. I’m recording lots of podcast episodes to release throughout the summer, and I’m stoked to share them with you. I’ve got lots of ideas for this space and can’t wait to pull back the curtain. But for the next few months, we’re going to take care of us.

And without any irony, I look forward to sharing them with you over the next few months. Here’s a hint at a few of them:

1. My kids will learn to cook.

They already know the basics, but they’re all eager to learn more. One of my kiddos in particular knew I signed us up for Katie Kimball’s Kids in the Kitchen e-course, and he’s been chomping at the bit to start.

Kids Cook Real Food with Katie Kimball

This course will be one of our summer activities, and I think we’ll all reap the benefits. I want our oldest to start overseeing one dinner per week, and our middle guy to oversee one lunch. This course is a great place for us to begin. We’ve watched the first few videos, and we already love Katie’s easy-going teaching style.

Knowing how to cook ten real-food meals from scratch is one of our life goals for the kids when they leave our house. Now’s the time for us to get started.

2. We will all read. A lot.

I’ve long associated summer with reading, and this year will be no different. I’m working on creating my kids’ summer reading lists, and I’ll share them with you all soon. They look forward to them each year.

3. We will travel.

No surprise, eh? No big international forays, though; just a classic road trip through the west up to Oregon and back. We’ve done this many times, but this year, we want our oldest two to be more involved in the planning.

We’ll have them research good camping spots, sights to see, and the budget to take us there. They did this a little bit on our big trip, but travel-planning is such a useful, solid skill to develop, we’ll welcome our kids’ involvement as we continue to travel more and more.

4. I will move my body.

I suppose exercise can be seen as an act of producing, but for me right now, it’s consuming. It’s taking a vitamin that’s good for me. It’s treating myself to a gift of focus on my well-being and physical health. Exercise has taken a backseat since we moved, and I need to reclaim some good habits. I miss it.

30 Day Bodyweight Challenge with Betty Rocker

Right now I’m working through Betty Rocker’s 30-day bodyweight challenge program, and it is kicking my butt in the best way. I’m treating myself to a reset button.

5. I will back off from screen time.

I’ve taken an online break every summer the past six years, and this year will be no different. I’m stepping away from the blog from mid-July to mid-August, and I’ve invited dear friends to share their words here (like I do every year).

I’m diving deeper into podcasting, and will transition to a weekly show soon. I’ll start my mentoring service. I might write another e-book. I have an idea for another course rolling around in my brain.

closed laptop

All these excite me, but I can’t focus on them until I focus on my current needs. And right now, I need to consume good things. I need to read good books, get messy in the kitchen with my kids, drive to some new places, and move by body.

Right now, I need to consume before I produce.

I’ll share with you soon my decluttering projects. In the meantime, I’m unapologetically going to read a book today. My soul, brain, and body need it.

How about you? Are you more in a season of producing or consuming?

Reading Time:

5 minutes





  1. Rachel Federman

    I like this post and really relate to the way you’ve described consuming and producing (and their interplay). Also makes me think of something the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Fordham said on our first day there. Up until now, you’ve been mostly consumers of knowledge. Now it’s time to produce knowledge. (Abbreviating her words.) But you’re right, we are always going to consume knowledge (and experience) as we produce, before, after, alongside. What I think is so healthy about your approach is how you really think about it, make sense of it, step back and see the larger patterns at work.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I like that, Rachel. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Heather

    I go through phases like this – when we are getting close to finishing any type of project, whether it is canning, homeschooling, house project, if I have a particularly good month writing blog posts – I hit a wall and need to sit back and read books all day long – you know, when my kids let me 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yep. Amen to that.

  3. Tracy Alsterlund

    Amen to real life, grace and giving ourselves what we need, intentionally. I think your real life is important as a teacher, even more than a well thought out plan for decluttering. I am looking forward to more self awareness on producing and consuming in my own life. Thanks for the life lessons!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thank you for that, Tracy. I feel the same way.

  4. Aimee @ Whispers of Worth

    I have also been consuming this month: lots of books (both for fun and personal growth), the Work By Design Summit and the Hope*Writers free videos (including the interview with you, which was great), podcasts, articles, and currently a documentary on clothing production. My head is swirling a bit from it all, and I don’t know exactly what I will do with all of the input, but I trust that when I feel ready to produce again, I’ll have a rich reservoir to draw from.

  5. Niha

    I love your goal for each kid to know how to cook ten real-food meals. Thanks for the authenticity in your post, too. I feel like I haven’t “produced” much of anything since I’ve chosen to stay home with my babies but, for me, even just doing life and tackling whatever life throws at me without a good self-care break results in the same kind of exhaustion that you describe. Thanks for the honest words.

  6. Marla Taviano

    Love this, Tsh!! Excited for you to get all filled up! We leave for two months in the States on June 8 (EEK!), and I’m hoping/praying for LOTS of consumption (the healthy, beautiful kind) so we can come back refreshed and ready to produce.

  7. Cathy

    I so appreciate describing the different seasons as consuming and producing- I am a teacher who has spent the year producing,and it is good to think about consuming so many good things so that I will be able to produce well in August for my students. It helps me to have the freedom to read, and think and just be- and reminds me to consume God’s word well too. And to keep decluttering….a little at a time…..

    Thank you for your good gifts of words- and sense of order in life that you share so well.

  8. Heidi

    This is why I feel so restless if I spend more than a day just reading and surfing the internet – I need to produce! Thanks for articulating this for me! Our family is in London, on our way back to the States after living in Mumbai for a year. It’s been tricky to balance production and consumption there, because a lot of acts of consumption I enjoy have required a lot of production to get to. I couldn’t just leave the kids at Grandma’s and go get a massage – I had to make an appointment for a time when my husband was home and coherent (he was working U.S.hours there), and decide on transportation, and make sure I had cash to tip, and listen more closely through the accents. We had a wonderful time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I’m tired of simultaneously producing and consuming.

  9. Jaime

    Hey Tsh! We are taking our summer road trip out to Oregon (from WI) as well!!! Hope you have a great trip. This will be our 3rd annual summer road trip and they are always a magical time for our family. Looking forward to seeing the ocean at Cannon Beach and visiting Multnomah Falls!

  10. Laura F

    So excited for the podcast to become weekly!

  11. Chantel K

    I SO get this! Last year was a year of consumption for me, after three years in the adoption process I just needed to step back and rest for a bit. It’s good to hear there are others out there who go through periods like this as well.

  12. Meghan

    Ooh, I love this. I really love the idea of producing before you consume (though of course I recognize the value of making sure you consume enough to replenish after producing!). Lately, I’ve been in a real production — and consumption — slump, and I think it’s because I’ve been producing too many small things. Taking too many teaspoon-sized dips out of the well. They don’t ever let me get down to the good stuff down deep, but they each cost the same amount of energy to take that trip out, dip in, walk back to the house. There’s also still no room for anything good to go in without losing stuff, and no time for what’s on top to settle to the bottom to mature (or bubble up from the bottom, since it’s a well. For everything to mix up, I guess), if you don’t mind me taking this metaphor way too far. Anyway, enjoy your break, and thanks for giving me something to think about!

  13. Annette

    This must be what I’m feeling. A definite desire to pull out and away from everything! I’ve already given notice on something I’ve been doing for years and I’ve been talking to God about what He wants me to do about my job which breaks for summer and resumes in August. I’ve scaled down my Instagram feed, unfollowed blogs and unsubscribed from lots of emails. I needed to stop the swirling that I felt in my spirit.

  14. Joan

    Is there a post somewhere that lists those ten real-food meals from scratch? I’d like a checklist for me! We’ve drastically changed our eating habits for the better over the last 10-ish weeks, thanks to help from a nutritionist. While the results have been great (hubby has lost 20+ lbs, I’ve lost 10), some fatigue has set in. I wonder if getting back to some basics might help…

  15. Ellen W

    My ten year old son loves planning trips and has planned large portions of our trips the past few years. He even makes PowerPoint presentations to give the rest of the family an overview. He is much more adept at using all the features of Google maps than I am.

  16. Devi

    We moved back to Australia seven months ago (from Europe), and yes, the exhaustion can be intense for me. It is not easy to be the one managing emotions, schedules, the set up of a new home, and on and on.. MasterChef australia online has been my consumption therapy.

  17. Sarah Caldwell

    Thank you SO MUCH for these words! I’ve been thinking alot about this concept as well, probably because I seem to be in a season of consumption as well. Sometimes I get stuck there, and wonder what’s wrong, but I’m beginning to think I need a good amount of filling so I can experience good, deep productivity. I’m rehearsing/performing in a musical right now, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on why I feel slightly out of the process/sluggish when I’m normally chomping at the bit to do a show – I think its because I haven’t performed in this ‘consuming’ time for me in quite awhile! Thank you for helping me realize this Tsh. I am thrilled for you and your family’s summer plans – relish that break! 🙂 I for one, am also THRILLED my favorite podcast is going weekly–yippee!! Blessings to you and your family!

  18. Lori

    It’s like you’ve given “us” permission to take a step back and rest for a minute. Sometimes we just need to hear it.

    Having just finished my last day of teaching 4th grade, it is time for a (short) season of consume 🙂

    Enjoy your book!

  19. Greg Kamphuis

    Wow this is exactly what I needed to read! I put too much pressure on myself to produce but you are exactly right! What really resonated with me was the idea of a refill. That conuming can be healthy ! I would like to add that consuming love and quallity time may be the best recharge and now i realize that this will innevitablyean we produce more loving work. Love thos article, thanks !

  20. Melissa Rank

    You mentioned life goals for your kids. I’d love to hear more about that!

  21. alison

    Yes, this one, there are few post I will take time to reread and ponder on again and again, this is one that speaks well, a kinder and slower place, a season we call Summer ?

  22. alison

    Yes, this one, there are few post I will take time to reread and ponder on again and again, this one speaks well of a kinder and
    slower pace, a season we call Summer ?

    edited ?

  23. Rebekah Disch

    This is so good. I’ve been following your blog for the last few years, and posts like this are especially inspiring to me. For me, I can be lazy and consume the wrong things (Internet…Pinterest…Instagram…watching other peoples’ lives – which have their time and place, for sure) that don’t actually fulfill or inspire in the right ways but leave me discontent and empty. You hit the nail on the head – I think consuming the RIGHT things at the right time (as you detailed in your post!) is the key. Thanks for the inspiration reminder that if we are to consume, to fill our lives with things that are life-giving, not wasteful and life-sucking. 🙂

  24. Chelsey

    I love your concept of consuming good things in this season. We all need to rest and feed our minds and bodies without feeling guilty about it. Without a full cup, we can’t really pour anything out. I would love to know what you are reading this summer!

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