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Mindfulness in the empty minutes

“And in between, my mind kept wandering to those creative projects that keep calling to me, hopping along with me from moment to moment throughout my day, waving. Not nagging, not impatient, but simply there and smiling, not wanting me to forget.

I won’t forget. I’ll make room and time. If only for a few minutes here, a few minutes there …”

These words came off my pen last fall. Last fall when I was deep in preserving the apple harvest, when homeschool and sports and hunting season were woven over and under each other in a beautiful, complicated pattern, and when, over all this, sat the largest project I’d ever attempted.

And I was promising myself that I’d do even more?


Actually, no.

I wouldn’t do more, I would simply learn to see. I would see the creative nourishment and mindfulness waiting in the empty minutes of the day. And I would pick up the needles and knit, if only but a few stitches (this morning it was only 4 or 5). I would color slowly across the linen with embroidery floss, just one stem of a flower. I would open the journal, pick up the pencil, and sketch – what did that cloud look like today?

It was less about making room and time, I realized, and more about recognizing the room and time that I already had.

Those empty minutes. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, while waiting for boys at practice, while waiting my turn during a board game, and certainly while listening to the audio book after I’d slid into bed at night. Receiving the calm I needed from contemplative, creative, repetitive movement. Pause the brain, and let the body hum.

The tote bag hangs on the knob of the wardrobe door, holding the knitting that is always ready to grab and go – either to the next room over, or out the door. In the basket that sits in the corner are circles of fabric, ready to be stitched into a yo-yo or two (adding to the pile of them for later embellishment of dish towels, handbags, or the hems of dresses). The embroidery sits on a nearby shelf – hoop, needles, and floss, and the crochet hooks are in a zippered pouch. It has to be handy, or the time will be lost on the looking for it.

There will always be the larger things in life, of course, the things that take up the majority of the time in my day. I don’t want to change that, for those larger things I’ve chosen are good things, wholesome things. They are life-affirming occupations that fit me well, nourishing me and my family in a deep and meaningful way.

But those empty minutes in between? I’m learning about them. They’re not a task-master, not a commander (sometimes those minutes do need to be left wonderfully empty). They’re simply there, waiting. I’m learning how they can be brought together, stitch by stitch, line by line, minute by minute, becoming something of beauty and purpose. A tangible capture of time, calming and settling in the making.

Thinking about picking up handwork in your empty minutes? You’ll be inspired by these lovely places:

Knitting (for beginners, too): Fringe Association
How handwork can help heal: Posie Gets Cozy
Embroidery: Sublime Stitching

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    I think it’s a gift to be able to carve out that space in your mind, and your schedule. It sounds like mini meditation sessions throughout the day, which is something I’ve been trying (not very successfully 😉 ) to do. For me, there’s something deeply relaxing about working with my hands and letting my mind rest. I even experience this while I’m cleaning too–if I can get over myself and not gripe about the cleaning itself, I find that I really enjoy the simple physical labor of it.

    • Carmella

      Mini meditation sessions…love that!

  2. Greer Oharah

    Using those empty moments well is something I’ve been working towards. For me it is leaving music open at the piano so I can sit down and play – even if I just have a few minutes. Thanks for this post!

    • Carmella

      Music in the empty minutes … yes!

  3. Angela

    One thing I love about crocheting is that you can pick it up and work on it in short spurts and still feel like you’ve accomplished something. That works better if I stick to simple patterns.

    • Carmella

      Ah, crochet lends itself SO well to the empty minutes.

  4. Linda

    I so need to do this. When my sons were little, I did cross stitch, embroidery, crochet. I have done oil painting up until a little over a year ago. My husband of 38 years passed away unexpectedly at 57. A few months later I lost my house. My youngest son and his wife were expecting their first child and asked me to come live with them and take care of their baby boy. I am doing that now. He is 5 months old now and so precious. I can’t seem to get in creative mode. I will not give up. I need it.

    • Carmella

      Yes! Don’t give up! Choose something simple that doesn’t require much thought. Often, all the time I have is the five minutes before I fall asleep at night, with an audio book playing, but what a valuable, needed five minutes they are!

  5. Karen

    I had a wise friend who years ago taught me the value of using those “snippets” of time. IT CHANGED MY LIFE! It keeps the little chores from piling up and makes me so much more productive overall…freeing up the bigger chunks of time!

  6. Bethann

    Thanks so much for this reminder! I’m retraining my thoughts against all or nothing thinking and take advantage of the little snippets of time I do possess! I enjoy reading, but always think it has to be a marathon sessions (on vacation)! I will be using this strategy to read in the I between times during the day!!

    • Carmella

      Thank you, Stacy. So kind.

  7. Daisy @ Simplicity Relished

    I’m not great at using those empty minutes! I’ve been practicing just closing my eyes, letting my mind go blank and just breathing deeply. It’s helped me feel more rested throughout the day!

    • Carmella

      This sounds so restful, Daisy

  8. Lisa Sharp

    Beautiful post. I hand embroidered when my kids were little and it was heavenly. I loved it so much that I turned it into a business and opened an Etsy shop. Then I learned that *having* to do it no longer felt like a respite so I closed my shop and I haven’t picked it up since.

    But I feel so connected when I settle in and go where the needle takes me. It might be time to dust off my stuff, turn off my electronics and stitch a while.

  9. kiasa

    This is so beautiful! Thank you for finding beautiful words to describe the purpose of those brief moments in time. I’m inspired and touched by this post. Thank you.

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