I love seeing my friends, but when life is so full and when we are trying to focus on so many goals at the start of the year, friendships sometimes can be hard to balance!

At the start of the year, when dry January arrives, holiday bills roll in and holiday calories have added up, friendships can suffer as we plead out of dinner and coffee or drinks dates to tighten our belts for our waists or for our budgets.  But what if friendships helped us work toward our goals or daily routines, instead of taking us away from them?  Certainly, there are some of us that team up as accountability partners or gym buddies to focus on one goal area or another, and those friends are awesome! But there are so many more things we can partner up to accomplish!  Why not buddy up for some of the most mundane tasks we have? It might brighten your day more than you expect!

Grocery Girlies!

I had a best friend (a favorite reminder and quote from The Mindy Project, “A best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier!”) in my early twenties, when we worked multiple jobs and had singular dollar salaries, who was my Food 4 Less friend. Every Friday night (yes, my 20s were WILD), we would go together to Food 4 Less and grocery shop for the week.  We would flit through the aisles late at night, often singing too loudly and being ridiculous, and fill our carts for the week.  It was something we both had to do, and we made it fun together.  I might not be shopping at 11pm anymore, but I ran into one of my current besties at Trader Joes recently and as we compared snacks, I thought, why don’t we do that again? It made such a drudging task so much more fun.  It’s something we have to do, we don’t spend any extra money on it, no empty calories, and we can enjoy each other’s company, plus share tips and Trader Joe’s shopping secrets while getting things done!

Laundry Ladies!

This same best friend of my not-so-roaring 20s was also my Laundry Liaison.  This was largely because she lived in an apartment with no laundry, and I (being incredibly fancy) had laundry in my unit.  After our Food 4 Less outing, or sometimes before… she would come back to my apartment and do her laundry.  We would time it so we could be folding my laundry while she threw hers in, we would watch a movie or read magazines, and have a wonderful fluff and folding time. I looked forward to doing laundry in, and knowing I was helping her out, getting my own things done, and getting a friend for the evening made my boring Friday night fun!

Meal Prep Pals

At some point of the Pinterest peak in my 30s, before the pandemic and any hope of working from home, in the height of 12 hour days away commuting to and from an office, I got really into prepping frozen crock-pot meals.  My friend and I would spend a Sunday (after shopping) prepping crock pot meals. Together we would chop veggies, separate proteins, measure sauces, and zip them all into 12 individual bags, giving us 6 matching meal weeks that we could then lay stacked in our freezers to pull out for the crock-pot some chilly winter morning to greet us when we came home.   Together we made quick and fun work of all the chopping and measuring, and then could compare notes on the meals later.  Sure there are lots of meal prep companies out there now, but for me at the time, on my budget, this was fun, filling, and also fulfilling for my friendships.

Hair Harem

I’ve been highlighting my own hair for what seems like forever.  At this point it won’t shock to learn that one of my best friends taught me how years and years ago, and we did each others hair often when we lived close. I went to a professional maybe once after that, but then never again, after I saw the results were not as good and at such a high cost. It’s saved me so much money to do my own hair over the years, and when people hear that I do my own, I often get asked for help with others. From my sisters to my nieces to friends, I’ve highlighted a lot of hair.  It turns out, it’s another fun, useful way to spend time together. Is it work? Maybe.. but it’s not hard and knowing that I’m helping someone else makes me prioritize spending the time with them more than an invite for coffee probably would! Sitting at my sister’s kitchen table, highlighting her hair or my niece’s hair, is a few hours of sitting still and talking that is rare for us to get, and I love it.

Similarly, after having my kids, I have spent hours cutting, cornrowing, braiding and twisting their hair.  I’ve done the same for their friends, and having friends and other parents hang while I cut or braid is a sense of community and engagement we don’t always get.  My niece drops by after school and before soccer, so I can braid her hair in whatever TikTok tutorial she has selected.  It’s such a special moment that becomes a priority (more than a coffee or ice cream date) that we make and get to connect on what’s new if only for a few minutes a couple times a week.

Project Partners

This is one I will continue to work on this year, both asking for and offering help. There is so much to do and so much more fun to do in pairs.  Plus, on projects, sometimes a friend’s perspective helps so much.  In my last few moves, I’ve had so much help.  I remember my nephew’s wife forcing me to brutally pare down my possessions when we moved to a tiny house in 2019. She helped me get through it, not just by ruthlessly tossing items, saying “you don’t need it! You’ll never use it!” but also by hugging me and letting me cry when the moving day came. When we moved into our new house this year, my best friends showed up, put my bed together, unpacked my kitchen, organized my bookcases, and more.

So this year, when you spring clean, when you reorganize your closet or pantry, when you sort your documents for tax prep, when you plant your garden, or whatever project you may have coming your way, why not do it with a friend? Then offer your assistance with their next project! You’ll both be so proud and have a lot of fun memories, beyond your mundane girls dinner out!

10,000 Steps with a Sidekick

I’m all about the walk and talk, because not only can you grab a friend and go for a walk, but you can also just pick up the phone and find time to connect with the tier of besties that may not live close enough for all the laundry and grocery and project comradery. I’m trying to get back to walking on a lunch break, walking during kid sports practice, walking after dinner, and it’s a great time to connect with my best friend in Las Vegas, my best friend in the Bay Area, and any of my other friends and relations afar.  The time flies as we catch up and I’m out of breath from speed walking and excitement over the latest scoop on their lives.  More walking, more talking, more fresh air, more connection.

Or… Be Still… with a Sidekick

Finally, there is something to be said for doing nothing at all with a friend.  My childhood best friend was visiting last summer, and we were sort of scoffing at our kids sitting side by side on the couch after a long day out, both staring at devices, ignoring each other.   Then she commented that she guessed it was really no different than when we were 11 and 12 years old, sitting on her couch, silently paging through Teen and Seventeen magazine all afternoon.  There’s nothing wrong with having some quiet time to relax with a friend, flipping through magazines and sharing tidbits, or zoning out to a Hallmark Channel movie, or sitting on the porch in the sun.

Deeper Meaning, Deeper Friendships

Friends that will do any of these activities with you are true friends. Test your friendships, and next time someone suggests going out for drinks, offer them an alternative!  Doing some of these things may even deepen your friendship, and deepen the value of that friendship over time.  These friends become people who add to your life, not those for whom you have to budget in time or money or excess.

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Gia Ilole
Gia is a native Californian who has lived all over the state from San Diego to Trinity County, plus Washington DC for a short time. She recently relocated to Ventura County with her family to build a compound property together with her sister’s family so that they could always share wardrobes and parenting responsibilities for their 5 combined children at home. Gia graduated from UCSB with a degree in Linguistics (which she thinks entitles her to make up words). It took her just three years, as she was eager to graduate early to go live with her long distance boyfriend and his toddler daughter at the time. That seemed to work out, as the boyfriend got promoted to husband years ago and her step-daughter promoted her to grandmother recently! Gia’s husband is from East Africa and runs their Bed and Breakfast in Tanzania from near and far. Gia is a Human Resources Director who has a major obsession with watermelon and eggnog lattes, depending on the season.


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