The Pajama Principle

Most of the time, when I’m sitting in my home office writing something, I’m either wearing pajamas – usually an old tee shirt and a pair of sweat pants – or an old tee shirt and ragged, comfortable blue jeans.

I’m not worried about appearances. I’m not worried about anything, honestly, other than personal comfort. I want to feel as comfortable as possible when I’m working. Why?

Being comfortable just feels good. As I write this, I’m wearing a pair of ten year old jeans that probably should be thrown out, but they just feel good. They’re soft, they rest lightly on me, and they feel really familiar. There are no rough edges. There’s nothing unusual or uncomfortable about them.

Being comfortable helps me to focus. Because the clothes provide minimal distraction and I feel so natural, I can focus better. Wearing comfortable clothes means that there’s one less thing to take my mind off of when I’m trying to bear down on a task.

Being comfortable is cheap. I’ve had these clothes for many years. If I have to buy replacements, it’s not going to cost too much. I’ll generally buy something that’s sturdy and comfortable, period, and those generally aren’t overly pricy.

Being comfortable makes other people comfortable. While I’m comfortable, I’m not in a state where I’m unpresentable. I can answer the door and people won’t feel intimidated nor will they feel bothered. They’re comfortable, too. When you make others in your life feel comfortable, it allows them to relax their own guard and realize that they don’t have to spend money or time to impress me. A person can come in, sit down, put their feet up, and be content.

I call it the “pajama principle.” Over and over again in my life, I see that focusing on being comfortable and content tends to feel good, is rarely expensive, and usually helps me to focus on what I’m doing at that moment. Even better, it often draws others in and makes them feel more comfortable.

A big part of my life follows the “pajama principle” – but not all of it. I’ll dress nicer if I have guests over or if I’m going out and about, but when I’m just working on an ordinary task at home or just running short errands about town, there’s no reason not to be comfortable.

It’s so easy to point to the “pajama principle” when it comes to clothes, but it pops up over and over again in life.

Home Decoration

We keep our nicest furniture in the living room at our home and our dining room has a beautiful china cabinet and a well-made table. Yet, even in those areas, we aren’t really striving to impress. We simply strive to present a place where everyone who comes in will feel at home, as though they just want to flop down in a chair, put their feet up, leaf through a magazine with a good beverage at hand, and enjoy some nice conversation.

In other parts of the house? We go for pure personal comfort, with overstuffed chairs and big pillows. The walls just have family photographs on them, the ones that we all like, using frames that were gifted to us.

Those items are pretty inexpensive and they’re basically worry-free. I don’t have to worry about keeping most of the rooms in our home “perfect” for guests and in those rooms, we shoot for comfort. The furniture is inexpensive and a pleasure to sit on, even though they might not be the prettiest. We don’t worry about keeping it perfectly straightened up and mostly just go down there to fully relax without worrying about destroying anything.

Sure, sometimes a drink spills. We clean it up. Sure, sometimes the floor gets messy. It can be swept or vacuumed up. Sometimes something gets on the table and it has to be cleaned. Sometimes the carpet really needs to be vacuumed. It’s a lot worse to have furniture that you’re constantly afraid to spill stuff on or a floor that you can’t possibly eat near.

It’s comfortable. It’s inexpensive. It’s happy. It’s a principle that extends to almost every part of our home.

Automobiles

We don’t worry about having the latest and greatest automobiles. Instead, we make the cars ours.

The car I drive is more than a decade old. It’s not flashy, but it reliably gets me where I want to go. The interior isn’t perfect, but it’s comfortable.

It has pictures of my children stowed in a few places. It has a CD that I like permanently in the CD player and the stations are set to the ones I like. The seat is always adjusted where I want it and when my back is sore there’s a cushion there for it. It’s not perfect on the interior, but I don’t feel like it has to be perfect. It just feels comfortable.

I keep it reasonably clean in there, but I don’t try for a “sterile” or “new car” environment. I feel really uncomfortable if I ride in someone else’s car if it has a “new car” vibe, so why would I want to keep my own car that way?

I don’t need it to be flashy. Flashy requires more time and worry and upkeep and distraction. I just want to get from here to there without thinking about it too much at all.

Hobbies

My hobbies exist for the sole purpose of making me feel good about myself. I enjoy walking because it feels good. I enjoy reading because it relaxes my mind and spirit. I love playing board games with friends old and new because I love the mix of camaraderie and thought.

I don’t own things or participate in activities to impress other people.

I could not possibly care less what other people think of our family’s rock collection, but I can tell you a great story about almost every one. I don’t really care what anyone thinks of my board game collection, but I relish the experience of playing them with friends and family and many of them have wonderful memories tied in as well. I don’t need a bookshelf of first edition hardbacks to show off to anyone – a dog-eared paperback or a copy from the library suits my book needs.

I don’t have to spend money on rocks or on library books. Once a board game is bought, we can play it hundreds of times. It’s cheap to have hobbies that aren’t geared to impress and are instead geared to be comfortable.

My hobbies enrich me, and the moment when it involves impressing anyone else, that enrichment is lessened. It’s less comfortable and less enjoyable over the long run.

Food

When friends come to my house, I put comfort food that I enjoy on the table. I prefer to make things I can make without even skipping a beat, things that are simple and delicious and usually made of inexpensive and easy-to-obtain ingredients.

My meals aren’t meant to impress, but they are meant to be savored simply and put a smile on one’s face. Nothing more, nothing less.

A great meal, to me, is one that’s tasty, reasonably healthy, uses good ingredients, fairly easy to prepare, and inexpensive. A difficult recipe can be fun sometimes, but that’s because it’s an internal challenge that I want to take on. I don’t feel the need to impress someone with my cooking skills or the meal I set on the table.

Parenting

All of these principles filter down to our children. Rather than dressing in the flashiest clothes, my oldest child is usually more comfortable in sweat pants than anything else. Rather than showing off her newest toys, when my middle child invites friends into our home, she sits them down with a bunch of paper and they draw pictures together while they compliment each other’s work.

A nice family afternoon doesn’t have to be anything perfect. We’ll go walking around in the woods together looking for a geocache – completely free – or watch some movie that we received as a gift – also free – or play a board game or something. We laugh together. We listen to each other. We don’t stress out about keeping up with the neighbors, either.

We don’t load them up with activities, either. Sure, they’re in a couple of things, but we have yet to push them into any activity that they didn’t want to try out. The things they participate in – martial arts, soccer, music – are things that they requested and things that they enjoy doing. Their lives have a lot of breathing room so that they can explore what they want to explore and so that we’re not throwing time and energy and money into activities that they just don’t care about.

We don’t need things to impress people. We don’t need a perfect room to make people think we have a perfect life. We just need each other and a big helping of friends who are comfortable around us just the way we are.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the “pajama principle” is more about substance over style. It’s about putting away everything that makes you feel less comfortable so that you can focus on the things that are most important to you. Often, that means spending less money; almost always, it means spending less time, too.

The next time you’re worried about what someone will think of your house or your car or something else, drop that worry from your mind. Your house and your car exist so that you can feel as comfortable and worry-free as possible. Worry only about the guests you invite in the door – and, for those guests, strive to make their experience as comfortable as possible for them.

What you’ll find is that your desire to spend significant money and time to put up appearances just melts away, as does a lot of the stress. Instead of dropping my money or my time in order to make things flashy (and usually less comfortable), I just don’t worry about it.

My home, my car, my hobbies, my life – they’re more like a comfortable pair of pajamas than anything else. They’re imperfect, but they’re inexpensive, comfortable, welcoming, and incredibly low on the worry scale.

Apply that everywhere you can in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

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