Balancing Your Life: SIMPLIFY

balancing_your_life_simplify

Balancing Your Life: Simplify

It may be a physical simplification needed, or it could be an emotional or mental one.  But the simple life makes for a more balanced life.

Study the areas of your day that seem to be the hardest…what causes the most stress?  Is it a problem in your routine?  Clutter out of hand? Is there one area that causes a recurring headache?  Bring it to your husband and see if he can help you.  Men are problem-solvers and he may surprise you with an easy solution.

Clothes–Clothes are a big problem in our home, due to the sheer numbers. The more we can pare down, the easier for everyone to keep up with them.

We also created a “universal closet” with everyone’s clothes in one place.  Honestly, we’re still working the kinks out of this one, but I think it could be done effectively.

I’ve known women tackle the classic sock problem by buying all the same kind of sock.  This way, you always have the mate.

If anyone has a suggestion for helping children keep up with shoes, I’d love to know it!

Dishes–Some mothers I know have a “cup tray” on the counter to prevent 38 glasses from showing up to be washed.  Everyone has a cup with his name he uses all day.  This little step, and others like them, are simple but effective strategies.

Shoes--Another mom’s shoe solution:  they live on a muddy farm with 13 children.  To cut down on muddy traffic, her husband found a shelf that they put outside the back door. She bought Croc-type shoes for everyone that could be left outside on the shelf where the rain would keep them washed off. They each even had their own color. Brilliant, I thought.

Baths–I knew a mom whose evenings had to be scheduled around her children’s bath time.  Now we are clean people, but our day doesn’t fall apart if we miss a bath.  Theory:  children do not need to bathe every day, except maybe in the summer.  It isn’t even good for skin and hair.  If you have many children, you know that cutting out a bath night here and there could save a lot of time, energy and money. A wipe-down with baby wipes could suffice if it made mom feel better.

Clutter–When we first moved into our house, it was all new and shiny…you know how it is.  And hard as I tried, no one else seemed as interested in keeping their things picked up as I was.  So for a time (I have no idea why I stopped doing this), if an item–shoes, coat, toy, etc. stayed in one place too long, I would just toss it in “the thrift store bag”.  It only takes a few times and they start to care 😉

“Purging” on a weekly, maybe even a daily basis, is the simplest ways to keep clutter at bay.  We keep a “running donation bag” with a constant eye for things that need to be tossed.

Meals–During the busiest seasons of life, meal-planning can be a real challenge.  Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about solutions:

1.  Don’t be afraid to use paper plates.

2.  Don’t be afraid to have cereal for breakfast–a lot.

3.  Schedule a weekly time to sit down and write out meal plans for the week so you’re not standing in the pantry at 5 pm wondering what’s for supper.

4.  Designate a kitchen helper for each night to be an extra pair of hands for you.

5.  Cook double portions when possible and freeze one for a hectic day.

6.  Find and use some great crock-pot recipes.

Toys–I don’t know about your house, but here, our toys reproduce.  A solution I’m getting ready to try (I’m not very organized by nature, so it will be a stretch for me) is tossing the broken toys, then boxing up the rest and rotating them out, storing the toys not being used.  The idea is that not only is there less clutter, but the toys are more fun if they’ve been put up for a while.

Some families have very few toys and expect their children to rely on their imaginations for recreation.  I don’t think that’s such a bad idea.

Homeschooling–I don’t think it’s at all necessary to have a “school room”; we have one and my children still do their seat work at the kitchen table.  It makes sense because I’m closer to them there if they need help.  But I do think it’s important to have one place where all the school resources are kept.  All the children should be responsible for keeping this area neat (cough), and I wish you the best because it’s a real struggle for us.

There is a lot more about it in my ebook Think Outside the Classroom, but I’m a huge advocate of remembering the simplicity of education. There is something to be said about “The 3 R’s”.  Lots of great books, a simple math book and English book, and all else is tucked around that.  We love Rod & Staff for its simplicity, solid instruction and low price.  For moms starting out, I also recommend ACE School of Tomorrow, because it’s so self-directed.

Homeschooling moms are bombarded with choices and pressure from others who appear to be “doing so much more”, but if we can keep our focus, find what works for us and not pay too much attention to the latest bells and whistles, it will be a much more peaceful experience.

In my book, I also challenge moms to not get hung up on timetables. There are obviously things that must be learned chronologically. But history, science, geography, etc. can be learned in any (reasonable) order and there shouldn’t be a pressure to keep them on the same timetable as schooled children.  My homeschooling mantra is, “RELAX”.

We also school year-round to create more flexibility throughout the year if need be (new baby, holidays, stressful seasons, vacations, etc.) Because we “school” so many more days than are required, our days can be more relaxed and we don’t feel as pressured to meet deadlines.

Bible time. I think it’s wonderful if you can get up before everyone else and spend some quiet time in prayer and Scripture.  But, I’ve learned not to let this area become a source of guilt.  I’ve been nursing babies half my married life which often means less sleep.  And even though now I usually am up earlier than the rest, if you can’t be up, enjoy Bible time and prayer with your children after breakfast.  We’ve done this for years and it is a sweet time.  I tell them it is the most important part of our day and though they don’t all just jump up and down about it, I think it will be a time they cherish the rest of their lives.

On a really tight schedule, instead of skipping this important time, consider reading to them during breakfast.  I’d rather cut something else out of our day than this time in God’s Word together.

Telephone/Media.  I might guess that this is the hardest point for stay-at-home moms. We have a social “advantage” our foremothers wouldn’t believe and yet, there is a point when it is no longer an advantage.  Let me say it gently:  Don’t let Facebook control your life. The Internet is SO good and can be SO bad! Purpose to establish some boundaries about when and how often you engage in social media.

The telephone can be even worse.  I’ve mentioned it before, but a wise homeschooling mother said her telephone is not answered before noon.  For some reason, once the phenomenon of people having instant access to your family through a bell became popular, we feel obligated to give them permission to interrupt anything we’re doing. Tame the beast.

Routine/Schedule/”Rhythm”

Whatever your personality, develop one of these for your day.  Some thrive on a rigid schedule; others just need an order for the day, without time restraints.  Either way, it not only keeps order, but a predictable day is very healthy for children.  They thrive with some structure and predictability, yet you can leave room for unexpected happenings and/or exploration.

I personally feel that a schedule *can* be more stressful if you are prone to let it be.  Especially with several children, flexibility in your day’s routine will keep you from feeling like you’re “off”.  We have a rhythm-a general pattern to our day, but I do NOT let unexpected events (which almost have to be a scheduled expectancy) make me feel “behind”.  I just count it as part of normal life.

Simply adjusting our expectations can save a lot of our sanity! Simplify your life!  What are some of your simplification ideas?

See part one in this series – Simplify Your Life: Define “Everything”

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53 Responses to “Balancing Your Life: SIMPLIFY”

  1. Oh, honey – have you not heard? Cereal isn’t just for breakfast, anymore. My ten year old helps me plan menus, and for dinner twice a month, on the every other Mondays we do our “big” grocery shops, she lists “cereal”. Love that girl. Those are the nights I have a wild card leftover or a salad, and my husband might join me…but usually, he has cereal too.

    This isn’t any old post – good article!

  2. Sarah L. says:

    Hi Kelly!
    I wish simplicity was easy for me. I only have three children (praying for a reversal and more children), and they keep me on my toes with all of their “stuff”. I am learning one of the benefits of being a military family is that every 3 years or so you are forced to pare down your stuff for moving. I am in that phase right now and I am praying that this is the last time I have to pare down stuff that I’ve had and not used for 3 years!!!
    Blessings,
    Sarah L.

    • Valerie says:

      This is off topic but I saw your comment and wanted to say, we are a military family with two kids and got a reversal a few years ago. I know your journey girlfriend! 🙂 I pray God blesses you with more soon 🙂
      P.S if it is a Vas. Reversal I highly recommend Dr. Wilson in Muskogee Oklahoma!

  3. HeatherHH says:

    I have six children ages 9 1/2 and under. I have often thought how much time it would take to do daily baths as many people do. My oldest two are completely independent, but the rest at least need help with hair. My children get baths twice a week. My husband and I bathe three times a week. It’s definitely much better for my skin and hair. I had serious problems with dry skin with daily baths. My hair always needed conditioner because I stripped all the natural moisture out. I’ve now probably only used conditioner 2-3 times in the last 5 years.

    Another way we simplify is less laundry. Wear clothes more than one day. Most of our shirts are worn 2 days, pants and skirts are often 3, pjs 3, etc. There are some exceptions for very young children or really dirty clothes. But, I can tolerate a few small stains on the second day of wear. We also change sheets every 2-3 weeks. We do less laundry than a lot of families I know with only 2 kids.

    • Word Warrior says:

      “Wear clothes more than one day. ” Amen to that.

      My youngest boy is especially savvy in this area 😉 and I usually have to make him change out his clothes after I realize he’s worn the same thing all week. But I console myself with your point…less laundry and he’s not the worse for it.

    • We came close to laundry taking over our lives, and there are only five of us…once I quit obsessing over it, I was able to come up with a couple of workable solutions: (we also wear some things more than one day – we hang them up in the sun when we can, it naturally deodorizes and freshens worn but not exactly dirty clothes.

      1)no hyper sorting of colors or types, that eliminated about 1/3 of our washing (I used to be fanatical about this – now I just see light and dark, with an eye out for an errant red that might bleed.
      2)faithfully doing a load a day, every weekday
      3)each child has a large laundry basket of clean clothes in their closet, directly underneath their hanging clothes, rather than several dresser drawers. I figure if the clothes for that season cannot fit into a basket and a couple of feet of hanging space, we have too many. The dresser drawers house socks and underwear, belts and scarves, and alternate season clothes. That allowed us to eliminate storage containers, also.
      4)We change our sheets every week, but the kids don’t use top sheets. They each have favorite blankets and the top sheet just ends up crumpled at the foot of the bed so I use it as a back up bottom sheet.

    • Joyfull says:

      My husband is not ok with skipping bath days, but I moved them to morning, and it works so much better. I take a quick bath with littlest, we get out and the next two get in. So, half a tub of water works for 4 of us. We wash hair about 2X’s per week. But bottoms get clean every day and daddy is happy.

      If you home school and night baths are a source of stress, I would try the morning bath when kids are not so silly and grumpy. It works for us.

      • Sara says:

        Our oldest is usually fine to get up and get dressed, but anyone that sill wears a diaper or pull up to bed needs to be taken care of in the morning. I just can’t stand the way their bottoms smell, but a daily bath was too much work.
        What we do now is use wet wipes, and then spray their bottoms with a mixture of water and perfumed lotion. I know it sounds weird, but I consider it like febreeze for bottoms.
        It neutralizes the smell and I don’t have to give them a full bath.

      • Word Warrior says:

        Another bath solution that works well for us…I throw the 3 smallest girls in together in a bubble bath while we prepare supper and let them play for a while. Also, taking the time to teach them to bathe themselves and wash their own hair is huge…you may be surprised how early they can learn.

  4. These are wonderful suggestions. It helps so much to see them in writing and know that I am not the only one who struggles! I “know” it, but somehow, I still make myself feel guilty about it. The school part, mostly, not the bath part. Baths are for Saturday night around here! I’m only half kidding – parents and older children bathe regularly of course, but those little ones – as long as their hands are clean for eating, and they wash their faces occasionally, I’m happy! 😉

  5. wannabegodly says:

    In the realm of keeping toys picked up, we have what we call the “Redemption Box”. If a toy is left out, it goes in there & each child has their own fine to pay based on their age. I figure that the older ones have more money plus should be more responsible, so I make their fine hurt a little more. Now, if I were really faithful at putting their stuff in the box, we’d be doing well, I’m sure. 🙂

  6. kat says:

    The best time and energy saver is a crockpot-fewer dishes to wash after dinner and it frees me up to do other things while it cooks. Put oatmeal in it on low before bed and a hot breakfast is ready on cold mornings.

    Lunch and snacks go on paper plates and everyone has a cup with their name on it-this saves so much time washing dishes.

    “crazy lunch” i pull out all the bits of leftovers and whatever needs to be eaten before its bad and let the kids go at it.

    Breakfast for dinner is also a great time and money saver. What could be easier and cheaper than scrambled eggs, toast and grits?

    I’m good in the kitchen but laundry is the bane of my existence.

    Can I ask you ladies a non-related question? My 13-month-old has learned to reach in his diaper and remove its contents. Any suggestions to discourage this?

    • Ginger says:

      For the toddler reaching in his diaper– I have heard of people duct-taping the diaper closed and I wouldn’t be opposed to it if it were my child. 😀

    • Mrs W says:

      Is this a thing your toddler does a lot? If so, you might want to get him an appointment with a pediatric neurologist. I have one that does/did this, and we tape his diaper on. But he is disabled and this was one of the issues that keyed us in to that being a possibility. If your child is “behind” on developmental markers along with doing this, I’d get him checked.

  7. Ginger says:

    “We also school year-round to create more flexibility throughout the year if need be (new baby, holidays, stressful seasons, vacations, etc.) Because we “school” so many more days than are required, our days can be more relaxed and we don’t feel as pressured to meet deadlines.”

    Exactly how we feel. We accomplish the majority of our school year in the blazing hot summer and cold winter. I have no desire to take 3 months off in the most miserable part of the year. But when spring and fall roll around, we do Bible and family read-alouds and math drills only. No worksheets of any kind.

    And paper plates– oh my, those have been a Godsend. We almost always use them for lunch. I love just tossing a plate in the trash and table chores are done. Nice!

  8. BettySue says:

    On shoes: (I’m expecting our nineth) During our worst shoe years when I had no older children (all elementary age) I would stop them at the door and have them throw their shoes in a basket right there in the entry. No shoes in the rest of the house. Now I wasn’t always as attentive as I should have been, but if I did find a stray shoe I could just toss it into the basket. As long as we didn’t have a two year old in the house, everyone’s shoes would be right there when they were needed (most the time). For some reason when there are two year olds in the house shoes literally walk away, so that can create problems. But the rest of the time it worked fine (not that we have had many years without a two year old, lol). I have gotten lax since I hit three teens, but should get back to it.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Great idea! I’m guessing these are their most worn shoes as I couldn’t see fitting every pair in there short of a 50-gallon drum 😉

      It’s easy to see how prosperity breeds apathy in this area. Back in “the day” when a child had two pair of shoes and had to wear them until they didn’t fit, they were more treasured, I suppose, as you knew you would do without if they were lost. Maybe that’s the key!

      • Kim M says:

        We keep the entire family’s shoes in a shelved cabinet in our mudroom, but you could put one by whatever door they use. It helped us tremendously.

  9. Michele Davis says:

    We have seven kids and shoes were my particular problem here. Now we have a stacked cubby system for shoes right by the door. Each child gets two cubbies. The shoes come off and go in the cubby. We have a lost and found that sits on top of the shelf for strays and my daughter’s chore once a week is to match the shoes in the lost and found so they can go back into “circulation”. Works great!

  10. brenda says:

    Best shoe solution I’ve ever seen….
    http://afullheart.blogspot.com/2010/09/solving-shoe-dilemma.html

    And also this post was right up my alley today! Thank you for it!!!

  11. Joyce Davies says:

    Thank you for this article! We have seven children. They put their shoes right by the door. I put one one strip of long masking tape down on the floor. Then, I put each child’s name on a portion of the tape. They are to put their shoes on their tape. A few times a week our four year old will straighten them out for us. Each child only has 6 outfits a season. (Some children have made it through one season with four shirts and four shorts) The boys have two-three dress shirts for Sunday. The girls have four or so dresses. The boys typically wear sweats for bed. My little boys wear sweats at home and jeans when we go out–though the little, little boys wear sweats to go out. Probably two -three pairs last a whole season. I found out early that jeans for little boys last about six weeks without holes. Since we do laundry everyday and children wear clothes several times before putting them in the laundry, this works well for us and saves us money on clothes.The thing that needs room for improvement in our home is CLUTTER!! Thank you so much for your blog. You are a blessing! Joyce

  12. Kelly L says:

    I agree with shoe racks at the door. I bought 2 floor shoe racks and 1 upright to hang on the wall. We have it in the garage, and our shoes go there before we go in the house. Clean floors (public bathrooms make me wretch) and I have never been asked where anyone’s shoes are. EVER.

    For the shoe problem, I would time how much time is wasted looking for the shoes. Then, the culprit has to help clean something for that much time. I would use it for baseboards, light switches, kitchen chairs or marks on walls. I would use this for other things and explain that since I had to use my time for her mistake, she would need to pay that time back to me. For awhile, my house was beautiful! Now, she is such a good girl, I bribe her to help me. 😉

    I know this is not really in the vein of “simplifying,” but it might help. As soon as we go in the house, we wash our hands. Light switches, doors, walls and stair railing stay much cleaner longer. So it saves times cleaning in the future.

  13. Lori E. says:

    SIMPLIFY! I’ve been saying it for a long time… I just lack the discipline to actually DO it! I have an idea in my mind of the things that need to be done & how I want them done etc., I just never seem to get around to DOING it. We also homeschool & keep a “classroom” it stays relatively neat in there, except for when the littles barge in & wreck stuff. We use Rod & Staff, too, love it! We have 4 boys ages 12, 8.5, 3.5 & 1.5. We also have a newborn daughter now, thank you, Lord! Toys are a problem in the little boys’ room… I think I just need to get rid of most of them. But, there again, I just never get around to going through them. Clothes are normally the problem in the bigger boys’ room & a few stray books & toys here & there. The boys’ bathroom is normally in need of cleaning…ugh. Love my slow cooker, just need more recipe ideas for it, which I could easily have if I put the time into searching online for them! There again, lacking the discipline to just DO it… Procrastination seems to be a problem with me. Laundry? I get through it weekly, the pile rarely goes completely away, but it does get real small, lol! I do like the idea of simply down-sizing wardrobes. I mean, really, why do kids need 14 different outfits a piece, even if they are hand-me-downs? But, CLUTTER is my biggest foe… everything seems to find it’s way to the kitchen island!

  14. 6 arrows says:

    Great post, and excellent ideas in the comment thread, also. Thank you ladies!

    One thing that simplifies my life a lot is to cook a large enough evening meal to have enough left over for next day’s lunch. And since we’re mainly “cereal” people for weekday breakfasts, I only have to plan and prepare one meal on most days rather than three. Suits me fine as I’m not much of a kitchen person!

    Another food-related tidbit I discovered that was a real sanity-saver for me was to get educated on food sensitivities and intolerances. I was amazed at how much smoother life in general went when I dropped MSG and gluten from my diet. My physical, emotional and mental stress levels were greatly reduced… Life is SO much simpler when I’m not battling with myself!

    Thanks again for this series, Kelly. BTW, I like the “universal closet” idea. It beats the “floordrobe” concept we have going at our house too much of the time!

  15. Jessica says:

    Thanks so much for this series! I struggle with being self discipline, so my personality seems to thrive on a structured schedule. Thanks for taking the time to post!

  16. Laura says:

    Kelly, with having 7 kids, 10 and under, we also live “simply”–already doing many of the things you mentioned :). I was just wondering what your thoughts are on your sons participating in sports.

    Laura

    • R. F. says:

      I know you are looking for an answer from Kelly, but I just thought I’d give a stab at it as well. We only have 4 children now, so this may change. Our two oldest boys play soccer. Because of their ages, they should be in different leagues, however, my husband offered to coach (they are always in need of coaches) if they would put the boys on the same team. The league did and now there is only one practice and one game a week that we need to be at. Since daddy is coaching the boys have a great time with dad and mom has a little time with the littles. We all go to games together and cheer them on. It is great family time. We are also not slaves to the team. If there is something else more important to attend, we have no problem asking the assistant coach to take over for the day. Our kids know this is an EXTRA activity that our life does NOT revolve around.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Laura,

      Sorry for the late reply…a little busy around here 😉

      We don’t have a hard and fast “rule” concerning sports, but besides some involvement when our first was very young, we don’t participate anymore. Our children are involved in informal sports with our community–football, kickball, soccer, etc., so they don’t lack for the fun and exercise these games provide, which is the only real benefit we’re interested in. Secondly, when you have a large family sports can easily take over your lives and displace more important things. Just my 2 cents.

      • Laura says:

        Kelly, thanks for the response! I know about being busy, too! Our little guys is 11 days old today! 🙂 We just made the very hard decision to pull Jonas out of baseball this season. It was just too much, interfering with dinner time and our family Bible time, which we think is much more important. Being postpartum, I actually started to cry one evening after my husband came home late with Jonas from baseball practice and dinner was late, bedtime late, etc. It made us realize what a toll it was taking on our family, esp. having just had a baby! It is good to know we aren’t the only large family “depriving” (LOL!) our children of organized sports–and yes, there are plenty of opportunities even within homeschool groups, church, and our family for our son to play sports. 🙂

  17. Savannah says:

    We have a plastic bin for each person’s shoes (including Mom and Dad) lining the walls of our entry closet (under the stairs closet by the garage door). It leaves a little narrow walk space in the center to reach the coat rack. Since I implemented the shoe bins my life has been much more peaceful, LOL.

    The difference in the routine and sanity level from last year to this is remarkable… I was cleaning pretty much alone after my husband and I and 4 children 11 and under, with the kids only really having token chores. No more! Last year I got fed up and assigned to the kids my most aggravating, repetitive chores: Dishes(6 yo son), bathrooms (6 yo daughter), and laundry (12 yo son). Now I was just noticing today how beautiful the home stays much of the time. =O)

    Love this post. Thank you so much.

  18. […] Generation Cedar is doing a great series on Balancing Your Busy Life. Today’s post is about simplifying. Even though there are only 6 here in my house  (Josh is home) clutter remains a CONSTANT […]

  19. Elizabeth says:

    We have a schoolroom, too, but never really use it except to store supplies… and it is virtually impossible to keep clean and neat. I take some bizarre pleasure in knowing it’s not just me!

  20. Annie says:

    I also reacted on the paper plates… especially cause I’ve got the idea that you try to live both economical and eco-friendly. And that’s something I love about your posts: the eco-aspect (or perhaps I’ve just imagined it). 🙁

    • Word Warrior says:

      I do *try*. I’d say I’m far more economically conscience that eco-conscience…not that I’m for trashing the earth ;-)…of course not. But I’m not hyper either. Paper plates were suggested more for particularly busy seasons. If they save my sanity, they’re worth it for a time. We don’t use them all the time.

  21. Jess in Peru says:

    Just two suggestions we do: For drinks, each kid has a water bottle with his/her name clearly written on them. That is what they use and we throw them away and replace them every few weeks. They are as healthy as can be and we have very few cups for dishes.

    For baths: I made a bath schedule for every day of the week. And on the bottom it says, “If you smell or look dirty, you will take a bath/shower even if it is not your day.” My kids average 4-5 baths a week. I know it’s not daily, but with so many of them, it’s almost impossible.

    Just some suggestions

    • I like the idea of going ahead and having a water bottle for each kid …it keeps the number of dirty glasses down and increases their water intake! Thanks for the idea. …going to Goodwill to collect water bottles…

  22. Katy says:

    http://asdinok.blogspot.com/2011/04/simplify-your-life.html

    I just posted my list. I also agree about the phone. During school, the phone is ignored unless it’s my husband (he only calls during school if there’s a real need).

  23. Margaret D says:

    Good stuff. 🙂

    Shoes–we are a no-shoes-in-the-house family. They come off at the door, so they aren’t scattered around the house. We have a rack by the door where regular shoes go. Sunday shoes are in a hanging rack in the downstairs closet.

    Baths–it’s not theory, it’s fact. Human beings don’t need to be soaped down and scrubbed every day in order to be happy, healthy people. 😉 Any kid here who is too young to be stinky (thankfully, all of them right now :D) Gets a weekly “proper” bath and hairwash, and the rest of the week wiped down on an as needed basis. Of course, if they roll in the mud or something, we’ll do a bath. But for normal times, it is not necessary. Us smelly older people wash as needed.

  24. Kelly, this is an excellent post. I have a school room too …and my kids still sit at the kitchen table too. I like having a place with a book shelves and desk that can accomodate their books/projects even if they don’t sit there. My school room is just off my kitchen with a laundry area included with it. I live in a parsonage and I’m so grateful that they added this on outside of my kitchen just for me! (A school room with the laundry upstairs rather than in the basement.)
    You have a great balance that is not seen in many blogs! Your “down-to-earthness” is refreshing!

  25. […] De-clutter with passion. […]

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