A couple years ago my husband and I took a good look at our lives and realized we weren’t living the way we had hoped with kids. We had too much stuff, too many commitments, and weren’t spending our time doing the things we wanted to do. The chaos of raising three little humans had got the best of us. We knew we had to make big changes to simplify life with kids.
Most moms I talk to want the same thing, but think these two concepts are completely contradictory; living simply and raising kids. The busyness, clutter, and utter fatigue kind of sneak up on you as a parent, making it hard to see the potential of a simpler life with kids.
The tips below will help you simplify life with kids and live with less stress in your day to day. (If you have your own tips, please share them in the comments below. This is a never ending process and I would be thrilled to have a few new ideas!)
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Tips to simplify life with kids
1. Make taking care of the household chores a family activity
My guess is you spend much of your day tending to the chores that need to be done while your kids play, watch tv, or doing Pinterest worthy activities that you put together and will need to clean up.
Cleaning and household chores can, and in my opinion should, be a family activity. Of course you will be doing more, but teaching your kids that it takes teamwork to run a household is a valuable life lesson as well as a necessity to keeping a sane and happy mom.
One simple way to create a habit of doing chores together is to designate a couple quick clean up times. In our house we do a 15 minute clean up in the morning and the evening. The kids pick up toys, wipe down counters, sweep the floor, put dishes away, etc. I do the heavier lifting like loading the dishwasher, cleaning the toilets/bathtub, vacuuming, etc. We set the timer and really do only spend 15 minutes.
Another daily routine they participate in is folding and putting away laundry. We also do one longer clean on Saturday mornings where we set the timer for 30 minutes and do whatever needs to be done. It takes a little training, but kids are good helpers and actually like to help if they’re allowed.
2. Fill your life with experiences rather than things
The less stuff you have the lighter your life will feel. Rather than spending the morning shopping, go to the park. Instead of a birthday party with lots of presents, spend the day at the zoo with family. Find ways to decrease the need for new things and spend the extra time and energy you have creating memories.
3. Schedule downtime for the whole family
Even if your kids are past the napping stage, down time is still very important for everyone. And by down time I don’t mean tablet or Netflix time. While I am not completely against screen time, it is not a good way to allow your child’s brain to slow down, it actually has the opposite effect. During this downtime allow your child to be a little bit bored. You could give him a few books, a pad of paper and pencil, or something similar, but encourage him to find a quiet activity (in a quiet space if possible so you can have your own space as well).
4. Do only what’s necessary
I am willing to bet you have a to-do list a mile long. There are so many things we ‘need’ to get done on any given day that this list can become a major source of anxiety in motherhood. Rather than starting your day with a huge list, write down 1 or 2 things that must get done and feel accomplished when you check them off. If there’s time you could always do something else, but chances are, if you focus only on the necessities, the other stuff will fade away.
5. Give toys a designated home
This may be a toy room that you have and keep all the toys in this room or it may be a shelf in the family living room. Whatever system works best for your family is fine, just create a system. If you don’t have a place for the items in your house, especially the ones you want your kids to be responsible for, you will find you are picking them up all the time.
Take a weekend to develop a place where you want all your toys to be and involve your kids in the process so they have ownership over their own items. This is probably a great time to weed out the toys that are no longer serving your children and keep what you feel is best for them at this time. If you want more help with this process, read, “The Secret to Choosing the Best Toys for Your Child and Decluttering Your Toy Room“.
As you are creating this space for the toys, keep it as simple as possible. This way it will be easy to stick with so you aren’t in the same predicament a few months from now.
6. Create a simple meal plan that’s manageable with the amount of time you have
Take the stress out of meal times by creating an easy to follow meal planning system. If you aren’t sure where to start, steal my meal planning system. Some moms love planning and cooking meals each night, but for many it can add a lot of stress to the day.
My three biggest tips are:
- Use the ingredients you have and buy often.
- Choose several meals your family loves and rotate through them.
- Cook things with less prep on weeknights (I’m loving my instant pot for quick weeknight meals.)
7. Be the example
If you want to have a simpler house, you have to be the example.
- Be purposeful about planning quiet times during the days where you read or do another relaxing activity.
- Simplify your belongings and explain to your kids what you’re doing when you decide to get rid of something.
- Spend less time shopping and running from place to place.
Whatever the behaviors you want to create in your kids, you first need to model yourself.
8. Create daily routines for the things that happen repeatedly
Things like laundry, getting kids ready in the morning, making meals, getting ready for bed happen every single day. Create a routine for these things so you don’t have to think about it. Much of your energy is wasted on getting started with a task so forming routines around mundane tasks creates habits that take very little energy to complete.
9. Watch your mood and why it’s what it is
Do you find yourself easily irritated at a certain time of day? I know I do. I get a bit cranky just before dinner time. I’m tired and still feel like there is so much to do before the end of the day. This is also the time of day when I realize I haven’t spent much engaged time with my kids and I’m feeling guilty. I only figured this out by taking a closer look at why my mood changed at this time of day everyday and have now put some routines in place that help me combat this stressful time of day. Think through your day. When are you the happiest? The crankiness? Most likely to yell? Most productive? Create your schedule and routines around these moods.
10. Stop being the entertainer
It is not your responsibility to entertain your kids all the time. In fact, it is a disservice to them. Allow them to be bored and figure out what they enjoy doing when there isn’t anything else to do. Trying to keep your kids busy all the time is draining and frustrating. And I’m sure you can relate with this; it doesn’t matter what you do, there is likely going to be a melt down or lack of appreciation at the end of the activity which leads to anger and resentment as a mom. Give yourself a break. Follow your kids leads and find things to do that grow their current interests, but don’t feel responsible for their entertainment every moment of every day.
Reduce the amount of clothes you own and dishes you own
If you’re going to declutter anything, start with clothes and dishes. Getting rid of clothes and dishes will save you so much time. My husband used to say this to me and I thought he was crazy. Then I realized something. Having less to wash and less to put away is so much easier. Plus, it keeps you consistent. You never end up with a pile of laundry or dishes looming over you. You do a few dishes and put them away. You do a load of laundry and get it put away. Way less stress!
Originally this post had about 7 other things and then I realized that simplifying life shouldn’t be so complicated. Make a few of these changes and I think you will see dramatic results in your stress level. It is possible to simplify your life with kids, but you need to make it a priority. Sit down and write out your goals, your desires for a simpler life, and make changes that will allow you to live a simpler life with kids.