I read the book Simplify Your Life with Kids by Elaine St. James and loved the message in this book : you CAN make the big job of being a mom easier on yourself with some effort, organization and time for yourself. LOVE THAT!
Here are some ideas from St. James' book that I love:
- Teach kids to tell their own stories. You start it out.. be sure to tell your kids stories of YOUR life, from when you were a kid, places you've traveled to, etc. (page 14)
- Take time for YOU daily and at least weekly.
- Teach kids to help out with the chores. That makes life simpler!
- Schedule more time to get to places you're going, because you know the kids will be slow! (page 102)
- Take naps to recharge!
- Consistency is key so kids know what to expect, which makes things run smoother. (page 121)
REAL MOMS, REAL SIMPLE TIPS
I asked real moms from the Facebook Mommy Stories discussion group what their tips are for simplifying the following areas of their Mom World. SUCH GREAT IDEAS! Thank you to all moms who responded.
- separate checking account for paying bills
- direct deposit checks
- automatic removal for paying bills
- separate savings accounts for Christmas, vacations, emergency, etc.
- envelope system for paying for groceries each month - cash in envelopes, that's all you can use
- spreadsheets to keep track of monthly expenses! Tab for each month.
- Payment plans for oil company, etc.
- FSA for daycare.
- Spending money each week = cash.
- Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover plan
- FlyLady - web site to keep track of things and organize
- Bill pay web site
permission slips, flyers, mail, thank you notes, etc.
- large calendar in kitchen so everyone can see it.
- take care of it as soon as it comes in- invitations, permission slips, etc.
- keep extra thank you cards or bday cards on hand
- unfollow people on Facebook
- "purge" Facebook monthly - get rid of people I don't talk to
- filter in email to send "shopping" emails like Carters, etc. to go to that folder, so then when I'm ready to shop I'll check for emails and coupons there but not in my inbox.
- same password for everything
- change my email address every few years to avoid spam
- passwords saved in a spreadsheet inside my email
- make time daily to check email
- limit the number of mom groups and blogs I follow- just pick 1-2 to keep track of
GETTING OUT THE DOOR IN THE MORNINGS
- Do it all the night before- pack lunches, bags, get out clothes, set out morning juice cups, etc.
- Pack the car for the beach the night before
- Shower at night.
- Ziplock bags of change of clothes for each kid in the car in case of emergency.
- Grab and go bags packed for trips to beach, playground, etc.
- Using 31 tote bags in the car with extras
BIRTHDAYS, HOLIDAY SHOPPING & PLANNING
- kids make their own Amazon Wish List when older
- have an Amazon Wish List for family to purchase from
- set aside a certain amount of money per year for kids birthdays and holiday gifts
- Excel spreadsheet to list out what is needed and a column to check off when it's purchased
- if child sees something she wants, I later add it to the Amazon Wish List
- buy it now if it's a good deal
- Cozi app on phone to keep track of dates, birthday parties, etc.
- Managing invites: keep a big calendar in the kitchen so we all can see what's coming up.
- write it down in a notebook that can go in my purse
HOLIDAY OVERLOAD (Easter, Valentine's, etc.)
- homemade gifts
- homemade costumes
- start early- think creatively, look for deals
- in summer and fall host parties for those friends who have businesses, then use the hostess rewards toward Christmas gifts
- don't buy into the commercialism!
- don't buy extra
- don't look at Pinterest
- spend time with family and friends vs. gifts and buying
- attend free events - tons of free Easter Bunny visits, etc.
- rotating toys
- spending more time outside
- "less is more" attitude
- ask for money in savings account or lessons instead of toys as gifts
- donating unopened toys given to you to Toys for Tots at Christmas time
- ask for no gifts at parties
- pick up toys every evening when kids are in bed
- for organizing, use lots of buckets or baskets for small things to keep them organized and easy clean up
- toss out anything broken immediately
- anything that comes in from places like McDonald's, etc. are gone as soon as they lose interest
- keep a list of things the kids need / want for Christmas
- keep all toys in one area of the house - play room, fence it off.
- get kids to help with cleaning up by setting a timer and asking how fast they could clean it up- turn into a game
- if a toy is taken out, another needs to be put away first
- no toys in bedroom
- no stuffed animals
- for every new toy the kids get, they have to pick one to donate to other kids
- go through toys once a month to get rid of broken, organize bins, etc.
- laundry bins to sort as we put dirty laundry into buckets
- do load every day
- KonMarie style- You Tube video of standing laundry up to make more space, and only keeping clothes that bring you joy
- kids help with folding
- hamper in each bedroom and bathroom, when it's full wash, dry and put those away immediately
- all washing on Mondays, even beds. Husband helps fold at night when child is asleep, then we put it away and don't worry the rest of the week.
- reuse towels, so new one every other day.
- do a set load of just towels once a week.
- do whites, colors, etc. separate like that.
- throw clothes right into the washer!
- husband does all laundry or at least his
- do kids laundry only on weekends, one load, so it's easy to put away after. I put their folded laundry away once a week, not every day.
- do lots of loads Friday and Saturday, then Sunday find a good show to watch while kids are sleeping and me and partner fold together.
- put laundry away while kids are sleeping - nightlight helps me see!
- no food in the car
- take all trash out when we get out
- take out what you took into the car, daily
- husband takes care of the car!
- clean it out once a week, vacuum maybe once a month
- Excel spreadsheet of service dates, inspection stickers, etc.
- put reminder in your calendar for inspection and registration
Here are my personal tips for simplifying my life as a mother:
- buy two of everything
- freezer full of frozen meats and veggies
- don't buy a lot of carbs, etc. so we don't have to go down many aisles in the store
- make a list and keep adding to it so it's ready to go when you go shopping
- can't bring kids! leave them home!
- app "keep" so husband and I have common lists
- meal planning!
- incentive of free treat for child who does go and behaves
- crockpot meal once a week on the busiest day
- big batch of chicken goes a long ways
- keep tortilla wraps in the house for sandwiches / easy dinner
- tons of frozen veggies in the freezer
- always have the staples - eggs, bread, etc. so I can whip up something simple
- days match the schedule- so busy days = crockpot, etc.
- meal plan so we know what we're eating every day including leftovers
BED TIME ROUTINES
- ROUTINE. Keep it consistent every day!
- strict about if we enter bedroom we don't leave for bathroom, drink etc. to stall or waste time
- start early - 6 months old!
- put baby down drowsy not asleep to start the routine
- darkening shades
- white noise
- keep it short
ME TIME - exercise, out with friends, taking a break
- 30-minute at home workout videos
- schedule it and make it happen
- gym at work or after work before heading home so it's done and easy
- set schedule to go out with friends, first of the month, etc.
- 30 minutes and only a few days a week exercise, so it's not overwhelming to fit in
- first thing in the morning working out works
Here are my personal tips for simplifying my life as a mother:
- Organize. For me, organization is the key to everything in my life feeling balanced and OK. I am not a clean freak. There is dust. I clean windows like once a year. BUT everything in my house IS picked up and put in its place. I hate clutter. It distracts me and makes life harder in my opinion. Being organized to me is not about perfection or cleanliness, it's about making life easier. For example, if the dishes are at least in one half of the sink or done entirely, that makes my next morning so much easier cleaning out cups and making breakfast. If the invitations we receive are responded to within a week and put up on the white board so I have the address to the party later, it's done, I don't need to worry about it later. If I purchase gifts ahead of time, then I don't have to race around the day before a party and stress out. Organization to me is everything.
- Move it on out. If it doesn't fit right, donate it. If they don't play with it, donate it. If it isn't working, get rid of it. I live for consignment stores. I get store credit with stuff I don't need or want in the house, and then I get gently used things that are new to us and things we need. Win-win, perfect! You don't need extra stuff lying around your house. It creates messes, clutter and frustration. Simple is better. Less is more. I go through the kids' toys before every birthday and Christmas, as well as summer time. I go through clothing at least once a month. Make room for new things, or just be good with what you have after getting rid of what you don't need. Make space in your life. Move it on out!
- Plan for Plan B. Be proactive! Being proactive is something we preach in the education world and I find it SO helpful for being a mom, too. Essentially, it's planning ahead! Don't wait, don't be a procrastinator, don't respond or be reactive, which stresses people out. Being proactive is clam, productive, purposeful and helpful to making your life easier, simpler, more organized. For me, this means we have a fully stocked bag of extra clothes, sweatshirts, hats, sunglasses, wipes for messes, etc. in the car at all times. I re-stock it every few months when they grow out of sizes. This means if we stop at the playground and get super messy and then are invited to dinner with friends, we can change, we're all good, not stressed about getting home to change up or having to say no to something fun. I have band-aids in the car for those boo-boos,too, along with napkins and wipes. I always have blank notecards in the house for the birthdays and events we're invited to. Writing out a tentative meal plan for the week on the white board is SO helpful to make busy weeknights after work easier. Plan ahead. It saves you time later, I swear.
- Self-Care. ME first. #momMEchallenge Taking care of myself as a mom should be number one for sure. It's so important to make sure you are running at top speed by putting something into taking care of yourself. This means sometimes I ignore the dishes at night so I can read instead. It means I get to bed at a decent hour because I know the kids wake early. I work out first thing in the morning because I know it helps me stay calmer and more energized with my kids during the day. This makes life simpler because instead of snapping and being impatient, which leads to kids with terrible behaviors, I'm able to relax and enjoy being a mom. It makes everything run smoother if I've taken care of ME.
- Ask for help. You are a SUPER Mom, but you aren't Super Woman who can do everything, at all times, for everyone. You cannot do this alone. If you are married or with someone, that is your partner, and a partner is supposed to be there alongside you working as a parent and doing the responsibilities you are doing. So take them up on their offer to help, or better yet ASK. Just tell them what you need. If someone offers to care for your kids, let them. If someone offers to make you a meal after you had surgery, accept it and say thanks. If someone offers to feed your baby the bottle so you can play with your toddler, say YES please. It's OK to ask for help.
- Let it be good enough. Nothing is perfect. This one is hard for some people. I get asked all the time how I do all the things I do, being busy all the time like wonder woman. I appreciate the compliment, but here's the secret: I don't do it all perfectly. I don't care about perfect, in fact I think perfect is stupid. I do a lot and try to do it well, but never ever perfect. That's not something we can attain anyway, so why bother trying? So I will do the dishes every night, but I'll never dry and put them away. I won't even do the entire sink full, usually one half of the sink so I can have a clear side. I take a zillion pictures but don't edit them well. I'm good with that. Remember: it's all good. Whatever effort you're putting in, that's great. Don't compare yourself to others. I never do this. I don't care what others think, I ignore judgment. Be good enough. Be great if you want, but on the tough days just be good enough. It's OK. Not caring about keeping up with Pinterest or the Joneses will surely simplify your life.
- Say N-O. Repeat after me: NO. It's OK to say no. Do you realize this? Most moms struggle with this. When there is a birthday party scheduled during nap time when my kids are exhausted and that's my only break I'll be getting and I know without that break I'm a spaz type mom... well, we are not going to the party, or we're arriving late or leaving early. So be it. It's all good. If Valentine's Day is coming the week of your son's party (true story in this house) and you're already inundated with projects from Pinterest for the party that you're struggling to work through, then it's a hell-NO-O to the cute Pinterest-inspired Valentine's. Instead it's a cute box from Dollar Tree with stickers and adorable 5-year-old handwriting and we're calling it good. When someone asks you to chair a committee that you know you don't have time for because you like to work out at that time... it's all good to say "I have prior commitments," even when those commitments are to yourself. This makes life simpler because you are keeping your life and time management focused on what's important. This gives you more time and energy.
- Do it now. Take care of it. I don't let things pile up. It makes life more complicated later on if you wait on things. I've learned to balance "getting it done" with "relaxing" though, thanks to my wonderful husband reminding me it's OK if the dishes or toys wait out instead of being picked up right away. Still, I try really hard to make sure things don't go too long without being tackled, otherwise it makes life stressful and stressful is NOT simple!
- Write it down. Post-its and white boards and the memo pad of my cell phone are my LIFE. They are awesome for keeping track of the important things. I have a planner for dates and parties. I have a running grocery list on the fridge. I have a notebook where I write down what I bought for Christmas already. I have zero brain left... so writing it down is key. This makes life easier because then when I'm at the store I don't forget what I need.
- HAVE FUN. Make sure your days are spent with more fun, relaxation, easygoing, carefree and awesome. That's what reminds you that life is really simple. It's not all about bill paying and taking care of the house. It's about silliness and smiles and snuggles. It's about being together. Make sure you are reminded daily of what you're doing all this crazy motherhood thing for!
- Be grateful. I think having gratitude and really saying thanks and knowing what matters in your life can make life simpler. Write it down, keep a journal, send emails or thank you notes, and better yet speak it. Realize what you have... and then you won't be thinking about what you are missing out on or what's not working well. Sometimes it's enough for kids to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at night if it means you are their silly happy laughing mom at the dinner table instead of a stressed out mom who whipped up a gourmet dinner that took all night long to create and the kids don't even like. Realize when it's all good and can be made simpler.