Guest Blog, Kate from A Tidy Mind
You always managed to keep things ticking along nicely at home. You may even have considered it a well-oiled machine. And then you had children…(!)
There’s no doubt about it, kids bring a certain amount of chaos into our lives. Suddenly we have way MORE to do and to think about but with LESS time to do it in and LESS energy available for it.
As a professional organiser (A Tidy Mind), operating across Yorkshire, I work with many families. They are all doing an incredible job of raising their children, who are healthy and happy. But the parents are often frazzled and exhausted. They sometimes describe their life as a merry-go-round that has been sped up. It’s so busy, noisy and relentless that they want to get off! But they’re worried that they and their kids will miss out if they don’t keep going in this way.
Of course, in the modern world we live with an abundance of choice. But that means exactly that – we have to CHOOSE. We can’t do and have it all. We need to be selective. Simplifying life, taking a step back to reflect and SLOWING DOWN are valuable skills to teach our children. Here are my top 8 ways to simplify life when you have kids:
Own less stuff
Amid all the marketing messages bombarding us daily, this takes quite a mindset shift. But studies show the average young child owns 10 times the number of toys they actually play with regularly. Involve your child in the decluttering process. Encourage them to ask themselves whether they love a specific toy enough to keep it. Or whether to give it up to a child in greater need. Expect the decluttering session to go dismally the first time – KEEP TRYING. You’ll have planted a seed about being selective about stuff.
Show an example
Parents often complain about their child being untidy and accumulating too much but frankly, could be showing a better example when it comes to their own spaces. Make it a family goal that you will be intentional about what you allow in the home. Exercise a ‘purchase pause’ before you buy something and ask each other whether you NEED it. Have regular decluttering sessions, but keep them bitesize, such as one drawer at a time – you don’t want to make it into an onerous task everyone dreads – simply build it into everyday life.
Assign a place for everything
Find the most logical home for every item in your house, including your child’s possessions. Keep things contained and consider labelling boxes (with pictures or words) but don’t overcomplicate it. Keep things as close to where they are used as possible so they will realistically be put back in their homes. At the end of the day, have a family tidy up using a timer and do this BEFORE something like watching TV or going on the iPad.
Focus on memories
Ensure there is a message running through your family unit that the memories you make together are more important than possessions. Can a ‘reward’ be a trip to a farm or the cinema rather than a physical thing? Children are masters at finding joy in simplicity so capitalise on this. And if you go on a trip to an attraction, make it clear the day out is the treat, not something from the gift shop on the way out.
This might mean a designated pinboard for artwork but with a fortnightly cull and the crème de la crème making it into the memory box. Or a grid drawn on a whiteboard detailing all school and after school activities each week. Or rotating toys every 6 months, to limit the amount you have in general circulation.
Involve children in the process of donating to charity. Discuss why other children might need the toys they don’t. By passing some of their toys on, you will empower them, make them feel good about themselves and send an important message. It is well documented that doing things for others makes us happier in the long term and it’s never too early to start.
Don’t overload on commitments
There can be pressure these days to enrol our children in multiple after-school activities. But forget what everyone else is doing. Ensure you and your family are not overloaded and lacking relaxation time. No-one wants to feel like their child is missing out but they need time to reflect on their day. If they’re doing activities most afternoons after school, they may be exhausted, as you would be if you went straight from work to an activity and then to bed. Allow kids to be bored and you’ll see them make up their own creative games, which is a joy to witness.
Be the parent
Some children find it difficult to let ANYTHING go but as a parent it’s our responsibility to be selective. We need to teach them the skills of creating order at home so they don’t feel overwhelmed when they move out. And if we keep a loft crammed full, they will only have to sift through it all in the future, unaware of what was special and what wasn’t. So, you may have to do a second (more ruthless) declutter once you have been through things with them. You can always have a ‘holding area’ away from their view to store toys for a while until you’re sure they won’t miss them.
In summary, simplifying life with kids doesn’t have to mean missing out. Instead it can free up time to spend with those we love and space to be in the present moment. Surely two of the greatest gifts any child could receive.