Home is most likely where you spend the majority of your downtime with your kids. It’s your home-base, literally, and where you come to rest with those you love. It’s familiarity, comfort, and warmth.
Despite the intention of a “home”, it can be a source of stress as well. Yes, there is the obvious “clutter on the counters” messy, but stress manifests itself in many ways. There might be a room you want to redecorate, a nursery you want to have completed by the time your baby comes, something you’d like to build that you half-started but don’t have the time or enough motivation to finish, or a never-ending pile of laundry that you just can’t get ahead of. This might be why you seek out ways to simplify and minimize. It’s all become too much, and it takes away from your happiness.
Before you continue this article, know that “simplicity” means more than organization, and it’s a journey - not a destination. Simplicity is more than organizing your things into pretty, labeled and color-coded containers. Organization is nice, but the simplicity we advocate for runs much deeper than that. If you commit to the journey of simplifying your home life, you will be liberated. You will feel free of the excess that brings you down and distracts you. If you’re interested in digging deep and exploring where you can simplify your life beyond your junk drawer, if you want actionable advice, read on.
The importance of simplicity in your home is that eliminating, or at least minimizing, your stresses will no doubt take a weight off your shoulders and your mind. Shedding mental and physical burdens by only keeping what’s essential, whether it’s your closet or your home life, will surely help you find happiness. And when you are happy, your family becomes happier, too.
When there’s less emotional and physical burden on you, your home can flow easier. Morning routines, bedtime routines, playtime, mealtime, and other aspects of home life that seem messy and complicated become easier. With less plans, a more organized home, and having a more realistic schedule, seemingly daunting tasks will no longer loom over you. Here’s how:
Take a second to be present in the moment you’re currently in. Ask yourself, “what is distracting me?” Is your mind focused on the now or is something pulling you away from the present? Chances are, the answer is yes - something is pulling you away. With so many moving pieces and the fact that you’re responsible for lives other than your own, it can be hard for a parent to feel completely present. There is always something stressful, always something popping up in your mind, and there may always be something, but it’s possible to reduce down what those “somethings” are.
You will first have to ask yourself if you can identify the source of stress in your home. It’s often where there is an excess of something. Is there too much laundry? Too many half-done projects? Too many unrealistic expectations, such as finishing a project with not enough time, thinking you can do it all alone, or finally getting your schedule under control? These last 3 may ring truest. Here’s how you can cut away the excess:
1) Get your schedule under control.
With kids, no matter what their age, there are always commitments. Young kids have playdates, potentially a class or 2, frequent doctor’s appointments, family commitments, etc., and you have to schedule it all around nap times and bedtimes or your little one may fall of their smooth sailing sleep train and go through a sleep regression.
Older kids have school commitments, after school programs they’re involved in, friends whose houses they need you to drive them to, and sometimes you’re coordinating their needs with those of a younger child. In addition, you have your own needs. There are a million ways that your schedule can spiral out of control.
- Start off by telling yourself that it is okay to say “no.” It's okay to disappoint people. What's important is the health and happiness of you and your family. Remember, you're trying to create a flow in your household.
- Determine what holds the least amount of value to you and your children. There are some classes for smaller children that are more about the novelty than the actual content of the class. There may be playdates that are not productive for you or your child, or weekend family commitments may interrupt your children's nap schedules. It’s up to you to determine what that excess is and make the decision as to whether or not those things are nourishing for your child. Would it be more valuable for your kids to stay home from a playdate and spend time with siblings or parents? At a young age, when classes are not as important for children, time outside can be much more valuable.
- Get a planner and write out every single commitment you have everyday. Be honest with yourself and assess where you can cut down on some events based on what you value for you and your kids.
- Get a journal and document what is working, and what isn’t. It’s okay to skip a family get together, or to limit a certain playdate to only once a week, or every other week. Remember, it is a work in progress. You can always make changes to your plan.
2) Stop telling yourself you can do it all alone.
You can’t. And you shouldn’t. It can feel impossible to ask for help and the guilt that comes along with asking may seem like it’s crashing down on you. It may feel like admitting you need help is admitting you have failed. You haven’t failed. Begin asking for help by first telling yourself that those who ask for help are outsourcing - not failing.
- List out all of the things that you do everyday, and all of the things in your day that you neglect, but wish you had time for. Maybe you’re doing pick-up and drop-off for your kids at school, working, and also taking care of your home. If you’re rushing around, you’re doing too much.
- Identify where in your schedule you can outsource a task to someone who is fully capable of doing said task. Your kids may be of age where they can help with dishes, or fold their own laundry. It’s not possible for everyone, but schedules can be rearranged between partners to split the drop-off/pick-up burden. Ask your partner to be responsible for their own laundry. You don’t have to do it all, and you shouldn’t.
- Get a journal and start writing down what stresses you, what you wish you had time for, and what truly doesn’t matter that you’re making time for anyway. Remember that Minimalism isn’t about having a spotless kitchen or a color coordinated closet. It’s about having less to worry about, so you have the time and space to do the things you love.
3) Let go of unrealistic expectations.
This goes hand-in-hand with not telling yourself you have to do it all alone. Unrealistic expectations may be that you are busy but also want to have a pinterest-worthy nursery done for your baby-on-the-way by the time of their arrival. Cool it on the “all-in” mentality of getting things like this done before baby arrives. Chances are, your baby will not sleep in their room for many months. And if they do, they don’t care about the wall color or artwork on the wall, or what kind of rug you put on their floor. They need a safe place to sleep and that is it.
- Instead of expecting to complete large projects in a short timespan, such as the building of a nursery, commit to doing one thing per day, or per week (whatever is realistic doesn’t bring stress). It can be so hard to let go of expectations and accept something as being harder than you thought, or taking longer than you thought.
- Try and prioritize your goals by level of importance and ditch the tasks that, when you really think about it, are unnecessary. If it stresses you out and does not provide enough value for the amount of stress it gives you, nix it. Abandon the project, save it for another day, and tell yourself it’s not a big deal - because it isn’t.
Simplifying your home is the process of truly getting to know yourself. In order to fundamentally simplify, to cut away the excess of what brings you down and realize the tools you need to continue down this path of simplicity, you have to be completely honest. Simplicity in the home is a journey of exploration. It enriches your life and that of your family, when you focus only on the tasks that serve you all.