Nothing effectively conveys the magnitude of complication that enters your life with the welcome of your first child. He or she is a blessing, for sure. But, life is forever changed and chaos can easily reign. What a wonderful, rewarding, and crazy ride it is…and even more glorious when viewed through life’s rose colored rear-view mirror.
Let’s face it, you can’t avoid chaos altogether. It’s not even advisable to try since the sources of chaos also tend to be the sources of joy and learning. You can, however, choose to minimize the extent that chaos is in control. A manageable amount of stress teaches you to swim in turbulent water. Massive amounts of stress can leave you drowning.
There’s no recipe to create a perfectly balanced environment. That’s just something you have to figure out through trial and error, since each lifestyle has its own set of variables to work with. Odds are, however, that in the hectic environment we live in today there will be plenty of room for simplification in any home.
Simplifying your life can be a tricky task because it will feel like it’s doing just the opposite for a while. Some processes that lead to long-term simplification require initial work and time, but what a payoff!
Simplification in the homeschool world is absolutely essential. Following is a list of 10 items we think produce the best results and can drastically reduce chaos in your home.
10 simple rules for a simpler life
1. Learn to say no. It’s easier said than done. Ultimately, you’re the gatekeeper, and “no” is your handiest tool. You control what enters your life. Continually saying yes in order to please others, or as an attempt to “do it all” is a fast trip to stress and exhaustion. Regardless of how many times you say yes, someone is inevitably going to be upset and put out when you say no. So, why not learn to get the disappointing “no” out of the way much earlier? It’s OK to let some things go, advisable even. Saying no enough times initially will also likely result in fewer requests in the long run.
2. Teach children to be self-sufficient. Some might find this to be the most challenging rule to implement. It requires a great deal of effort up front. Teaching kids to do something for themselves rather than you doing it for them is exhausting — in the short term. You’re also likely to get some resistance from your children. Some moms experience “mommy guilt” as their children struggle and push back at independence. Don’t stop! Keep moving forward. In the end they will actually respect you more for this act of tough love. You’ll be a better mom when you have a team of people able to help cover all the bases.
3. Less is more: Kids’ activities, commitments, clothing, toys, and more. Keep only the toys your kids regularly play with, even if the neighbor flaunts twice the number of toys you have. That mom just has more to clean up. Buy a small amount of clothing that is easily mix-n-matched. They will grow out of their clothes all too soon, anyway. And, kids’ activities? Too many of those turn you into a chauffeur, not a mom.
4. Develop methods of organization that any family member can manage. Having a clean and organized house can really help provide a feeling of calm. Maintaining an organized home can create a ton of stress, however, especially when you’re the only one that buys into the plan. Declutter as much as you can by getting rid of things that aren’t used. Remember, less is more. Toys, books, and art/school supplies could be easily stored in simple-to-use bins that even your youngest child can figure out, use, and also help organize.
One tool you can use to get your family involved in organizing and cleaning the home is this app from ChoreMonster.
Another app that helps you set up to-do lists, shopping lists, or household chores is Wunderlist. This could also be categorized as a collaborative calendar as well.
5. Use one family calendar. Simplification is the key, and getting everyone on the same page means there aren’t any last-minute, stress-inducing surprises. Maintaining one family calendar is critical toward this effort. Here are a few suggestions for digital programs that can coordinate multiple people on one calendar.
COZI APP – This app lets you keep track of recurring appointments for multiple people and helps with meal planning and to-do lists.
GOOGLE CALENDAR — This app is a great option for busy families with multiple schedules to track.
FAMILY WALL — functioning like a mini Facebook app, Family Wall lets you post events, schedules, and even share pictures.
HUB FAMILY ORGANIZER — This app keeps your home and family organized.
6. Set aside time for the family to plan the week, then post the schedule where everyone can see it. As wonderful as the digital calendars are (and they really are fantastic), nothing beats an old fashioned dry erase board displayed in a traffic area of the home and filled with weekly activities for everyone to see. Not all members of the family may have access to electronics, but they can still take ownership of their activities. They just need to be able to see what those responsibilities are, and being a part of the weekly planning really helps them want to use the system. The more group involvement that goes into planning, the less the responsibility sits squarely on your shoulders.
7. Use a nightly prep list to prepare for the next day. This may sound like extra work, but it’s really not. The goal here isn’t to add more structure; it’s to decrease stress. Planning for the next day reduces stress and adds efficiency. This item is key to reducing morning stress. The goal is to avoid the anxiety that comes from unmanaged chaos.
8. If you have young kids, always have an essentials bag handy: Snacks, water, baby wipes, clothing, Band-Aids, and a busy activity. Store your essentials in a small bag that can easily be transferred between the purses or satchels you regularly use.
9. You aren’t in a parenting competition with anyone but yourself. No mom is Pinterest perfect, although some do a good job of faking it. It’s easy to feel like you’re failing at the whole parenting thing when some woman in a starched apron claiming to be a stay-at-home mom produces dark chocolate cupcakes with perfectly piped salted caramel frosting. Her evidence of perfection is the Photoshopped image pinned with the caption, “Leisure afternoon project”. What you don’t see are the things outside the camera lens: toy strewn floor, dirty diapers, unfolded laundry, drippy noses, or an overworked grandma. Homeschooling moms, especially, have many hats to wear. Only one hat can be worn at a time…and it’s OK to put the others down while we focus on our kids’ education.
Kids learn at different paces as well. It’s OK if your friend’s daughter started reading a year ahead of your son. He’ll catch up at his own pace. Don’t worry. And, most importantly, don’t compare. That goes for the mom whose daughter was the early reader, too. Don’t compare. You may be one proud mamma of your early reader, but other moms are only going to feel inferior and that isn’t going to win you any friends.
10. Make downtime a priority. Kids need downtime and so do you. Set aside a little time to relax and mentally unwind from the chaos of the day. Time is such a limited commodity and we give virtually all of ours to our kids. It’s OK to hoard just a few minutes for private quiet time. It will only serve to make you a better mamma during the other 23 ½ hours of the day.
Simplification is an ongoing process. It takes time to reduce possessions, change habits and develop new rhythms. It’s not easy to change directions when your family is moving at the speed of light with chaos always creeping in. Begin slowly with small and simple changes in just one category. Even small steps are a move in the right direction. Over time, you can accomplish great things. Simplification is about finding balance as you move away from “too much.” Less truly is more.