Are you striving for a simple life? But having children makes this seem unreachable? When children come so does all the stuff; baby things, toys, books and clothes. All that means more washing, more folding, more tidying, and just generally more. It takes a lot of work and stuff to look after, love and nurture your little human or humans.
It doesn’t need to be, though. What do our children really want? Is it all the newest toys, the latest fashion, and every activity under the sun? Or is it simply time with a parent who plays, cares and loves?
I once showered my children with all the latest and greatest toys and dressed them in beautiful clothes. But I did it to distract them from the reality of a busy mother who was exhausted and constantly running on empty. I never had time or energy to play at the end of a day, that was filled with work, making meals and cleaning.
Eventually, though, I realised my insecurities were making me buy things out of guilt. I thought I needed to provide them with more and more stuff when what they really needed was a parent who was there for them.
It took a lot of work and self-reflection on my part to change that perception. I needed to make a lot of changes in my life and in my mindset, but I was able to simplify my life. And I became a parent who had time to play with her children, read to them, and enjoy the simplest moments with them.
Living simply with children can be done. Here are my tips:
Create clear boundaries
Schedule time to spend with your family and protect this time fiercely. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time, and don’t overcommit to things that will take away from family time.
Remove distractions, like screens – phones, computers, televisions. Emails can wait, and the news will always be there.
Limit extra-curricular activities. So many parents tend to overschedule their children’s lives. You don’t need to be running around to a different activity every day of the week.
Yes, some of the work that you always did still needs to be done. Clothes need to be washed, folded and put away. Dishes need to be washed, and the house needs to be tidied no matter how much you pare down. That’s fine, create a schedule to do these things as efficiently as possible.
Empty the dishwasher when you wake up in the morning so you can load it throughout the day as you use dishes.
Put a load of washing on in the evening so it will be ready to be hung on the line when the kids are playing outside. Then fold the clothes while the kids are playing in the afternoon.
Don’t be so strictly tied to this schedule, though, that it holds you back from doing other things. If the sun is shining, leave the dishes in the sink and head outside to play.
Chores can be family time, too. Teach kids to be involved in chores at an early age. A two-year-old can put their dirty clothes in a basket. The older they get, the more involved they can be.
Cook together, eat together and clean up together. Not only does this create better eating habits, but it’s also a great way for the family to connect. Don’t worry about creating gourmet meals with kids – the meals should be simple, and a mess created by kids while putting together a family meal is all part of the process. Clearing the table and doing the dishes can be a family activity as well.
Have less stuff
I’m not saying that kids don’t need any toys, books or clothes, but they probably don’t need as many as they have. Simplifying will make for easier cleaning and tidying. Focus on buying quality items that will last longer – a slightly more expensive high-quality item of clothing will cost the same over the long run as a cheaper item that needs replacing frequently.
Go through kids’ things regularly and dispose of items they no longer play with or fit into. This can be a family activity as the kids get older too – let them help with the decision-making process and understand from an early age that we don’t need to keep everything. Explain what will happen to the items they give away – they can be handed down or donated to other children who need them.
Create an online journal – Tinybeans is a great example. So often we hang onto things because we want the memories that go with them, but that isn’t necessary. Just keep the memories – they cause much less clutter.
The best things in life are free
Some ideas for free family activities:
– Camping in the backyard
– Beach days
– Playing at the park
– Board or card games
– Exploring nature
Don’t give into every whim
I stand firm on a few items I won’t buy into. One of those is supermarket collectables. The plastic in those items makes me curdle inside, so when my daughter says, “but everyone else gets them,” I explain my values and reasoning, knowing that in another month when the craze is over the toy will be forgotten. I believe my daughter will remember she had a mum who was loving and spent time playing with her, rather than a piece of plastic that gave her five minutes of pleasure.
Take a well-deserved break for you
As a parent, you need to take a break for yourself and for your relationship. Explore who you are outside of being a parent. It doesn’t make you a bad parent – it helps you find balance and equilibrium. When you return to your kids and your simple life, you’ll be a better parent for it.
Written by Marnie Prowse
Rewind the clock, Marnie and her family seemed to have it all. The careers, the home, great holidays – yet when you looked a little closer, it was a life spent living up to the Jones’. It took a health scare to put things into perspective. After realising that happiness wasn’t in the typical Australian dream, they simplified their life by living with fewer belongings and taking a simpler approach to their lifestyle. Fast forward to today. Marnie lives in a 32 sqm tiny haus with her husband and two daughters. Living with less yet living with a life of more. Out of Marnie’s lifestyle changes evolved Tiny Haus Lifestyle where she supports people to live the simple life, and at the same time reducing their environmental footprint to live a life of true contentedness.