As ironic as it is, sometimes we over-complicate the idea of simplifying. “Sigh. If only I had time to take a month to simplify my life.” As lovely as it would be to take an entire month to go through our stuff, we would soon realize that simplifying is a way of life, not something we do only once.
Going through your stuff, de-cluttering, and evaluating what is renting for free does take time. That is time, I think, that is well spent. But today I want to share some things that you can do right away to help simplify your life. No de-cluttering involved at all!
1. Simplify rather than organize.
Organizing is fun, but time-consuming. We usually don’t have the time to do a complete overhaul of an area. Simplifying simply means limiting what you have, without getting caught up in fancy organization. Just remember the kitchen drawer.
2. Use the same glass all day.
We have a little bit of counter space between our stove and the refrigerator. It is not big enough to work at, but it is a great place to keep our glasses during the day. The kids know that if they are thirsty they do not get a new cup out. At the end of the day I have five cups to wash, not twenty.
3. Don’t let the sink pile up.
The downward spiral of having a sink full of dishes that then makes it too hard to wash dishes, that then means you just keep adding to it, etc., is something I know about, and I would rather not have. Three is the number that sort of sets off the “do dishes” bell in my mind. If there are more than three things in the sink, I stop and quickly wash them. Learn to clean as you go not only while you cook a meal, but also throughout the day.
4. Have bags ready to go for specific activities.
I have a pool bag, a picnic bag, and a diaper bag with the specific things needed for those occasions. Generally speaking, these are all in the closets ready to be grabbed at a moments notice. When it is time to go on an outing, I am not running around trying to find all the little things we need.
5. Rotate the kids’ toys.
One of the best ways to keep a kids’ room from getting over crowded without getting rid of everything is to rotate things. Have a tub of toys that are hidden away, and every couple of months you can bring it out and switch out the toys. Your kids will think they have new toys, and you will have a lot less to clean up on a daily basis. Limiting toys helps your kids in many ways.
6. Have a book basket.
I love books, and I want my kids to read a lot. Not only are bookshelves hard to keep organized with kids, but they can sometimes be overwhelmed at the choice. We do have a bookshelf in their room, but I also have a basket that I rotate books too. When we have our daily book time, we choose from the basket, not the shelf. I also have a fair number of books in the closet that I rotate out. If your child has a favorite, always leave that one available, but the others can be rotated on a regular basis.
7. Have a place for everything.
I know this seems cliche, but it is so important. More times than not, when I keep finding the same thing sitting around the house, I stop and realize that it is because I have not clearly identified a place for it. Scissors, tape, shoes, bags, jackets, wallets, keys, and paper are all things that often get left sitting on counters or floors. When everyone in the family knows where it belongs, it will more likely stay there. Sometimes a simple storage solution is all that is needed.
8. Hide it.
There are times (like right after vacation!) when things pile up a bit more than normal. This is fine, and we need to just roll with it. I am tired of seeing a pile of papers that I still need to go through that came in the mail while we were gone. Putting everything in a tote bag or folder gets it off my desk and out of sight. I am not ignoring it. I have it in my schedule to take care of this week, but I don’t need to be staring at the pile when I don’t have the time (or the need) to deal with it right now. Hiding it away, and making note of when I am going to take care of it, relieves the stress of having it hanging over me like an unfinished job.
9. Work together.
Making this a family affair is really important. Mom doesn’t pick up, the family picks up. We do this together. Not only are you teaching your children valuable life skills and habits for later, you are sending the message that our home is something we should all care about. When my son says something is a “disaster” in a very dramatic voice, I laugh to myself a bit. But, really, I am glad he thinks that. And when he voluntarily offers to wipe down the front of the oven because I just dripped something, I am thrilled. When you as a mom always do the picking up after the kids are in bed, you are actually doing them a disservice. Include everyone, and everyone will begin to take ownership.
10. Give grace — to yourself and to your family.
Remember that simplifying is not about you. We simplify so that things run more smoothly in the home, everyone thrives, and we can better meet our family values. Things will go wrong, will get messy, will get dirty, and will sometimes even be chaotic. This is the perfect time to model to your children that they are more important than any of your cleaning or organizational methods. I believe that there are many benefits to simplifying. But in the end, we do it to meet some bigger goals. It is not the end goal in and of itself. Be gracious when things go awry.
What easy things do you do to keep things simple in your home?