by Lara Krupicka
With the complexity of our schedules these days, a mom’s job as family manager can make a day in the life of an air traffic controller look easy. You may sigh wistfully over the illusive, and seemingly luxurious, concept of simplicity. But this old-fashioned practice can breathe new life into your household when you incorporate one or two strategic versions here and there.
To give yourself a taste of what simplicity can look like in a modern family, pick one of the seventeen simplicity starters below to try in your home.
1. Create device-free meal times. Provide a basket or other container for cell phones and other electronics to be deposited before the meal and keep it out of arms’ reach while you eat (and talk). Assure everyone that their devices will be returned once the table is cleared and dishes are washed (by someone other than mom – bonus relaxation for you).
2. Fix homemade meals using simple, whole food ingredients. During farmer’s market season, buy produce fresh from a local source.
3. Find joy in the free stuff around you: beautiful sunsets, afternoon naps, children’s laughter, playing with the family dog. Instead of paying money, pay attention. Keep a journal of what you notice.
4. Shed traditions that don’t fit your family. As children grow, some of the trappings of celebrations and holidays cease to appeal to them. When all the preparation falls to mom, it can be frustrating to receive a lukewarm reaction. Drop the frustration along with the extra work. Instead let your kids tell you what they want the celebration to look like.
5. Embrace the indulgence of wearing that outfit you love every week. Like Mr. Rogers and his cardigans, you could become known for your signature look (in a good way).
6. Consider letting acquaintance friendships fall away to make more time for going deeper in other relationships. It may cause you a little discomfort at first, but the payoff in the long-term will be priceless.
7. Set aside a spot on the calendar for regular one-on-one time with your kids. Even just ten minutes of chatting over an after-school snack can help you both feel reconnected. And don’t forget to give your spouse regular, uninterrupted attention too.
8. Encourage your kids to go broad in their explorations of their interests and abilities (for simplicity’s sake, have them try only one or two activities at a time). Then challenge them to follow an enthusiasm more deeply once they discover what excites them.
9. Post signs, photos and other memory markers around your house that symbolize or embody your deepest values. Pause occasionally when you see them to reabsorb the message and check your bearings.
10. Develop routines and rituals for the repetitive stuff. Following the same pattern for activities you do regularly, in the form of such things as a morning and bedtime routine, allows your mind to go on autopilot. Each routine you incorporate frees up mental space for all those other concerns you juggle.
11. Celebrate people you know who live out your values. Point out to your children when you see those people putting into action ways you aspire to live.
12. Find your own quiet space each day, even if it’s five minutes spent drinking a cup of tea.
13. Offer the most direct answer to your children’s questions. Keep it simple and let them ask for further explanation if they want it. As parents we can tend toward dumping more information at a time than our children might require.
14. Make time for being outdoors – playing, gardening, or just relaxing. Keep a bin of outdoor toys such as jump ropes, balls and sidewalk chalk handy for outside entertainment. Teach your kids an outside game you enjoyed in childhood and see if it catches on.
15. Whenever you face a problem, seek to simplify it to its root, rather than complicating it unnecessarily. Ask yourself, “what is this really about?”
16. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same meal every week (such as Friday night pizza night)– it’s the substance of tradition. Just make sure you choose a food everyone in your family won’t mind having over and over.
17. Write a family motto or manifesto that summarizes your core values. See researcher Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto for an example at: http://www.brenebrown.com/parenting-manifesto-light/.
What was that? A sigh of contentment? Once you’ve tried a sample of modern simplicity you may find yourself hooked. The only trick will be keeping yourself from complicating life by implementing too many strategies at once.
Lara Krupicka is a parenting journalist and mom who employs many strategies to keep her home simpler (and saner).