Tag Archive for busyness

Anxiety Abatement: 12 Ways to Simplify Your Home

Today is the first post in my 12 series.

I write today about sim­pli­fy­ing your home by clear­ing out the clutter–physical clut­ter, such as toys, books, and decor; envi­ron­men­tal clut­ter that increases anx­i­ety; and emo­tional clut­ter like distraction.

I have my own issues with clut­ter. Last fall, I stayed home with my new baby. I work out­side of the home, but my won­der­ful uni­ver­sity gave me a semester-long mater­nity leave when I had my baby at the begin­ning of the term. Dur­ing this time at home–almost every sin­gle day–I came to real­ize that I did not like being at home. I was shocked by this rev­e­la­tion. I really thought I would like stay­ing at home.

I have a nice home. And I like my stuff. But I dis­liked being at home because of the con­stant mess. I didn’t like look­ing at the junk, and I mostly stayed in one or two rooms so that I didn’t have to see the rest of the house. Too much clutter.

I decided to do some­thing about it.

Today, I present to you 12 ways to sim­plify your home, to de-clutter your home so that you can find the emo­tional san­ity you need and truly live your life in focus. These items are not ranked in order of most impor­tant, but I chose to num­ber them to make it eas­ier to skim the list.

1. Con­sign, sell, or donate at least 2/3s of your toys. Seri­ously, do it. Over the past sev­eral months, I have been clean­ing out the toys. It’s been easy to get rid of the ones my kids have out­grown. If we don’t need it any­more, I’ve got­ten rid of it. I also tried to get rid of toys that limit cre­ativ­ity or orig­i­nal­ity, toys that come in such a pre-form pack­age that they do not allow chil­dren to use their imag­i­na­tion. My daughter’s Bar­bie dolls are the only things that I have yet to throw out in this vein. She has about 10 of them. I told her she can keep 2. She’s decid­ing which ones and then they are gone.

The hard­est part for me has been to dwin­dle down the toys to a very small stack. But I have tried. I only have one more room to do. The results? It’s been free­ing for my chil­dren. Their rooms are neater. Clean­ing up is not quite as big of a task. They don’t seem so stressed out or over­whelmed when I ask them to clean up. I’ve also noticed that they are play­ing more. They aren’t com­ing to me say­ing their bored. They know where their toys are, and they want to play with them and then pick them up. As I was sep­a­rat­ing the toys into con­sign­ment or dona­tion piles, I also added one more pile–a rotat­ing pile. I put the rotat­ing pile into one stor­age bin and moved it to our garage. Even­tu­ally, I will rotate the toys in the bin out with the toys in their room. My kids are enjoy­ing their clutter-free spaces. And I am enjoy­ing their bet­ter atti­tudes and their renewed inter­est in the toys they have.

2. Cook the same meals (or types of meals) each week. I like to cook gourmet meals. I like to eat good food. I like to watch cook­ing shows and dis­cover new recipes. And I must admit, I’m still try­ing to put this one into prac­tice. We have sim­pli­fied our weekly menu by insti­tut­ing Pizza Night, a tra­di­tion going strong for sev­eral years now. The prob­lem here is that I’m the only one who’s known about this weekly event. I cook and plan the menus and hav­ing one weekly meal on my list has made meal-planning and grocery-shopping eas­ier. My kids know that we have pizza a lot (it’s my daughter’s favorite food), but until recently, I didn’t call it Pizza Night. I am learn­ing, how­ever, that chil­dren need to expe­ri­ence antic­i­pa­tion, so I plan on com­mu­ni­cat­ing meals like “Pizza Night” to my chil­dren. Over the sum­mer, I plan to insti­tute “Meat­less Mon­day,” “Pasta Night,” and a “Mys­tery Dinner.”

If you were to take this tip one step fur­ther, you might even des­ig­nate the exact meal: chicken spaghetti, soup, chicken ten­ders, breakfast-for-dinner, lasagna, etc., so that the meals are sim­pli­fied even fur­ther. I don’t think this would work for me because of my own inter­ests as a cook, but if it works for you, great. Go for it. The goal here is to sim­plify meal-planning, cook­ing, and eat­ing and for all to expe­ri­ence joy at the din­ner table.

3. Get rid of all those extra cook­books on the shelf. Admit it, you prob­a­bly don’t use half the cook­books you have on the shelf. I just went and counted my cook­books. I have at least 50 (and I just got rid of about 30–still work­ing on the oth­ers!). I prob­a­bly only use 8 of them. But the oth­ers are spe­cial to me, so I’ve kept them. I still have too many, though. My sign should be that they don’t all fit on the book­shelf I have in my kitchen. Still trying…

4. Play a game. Indoor or out­door. As a fam­ily. With your child. By your­self. Play a pick-up game of bas­ket­ball. Play Horse or Knock-Out (I recently played this with my 7-year-old nephew and my brother-in-law Derek, and it brought back so many mem­o­ries of play­ing these games in mid­dle school and high school. I loved it!). Play a base­ball game where the trees in your back­yard are your bases. Play board games like Candy Land, Chess, Monop­oly, or Check­ers. Play Dou­ble 9 domi­noes, Uno, Spades, or Mem­ory. Any­thing your kid likes. Or, make up your own game, com­plete with mate­ri­als and rules.

5. Try to fil­ter out the adult world from your chil­dren. Try this for one week: No fights with your spouse. No neg­a­tive com­ments about other adults (friends, teach­ers, church peo­ple, the pres­i­dent, politi­cians, rel­a­tives, in-laws). No inap­pro­pri­ate con­tent com­ing to your chil­dren through the TV (espe­cially the morn­ing and evening news or cer­tain video games that can desen­si­tize us to vio­lence). Instead, be present with your chil­dren. Talk to them at the din­ner table or when they come inside from the back­yard. Lis­ten to them. Learn about their world, their inter­ests. And let me know how it goes.

6. Donate all those books on your book­shelf to your library. My hus­band and I both went to grad­u­ate school, where we were required to buy hun­dreds of books for our courses and our research. Most of those are at our respec­tive offices, but many have entered our home. If you don’t use it or think you will use it, get rid of it.

But grad­u­ate school books are the least of our wor­ries when it comes to books in the home. Nov­els, Chris­t­ian books, self-help books, biogra­phies, and children’s books are of much greater con­cern. I must admit that I am cheap when it comes to books. I don’t like to spend money on books. I go to the library at least once a week. Any book my local library doesn’t have I can get through my university’s inter­li­brary loan ser­vice (which is awe­some). That being said, I still have a lot of books. Peo­ple give books to me because I am an Eng­lish teacher, and, hey, I like books. But I don’t like books to clut­ter my shelves. I used to think hav­ing books in your home was a sign of intel­li­gence and bril­liance and being smart. Just think of all those movies where smart, rich peo­ple have these amaz­ing libraries with the mov­able lad­der. But now I don’t really care to live up to that stan­dard. Books and book­shelves lead to clut­ter. So, get rid of your books. Get­ting rid of the children’s books has been the hard­est part for me. I put some of them in the rotat­ing pile and got rid of at least three shelves’ worth. I now have three shelves of books–one shelf for each kid. That’s still a lot, I know. But we do read a lot and we read a lot of the same books, so I’ve kept a few.

7. Con­sign or donate your unworn clothes. Seri­ously, do it. It is lib­er­at­ing. Go through your clothes, your spouse’s clothes, your kids clothes. Con­sign clothes that don’t fit or that are out of style. If you have gained or lost a lot of weight recently, get rid of the clothes in the dif­fer­ent size. Even if you lose that weight (or gain it back), those clothes will be out of style. And it will make you feel bet­ter when you are get­ting dressed each day not to be star­ing at those other sizes.

8. Turn off the TV. At least 2 days a week, no TV allowed. Try it. It’s amaz­ing how much more time you have to do things you love to do–and things that will make you feel so much bet­ter about your­self than watch­ing 4 hours of TV every night. Read, write, cook, eat, talk, scrap­book, exer­cise. Find a pas­sion and turn off that screen.

9. When you feel your­self get­ting over­whelmed at the mess, take 15 min­utes to do a quick pick-up of the house. Toys and mess can be over­whelm­ing for adults, too, and set­ting a limit on how much time you spend pick­ing up is good for you, too. Get the kids involved. Make it a game. We did this recently and it was the fastest, most fun clean-up we’ve ever had. I set the timer and pro­vided an incre­men­tal count­down of how much time we had left. The older kids were so excited. They kept com­ing back to ask, “How much more time?!!” Fun will be had by all.

10. Read more. Take the time to read that moun­tain of books on your night­stand. You will have more to con­tribute to dis­cus­sions with your hus­band or your friends. You will learn some­thing. You will feel good about your­self. You will grow as a per­son.

11. Make it a goal to have 2 entire days or evenings of unstruc­tured time at home. Noth­ing planned. Noth­ing sched­uled. Except being with your fam­ily and let­ting your kids run free. They can know you are there and come to you when they need you, but don’t plan an activity–even in the home. If your kids get bored, tell them, “Well, then, some­thing amaz­ing is about to hap­pen.” Just be. Your kids will appre­ci­ate it in the long run. And you will, too.

12. Pray more, and dwell in the pres­ence of the Lord as often as pos­si­ble. In the rush of my busy life, I must admit that per­sonal time with God often gets lost first. I used to have quiet time in the morn­ing. But with young chil­dren, such a goal is ide­al­is­tic rather than real­is­tic, and I won’t beat myself up over not being able to have this peace­ful time the same way I did as a sin­gle woman. Instead, I have learned–through the gen­tle love of some older, wiser women–how to inte­grate prayer and God into my day rather than save a sin­gle time or space for it. I like this idea. I’m still not very good at it, though. I am try­ing, though.

This list is far from com­pre­hen­sive. These changes take time. Change is a process, not a one-time fix. I merely offer some things that have worked for me. They’ve helped make our fam­ily closer. They’ve allowed my kids to open up to me in ways they hadn’t before. They’ve decreased my own anx­i­ety and have helped me deal with the feel­ings I have being in my own home.

What tips do you have to make your home a peace­ful place?


Crazy Woman, Part II

In my last post about run­ning around like a crazy woman, I dis­cussed how par­ents tend to over-schedule and over-extend their kids. Between sports, music, dance, and all sorts of other lessons, our chil­dren are not allowed enough time for unstruc­tured play, or free play time. Accord­ing to the author of Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing such lack of free time is harm­ful to our kids.

Why? Many rea­sons, but one that res­onated with me had to do with sports. I played team sports as a young child. In sports, rules are already cre­ated. Chil­dren play­ing struc­tured sports (whether team or indi­vid­ual) must adapt to the rules. In unstruc­tured play, how­ever, chil­dren make up their own rules. They use their imag­i­na­tion. They are cre­ative. They work with oth­ers to problem-solve how they can play a pick up game of bas­ket­ball. What will the rules be? What is accept­able behav­ior and play?

Today, I give a brief anec­dote. Sat­ur­day, my old­est two chil­dren had t-ball games. They had team pic­tures hours before their games. My hus­band is coach­ing both teams so he had to be there early for both pic­tures. They came home after the pic­tures to pick me and the baby up.

I woke up around 6:30 that morn­ing. I packed a bag for my baby Levi (food for lunch, 2 bot­tles, dia­pers, wipes, and all the other stuff babies need–except sun­screen, I for­got that). I packed a lunch for both kids to eat before or after their game, depend­ing on which kid it was. I packed drinks and snacks for them and me dur­ing the games. I found my chair and a kid’s chair and set it out to be loaded in the car, along with the stroller for Levi. It was my turn to bring snacks for the girls’ game, so I also packed snacks and drinks for the team. I got the cam­era and the video cam­era and the base­ball and soft­ball bags and on and on and on.

I was busy load­ing and pack­ing and get­ting myself ready for over 2 hours (yes, it didn’t take this long). What I haven’t yet mentioned–and the main point of this story–is that while the kids were tak­ing team pic­tures at the fields with their daddy and I was pack­ing and prepar­ing for the games, 8-month-old Levi–poor Levi– sat on the floor cry­ing uncon­trol­lably. Not just cry­ing, but scream­ing. With his head bent over on the floor. From 6:30–9:15 am, except when he was drink­ing his bot­tle, the lit­tle guy was crying.

You see, what my words up there did not express in the telling of the details of my morn­ing were the emo­tions going on–the feel­ing of my home at that moment. I was tense. I was stressed. I was try­ing hard not to for­get any­thing.

I was run­ning around the house like a crazy woman. I was not set­ting a good tone or rhythm or pace to my life.

And lit­tle Levi was the one telling me how much my schedule–our schedule–was impact­ing his lit­tle life.You see, even though I was hav­ing to do a lot of prepa­ra­tion for the games, Levi was the one most impacted by his sib­lings’ sched­ules. He was the one miss­ing out on mommy-and-me time. Right when he wanted it the most. Levi wanted me to stop what I was doing–to pause for a moment. He was beg­ging me to STOP. To sit on the floor with him. To make faces. To play peek-a-book. To tickle him. To do all those things I love to do but didn’t have the time for that day because of our plan.

Levi wanted his mom, and I was not there.

He also wanted a peace­ful home. A home free of anx­i­ety and ten­sion. A home full of spon­ta­neous moments.

When Eliz­a­beth was 8-months-old, we didn’t have t-ball games. There were no older sib­lings. The same is true for Pey­ton. But Levi, he just wanted some time to play on his own or with me and expe­ri­ence a care­free day, but instead his whole day–even long before the game started–was spent cry­ing because no one was pay­ing atten­tion to him. Because the house he lived in was full of one busy queen bee run­ning around and sting­ing all those who stood in her path.

My mommy heart ached see­ing this child so upset. I wanted more than any­thing to hold him and soothe him (I tried, of course, but he could read my motives, which said, “Please stop cry­ing so that I can fin­ish what I need to get done.”). But I needed to fin­ish my tasks (due to a com­pli­cated sched­ule we cre­ated). So, Levi’s needs were not met. The sched­ules of his older sib­lings deter­mined his day and set the tone for him. And he did not like it.

As they age, younger chil­dren must get more used to being carted around to prac­tices and per­for­mances and games because they do not throw the same type of fit that Levi threw on Sat­ur­day. But Levi’s 8-month-old self was speak­ing to the very depths of my soul when he told me, “Slow down. Hold me. Pay atten­tion to me. The other stuff is not as important.”

I am learn­ing lessons from my babes. What les­son have you learned lately?


Running around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More

Simplicity Parenting book coverI am cur­rently read­ing Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing: Using the Extra­or­di­nary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Hap­pier and More Secure Kids. This book, by Kim John Payne, a school coun­selor and an edu­ca­tional con­sul­tant, has chal­lenged me to re-think the way I par­ent my chil­dren. He has encour­aged me to con­sider the ways my good inten­tions as a par­ent may have neg­a­tive con­se­quences on my child. This book is chal­leng­ing, provoca­tive, and inspiring.

Right now, Eliz­a­beth is 6 years old. She is play­ing t-ball. Begin­ning next week, we will have prac­tice or games 3 nights a week.

Pey­ton is 4 years old. He is play­ing t-ball. Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton are not on the same team. Shane (my hus­band) is the assis­tant coach of Elizabeth’s team and the head coach of Peyton’s team.

For the next 8 weeks, we are going to be eat­ing, breath­ing, sleep­ing, and think­ing t-ball. T-ball every night of the week, except Wednes­day when we have church. T-ball on many Sat­ur­days. Sev­eral nights, both kids have a game, so we’ll be at the t-ball fields for close to 4 hours.

But we love t-ball. We like that our chil­dren are engag­ing in activ­i­ties (we think) they (will) like. I enjoy chat­ting with other par­ents and get­ting to know adults and chil­dren in our small com­mu­nity. We like that our chil­dren feel good about them­selves by play­ing and accom­plish­ing some­thing. We like to be Jesus to the com­mu­nity by serv­ing them. We like being involved. We like our kids start­ing and fin­ish­ing something.

But that’s not all. In the Win­ter, Eliz­a­beth played bas­ket­ball. In the Fall, Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton both played soc­cer. And through it all, we had a new­born baby who is now 8 months old to cart around.

I pause now to ask myself, “What are we doing to our chil­dren by enrolling them in all these extracur­ric­u­lar activities?”

In the United States, par­ents are told the fol­low­ing dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive: “You must enroll your chil­dren in as many activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble at very a young age. The more the bet­ter. Bal­let. Dance. Swim­ming. Soc­cer. Sum­mer camps. Team sports. Indi­vid­ual sports. And on and on.”

Just look at some of the exam­ples of prodigy kids. Tiger Woods began golf at 2 years old. Andre Agassi started play­ing ten­nis around age 4. Cild actors like Drew Bar­ry­more and the Olsen twins began act­ing when they were young. I’m sure there are numer­ous other sto­ries (if you know of some, leave them in the comments).

In short, if you want your child to be good at some­thing, start them early on the activity/task. Mal­colm Glad­well even points out in Out­liers that to become good at some­thing, per­fect at it, you must put in over 10,000 hours of practice.

So what have we done to make our chil­dren suc­cess­ful? We begin early. We want them to reach that 10,000 hour mark well before their teenagers and it is deemed too late. Just con­sider the book The Bat­tle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (which I will write about soon). If you haven’t read it, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about the book (it was quite con­tro­ver­sial) and her “Chi­nese way of par­ent­ing.” The author–a law pro­fes­sor at Yale–spent count­less hours every sin­gle day mak­ing sure her chil­dren had mas­tered the piano and vio­lin. They prac­ticed all the time–literally. Even on vaca­tion. Every­where. Every. Sin­gle. Day.

But Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing asks a sim­ple ques­tion really, “Why?” 

Why do we do this to our chil­dren? What do they really gain through these activ­i­ties? And what is the cost of this atti­tude of more, more, and more? What are the results of our over-scheduled, over-stimulated, busy lives? Espe­cially on our children?

Through­out the book, he answers these ques­tions, and in quite provoca­tive terms. Put sim­ply, he says that “less is more.” Seems sim­ple, but when you unpack this idea in terms of sched­ules, tele­vi­sion, screen time, clut­ter, toys, your day hav­ing a rhythm, order, and flow, stress, antic­i­pa­tion, sleep, food and eat­ing, an ordi­nary day, and fil­ter­ing out the adult world from your chil­dren, you can see how this idea becomes even more convicting.

Less is more.

We have for­got­ten the gift of boredom.

Less is more.

Our chil­dren need unstruc­tured play time.

Less is more.

We need to clear away the clutter.

Less is more.

The true power of less is that it cre­ates smarter and more imag­i­na­tive, ener­getic, inde­pen­dent, cre­ative, self-confident kids. Kids that know how to solve prob­lems, get along well with oth­ers, fig­ure things out, and build a deep rela­tion­ship with their par­ents and others.

Sim­plic­ity par­ent­ing is worth the try.

For those of you inter­ested in learn­ing more about the book, you might like to watch this infor­ma­tive four-minute video by the author.