Life's a breeze
9 ways to simplify your life with kids. By Leo Babauta
Life is good! But anyone who has kids also knows that family life can also get a bit more complicated, at least to some degree. That might mean cooking for fussy eaters, extra laundry, bathing, shopping, driving duties or an endless stream of chores and crises from sports days to lost toys and tantrums. Family life has no shortage of complications. But help is at hand. Here are nine ways to simplify your life with kids and make family life a breeze.
1 - Self-sufficiency
This one tip could simplify your life greatly, over time. However, it will make things more complicated in the short-term. The idea is to teach your kids to do things for themselves as they get older and more capable. Teaching them to do something themselves instead of just doing it yourself takes time and can be a little frustrating at first, but it will pay off for years to come. My kids, for example, can make themselves breakfast, shower and dress themselves, brush their teeth, and generally get themselves ready in the morning with only minimal prompting. They can clean their rooms, wash dishes, sweep, mop, dust, wash the car. The older ones can cook basic dishes and babysit the younger ones. This type of self-sufficiency has saved so much time and trouble over the years!
2 - One calendar
If you have more than one child, you might have a lot of activities going on that you need to track, from school events, like Christmas performances, to extracurricular activities such as soccer or dance classes. Organise your life with a simple calendar (I use Google Calendar) and enter all activities and appointments on this one calendar, from kids’ stuff to your own goings on. When they hand you papers from school, or schedules, immediately enter everything onto the calendar. Then a quick glance at the calendar each day will help you plan your day.
3 - Toy bins
It’s an inevitable fact of life that kids have lots of toys, and that they will be everywhere. You will drive yourself crazy if you try to manage them with dictatorlike ruthlessness. Instead, let kids play, but have lots of bins where they can toss the toys inside when they’re done. Then cleaning up is a cinch — they just toss everything on the floor into the bins, and move on to making their next mess. You can have designated bins for certain toys (this one’s for Lego, this one’s for stuffed animals, etc.), and also have some general-purpose bins for things that don’t fit anywhere else. Don’t be too strict about them — the whole purpose is to make things simpler.
4 - Simple clothing
It’s best to buy clothes for your kids that will match easily — choose a similar colour scheme, so you’re not always digging through their clothes to find stuff that matches. Go through their clothes every few months to get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit (kids grow so fast!) and donate the old clothes to relatives or charity (or pass them on to a younger sibling).
Keep their wardrobe simple — if it doesn’t fit neatly in their drawers, you have to get rid of it or get rid of something else. Don’t stuff drawers, or you’ll make it hard to find stuff.
5 - Regular cleanups
If you’re like me, you don’t like a huge mess. Teach your kids to clean up after themselves — let them make a mess, but every now and then, tell them it’s time to clean up. Be sure to tell them to clean up before moving on to something else, such as lunchtime or bedtime. It’s good to have regular times during the day when they do cleanups, such as before bed or before they leave for school, so that the house is always clean at night and during the day.
6 - Prep the night before
Mornings can be a hectic time for parents and kids alike, but they don’t have to be. Instead, prep as much as possible the night before, and have your mornings be a little more relaxed. I like to prep lunches, get their clothes ready (and mine as well), and have them shower, get their homework and school bags ready. Then the morning is simply eating breakfast, a little grooming, getting dressed, and gathering everything together before you head out the door. It’s a great way to start your day.
7 - Quiet bedroom routines
Kids thrive on routine, and no routine is better than the one before they go to sleep. Have a regular routine before bed — it might consist of cleaning up, showering, brushing their teeth, getting into their pyjamas, or reading a book. Reading aloud to them just before bedtime is a great idea, because it quiets them down after a day of activity, it gives you quality bonding time together, and it gets them into the habit of reading. Plus, it’s just something that everyone can enjoy.
8 - Have dedicated family times
Try to find regular times in your schedule when you do nothing else but spend time together as a family. For some people, dinner time works well — everyone sits down to dinner together as a family, and no other activities are planned at that time. For others, weekends, or maybe just one day of the weekend, work better. We reserve Sundays as our Family Day, and try our best not to schedule anything else on that day. It’s something we look forward to.
9 - Let things go sometimes
I’m not always good at this, but it’s something I work on constantly: don’t always be so strict. Let things go. They’re kids — let them live. I have a tendency to be very strict about things, but I remind myself constantly that it’s not worth all the hassle to get on their cases about things. Instead, let things go, and just relax. They’ll turn out just fine in the end, as long as you love and support them.
Leo Babauta is the founder of zenhabits.net
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.