Do you ever dream of simpler times?
I don’t know how it happened. We have dishwashers, washing machines, smart phones, robotic vacuums, wash-and-wear clothes, air fryers and electric pressure cookers. We have all the gadgets to make life easier and give us more free time. But for many of us, life is busier than ever.
We’re running, running, running. We’re filling our schedules to the brim, leaving no margin for the unexpected or spontaneous.
Reality check… When was the last time you and a friend both had time to grab coffee or a glass of wine on the fly, without weeks of texting back and forth to find an hour that worked for both of you? When was the last time you felt “caught up?”
Is it possible to change? What if a series of small tweaks could simplify our overbooked lives and give us more white space?
Streamline Household Tasks
In our household, we used to separate clothes by dark, light and white – just as our parents and grandparents did. After washing and drying each load, we’d dump it out on the bed, sort by person, fold or hang and deliver a small pile of clean clothes to each bedroom.
A few years ago, my husband read about a different method, unilaterally decided that we would try it and ordered a sturdy laundry basket for every member of our family. When the baskets arrived on our front porch, he explained his plan.
Each family member has a basket for dirty clothes. When that basket is full, we wash and dry that one basket of laundry, then haul it back to that person’s room for immediate folding or hanging. No sorting required. We quickly realized that the “dark, light, white” system was a bit outdated. Most clothes are pretty colorfast these days. If we have a new red or dark shirt, we keep whites out of that load for a few washes or throw a “color catcher” in with the wash.
This simple change has added precious hours back into our schedule each month. Bonus: Our kids mostly do their own laundry these days.
Do we really need to sit on one more board, take on one more project, encourage our kids to play one more sport? It wasn’t always like this. Maybe it started with serving as room mom when your eldest was in kindergarten – now you’re president of the PTO on top of work, your book club, running kids in all directions and more.
For me, it’s easy to say “no” to things I don’t enjoy. It’s infinitely tougher to say “no” to things l love.
But there’s this thing called capacity. Overloading it works in the same way that plugging multiple extension cords into a circa-1920 electrical outlet does. Maybe it’ll work once. But over time, that underpowered outlet will short circuit, smoke, melt down or even catch fire.
We aren’t designed to do everything. Really. Make a list. What can you let go of, even temporarily? Start with any extras you’re doing simply because someone else isn’t. Then dig deeper into the things you love, but simply don’t have time for.
This one is a constant battle at our house. We have way too much stuff.
Too many clothes, toys, kitchen utensils, tiny bottles of hotel shampoo, books, magazines, travel mementos, kids’ art works. Every single thing in our house takes up space in my brain. We have a big basement storage room and it was so packed with stuff that we risked injury climbing over boxes for something we had a 50-50 chance of finding.
Sometimes, I dream about moving into a tiny home with only enough storage for seven outfits each, four sets of plates and utensils, two pans and food for five days.
But since that’s not going to happen, we recently started purging our storage room. My husband moved everything into our finished basement play area. The idea is that nothing goes back into storage unless we make a conscious decision that it should. I’m not going to lie… It’s pretty overwhelming. But as we work our way through box after box, I feel lighter.
We’re finding treasures like an original 1829 letter an ancestor wrote to her daughter. We’re keeping that. We’ve gone through hundreds of our kids’ art works, taken photos for an album, then allowed the little artists to choose their top 20 or so pieces to keep.
We’re offering $10 an hour for our kids to shred old credit card statements and other financial documents. Pro tip: We told them we would pay them if they helped out happily; if they grumped, they’d be helping, anyway – without pay.
Lots of stuff is going to charity. Our garbage collectors must think we’re moving. But bit by bit, we’re accomplishing our goal of having less stuff. And moving forward, we will do our best to live by the motto: One In, One Out. Buy a new pan, an old one goes. Buy a new shirt, an old one goes.
There is beauty in simplicity.
Tips from Other Moms on How To Simplify:
Inspired? Check out these tips from other moms from across the City Mom Collective network:
Simplify Your Life: 9 Tips to Help You Get More of Your Time Back
Have a great tip on how to simplify life? Drop it into the comments.