Fiona Bennett is the founder of Simplify Your Home, a professional organising and editing service based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She helps guide people towards a life of simplicity by focusing on what they want and helping them to clear away everything else. Fiona’s particular area of expertise is working with families so it is fitting that she shares this fantastic guest blog.
Life with children can be hectic but keeping things simple and organised can really help you maintain some calm and order. Here are seven things that have helped our family life to run a little more smoothly recently.
Get the kids to bring you every scrap of uniform that’s dirty and do it all in one go, it will mean they need a few more items but it’s much simpler. When it’s dry, get them to take it to their room and put it away ready for the week ahead, ask them to do this before they have their screen time or before a mealtime, and they’re likely to do it with much more enthusiasm!
One’s in use, one’s in the wash. Instead of centrally storing a stack of towels, each member has their own towel stored in their room ready for use. This is a great one for children’s independence too. When you do a towel wash, each person’s towel goes on their clean washing pile ready for them to take to their room.
We realised our kids had a raincoat, a gillet, a fleece, and a winter coat at least! When we thought about it, all they really need for the year ahead is: 1 raincoat and 1 winter coat full stop. Less coats = less to store, keep tidy, wash, label, keep track of and so on.
There’s a lot of pressure these days for parents to feel that they have to get their child involved in every club and activity available. We’re not short of choice either, you name it, there’s a provider out there offering that activity. This is just a modern day society pressure. It can result from fear of your child missing out or from comparison to others. Think about your family values and be intentional in your choices. Just because it’s on offer doesn’t mean you have to do it, remember you have a choice.
Of course it’s great to expose your little ones to lots of different things when they’re young but not all at the same time. Imagine doing four or five extra activities on top of your daily job every week, would you feel overwhelmed? Tired? They too can feel overloaded with not enough down time to just be. Remember family time is important and the one thing most kids like best is our attention. Keep their week simple and yours in turn.
When the food is eaten, say to everyone “mealtime isn’t over until everything is cleared away, then you can go”. I tell my children: “For our family to run smoothly and us all to be happy, we all have to work as a team”. This could prove harder if your children are older and you are only now trying to introduce these strategies, they will no doubt resist, but I would urge you to appeal to their sense of fairness within the family unit. Hold a family meeting to discuss your views and establish a respectful discussion in which every family member is heard and then together try to come to a solution that everyone is happy with, this method can be used with any issue which affects more than one family member. Remember there has to be something in it for them, it can’t just be about getting your way every time. I love this process, I learn so much about my children’s perspective when we communicate in this way. Also when all is said and done you are teaching your children peaceful conflict resolution which can only be a good thing.
Find the most logical home for every item in your house, where is it actually used? Make sure everyone knows it’s home and insist (with encouragement and praise rather than nagging) that everyone return items to their home after use! This doesn’t have to be immediately and it doesn’t have to be a boring chore, still encourage children to be imaginative and experimental by allowing ‘mess’ but at some point later, have a team tidy up with some music and a time limit to add fun. Again with older children who may resist, (their bedroom is often a contentious issue) have a respectful discussion in which everyone’s views are acknowledged and try to come to a mutually acceptable decision about strategies and routines that can be adhered to. Consider drawing up and signing a ‘contract’ and agree a reward if continually achieved, (not monetary) something mutually enjoyable, preferably an experience together. Oh and don’t expect perfection!
This takes quite a change in mind set and awareness of all the marketing messages we are constantly bombarded with. Remember that in basic terms all we really need as human beings is food and shelter and everything else is just an added extra, obviously this is extreme but recently, in our family, we have started to become really intentional about our purchases, asking: ‘Do I really need this item or just want it? Do I want to give it house room and everything that comes with that such as maintenance, cleaning, organising?’ When you add it to everything else you own or could own, that becomes a whole lot of maintenance, cleaning, organising. Owning less is conducive to a simple household and a simple life. Maybe a simpler choice would be to do something rather than own something. Build some memories rather than potential clutter.
It’s not always easy to keep things simple? If you would like some hands on guidance in your own home search for a local organiser here.