by Monica K. Guthrie
I think the single most shared goals (after weight loss and healthy eating) was the desire to simplify life and spend more time with family. Here are a few goals you guys shared on our Facebook page:
Elizabeth Boyd Collado: My NYR is to be more present with my daughter. Not to worry as much about what needs to be done but really sit down and enjoy her. (…).
Vanessa Styx: Slow down and try to simplify my life. Don't put so much pressure on myself and try and find the good in each day. Savour the little moments with my family
My husband and I both work (and he takes night classes) so making family time has become a priority because we know if family time is not a priority it will be too easy to get consumed in our individual lives rather than our life as a family. So, how do we take a resolution from a “good idea” to a “plan of action?” In my next article, I’ll give you the plan for quality family time, but today I’ll tackle the first half of the equation: simplifying life.
I think the first step has to do with simplifying life. The less work we have to do the more time we have to enjoy our families.
- Set a cleaning/chores schedule. I know that if I want to enjoy family time later I need to get things done timely and not binge-watch “The Gilmore Girls.” So on Thursday evenings I clean. Thursdays are when my husband has a class so when my little one goes to bed I might dust and vacuum. The next week I might clean the bathrooms. I cycle through doing a little bit each month so I don’t have to spend hours on a single day cleaning (I’ll still watch Netflix while I do laundry though – I’m not a total savage).
- Cook ahead of time. This is something many of you already do, but if you don’t, consider cooking all your meals ahead of time (you can freeze some). I make all my lunches on Sunday for the week and if I know what I’m cooking for dinner throughout the week I may go ahead and prep those meals – cut vegetables, cook meat and put it in the freezer for future use. Also, when you’re done with a meal, I fill muffin tins and freeze them, then pop them out and put them in freezer bags. For example, if I make pasta and have leftover sauce, I’ll freeze them in a muffin tin. Then when I want to make a small amount of pasta (usually for my toddler) I can use a single cup of sauce rather than opening an entire jar.
- Declutter and purge! Elizabeth Dauth and Rachel Feers both said they wanted to get organized, declutter, purge, throw away things or donate things they don’t need. The idea is both altruistic and helpful. Last year I tried a capsule wardrobe (removing items until I had around 40 essential pieces). Not only did I donate my clothes and help others, I also saved time during my morning routine. No longer was I staring into a closet wondering what to wear – now I only had a few pieces to choose from which made deciding faster. I did the same with my son’s wardrobe. Combining that with laying out our clothes the night before made for a much faster morning routine. Decluttering the house can mean less time cleaning for you – and if you have a yard sale, it can mean making a few extra dollars to spend on activities with your family.
- Simplify your time commitments. I am the queen of overscheduling. I love having something to do all day. I have my work, volunteer with the family readiness group (a military organization at the unit level where spouses, typically, help create events and activities to help boost morale within the unit), I have a book club, my Bible study, worship team rehearsals, craft night, dinner parties, birthday parties – and then extra things like running errands. Sometimes it’s good to just say “no” (well, maybe not to work). Instead of doing good things for other people, dedicate time to do good things for your family. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can balance both. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a step back for a week before jumping back in again.
- Reduce debt. Barbara Steinberg shared her resolution on our Facebook page saying, “I am going to try to stick to my household budget. Wish me luck.” While you don’t need money to have quality time, it can be a noose around the necks of working parents. For about a year my family lived on a few hundred dollars – after paying our bills and paying off our debt. We told our family and friends so they wouldn’t be offended when we didn’t come to birthday parties or out to eat or to go see movies. We sold things we didn’t need. We took on extra jobs. My husband and I ate cheap noodles as our meals so our kids could eat healthy meals. We worked hard. Really, really hard. The result was going from $20,000 of debt to no debt in about two and a half years. Now we can breathe easier and enjoy that extra income saving for retirement and indulging a little bit. If you need help taking control of your finances, look into Financial Peace (if you’re super serious) or just take little steps like eliminating extra spending.
- Eliminate electronics. For the last hour before our kids go to bed we turn off the T.V. and put away our phones. That time is for playing with our kids and getting ready for bed. We duel with light sabers, read books, build tents – and laugh. This was our first step in making family a priority and it has been the source of the most inside jokes and hilarious memories.
These are just a few suggestions on how to simplify your life. If you have your own suggestions, please share them with us in the comments below. What have you done to simplify your life? What do you struggle with?
Next time, we’ll tackle quality family time!
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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