Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
September always makes me think two things.
One, I really should have bought more markers while they were on sale for forty-seven cents a box. (Back-to-school sales are the best.)
And two, How can I make things simpler around here?
I actually ask that second question every few months, because last season’s rhythms and routines might not be the best choices for this season’s. (Though my kids would be happy to turn our summer routine of hanging out at the pool into a year-round habit, please and thank you.)
Let’s clear something up real quick, though: SIMPLE does not mean EASY. Simple means not complicated, or at least less complicated.
To me, making things simpler means living more in alignment with who we are and what we’re about. That’s much less complicated than doing things because this is the way they’ve always been done, or because we think we “should,” or because we’re afraid of missing out.
Making things simpler means letting go of ideas that aren’t working, and finding practices that do work for our families. It means making changes so your life fits you (or anyway, fits you better than it did before).
I have a few questions I come back to when I’m ready to make things simpler. These are the questions I’ve been asking to simplify my September.
When I ask this first, I get to start my planning time in a positive space. I maybe even get to start with gratitude.
I ask: What’s inspiring my kids? What’s building our relationships? What’s feeding my soul? What’s just plain fun?
These are the things I want to keep and build on.
What do I want to add in?
Ironically, I know I sometimes need to add things to our days to make life simpler. Maybe I need to add in quiet time, or meal planning, or a new chore system.
Maybe I need to add in regular trips to the library. Maybe I need to add in childcare. Maybe I need to add in more time alone with my husband. Maybe I need to add in more free time, or more time for creative projects.
What will make our lives feel like they fit us more? That’s what we need to add in.
What do I need to let go?
Once I’m excited about what I want to add in, it’s easier to let go of the things that aren’t working so I can make room for the new.
Sometimes I need to let go of actual THINGS: toys that don’t get played with, books we’ve outgrown, clothes that are cluttering up closets. Sometimes I need to let go of commitments that aren’t the right fit for this season.
Or I might need to let go of certain learning activities, because they’re not right for my family. (Even if everyone else on the internet seems to love those same activities!)
When I’m figuring out what to let go of, I pay a lot of attention to how things feel.
What feels stressful? When am I—or anyone else in my family—regularly anxious or frustrated? Those things might need to go.
Now, I don’t intend to let go of every hard thing. Plenty of good things are hard. We can do hard things. But there’s a difference between working hard for a good reason and being anxious and stressed because I’m working on the wrong things. Some things we have to let go.
What am I going to change?
Every season, I find a few things that I want to keep but change. I don’t need to cut them out, but I need to change HOW or WHEN they happen. This fall, we’re changing how chores work at our house. We’re changing our weekly rhythm. We’re changing how often we go to the pool. (Sorry, kids!)
Some things that used to be optional have become necessary, and some that used to be necessary are becoming optional. So we make changes.
Those are the questions:
- What’s working?
- What do I want to add in?
- What do I need to let go?
- What am I going to change?
Also? It’s all going to be okay.
After all that questioning I give myself a helpful pep talk, because change always feels a little bit daunting. (What if I change wrong? What if the new things don’t work? What if life doesn’t feel simpler in the way I want it to?)
I have to remind myself that it’s all okay. Things might not work out how I hope. But I am a work in progress, and so is my family, and so is our homeschool.
We are allowed to experiment. We are allowed to try new things. We are even allowed to fail. If we make changes we don’t like, we can always change again. We’re not stuck. We’re growing.
So tell me, how are you making life simpler at your house this season?