The following is a post from contributor Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
I have this fantasy of fleeing into the far-off woods and living off-grid. In my (unrealistic) fantasy we live off the land with no iPhones, no trips to Costco, no internet, nothing.
Whenever this dream crops up my husband shakes his head and patiently waits for it to pass. It always does. We love our life in this crazy world, even if at times it feels dizzying.
Between leading a church, traveling to speak, writing a book, keeping a blog, managing a (full) house, and homeschooling, there are days when my goal of “simple” seems to laugh in my face.
Nothing about life, really, is simple.
But that’s why, in this busy, hectic world, simplifying isn’t just a fun idea, it’s vital.
It’s necessary for our sanity. The ways in which we simplify will vary for us all, but we all must make simplification choices if we’re going to keep our homes without losing our minds.
Here are 3 simple ways we have simplified, and why they’ve made a world of difference for this dizzy mama.
Our physical environment can be a subtle form of stress. In the phenomenal book Simplicity Parenting, Payne suggests starting by reducing kids’ toys by 75 percent! This summer we did this — a massive overhaul of our children’s belongings, saving only the most helpful toys.
The resulting toys were organized in bins. I can feel the difference when I walk in the room and see order in a tidy, simplified space.
We did the same with homeschooling supplies. It was ridiculous how much time my kids spent looking for a pencil! Every time we couldn’t find something it was like a mini shot of stress. Add all those up and we had a good dose of daily frustration!
I pared their desks down to the essentials — pencils, erasers, scissors, tape, one glue-stick. The rest of the craft supplies were stashed separately, in another space.
Sure, our space still gets messy (it is right now because my kids are playing while I’m writing!), but the clean-up is so much simpler and Mommy is so much happier.
Payne talks about the importance of establishing regular rhythm.
There are repeated “notes,” if you will, that provide security and stability for our children.
Thursday is laundry day. Homeschool lessons are from 1-3pm, always. Wednesday is family night. Our bedtime routine stays the same.
My son, who has Asperger’s, has an intense need for predictability. Although I am comfortable with a free-flowing, go-with-whatever sort of routine, he is not. At all.
So for us, simplifying our schedule simply meant building in key points of predictability whenever possible. As I developed my Steady Days Schedule I built in “no budge” boundaries, things we’ll do as consistently as humanly possible. This was a big step for me, who saw “flexibility” as one of my strengths.
In our formal homeschool lessons (1-3pm) we now follow a very predictable progression.
Timeline song, circle-time (relating to one another and praying), scripture memorization presentations, math, grammar, writing, reading. It’s nothing fancy but it’s always the same and our kids are thriving on the rhythm of this time.
Payne also emphasizes the need for large chunks of unstructured time for children to be free, create, imagine, get bored, and play.
He asserts that over-scheduling children adds incredible stress, planting seeds of addiction as we program our children to bounce from activity to activity, relying on constant outer stimulation.
He pleads with parents to create lengthy daily pauses for our children, giving them the gift of long, uninterrupted time for imaginative play.
Our kids have from 8:30am-12pm free every day except Tuesday. They thrive on this extended free time, and so does Mommy!
To my surprise, our simplified (yet “stricter”) schedule, helped me much more than I’d anticipated. Knowing that on Mondays I clean, on Wednesdays I write, and on Thursdays I do laundry and cook ahead helped me relax more about items undone.
There’s a “box” of time, if you will, for everything. Sure, unplanned stuff still happens. A lot. But these known notes of predictability have reduced our daily stress-load significantly.
I’m actually referring to all meals here, but snacks started with an s. (I can’t help it.) My main area of stress on a daily basis surrounded food. Dietary restrictions plus uber-picky eaters plus a mama who doesn’t necessarily love spending all day in the kitchen were a recipe for disaster.
So we greatly simplified our menu, and the kids love it.
Now we do the same meals every week, themed on a country (Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, etc.).
Breakfast is always the same, lunch almost the same, and dinner rotates between 7 meals.
Yes, we will switch out as the seasons change (variety is important for a healthy diet) but our culture is so variety-addicted that a simple meal schedule (the norm in other countries) seems outrageous to us.
When it’s snack-time, there are two choices. This has also greatly simplified grocery shopping and budgeting. And the kids quit complaining! Can you see me doing the happy dance?
There are still days I fantasize about living off-grid in the mountains. But these three simple steps have helped me maintain my sanity down here in the grid and grind of daily life.
Thanks for reading.
What simplification steps have most helped save your sanity?