Monday, November 11, 2013

Embrace the Simple Things, Despite Their Imperfections - Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Ten)

This is Part Ten of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

10. Embrace the simple things, despite their imperfections
-- I have one room in my house -- the living room -- that is very simply adorned (the rest of the rooms are adorned in a modern, busy family fashion called "cluttered"). The only things that belong in the living room are three couches, an area rug, a coffee table and two end tables. There is a basket that is used to house any stray toys and a magazine holder to house any stray books that might find their way into the room. There are a few things on the fireplace mantle and one lamp on one of the end tables, but the other tables are bare. A couple of throw pillows belong on each of the couches.

The result? This room is really easy to straighten. It takes less than 30 seconds to make it look presentable and on a cleaning day, I can get the dusting done in under two minutes in that room. I love that room.

In this season of life, simplifying, as much as possible, is key. Now there are reasons that things are complicated, and often simplifying carries it's disadvantages, so knowing those disadvantages is important. But often the benefits of simplicity outweigh the costs.

As I share some of the ways we've simplified life for this season, I recognize that each family is different and what works for some won't work for others. If you have any other ideas or things that have worked for you and your family, please feel free to share in the comments!

  • I love a good book. Problem is, I tend to get engrossed in what I'm reading and during this season, there are many distractions and interruptions that make prolonged concentration difficult. Now there are many good reasons for deep study, but I've found that my "go to" for reading edification these days are good blogs and articles rather than books. They are typically written in a more concise fashion, so I can get the main idea in bite-sized chunks.
  • As referenced above, finding solid reading time is hard. For this reason, I love having a Bible app on my phone. It's so easy to pull my phone out and do a little reading when the quiet moment happens instead of trying to predict when that quiet moment will occur. Of course, making plans to spend time in God's Word is also necessary, but during this season, our plans are held more loosely and are often interrupted. Giving yourself more options helps.
  • While I'm on the topic of quiet times, I have to share my sleeping secret. Mamas often have trouble quieting their brain in order to get much needed rest. We get so used to taking care of babies and our sleep getting interrupted that we can preempt the interruption by not falling asleep in the first place. For me, praying helps. When I'm trying to sleep but find my brain all a-whir with plans and anxieties and such, I take the opportunity to turn these matters over to God. And then I start praying for the people who are on my heart. The result? I get some precious time in with the Lord AND I typically fall asleep doing so. I sometimes hesitate to share this tip because there are times that I actually pray for the specific reason that I know that it will probably put me to sleep and this, to me, sounds like a bad motivation. But I trust that the Lord knows my heart, the time is well spent, and that the rest He gives me in the process is a gift from Him. And He's quite capable of keeping me awake longer if I need to pray more, too.
  • Social media has its hangups. I get that. I don't recommend using the computer as a substitute for all human interaction. But it also can be very helpful in keeping you involved in other people's lives during this more home-bound season of life. Facebook is great for giving you a sneak look into what's going on in other people's hearts and minds -- it gives you freebie conversation starters for those times when you have a moment to talk, and it can be a great way to let you know how you can care for others. Emails and texts are a WONDERFUL substitute for real life phone calls when you have a screaming toddler in the background. Know the weaknesses of these mediums, but embrace the ways they can help.
  • Choose your battles with your children. Try to focus on one or two things you are working on with them and know there is time later to work on other issues. They don't have to be perfect overnight. We certainly aren't.
  • I stopped shopping with all my children during the day when I had our third. I've never liked shopping much, anyway. And I know that I have an amazing husband who is willing to do shopping for me. We also are happy to use some of our date times to shop. We make it work. This obviously sacrifices some family time, but the trade-off, for this season, of not having to shop with all my wee children is well worth it to us.
  • is a wonderful, wonderful thing. We do diapers, wipes, kiddie protein bars, and a zillion other things through Amazon Mom paired with the "Subscribe and Save" options. It saves us money and is delivered right to our door. It's almost too simple.
  • Running the dishwasher and the washing machine on a daily basis helps to keep me from being buried in dishes and laundry... though I can't say that these burials don't still occur.
  • If a baby is leaking through diapers during the night, a size-up at bedtime can often solve that problem and reduce middle of the night flounderings!
  • I'm slowly growing in the "kiddie chores" options as some of my kiddies get older. It takes longer to teach a kid to do a chore than to do it yourself, and often the result is lower quality if the kiddie does the chore, but on the flip side, it's really, really nice to be able to tell your kids to "clean up for Roomba" and know that all the toys will be put in their proper receptacle while you are busy doing something else. Just takes some training. And you're helping them develop good life skills and attitudes in the process. Bonus!
  • If while you were reading the last point you asked, "Who is Roomba?" you really should find out. Roomba = sanity. And what price tag can you place on sanity? (I do recommend, if you go the Roomba route, to buy it at Costco -- just in case you get a flakey one. Costco has an excellent return policy if you find that, say, six months after a purchase, the item is not working like it should be working considering the $$ spent.)
  • Costco. Also amazing. Really, if you can't buy it at Costco or, do you really need it?
  • Really, finding about three stores that cover all your needs helps in the simplifying aspect of this season. For us, it's Raley's, Costco, and Walmart (with the semi-annual Kohl's or trip thrown in for good measure). I know that shopping around can save big money, but it also takes a lot more time. It's one of those things you have to weigh out for yourself.
  • Costco commonly has coupons for paper plates. What says "simple" like paper plates?
  • We have gone paperless as far as shopping lists go by using Google Tasks. David and I can each update lists from multiple locations which helps keep lists current and available to whoever happens to get to the store first. We also use Google Calendar (Eliana even has access so she can see daily chore updates!) and Google Drive to help us coordinate and schedule on-the-go. Google isn't quite as awesome as Amazon, but it's close.
  • David and I have enjoyed having one-on-one "dates" with each of our children. We schedule these as we can and it's nice to be able to spend some time with the kids individually and to do something that would be time or cost-prohibitive (or sanity diminishing) if we tried to do the same activity with all of the kids.
  • We have a couple of storage cubes that the kids have learned to put their shoes in when they get home and are taking off their shoes. We still have the random "missing shoe" mad search at times, but it is much more seldom that it was pre-storage cubes.
  • Reducing parental irritations is a worthy investment. In our house, we have installed door closers, motion sensing lights, and LED bulbs. These "investments" have reduced repetitive lectures that can make the lecture-giver's blood boil after having to say, "turn off the lights!" or "close the door!!" one too many times. (We also installed a smart controller on our sprinkler system -- with a rebate! -- which reduced "Less water!", "More green!" squabbles between David and me.)
  • And I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Ask for and accept help where you can. You don't have to do it all.
Now it's your turn, friends! What have you done to simplify life?


My outline says there are two more posts to go. Hang in there. =)

Continue to Part Eleven

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