10 Tips to Simplify Your Life

It’s always fun to share one of my friend’s books with you! Many bloggers are getting book deals these days, which excites me to no end. I love to see smart women who have been pouring their time and energy into their blogs for years get recognized for what they are — talented writers and experts in their fields.

Minimalist Parenting

Minimalist Parenting is the brain child of my good friend Christine Koh of Boston Mamas, who I met years ago at the very first Disney Mom Mixer, and Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks, who I met on a press trip in NYC a few years back. I run into them both from time to time at various blogging events, but of course there’s never enough time to hang out and catch up!

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this book; I guess I thought it might be more philosophical in nature, and I wasn’t sure how useful it would be. I should have known better, knowing how brilliant these two women are. As I started reading, I realized this is a very practical, hands-on guide to simplifying your life. Don’t pick it up unless you are ready to get to work! I have it on my Kindle, and I have been highlighting sections profusely as I read through it. I can’t wait to go back and implement their tips.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I tell you that I’m constantly overwhelmed by clutter — physical and mental clutter. It’s a constant when you have kids, I guess. And I’m just not a very disciplined person, nor is my husband, so we tend to allow things to accumulate until we are totally annoyed and overwhelmed and want it all out. We take on too many commitments and as much as we try not to over-schedule our kids, we end up filling our calendars until it’s just not possible to accomplish it all in a day, and we end up frustrated and exhausted.

Asha and Christine totally walk you through the steps to simplify your life. Here are some of their tips that really hit home for me. Some I plan to implement right away, and others are tips that I already make use of that I wanted to point out in hopes it will help someone else. This is by no means a summary of the book; it’s just a tease that I hope will entice you to check the book out for yourself.

10 Tips to Simplify Your Life Based on Minimalist Parenting

1. Make room for remarkable and edit out the unnecessary.

When you get rid of the stuff you don’t love, there’s more room for the stuff you do love.

Christine and Asha explain how to accomplish this — both in scheduling your time as well as managing material possessions.

I’ve learned to shorten my search for the “best” answer and to just go with what’s most likely to do the job.

I could completely relate to Asha’s confessions of “over researching” every purchase and decision and getting bogged down in the decision making.

2. Utilize a calendar.

Put every date and time specific detail in your life into your calendar. Everything else goes into your to-do list. Everything.

I found the section on scheduling tools and systems to be incredibly helpful.  I am famous for forgetting things and running late. I am definitely creating some new systems based on the advice in this chapter. They talk about creating routines with your spouse (with very practical tips on how to achieve this) and I love their TIme Saving Tech Picks — a list of apps to help keep yourself and your family organized.

3. Minimalize your home.

Chapter 5 walks you through decluttering and organizing your living spaces. I am feeling all motivated to go through the house and simplify my living space. We are good at purging. Neither my husband nor I are very sentimental, and we both like to get rid of stuff, but sometimes the job seems so big that we procrastinate because we are overwhelmed. Their reminder to “set reachable goals based on your time” is a good one, and one I need to take to heart. If I can just do one area a day — saving the larger areas for the weekends when we have more time to work together (our attic is BEGGING for a purging session!) then we can get the whole house in order within a few weeks. Then the key is to keep cycling back around. Some areas (our desks and junk drawers) need to be regularly purged so they will never become overwhelming.

The one thing that I keep realizing is that organization takes time. I need to make simplifying my life a priority, rather than always pushing these tasks to the bottom of my to-do list.

4. Implement Christine’s “three-touch rule” with emails. 

You will have to read the book for her system, but I will share this tidbit with you:

It’s not only impossible to respond to every query, but it’s perfectly okay not to respond to everything, particularly when lack of response is due to lack of interest.

As someone who literally receives hundreds of emails a week, this tip was extremely liberating. I need to take this to heart.

There is also a great section on organizing photos and videos.

5. Decide what YOU consider valuable.

When you minimalize your finances, the focus shifts from “Do I have enough?” to “What do I care about?”

I love how the focus throughout the book is on figuring out what is valuable to YOU and then editing your life based on those priorities. If your daily latte or weekly manicure is a non-negotiable, that’s totally fine. What else can you edit out of your life to make room for the time and money you need to provide that. The chapter on finances is extremely helpful.

6. Homework belongs to your kids.

There is a chapter on managing school schedules and implementing routines to keep life running smoothly with school-age children, and it’s all great advice. I singled out this little tidbit of advice because it’s my mantra. As a former teacher and a parent of three kids, I refuse to get bogged down in my kids’ homework. If they are spending too much time or need too much help, I send it back to the teacher with a note. If they ever get to the point that they need extra help, I will hire a tutor. It’s not my job; it is theirs.

7. Before you sign up, ask why.

This was included in the chapter on extra-curricular activities, but I think it’s a great tool to use in many areas of life. With so many demands for our time coming from all directions and so many opportunities to volunteer and serve, from school to church to neighborhood, we absolutely have to pick and choose. I am learning to say no more, and I think this is a great little test to help decide what to sign up for and what to say no to.

8. Embrace repetition.

Feeding our family should not be a chore, but it often feels that way. Simplifying the meal planning process is key, and there is a whole chapter on that. I love the advice to embrace repetition. I often revert to the same 5 or 10 meals, and as long as everyone likes them and they’re nutritious and balanced, who cares that we’re not making use of the gazillions of new recipes popping up every day on Pinterest. I like to reserve one night a week for trying something new, and the rest of the time, I cycle through our old favorites.

9. Consider throwing parties every few years.

Everyone should feel special on her birthday, but there’s no rule that says your kid has to have an elaborate party every year.

And I say A to the Men! I have always taken this approach. I do one party a year, and the kids rotate so each of my 3 kids gets a big party every 3 years. If party planning is your thing, then by all means, enjoy! But it is so not mine. I just don’t have it in me to do a big celebration every year for every kid so this works for us.

10. Self care is not selfish.

This is SUCH an important distinction. If you read my blog, you know that I take self care very seriously. I prioritize my personal exercise and healthy eating, I take time to visit the salon regularly and put on makeup {almost} every day, and I put thought and effort into my outfits. All of this goes a long way towards giving me the energy and self confidence I need to be a good wife and mom. I know that everyone is different and not everybody views self care in the same way, but whatever that means to YOU, by all means, make it a priority. You will be much happier for it, and you will be much more pleasant to live with.

There is so much more awesome advice throughout this book. I truly recommend it for anyone who is feeling like they need some advice and encouragement for simplifying their lives. Minimalist Parenting can be found on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Comments

  1. Diana says

    Thanks for sharing the tips! I don’t have kids at home anymore but I am going to check this out. Looks like great reasoning for life in general. It is so easy to get over scheduled that we forget to prioritize ourselves and home into the day. That is when I get overwhelmed. Looking forward to reading this!

  2. says

    Sounds like a great book and a philosophy that I’d be 100% on board with…I think I’m adding this book to my must reads.

    Oh, and I LOVE the way you handle your kid’s homework. I am a huge believe in homework being my kid’s job. It’s their responsibility and they know it. If they don’t do it, it’s still their responsibility and they suffer the consequences.

    Thank you!
    ~FringeGirl

  3. says

    This sounds right up my alley. I added it to my Amazon wish list. I recently read Simplicity Parenting, which sounds like it has a similar message. Loved it.

  4. says

    I’m adding this to my summer reading list!

    I’ve struggled with the party thing, and usually don’t do a party at all. Part of it’s our budget, though we have some wiggle room in the budget now. I like your idea of rotating between the kids. I could do that with the 4 younger ones starting with my oldest who will be in 4th this year.

  5. says

    Great tips! I have a tendency to want to to do everything and anything. One thing I’ve learned since kids is that self care is vital for everyone’s sanity in our family. If Mama’s not happy, no one is happy! :)

  6. Susan says

    Love these tips…especially the last one ! I meet sooo many women who put themselves on the back burner. Heck, if you feel AND look haggard and are not taking the time to take care of yourself, you are already starting the day at a disadvantage. I wish I knew where women are taught to put themselves last on the list!

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