How to simplify family life – by Sarah Thompson
July 12 is Simplicity Day and who wouldn’t like things to be a bit more simple now and then?
Babies, sleep-deprivation and the pace of modern life make living simply surprisingly difficult. We’ve put together a few pointers to help you streamline the stress and cut back the chaos.
Write a timetable: managing the childcare arrangements of even just one child can keep you awake at night. Throw in another child and it’s a complicated maths equation just getting to Wednesday. Phones, calendars and online apps are all very helpful for us grown-ups, but for families with young children a simple, old-fashioned timetable, handwritten and stuck to the fridge is a breath of the simplest air. Draw a grid with the days of the week across the top and your children’s names (and yours if you’re joining in) down the side. Then if they are old enough, get your children to write in their weekly activities and times, or if they’re not yet writing, write it for them in a colour they choose, so they at least know it’s theirs. The act of writing it down with a pen seems to commit it to memory in a way that typing into your smartphone never does. Everyone knows where they’re going, on what day. It’s uh-mazing.
Cheese and biscuits: when everyone has rejected your hidden-vegetable pasta, thrown your handmade fishcakes on the floor and laughed in the face of your gently-spiced chicken surprise, it’s worth remembering that a simple plate of cheese and biscuits (or toast, or oatcakes) and a chopped-up apple on the side, is actually packed with good stuff. It takes around 30 seconds to prepare and most children will eat it. That my friend, is not to be sniffed at. Throw in a carrot and a cherry tomato, and you can pretty much call yourself Gwyneth Paltrow.
Declutter the toys: most of us would agree that our children have too many toys, most of which they never seem to play with. But throwing or giving away your children’s toys also feels like a bit of a mean thing to do. Be reassured that getting rid of the glut actually lets children play more meaningfully with their toys, instead of ripping through the toy box with wild abandon, they stay focussed on the few they’ve got at their disposal. It’s a wood for the trees situation. Spend an hour or so going through everything and where there are duplicates (how many Hot Wheels cars does one child really need?) pass them on to friends, or the charity shop. Then try to get into the habit of only having a few out at a time. They may complain at first but persevere and eventually you’ll find they play for longer and with more focus.
Love your laundry basket: off on your travels with the family? If you’re driving and staying with friends or self-catering, consider whether you really need to take a suitcase. Laundry baskets are a super easy way to pack in the run up to your departure and mean you can access all your stuff on your journey without the usual fight to the death with the overstuffed suitcase and broken zip. Throw your dirty clothes in during your trip and you have a ready made wash to stick on when you get home.
Just say no: over-scheduling is stressful for you and not great for your children. Everyone needs time to be bored, with nothing on their to-do list, especially youngsters. Empower yourself with the confidence to say no (politely) to some invitations, and marvel at how good it feels.
Dress for success: there are so many beautiful children’s clothes out there these days and your children always look so gorgeous in them, it’s difficult to resist indulging. But t-shirts with frills on the sleeves and shirts with collars and buttons need ironing. As do most skirts and dresses. Sensitive children get irritated by hard collars and too-tight cuffs. Avoid potential stress-points by keeping clothes simple. As a rule we suggest you avoid anything with sequins on or big laundry labels inside, anything white, and if they’re still in nappies, trousers that don’t undo at the crotch. Dungarees and t-shirts are your friends. Until they can do them up themselves, shoes with laces are the enemy.
Technology curfews for all: they are a fact of modern life and yet we are all worried about how much time our children spend on screens. One of the biggest problems is that although we want them to be contented without a tablet or a phone to play on, we are addicted to checking our own. Put everyone’s tech away at a certain time (throughout the day or in the evening, depending on their age) and show them how it’s done. You can always get yours out again when they’ve gone to bed.
Goodbye to the gimmicks: Hippychick is all about products that help and support families on the journey. But we’re also the first to admit there are plenty of things out there that are entirely unnecessary and not worth spending your hard earned cash on. When it comes down to it, a nappy bag is really just a bag – you can just as easily use your own bag and put some nappies, wipes and a portable change mat in it. Similarly, a nappy bin is really just a bin. Buy your baby gear from trusted brands who really understand what parents and children need. Then spend the savings on something you really want – like a holiday – instead.