From the desk of Natalie Hughes:
On my 6 year old daughter’s last day of school before winter vacation, she brought home a sweet little drawing of her and 2 parent figures, smiling beside a Christmas tree. The teacher had written at the top of the page, “What are you going to do on your winter vacation?”
And my daughter had neatly printed, “Play with my Dad and Grandma.”
My great joy over the drawing sank to the pit of my stomach. She assumed I, her own mother, would not be playing with her. I would be too busy: trying to keep the house in order, cooking, cleaning, working early in the morning and late into the night, and getting presents bought and wrapped. Christmas just made it even busier than normal. Her little mind didn’t even consider putting me on the list of playmates. Mom will be busy – it’s just a matter of fact.
I almost let myself be hurt, but I stopped myself in mid-pity-party… even the smallest cues in life contain wisdom if we can tune in and listen. (Besides, I’ve been working on choosing to never take offense, as you can read in a previous blog, Choose Love.) “Wow”, I thought. “I really need to re-think how things are going in this house if everyone has time to play except me.”
The word that came to me next was, “SIMPLIFY.”
Now, I don’t have an overly cluttered home on the surface – I don’t get attached to things that are old and worn out, and we manage to have a yard sale and purge almost yearly – but our life has afforded us the luxury of buying more than just the basics… lots of towels, lots of clothes, lots of toys and books and monthly magazines. You get the picture. The world of marketing magic has certainly delivered the message that more is better, and “having makes us happy.” But I started thinking about how much more work was involved in having extra of all of those things. Right on cue, I saw a TV show dedicated to helping a cluttered family simplify their lives by paring them back to their necessities. What appeared in their lives as a result was more space, more leisure time and ultimately more joy. I was all for that.
Ready for a change, I had a meeting with the kids (and a special one with my daughter in particular, where we outlined ways she can help free my time by eliminating the wake of mess she leaves behind her) to talk about cutting out the things in their rooms that are making it harder for them to clean up but are not of any other benefit… the books that fall off the bookshelf when searching for their favorites, and the clothes they pull out of the drawer so they can get at the ones they love. To my almost thirteen year old son who is responsible for his own hamper, I suggested eliminating all underwear except 7 pair, and keeping only 7 changes of clothes and 7 pair of socks so he would never find himself in too big a pile of laundry.
Here is a list of other little ways I came up with to simplify modern life and free up time, space and happiness:
- 2 towels per family member, each assigned their own colour: one to use and one to wash.
- 2 tea towels: one to use and one to wash.
- Only enough dishes, glasses and flatware in the cupboard to make up a single dishwasher load.
- Donating all the not-as-beloved books and toys to charity: pick a number – say, 15 – of keepers, and let the remainder be enjoyed by someone else. Banning fast-food toys.
- Setting up e-billing and eliminating mail-clutter, and even subscribing to electronic versions of magazines and books
- Getting rid of shoes (Gasp! Let’s not get crazy. Throwing out my assortment of adorable footwear is not going to bring me any joy!)
There are a million more ways we will be able to find as well, I’m sure. This is just the start of the journey.
How much time are we talking about here? I figure I’ll be eliminating three or four loads of laundry so I’m taking back a few hours there. The kids will be able to clean their rooms in seconds… it will be so simple that I’ll save 30 nagging minutes. Plus, don’t underestimate the value of clearing headspace… just knowing that the piles can’t ever get too big makes me feel like I have permission to play.
And what am I going to do with this newly acquired time? Why, I’ll be diving into a pile of Barbie dolls with my front-toothless-grinning girl, and playing a ruthless game of monopoly with my son who is not yet too cool for me.
I know there’s very little evidence to suggest that New Year’s resolutions are effective for creating lasting change, but it’s never a bad time to plant seeds and new ideas that support the vision you have for your life!