By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center

Can the words “simple living” and “kids” be used in the same sentence? Sure they can! In fact, creating a simple, more organized home and lifestyle for your family will not only lessen your stress as a parent, but it will also make everyone in the family HAPPIER. But, with all our consumerism and easy-online-buying options, the simple life does not always seem so…simple. It’s easy to get caught up in the clutter and forget what life with kids is really all about: raising happy, healthy, carefree children who learn responsibility, but also have lots of fun.

Check out these tips for simplifying your very hectic life (because mine is and I imagine your life might be too):

  1. Less is more. We’ve all heard that phrase, but do we really put it into practice? Let’s talk toys. If your kids are anything like mine, they have a few they play with on a daily basis, but the rest seem to pile up in their rooms, in the basement, in the living room, EVERYWHERE. Cue “the bins.” Find three bins or boxes. Call on your inner Marie Kondo (on Netflix for those who haven’t yet tuned in) and bring ALL the toys into one place. Make a big toy pile; this might actually be fun for your kids. Enlist the help of your littles and ask them to organize the pile into the three bins. Each time they pick up a toy, tell them to think about where they’d like to put it. Does it still bring them joy? If not, but it’s still in good condition, place it in the first bin, “donate/sell.” Do they love it and play with it often? If so, that one goes into the “keep” bin. Has it seen better days and can’t be reused? Toss it in the “garbage” bin…or recycle if possible. With all the buy/sell/trade sites on social media these days, this might turn into a great money-making venture for you in the end.
  2. Meals. Just the thought of cooking an entire meal for my family after I’ve been at work all day seems nearly impossible. But remember, a healthy meal for your family does not need to be turkey with all the trimmings. Crockpot soup or chili, chicken/beef tacos, turkey dogs, spaghetti with meatballs or sauce with added veggies, quesadillas, English muffin pizzas and veggie burgers are all easy, kid-friendly dinners. Add a couple sides such as cut up fruit and carrots with dip and you’ve almost included all the food groups.
  3. De-clutter your stuff, mom and dad. Pure and simple. Easier said than done, I know, but this will make a HUGE difference. And, don’t try to do it all at once because it could be too overwhelming and then nothing gets done. Pick one room each week (or month) if you’re really short on time. Start at one end of the room and work your way around. Throw out everything you don’t need, file the paperwork, clean out the fridge and get rid of the decorative items that no longer bring you happiness. You will feel a sense of relief and your children will too.
  4. Add life. Oddly enough, adding a couple items to your space can actually bring peace and simplicity. By getting rid of the unnecessary clutter, you’ll have space for the things you really need. Items such as green plants and bowls of fresh fruit actually add positive energy to your home and make your life easier. Your kids will have fun taking care of the plants by watering and pulling out the dead leaves. Bowls of fresh fruit offer a convenient, healthy snack option that your kids can grab on the go.
  5. A place for everything and everything in its place. Your tidy grandma was right. Designate space for everything you own and make sure it all ends up there at the end of the day. Hooks and baskets by the door for your kids’ coats, boots, hats and mittens will keep it all confined to one area so it doesn’t end up all over the house. Books can be taken out, but must be put back on the shelf at the end of the day. Toys go back in the box, blankets stay on the bed (even if we don’t have time to make the bed before dashing off to school), your keys are hung on their hook and letters and bills are placed in the same container so they can be paid and responded to on time. Don’t expect miracles the first time you teach your children about this system, but practice it until it becomes a habit.

A simple, clutter-free life with kids IS possible. By putting emphasis on spending time together as a family, limiting actual items you bring in your home and giving “experience” gifts such as museum and zoo passes or trips on the train to a nearby city for a special treat, you and your children can live a more carefree, happy life. Your kids will also start to see the value in these types of experiences and not be so obsessed with the latest gadget.

What tips can you share about simplifying life with kids?

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