Home is meant to be a sanctuary. But for many people, home is a just another source of stress. With so many advanced appliances and time-saving gadgets, we’re supposed to feel liberated. Instead, we feel suffocated by “things.” If you’re overwhelmed by the state of your home, try some of these tips for living with less.
Some people love to keep back-ups on hand. Back-up linens. Back-up silverware. Back-up pots and pans. It’s true that these extras expand your options, but you’re still going to accumulate the same amount of laundry or dirty dishes. Plus, in the meantime, you have to find cabinet space for all those doubles! Don’t be afraid to pack up your back-ups. Or better yet, sell them at a garage sale.
If your children have access to more toys, they’re probably going to make a bigger mess. And as we all know, most kids ignore the nice, expensive things you buy them, only to spend 3 hours playing with your measuring spoons. So box up most of what your kids own, and rotate the toys every month or two. Your house will be cleaner, and your kids will be excited to see “new” toys emerge on a regular basis.
Today’s houses are a lot bigger than the houses our parents grew up in. Even in apartments, bedroom and closet space has grown considerably. Extra space always sounds like a bonus, but it can be a negative, if you don’t have a plan for controlling your clutter. To keep things organized, designate a purpose for each room in your house. Bedrooms are for sleeping, reading, and getting dressed, so they should contain your clothes, your books, and your bed. Bathtub toys, dinner plates, and video games don’t belong in a bedroom. Teach your kids what goes where, and encourage them to recognize appropriate places for appropriate activities. Your house will be cleaner, and your whole family will be able to find things faster.
Do you try on 6 outfits before leaving the house in the morning? If so, you probably end up with garments all over your bedroom floor. Your things get wrinkled and you wind up rewashing clean clothes. Instead of wading through your wardrobe, pare it down. Store your out-of-season clothes in stackable containers that can be tucked away. Ask relatives if they’d like to receive hand-me-down clothes from your kids. Donate your old coats and jackets. And don’t grow your wardrobe to accommodate a growing waistline. If you own jeans in 7 different sizes, make your weight control a priority. Buying more clothes won’t fix the problem.
Your time is in short supply. And if you have kids, your free time is virtually nonexistent. But there are ways to cut back on your commitments and streamline your schedule. Because ideally, extracurricular activities should be fun, not stressful.
Parents should always encourage their kids – especially if they express interest or talent in a particular sport. That said, not every request is a reasonable one. If your 5-year-old wants to go to astronaut camp, she may have to wait a few years. Likewise, if your son’s hockey league requires daily practices at 6:00AM, you’ll need to evaluate how serious he is. Your child’s age, level of interest, and degree of responsibility (in terms of maintaining equipment and chipping in for costs) are all material factors in your decision. If the activity doesn’t seem worth the time or money, look for a low key alternative – like a class at the YMCA.
If you need to work out, cook dinner, and catch up with your friends – all in a single afternoon – you’re probably going to run out of steam pretty quickly. Find ways to combine your to-do’s with play dates and girls’ nights. Organize a walking club. Or start a neighborhood meal swap, wherein everyone takes turns cooking and delivering dinner to the group. You’ll cut your cooking down to one night! And you’ll never feel left out of the neighborhood gossip.
In this day and age, many employees are able to telecommute. Working from home can save you hours of commuting time, and it lets you keep up with housework during your lunch break. Both benefits free up some extra time that can be used towards facilitating kids’ activities and sports. Although some employers are reluctant to allow telecommuting, you’ll never know your boss’ opinion if you don’t ask. Career experts say the best tact is to draft a proposal, outlining how and why the change could be beneficial. Also, you’re more likely to get the green light if you start by requesting just 1 or 2 days per month.
Jennifer Applin is a freelance writer and will soon be the mother of six young children born within a 5-year span. Her writing focuses on strategies for busy parents to juggle it all.