From time to time I get emails asking me how I “do it all?”. How do I balance the whole work/family/farm/life thing and still keep our life simple? The truth is that very often I don’t. Or should I say we don’t, because living simply is a whole family exercise. It’s not just down to me. The one thing I have learnt over time though, is that living simply is as much about what you don’t do as what you do do (and I just wrote doo doo in a sentence so the 7 year old inside me is giggling). It’s what you leave out, and what you don’t bother with that help to make life simpler.
In our family there are lots of things that we just don’t bother with, or things that we make a choice to leave out of our lives, in an effort to keep life simple (or at least simpler).
Yep we don’t iron. The kids’ school uniforms are wash and wear, Country Boy’s farm clothes don’t need ironing before they get covered in dirt again, and I choose clothes that don’t need ironing when I buy clothes. With the exception of an occasional top or dress (usually for a wedding, funeral, or party) we don’t iron. I have been known to apply a hair straightener to the collar of a blouse on occasions but that is as far as it goes. Tea towels, sheets, and pillow cases get folded straight off the washing line so they don’t need ironing either.
Making Fancy Lunches For The Kids
You will never find pinterest worthy lunch boxes in our house. The kids help Country Boy to make their lunch each morning, which usually consist of a sandwich (Vegemite is still the favourite) or some left overs from dinner, together with a few bits of fruit, and perhaps a muffin, piece of cake, or some crackers. There’s no love notes, no daintily cut salads, and no bento style pick your own. If you enjoy doing that type of thing, all power to you, but in our house it just doesn’t happen.
Buying Lots Of Clothes
By having a small selection of clothes I find it makes decisions about what to wear easy. In fact my wardrobe is so predictable, that the year 12 girls at my school have opinions on my skirts which I wear all summer – they have a favourite one (obviously they pay more attention than I do!). As an example, I have 5 pairs of winter suit pants for work which mix and match with 5 or 6 shirts. I have 9 pairs of shoes which cover any conceivable outfit combination (farm boots, black flats for work, converse sneakers, real sneakers, thongs, black knee high boots, two pairs of sandals, and a pair of black heels). I’ve seen articles around about a 30 hanger wardrobe, but I don’t think mine is that small, but it wouldn’t be far off.
Over the years I have learnt what styles of clothing I like and what works for my life, and I only buy things that go with my wardrobe. I’m prepared to spend a little more on quality clothing that will last, and that I love, because I know it will get used often, and I would rather have a few more expensive items that I love and use often, than lots of things I bought because they were cheap, but I don’t love.
If you want to simplify your life, I can’t explain how good it is to have fewer clothes – anything that hasn’t been worn in 12 months gets the toss.
Entertaining The Kids
Now this sounds bad, but I don’t really play with my kids. I find it incredibly boring, and to be honest they don’t need me to entertain them. I will set up activities for them, or help them get things they need, but they are responsible for entertaining themselves. This is not to say that we don’t do things with our kids – family board games, fruit picking, days out, and even chores are all regular things we do together, but day to day playing is not on the agenda. We have provided them with a selection of toys, books, and art and craft activities, and they have bikes, cubbies, swings, and a couple of hundred acres at their disposal. Here’s the best part; because I don’t entertain them, they have become really good at doing it themselves. As I write this, I’m sitting on the veranda, and the three kids are dragging things up and down the ladder of their tree house. I’m not exactly sure what they are doing, but they seem to have a plan, and they are working cooperatively to achieve it! They don’t want me there, and I’m OK with that!
Keep Lots Of Things “Just In Case”
I’m an incurable “chucker”. I love to get rid of things that we don’t use, and I’m not someone who keeps a lot of things “just in case”. When I last sorted out the linen press, I kept two sets of sheets for each of the family beds, and one set for the spare beds. That is all we use, so I didn’t want four old extra sets sitting around “just in case” we need them. I can tell you that in the intermittent years, we have never needed more linen than we have, and should the time ever come, I will borrow the sets I need from my mother in law or a friend. I think we often keep items “just in case” because we feel guilty about throwing away something we spent money on but don’t use, or because we just want to defer the decision to get rid of it.
Bite the bullet and get rid of anything that you really can’t see yourself needing in the next 12 months. On the rare chance that you realise that you really did need that thing, just buy a new one (trust me when I say you probably won’t need to!).
Getting rid of things that you don’t use clears both physical space in the house, and mental space in your head. Both of which are essential to living simply.
Have More Than One Television
Now some simple living fans would never have a tv in their house, but we aren’t about to lose our completely. I am however, determined to have no more than one in the house. While we are not big TV watchers, when we do turn it on, at least we are in the same room together. We can chat in the ad breaks (or even during the show), and it becomes a shared experience for us. It also means we can monitor what our kids are watching as well. If we were to have multiple televisions, it would be very easy for us all to be in separate rooms, isolated, watching our own shows. Occasionally we have more than one show we’d like to watch on at the same time, but we can always record one.
Have The Kids Do Lots Of Extra Curricular Activities
I think I have written about this before, but our kids don’t do lots of after school activities. In the summer all three do swim club together on Friday nights, and the girls learn the piano at school (they have their lesson during lunch on Monday – half each). The benefits of this approach, for us, is the additional time to spend together as a family, as well as less time negotiating lifts, pick up times, and clashing schedules. Add to this, we spend a lot less time driving our kids places. Our kids need lots of down time, and so when they get home, their time is largely their own.
Over this last term, Hannah has been doing additional swimming training a couple of afternoons a week in preparation for the regional, and then state carnival. I have noticed how the additional time spent away from home has really put extra stress on the whole family, and she has struggled to get the down time she needs. Although I’m super proud of her efforts and achievements, I’m glad that swimming has now finished for the year (no indoor heated pool around here!), and I can see that lots of extra curricular activities just won’t work for our family.
If you’re finding life is very busy and you don’t know how to start simplifying it, start by taking something out. You won’t make life simpler by adding something. Take one thing that sucks up your time and stop doing it.
What things do you not bother with?