Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Before I had kids, I never got into decluttering. The stuff didn’t bother me. In fact I had so much stuff. I had 2 DVD racks filled to brim of alphabetised movies. I had 4 bookshelves full of novels, biographies and uni textbooks. I had a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes, including over 60 dresses. I loved collecting things and felt happy looking at our full shelves.

Fast forward a few years and we were blessed with a little baby. It was wonderful. We were blissfully happy. I loved staying home to take care of him.

That’s when it hit me. I was suffocating in stuff. Drowning under the sheer weight of it all. What I hadn’t realised pre-kids was just how little time you have once they are born. The saying goes, sleep when the baby sleeps. What if they never want to sleep without you, too alert in the daytime and wake with every sound?

That was my experience. I clearly remember feeling trapped under my sleeping baby. It was wonderful and lovely yet it was also really hard. It was hard to see the house unravel. Toys lying on the floor. Board books scattered everywhere.

Gifts from well wishes needing to have tags cut off and wrapping away. Bathroom needing a wipe over. Piles of washing to deal with. Breakfast dishes still in the sink. Dinner not prepared and no idea what to cook.

Stuff was stressful. I couldn’t see past it. My eyes were drswn to it and my heart seemed to beat faster in my chest. It bothered my husband a bit but he could quite easily ignore it and focus on the task at hand. Me? Not so much. I think most women feel the same way.

There were the piles of things to do and the stuff to find homes for. I thought that maybe if I bought some new cute baskets it would help to organise it all. After spending too much money on storage that I didn’t really need, I realised that organising wasn’t the problem.

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The excess needed to go. I started going through everything. Nothing was safe. I listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos while I decluttered so I could be motivated and inspired. It felt like I had company. Someone to cheer me on along my decluttering journey.

There are many articles and books out there that are super helpful when it comes to minimising your home. Some people love the KonMari method of going in order of categories and getting everything out. For others you might devote an entire weekend or holiday week to it.

You might work like crazy to get it done. For some you might only have tiny snippets of time due to your young family, work or travel commitments, health issues or energy levels. For others, parting with things can be really hard. It takes a while to build up the decluttering muscle and get strong with letting go.

I like the onion analogy. You might look through your wardrobe and find a few things to get rid of. You see a jacket that you haven’t worn in years. Your logical brain tells you that if you haven’t worn it in ages, you probably won’t start now. Yet your heart still loves it. You remember when you bought it and the plans you had to wear it. You remember how much it cost you and it feels a waste to donate it.

A few months later, you look back in your wardrobe on a decluttering mission. You feel good after going through so much stuff. You get the sense more quickly whether the item in front of you should stay or if it should go. The further you get into decluttering, the more layers you start to peel off.

You become more ruthless. You can make decisions faster. You have accepted that the day you bought the item was the day you spent money. Keeping it unused in your wardrobe doesn’t get you your money back.

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

There is no one size fits all. There is no right way to declutter. You have to find the right way for you. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you declutter your home. It’s the end result that counts.

If you’re after my advice? Start with what bothers you. Pick one area of your house and go for it. Here are some pointers.

Clothing

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Is your wardrobe so tightly packed with clothing that it’s hard to move the coat hangers across? Are there items in there that you haven’t worn in years? Does it bother you having so many choices for outfits in the morning when you get dressed? Is the washing out of control? Clothing might be the area to start decluttering first.

Start going through your clothes. Pick a section at a time to focus on so the pile on your bed doesn’t get so high and so it’s not too overwhelming. Plus, when it comes time for sleep, you will actually be able to sleep on it. Hold up each item individually.

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If you’re not sure if you still love it or if you will wear it again, try it on. Yes it will take you longer, but this way you can really see if it’s an item that fits you, looks good or you can see yourself wearing. Take a few seconds or minute to decide, then either put it back in your wardrobe or in your drawer, or throw it into your donation box. Consider having a box of items to sell if you have time to do so.

Toys

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Does the sight of toys make you feel stressed out? Do you step on them and worry you’ll fall over? Does it make you panic when your kids pulls out a toy box and dumps it on the floor? Do you children pull out every item and then go to the next toy, without playing properly?

Does the toy collection cause fights? Do the toys with a million loose parts cause you anxiety? Do you dread birthday and Christmas time because it means that there will be more toys for you to manage? Perhaps this is an indicator that you need to start decluttering toys.

If you’re children are very young, you can most likely do a lot of the decluttering without them. You know what they love and use, and what they could probably do without. I love what Dawn suggests from The Minimal Mom. She recommends putting some toys in quarantine. Put the ones you think your kids won’t miss into a box, label it and hide it away in the shed, garage or attic. Put a reminder in your phone for 3 months time (or whatever time frame you’re happy with).

For slightly older kids, try to get them involved in the process. Ask them what toys they no longer play with, and could go to another child who doesn’t have much. For children who find it hard to part with stuff, consider letting them sell some of their toys.

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I’ve heard of people paying their kids for items that don’t have a resell value but you’d really like out of the house. I have done this before and let me tell you, it works. It’s a good way to help with decluttering toys and keeps both parent and chid happy. I love lots of ideas here if you’re looking for more detail.

Another idea is a toy rotation. Put at least half of the toys away so there is less out on display. Children often do better when they have fewer options to choose from. They experience less overwhelm, tend to play more imaginatively and the fighting over toys decreases. To avoid having crazy amounts of toys entering your house after a birthday or Christmas, consider writing a list of ideas for relatives that might help them choose from.

Kitchen

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Do you feel stressed out in the kitchen? Are your cupboards packed to the brim with appliances? Do you have too many Tupperware containers without lids or takeaway containers taking up valuable space? Is your pantry difficult to navigate? Do you find yourself spending too much on groceries because you don’t really know what you already have? Maybe the kitchen is the place for you to start decluttering.

We spend a lot of time in our kitchens preparing meals and tidying up. If we feel overwhelmed in this room, it will affect a big part of our day. The first thing to do is reduce the inventory. Go through cupboards and drawers one at a time. Be realistic about how much you use each item. Be harsh with appliances and consider donating those that have a singular use (eg. waffle machines and pie makers).

If it is something that other people use but you don’t ever seem to (like a rice cooker or electric frying pan), you don’t have to keep it. If you bought an item on a craze (think air fryer) but it’s big and bulky and you hate storing it, it’s time to go. If your ideal self would use this (bread machine or icecream maker) but you hadn’t got around to it yet, you can always declutter it and repurchase it later, in a season where you might have more capacity to use it.

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Once you’ve gone through the drawers and cupboards, take time to look through the pantry, fridge and freezer. This will take some time. Ditch anything past its use by date, that looks questionable or you don’t remember how long it’s been there for. This is a time where buying some storage containers to display food can be a smart idea. It will looks neater and more appealing, keeps food more fresh, keeps creepy crawlies out and is easier to see at a glance what you need to top up.

Set up routines for doing the dishes, putting on the dishwasher and unpacking the dishwasher. Make sure other members of your household pull their weight, including children. Have set times when you meal plan, check the inventory of your food, order groceries or do a shop and meal prep

Another thing to think about is how much stuff is on the kitchen bench? It can easily be a dumping group for paperwork and a storing spot for appliances. Look at what is there right now. Consider what actually needs to stay there. Coffee machine? Of course. Kettle? Yep. Toaster? Probably not. Tea and sugar canisters? Probably not. Soda stream? Probably not. Be ruthless.

Try removing everything from the bench top. Find a spot in the cupboards or somewhere else for now (however keep in mind if you need to keep all of these things). Take note of what you use multiple times a day. A thermomix might be used 3-4 times whereas a blender or food processor might only be used a few times a week. A kettle might be used multiple times a day but a toaster only used once or twice.

Is it worth having the visual clutter and the reduced bench space just so you have convenient access to something? Think about what is more important to you. I used to have so much on our bench. For a small kitchen, it was actually ridiculous. Now we keep our kettle and coffee machine on our bench, and a drying rack for dishes. That’s it. Everything goes away until it’s time to use it, except for a loaf of bread and my to-do lists (I admit, I have a problem!).

Bathroom

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

Is your clutter problem in the bathroom? Do you have too many products? Are there items that have run out or you don’t use anymore? What is on the bench that doesn’t have to be? Perhaps decluttering the bathroom would be a useful place to start for you.

Take a minute to examine what you have in there right now. Are there some items you can throw away right now because they are empty or you don’t use? Do you have lots of sample products from hotel stays? Do some products react with your skin? Do you have make up that is old or you haven’t used in years? Go through and throw away any of the above.

Use up the containers that you can’t bear to part with, but give yourself a time limit. Take everything off the bathroom bench and put into the cupboards. If they can’t fit, you either have too many products or you need to store them somewhere else.

Be realistic about how often you use items, how often you do your make up to go out and how often you wear different types of perfume or nail polish. Know yourself and how many hair elastics and bobby pin clips you need. Go through the hair sprays and leave in serums. Hair and beauty products can be replaced relatively easily and cheaply so keep this in mind as you declutter.

Paper work, books, garage, shed and photos

Where to start decluttering when you’re suffocating in stuff

These categories are big ones. For many parents feeling overwhelmed with their stuff, it’s mainly about the excess that they see everyday. They are the areas worth tackling first. If you are motivated to go through some of these items though, by all means, go for it! File paperwork at night in front of the TV and enjoy shredding documents that you don’t need to keep anymore.

Go through your books, section by section, and figure out which ones you want to read, read again or declutter. Ask your children to help look through their collection. Items in the garage or shed that you are decluttering can be high in value, so it is worth listing on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. Save photos to do last as it is such a big and often emotional task.

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Starting is the hardest

Know that starting is the hardest. Deciding to start and actually starting is the hardest part. Depending on your financial situation and how much a rush you are in will determine where you send the items. If you need the cash or know that it will help you part with things, sell as many items as you can. People will buy just about anything.

Do your best to avoid landfill. Join your local Buy Nothing group and enjoy the benefits from sharing and taking what you need. Donate to a women’s refuge or homeless shelter. Find an op shop that donates it’s proceeds to a charity that aligns with your values. For clothing that needs repairs, find a seamstress who can fix it. For worn down shoes, find a cobbler.

Volunteers at repair cafes can teach you how to fix up broken items. Old electronics can be recycled at Officeworks and Bunnings. Old phones can be sent to Mazuma mobile and they’ll send you money in return.

Useful resources

If you’re looking for some additional resources to help you on your way to decluttering your home, here are some books that I’ve found helpful on my journey.

The Minimalist Home

Minimalist Moms

Messy Minimalism

Declutter like a Mother

Marie Kondo

The $1000 Project

Clutter Free

Final thoughts

In closing, when you become a parent, it can really feel like you’re suffocating in stuff. For the stay at home parent, often mums, it can be so overwhelming. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you start. Figure out what is causing you the most stress and begin decluttering there. Fill up bags and boxes and get them out of your house. This will bring you a lot of satisfaction as you take a step back and admire your clutter free home.

It won’t be a one-off job. Clutter has a way of infiltrating our lives. We are given presents, our children come home with party bags, we go to shows and seminars and get take home bags. We need to make a conscious effort not to bring more excess into our house. Stop it at the front door.

If it is something we love, need or will use, find an items to take out of your house to even it out. If you want to keep on decluttering and seeing progress, make it two or three items (or even more) that you remove before bringing in something new.

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Going forward, be intentional with how you do gift giving. Put limits on how much you get. Write a list of ideas. Opt for more experiences rather than things, especially for children. You get to decide what comes into your house and what stays. By decluttering the excess, you will help to reduce the overwhelm. You will make space for what really matters, and you’ll be so glad you did.

Why Reading Eggs is worth signing up for

Why Reading Eggs is worth signing up for

Looking for an educational app for your child that will help them learn to read? Look no further. Reading Eggs is a scientifically based program, designed by Australian teachers. They have expertly crafted this resource with your child in mind. As an educator and mum, I feel that Reading Eggs is worth signing up for. Here are the reasons why:

1. Develops early literacy

Why Reading Eggs is worth signing up for

Reading Eggs helps to develop early literacy in under fives. It can be a great way to help prepare your child for school. As my eldest was five and a half when he started Foundation, he needed to be stimulated more than I was able to at home. I tried my best but things were full on with my baby and toddler.

He was an early reader so it was so helpful to have Reading Eggs help him consolidate his learning and extend him. Children can keep their same account when they transition to school so don’t lose the level they are on or points they’ve accumulated.

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2. Suitable for all ages

Reading Eggs has literacy and numeracy programs for children ages 2-13. It caters for the youngest learners with Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), then Reading Eggs (3-7), Reading Eggspress (7-13) and Mathseeds (3-9). Their site contains a wealth of resources.

My 5 year old loves Fast Phonics and Reading Eggs, and sometimes tries Reading Eggspress for a challenge. My 3 year old loves Reading Eggs, sometimes opting for Reading Eggs Junior because he likes the games. I love watching them progress to different levels and you can really see how much they are learning. Reading Eggs is compatible both on tablet and desktop devices.

3. Engaging activities

Reading Eggs has a huge range of activities, games, stories and quizzes. It is such a fun program and kids love it. Children work at their own pace and are given lots of encouragement along the way. Children earn coins which can buy things for their virtual shop and golden eggs to play games.

It motivates children to work hard to get to the next level. Reading Eggs has hundreds of online reading lessons and thousands of books to read online. Children can create and change their own avatar to make it more personable.

4. Teaches children how to read

This wonderful site helps to teach children how to read. Nothing will take the place of good old fashioned reading aloud with a physical book, but this in conjunction with reading to your child will go a long way to helping them learn how to read.

The Reading Eggs program is focused around the five essential keys for reading success – phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. It is developed by experienced teachers and based on scientific research so it’s no accident that it works!

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5. Great for educators

Reading Eggs is a wonderful tool for educators. In my experience it is often used in the classroom during activities first thing in the morning, reading groups (as one of the rotations), computer room or iPad whole class time and afternoon activities.

It is brilliant for time poor teachers who know that this is a tried and tested program, targeted to suit every individual child. Teachers can see how their students are progressing and can access useful reports. Students have a login code to use at home and can continue to play the games and activities whenever they are allowed.

6. Useful for parents

I love that with Reading Eggs, you know how your child is going. Progress reports are emailed and you can also look the reports up anytime. It is helpful to know what level your child is at and what they are working towards. Reading Eggs provided parents with handy hints of targeted activities for their child. These help to build on and extend the learning they have completed. I can’t help but feel proud when my boys pass a level, and love to celebrate with them by printing out the certificates to display.

7. Makes screen time educational

Why Reading Eggs is worth signing up for

My ideal self would not use screen time at all. I love the idea of children being outside and keeping active for most of the day. However, between acute morning sickness, recovering post birth, navigating a newborn with a toddler and preschooler in tow, toddlers stopping naps at the age of 2, and everything in between, I’ve come to realise that screen time helps me cope. I use Reading Eggs as a motivator to get my eldest ready in the morning. This helps him to focus on what he needs to do first before he can go on the iPad and play. I know that he is learning valuable skills and not just watching cartoons.

8. Free 30 day trial

Why Reading Eggs is worth signing up for

I love that Reading Eggs offer a 30 day free trial. This is a good amount of time to see if you see the value, see if it engages your child, see if it helps them learn and see if it fits in well with your family. There is no obligation to subscribe afterwards – simply cancel before the trial ends.

The customer service team are lovely to deal with and happy to answer any questions. It might be that you love the app but don’t want your child to be on a device just yet. Fair enough! Keep it in mind for down the track when they are a bit more ready. It has to fit with your family and what works for you. Click here for the link if you’d like to find out more.

In terms of pricing, if you decide to sign up it costs $13.99 / month or $109.99 / year ($9.17 / month) at the time of writing. It’s pretty great value (or should I say eggcellent) when considering the four programs it covers.

However, with the high cost of living right now, every extra subscription does need to be considered carefully. It can always be a gift idea that a family member or grandparent could put money towards if you are trying to steer away from lots of physical items.

Last thoughts

In closing, Reading Eggs is a program worth signing up to. Educators and parents alike see the many benefits and children love using it. It’s such a well designed program and one that both engages and educates children of all ages. It helps make screen time count. With the thirty free trial, you really have nothing to lose. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know what you think.

* Please note that this is not a sponsored post. I am writing it purely because I see the value in my own children’s learning and students at school.

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game changer for your family

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game-changer for your family

Being a good parent doesn’t mean we have to enrol them in unlimited extracurricular activities. In fact, putting limits around how much we let them participate in can be prove to be a game changer for your family.

When we become parents, we want the best for our children. We want to provide them with extracurricular activities to grow and thrive, improve and excel, meet other children and have fun. We sometimes feel pressure to be more and do more for them so they can have every opportunity available to them.

When notes get sent home about activities to sign up for and teams that need players, we can feel pressure to get our child involved. We don’t want them to miss out or to be left behind. We feel bad for clubs that can’t fill places.

There is nothing wrong with signing your child up for extracurricular activities. It helps develop gross and fine motor skills, learn responsibility and teamwork, reliability, time management and listening skills. It helps children to win with humility and lose with grace. As a boy mum, it is particularly important to me that my children know how to play a range of sports so they can make friends at lunchtime. However, this doesn’t mean that I have to sign them up for every organised activity.

Here are five considerations around why less might be more for your family.

1. Saving money

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game-changer for your family

The more extracurricular activities our children are enrolled in, the more money it costs. It can all add up, especially if you have multiple children and they are enrolled in multiple sports. Some are more costly than others per term or season, for example, swimming lessons.

Others cost more for the uniforms, specialist footwear and accessories. Dance costumes often take many hours of work to put together or pay for someone else to make them. For those who make district or state teams, the cost to travel can be expensive not to mention, time off work if needed.

Factoring in petrol and any trips to the physio are worth considering too. For those in South Australia, school sports vouchers are available which at the time of writing save parents $100 a year on fees per school-age child. Similar vouchers that encourage families to take up sport may be available in your state or country.

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2. More free play

Putting boundaries around extracurricular activities enables children to experience more free play. It allows for boredom, during which creativity and imaginative play can occur. Unstructured play enables children to decide who takes charge, plan what they will do and what the rules will be. It is crucial to healthy development. Children learn how to work collaboratively with one another and often over a range of ages.

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game-changer for your family

The older ones learn to be patient and help out the younger children, who enjoy learning and look up to their older peers. They see what is possible and challenge themselves to climb as high, jump as far and run as fast. Less scheduled time means more space for playdates. This gives a chance for classmates to develop closer relationships with classmates and between parents.

Alone time allows freedom to daydream for children to lie on their backs and watch the clouds change shape, come up with things to do, problems to solve and creations to make. They have time to develop a range of skills during free play.

When children play on the trampoline, they develop leg strength, ball skills and hand-eye coordination. When they roll down hills and somersault on the grass, they develop flexibility, core strength and a vestibular system. When walking around the edge of a playground or stepping on rocks in the creek they develop balance, a sense of adventure and bravery.

3. More family time

When we slow down and limit extracurricular activities, it enables more family time. Younger children miss their siblings when they’re at school all day. By saying no to more things means you say yes to more interaction and relationship building. Siblings are able to reconnect after time apart and play with each other.

They don’t have to rush in and out of the car and be reminded of where they need to be going next. Weekends aren’t spent rushing to put uniforms on and get out the house and driving around like crazy all over town to make things in time.

Blank space in the calendar can do us all the world of good. We can get back to basics. We can spend time gardening, going on bike rides, having a bonfire, looking up at the stars, backyard camping, going hiking and playing at the beach.

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4. More time for parents

When we limit the amount of extracurricular activities our children sign up for, we are putting a positive boundary in place. We choose to slow down and stop playing the role of a parent taxi driver, we give ourselves a chance to catch our own breath too. We can sit down for a cup of tea of coffee and enjoy it while it’s still hot. We have more time to plan out meals, cook more snacks and not have to rely on quick meals all the time.

We can have more dinner times as a family and spend time talking around the table. We can focus on listening to how everyone’s days have been, and share the highs and lows. We can all help to pack up afterwards, rather than being one person’s job.

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game-changer for your family

I think that it’s important that parents get to have their own interests too and have regular breaks. Don’t stop doing all the things you love. Your relationship came before the children so it should come first. Date nights, girls and guys nights, alone time.

It’s all-important and you are allowed to prioritise this. When we over-schedule activities for children, it’s easy to have no time or energy left for our own needs. If we enjoy playing a sport, we can do that for ourselves in the evening once or twice a week, maintain fitness at the gym or going for runs, catch a movie, go late-night shopping, or take an art class.

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When we prioritise having fun ourselves, we are more likely to be fun parents and enjoy life more. Our children should not take the top priority. When your children leave home, you want to have hobbies that you can continue and a spousal relationship you can enjoy in a new stage.

5. More time outdoors

When we reduce our children’s extracurricular activities, it has an array of benefits. Being outside in nature is wonderful for us all. When we slow our schedules and switch organised sports and activities for nature play, it’s often just what we need. Children are immersed in sensory-rich experiences as they play barefoot in grass, sand, dirt, mud and water.

They learn how to balance on uneven surfaces like slopes, rocks, gravel and bark chips. We feel the warmth of the sun on our faces and the rain in our hair, and learn to be resilient in all types of weather. Children are met with all sorts of natural materials and environments which leads to endless opportunities for deep open-ended play.

Adults don’t need to entertain or educate or set an agenda. Children are less likely to say they’re bored compared to an indoor setting, and in my experience will often play outside with fewer quarrels and fights. Their imagination can be wild and their play has no bounds.

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Being in nature has mental health benefits for us all, with vitamin D, fresh air, bird sounds and beautiful landscapes to admire. We aren’t governed as much by the clock, but instead by the rumble in our tummies, the position of the sun and the weather to guide when we eat, where we play and when to seek shelter from the elements.

Intentionality around scheduling

Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits that can come from less organised activities, it is important that we are intentional in how we schedule our time.

This may mean choosing a school that has lots of extracurricular activities built into it. Want your child to learn an instrument? Make sure your school has tuition offered. This will mean your child will miss 30 minutes of a lesson once a week but this will save you from having to drive them to a lesson after school. Does your child need therapy such as OT or Physio? See if the sessions can be done at school.

If you want to do more nature-based free play but don’t want to spend time in the car, consider adding it on to somewhere you already have to be. For example, my eldest’s school is positioned right opposite a creek. We’ve started playing here after school. Their gumboots, snacks and towels stay packed and ready in the car and now their classmates are joining them.

It’s been so wonderful. It’s the perfect type of playdate that involves no organising or driving. Every week now, we have at least two afternoons in the creek. My 3 and 1 year old follow their older brother around, pretending to fish and catch ducks, play chasey, make cubbies and forts, play cops and robbers, hide and seek, and even go swimming in the cold water.

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They never want to leave. We eventually do as it starts to get dark, they get ravenous or they start to shiver, whatever comes first. We pack up all the gear, I strip off their wet muddy clothes and cover them with warm blankets, and we drive home (all of five minutes worth).

They are so tired yet so happy, and their tanks are full from playing outside with their friends. I’m so happy too. I can’t help but feel this is what it’s supposed to be like. Kids get a chance to really be kids, and adults have time to sit down and chat while we watch them run around. It feels easy almost, far from how parenthood is seen these days.

Further reading:

Here are some of my favourite authors who write on the topic of choosing slow living over busy lives with extracurricular activities. They may inspire you to slow down and simply enjoy your family.

1000 hours outside by Ginny Yurich

Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Barefoot and Balanced by Angela J Hanscom

There’s no such thing as bad weather by Linda Akeson McGurk

Minimalist Moms: Living and Parenting with simplicity by Diane Boden

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

A Simpler Motherhood: Curating Contentment, Savoring Slow, and Making Room for What Matters Most by Emily Eusanio.

Some you can listen to on Audible or free on the Libby and Borrowbox app through your local library. Alternatively, you can buy on Amazon, Book Depositary or wherever you find good books.

Closing thoughts

In the end, you choose how busy you are. Sometimes we like to complain about all the things that are on and how our role as a taxi driver. We whinge at this stage of life but don’t always stop to consider if we need to be doing so many things. If our children really need so many opportunities. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to put boundaries in place.

As a parent, you don’t have to provide them with all the opportunities. Choose a select few extracurricular activities based on their interests and strengths, a variety when they are younger so they can choose one or two to master. When children get their driver’s license, they can choose how many activities they do. They might decide to take up new sports or hobbies and be out every evening.

Why putting a limit on extracurricular activities can be a game-changer for your family

When I was growing up, I took piano lessons and played netball. I learnt how to swim during VACSWIM, and played sports at school. It wasn’t until I left school that I took up playing soccer and touch footy, learnt guitar, and did a musical. I hope to give my boys enough extracurricular activities to help them decide what things they are good at and enjoy, and dabble in a few different things, so they can do more when they are older.

RELATED : 9 ways to teach your children about contentment in a consumer-driven world

You can give your children the best childhood and not run yourself ragged in the process. By slowing down and saying no to the unnecessary, we can make space and say yes to what is most important. I give you permission to be brave enough to make changes to how your family does things from here on out. You get to choose what your days, afternoons, weekends and school holidays look like. It’s up to you.

I’ll leave you with a favourite memory I have of my two eldest boys at 3 and 1. It was a Tuesday and I normally went to weekly Kindergym. This particular day though, I decided not to. It was a rainy day. Knowing that the rubbish truck was due to come past soon, I put some chairs under the front verandah and sat with my boys. When the truck came past, they were so excited.

They were both waving and squealing and were stoked when the driver waved back and honked his horn. My eldest turned to me, beaming, and said, “how lucky are we mum? This is the best day ever!” It was a lovely reminder to me that kids don’t need much to make them happy.

9 ways to teach your children about contentment in a consumer-driven world

How to teach our children about contentment in a consumer-driven world?

Many parents today are struggling to navigate this consumer-driven world we live in. We have access to too much information. We have too many options of what to stream and watch. We have endless podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. Youtube provides us with unlimited videos of everyday experts on every topic imaginable. We can be constantly entertained, educated, enlightened and engaged.

With this comes advertising in every form. While driving we see this on bus stops, billboards and signs. We hear it on the radio and streaming music (unless we pay for premium). We see it as we scroll on social media or watch free to air television. It’s hard to avoid.

Our children are feeling it too. They often have too many toys. They are invited to too many birthday parties. They have too many extracurricular activities and are overscheduled. The overwhelm is real.

Here are nine ways that we can teach our children about contentment in a consumer-driven world:

1. Avoid junk mail.

At the time of writing, households still get hounded with catalogues and flyers. (I don’t know how this is still allowed with the huge environmental impact it has but I’ll save that for another time). It’s worth putting a sign on your letterbox to prevent this from entering your home. We often don’t know we need things until we see them advertised.

If we as adults struggle to ignore the pull to buy, how much harder do our children find it? Our inboxes get spammed with emails from companies about the latest promotion and sales. Unsubscribe from these. Unfollow businesses on social media that tempt you to buy. If you have older children, show them what you are doing and explain that you don’t want to know about every sale because it makes you want to shop more.

2. Write a list.

A helpful way to reduce what we buy is to keep a list of what we need to buy. We can model this for our children. When we think of something that we need or an item that we see that we really like, we can type it into our phone. I have a general ‘buy’ list, and also categories for each person in our family. This can become part of a birthday wish list to make it easier when people ask for ideas.

When children see a toy or bike in the store that they really love, you can offer to take a photo to remember it. They can save up their pocket money for the item or ask for it for a birthday or Christmas present. Often once we have taken a photo and we leave the store, they will forget about it.

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The same goes for me too. I always find random photos of items from shopping centres that I’ve taken. In the moment, I really wanted to buy it. Most of the time, I forget about it once I’m home. We can get so caught up in the moment and want things that we just don’t need.

3. Consider a streaming service.

Although streaming services do cost money, the trade-off is that you don’t have to watch advertisements. Remember watching those ads during Saturday morning cartoons about the awesome Hot Wheel car toys and how they always looked so exciting?

I still remember the disappointment of seeing them in real life. They seemed so much smaller and far less fun than they appeared on tv. The same goes for those mouth-watering burgers that seem so large and juicy. In reality, they are often Lukewarm and sweaty in the paper wrap, small and never as tasty.

When we limit the advertising that our children are exposed to, they desire less stuff. Same for us really. The $14 Netflix subscription fee might save you far more a month in buying unnecessary items, or at least reduce the tantrums when they don’t get what they want.

RELATED : Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

4. Avoid shopping centres.

Try to avoid making shopping a hobby. Don’t take the family on the weekend to browse and wander the shops. Nominate one person to get in and get out. Do it after hours if you can as most department stores are open until nine pm on weekdays (where I live anyway).

Choose online if it’s less tempting or distracting for you. When we walk around Kmart, it’s easy to fill a trolley with gorgeous homewares or find all the things in the middle aisle at Aldi. Stick to your list and what you need. Paying with cash can reduce how much you spend as you are forced to buy what you intended to.  

5. Buy secondhand.

Where possible, purchase secondhand from op shops (thrift stores) and garage sales. Let your children bring their pocket money. Their small change will go further with secondhand goods and they will find some different toys to the ones sold new in-store.

Children will feel like they’re getting a bargain for their money compared to a toy shop or department store. It helps to keep items out of landfills, reduces packaging and wastage and keeps items circulating around the community. Profits go towards charities that make a big difference in the lives of people doing it tough. If they want more money to spend, encourage them to go through some old toys and list them to sell on Marketplace and Gumtree.

RELATED : 12 Tips for Selling Second hand goods on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree

6. Toy library.

Utilise your local toy library. These are amazing places. Children can borrow new items every week or fortnight which helps them fresh and exciting. You can test out toys before deciding if you want to buy them.

Personally, I’ve often realised how annoying something is once my kids have played with it for 30 minutes and I’m so relieved that I can return it when they’re done. Our local toy library has unlimited puzzles, baby toys, toddler walkers, bikes and scooters, board games and dress-ups.

You can even borrow large items for parties. I love that we can cycle in new toys whenever we want, and simply swap them for others whenever we want. There is no need to own lots of books and toys anymore when we have access to brilliant libraries nearby, and for this, I am so grateful.

RELATED : Why you should consider becoming a member of your local toy library

7. Sponsor a child.

When I was growing up, my parents sponsored a child from Ethiopia. They had money debited from their account each month which went to benefit a local community. The organisation coordinated projects like building wells for freshwater, training for employment, planting seeds for a vegetable garden, school fees, health and maternity care, and skills in personal hygiene to prevent disease.

As children, we enjoyed writing to the sponsor boy and would decorate the letter with stickers. It helped give us perspective on our lives and we liked helping to make a small difference in the lives of his family and community. I have sponsored a child since I was sixteen and had my first part-time job.

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It was special being able to see her grow up and know that my hard-earned money was being utilised in such a life-changing way. It is a wonderful way to develop gratefulness in our children and model generosity. There are many wonderful organisations and charities that offer child sponsorship. Here are links to some that I use or have used before. World Vision, Compassion, Baptist World Aid, Marantha Health (not directly sponsoring a child but the money goes towards helping a health and development work in Western Uganda).

8. Model contentment.

Children watch and notice what we do. It is far more powerful than what we say. If we tell them to be content with what they have, yet spend time shopping online and regularly have packages arrive in the post, they will see that we value buying things. If we tell them to write a list but impulse shop whenever we see something we like, they will see that it’s okay to buy things when we desire them.

It is important to model contentment and self-control in our daily life and our shopping habits. We can put more emphasis on giving than receiving, and show how exciting it can be to buy a present for somebody else. We can ask for handmade gifts and cards, or second-hand jewellery and accessories from the local op shop rather than shop-bought things sometimes.

We can ask for flowers in a pot or herbs to plant that we can admire and use longer than a bouquet of flowers would last in a vase. We can make an effort to mend clothes and sew on buttons, even repurpose items if we have skills in sewing. When our children see that we value what we have and are grateful for what comes into the house, they will try to emulate this too.

RELATED : 5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

9. Experiences over stuff.

When we focus on experiences instead of things, we create wonderful memories as a family. They can form part of traditions that we all look forward to and build our sense of belonging. Experiences can make fantastic gift ideas and can be a great option for people to put money towards on birthdays and Christmas.

As a starting point, grab some paper and write down things they’ve never done and places they’ve never been. For ones that cost money, think camel rides, wildlife park, zoo, bowling, ice skating, royal show, water park, movies, drive-in, circus, trampolining centre, plaster funhouse, theatre or a sporting match. Go on a boat or ferry, go caving, skiing, tobogganing or stand up paddleboarding.

For free experiences, why not fly a kite, visit the beach, river, forest, adventure playgrounds, mangroves, museums, art gallery, hiking, fishing or camping. You could do a local city break in a hotel, go on an aeroplane to your nearest capital city or take a road trip. The options are endless, and so much fun! Create a wishlist of experiences that you would like to do as a family and tick them off when you get the opportunity to do them.

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Last thoughts

Parenting has never been an easy job, though I feel that in this day and age of distraction and comparison it is only getting harder. We need to negotiate this tricky terrain with intentionality. It can be useful to reflect on what type of children you want to raise. What values are important to you? Bringing up children who are content with what they have, where they live and who they are is one that is high on my list.

When we switch the focus from wanting and owning more, to being grateful for what we already have, we create a sense of gratitude and contentment. When we change our shopping habits and declutter the excess, our homes will have fewer toys and stuff. We will have less of a focus on what we don’t have and more emphasis on the memories we have created together. It is possible to raise children to be content, amidst a society that tells us that we need more. It isn’t easy but I know it will be worth it.

7 reasons why fish make the best first pets for those who aren’t pet people

7 reasons why fish make the best first pets for those who aren't pet people

Considering a pet? Here’s why a fish might be a great starting point for you.

Many households own a handful of pets. They are cute and cuddly, affectionate and keep us company. They help our kids develop empathy and a sense of responsibility. They motivate us to get outside for a walk and to meet other owners.

They help us get our cuteness fixed when we want another baby but our other half is done with having children. No matter how much we care for them, they almost always show us more love in return.

What if you’re not a pet person though? What if life is too busy and the last thing you need is a jolly pet to look after? Consider starting small.

Here are 7 reasons why a fish make the best first pet for you.

1. Easy.

Getting a fish isn’t a difficult venture. All you need is a tank, a pump, fish food and your fish. Optional extras are some water plants, pebbles, a light and some snails (water neutraliser drops). You don’t have to make it complicated. You can decide on the day to buy them, go and get the stuff, and have it all finished within a few hours. This is perfect for those who are busy and have a lot on their mind.

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2. Start small.

You don’t have to buy a huge tank and all the fancy accessories. Why not start with a small bowl or tank and see how you go. See if it looks good in your room. See how you manage it – does it get algae and need to be cleaned often? Are there too many fish for the space? Is it a good size for you? You might find that small is good and that is all you need.

Alternatively, you might be surprised with how much you love owning fish and want to upgrade your tank size. At least when you do it this way, you know that you’re ready for a bigger tank and not just getting excited before you start.

3. Hard to kill.

This reason might sound ridiculous but if you’re not really a pet person, and not used to having to care for an animal, going straight for a puppy is a big step. They need lots of care, as do cats, rabbits, birds and the like. At least fish are pretty resilient.

As long as you buy the right type and listen to advise from your local shop, remember to feed them and keep the tank clean, they should stay alive. And look, if you happen to kill one, they are pretty easy and inexpensive to replace (and your kid might not even notice, unlike a dog).

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4. Cheap.

Considering your financial situation before deciding on a pet is a wise move. Fish make wonderful pets, especially young families, because they don’t cost much. Unless you are planning to have six foot aquariums in your house with designer fish, they don’t cost much to purchase.

I was given a free fish tank and bought five guppies ($12). After a day I surprised myself with how much I loved it. I also realised that I needed a pump. I found someone selling a tank and handful of accessories for $25, bought some more guppies ($12), 10 snails ($5), two aqua plants ($18), fish food for $10, drops for the water ($12). Came to $94. I could have spent less but wanted real plants rather than the plastic ones, and figured the snails would help eat some of the algae. It’s been three weeks and I haven’t spent any more money.

Owning a pet can be incredibly expensive with vet bills, and even with insurance, there can be huge out of the pocket expenses. It can be so stressful for those on low incomes. Starting with something simple like a fish means you don’t have to worry about desexing, worming, microchipping, or unexpected injuries or sickness. There’s no need for doggy daycare or boarding houses.

5. Low maintenance.

Owning a fish is a wise choice for those with busy schedules. You don’t need to enrol them in puppy training or teach them any tricks. You don’t need to train them to go outside to do their business or pick up after them on the lawn. You don’t need to walk them. No need to wash them or cut their hair. You don’t need to entertain them or worry about what they’re getting up to in your house or yard while you’re out at work. They won’t bother the neighbours with their barking.

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6. Calming.

I recently taught a class that had a fish tank in the back of the room. I couldn’t help but to be drawn to it and watch them swim around. Hearing the water trickle had such a calming effect on me and I just knew I needed to get one for home. I’m so glad I did. I still can’t help but watch them swim around and interact with their surroundings. The novelty hasn’t worn off yet and I love the sense of calm it has brought to our family room. For someone who is openly not a pet person, this has surprised me.

7. Breed easily.

Species like the guppy can breed quickly and without much fuss. Witnessing fish hatch from eggs can be exciting for children. It could become a potential side hustle for them by allowing them to sell any excess fish or snails. They could help with the process of taking photos, writing a description, helping to show the customer the tank and collecting the money after the sale. This could be good practice before trying something like chickens that would take considerable more time and work but would produce eggs to use and sell.

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Last thoughts.

In closing, taking time to consider what type of pet is right for you and your stage of life is important. Asking questions like the following can help you decide:

Do I need a pet right now?

Can I afford to buy a pet?

Can I afford veterinarian treatment if it becomes sick or injured?

What type or breed would be best suited to us?

Do I have time to care for a pet?

Do I have energy to manage and care for it’s needs?

Do I have space in my house and yard for a pet?

Am I committed to keeping a pet for the long haul?

What will I do with it when I go on holidays?

By choosing a pet that is easy and cheap to set up, and low maintenance to keep alive can be an excellent starting point. Once you know that you can manage something like a fish, you can look into owning a different type of pet. Why not buy a few guppies and see if you love them just as much as I do.

RELATED : Less stuff. More calm.

My top survival tips for getting on top of the washing

My top survival tips for getting on top of the washing

I recently posted about my laundry routine hacks that keep me sane. While I love these and they have changed the way I approach washing clothes in my home, there are a few key steps that come first. These tips help to reduce the amount of inventory, helps you figure out how often you need to wash, taking time to consider the climate where you live, the current weather and how you dry the clothing.

Once you take a little bit of time to consider these factors and how they impact upon your routine, then you can figure out how best to manage the washing moving forward. It’s one of those chores that we all have to do, so we may as well find the best system to do it well.

RELATED : How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

1. Reduce.

One of the key ways to get on top of your laundry problem is to reduce how much you have. This can easily get out of control. If you have a baby, they need lots of outfits with the amount that they spit up milk, vomit, poop etc. When we did cloth nappies full time, they tended to leak and create more washing. Toddlers tend to go through lots of outfits in a day, especially if they have messy meals (think spaghetti and meatballs), play outside in the dirt and mud and like getting into everything. I have finally invested in some awesome Nature Play suits (these waterproof suits are also great) to help preserve outfits a little longer when getting out and about.

Now that I have a child in school, they suddenly have less washing for me. He puts on his uniform first thing, wears it after school and gets changed into pjs after a bath or shower. This is a huge change from the baby and toddler season with multiple changes a day. It does get easier.

I encourage you to start decluttering the excess clothing in your house. The more you are able to cull from each family member’s clothing wardrobe, the less choice they have, the less they are able to dirty and the less inventory you have to manage. You know your child – if they go through three pairs of trackies in winter because they can’t avoid jumping in muddy puddles, you will need to keep more pants for them than the child who prefers to stay indoors and watch Peppa Pig jump in muddy puddles. There is no right number or amount – it has to work with your family. I like having lots of options in my wardrobe but am trying to reduce this. Now that I’m done with having babies, I’m finding it easier to let things go

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2. Frequency.

Figure out how often you want to do the washing. For me, I’m happy to do a load or two most days in summer and will have a few days off too. Come winter and that makes things hard without a dryer. I feel like I have to do a load of laundry every day to have enough space out my drying racks. 

RELATED : How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

3. Climate.

Take a moment to think about where you live. What is the climate? Do you have lots of sun? Wind? Rain? Snow? For us, we’re pretty lucky. We’re in South Australia. It’s often warm and sunny, and we get gully breezes. It rarely rains here (the driest state in the driest continent of the world) and doesn’t snow. We can get by without a dryer and use drying racks inside in winter.

For us during summer, I can put a load of washing on in the morning, hang it out and it will be dry within an hour. During autumn and spring, I can hang out a load in the morning and take it off in the afternoon. This is satisfying. This means we can own less clothing because our drying method doesn’t take much time. During winter, it can get annoying. Drying items inside seems to take forever (and there’s that musty smell). I need to do daily loads to keep on top of it, and need to have extra clothing items for when things don’t dry in time.

What is the weather like where you live? How does it affect what types of clothing you own and how much?

4. Drying.

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

Consider how you dry your washing. Do you have a yard or veranda? Do you have a rotary washing line? Pull out? Is it in the sun or shade? Do you have a dryer? Do you use drying racks inside? This can influence how many items of clothing you own. If you have the ability to dry clothes at any time of day or in any weather, this can reduce the amount that you need.

It might be worth investing in some new methods of drying if it means that you can tackle the laundry with ease. For us, this might mean buying some more clothes airers, an undercover washing line and looking into a dryer. For you, it might mean trailing a washing line to make use of sunshine and wind.

Closing thoughts:

In closing, getting on top of the pile of laundry can feel impossible. The more kids we have and the busier our lives get can make this a losing battle. However it doesn’t have to be all hard.

By taking the time to reduce our clothing inventory, we can take back some control over how much washing we need to do. Our personal preferences over how often we want to do laundry, where we live and how we dry our clothes all play a part in how we approach this chore.

When we figure out what works for us and our family, and form some good routines and methods for washing our clothes, we can stay on top of it. It might become less of a dreaded job and start to become more enjoyable somehow. Happy washing!

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

Doing the laundry is one of those jobs that never feels done. We always wear clothes so there’s always something to wash, something to hang, something to bring in, something to iron, something to fold, something to put away. It’s never ending. As an adult it’s annoying. As a parent, especially as a new mum, it can be overwhelming. Suffocating even.

Some people I know are able to ignore the baskets of washing scattered around the house. They joke about how the pile looks like a Christmas tree when you put a star on top. It frustrates them but they are happy to live in the chaos.

For me though, I can’t stand it. Seeing washing baskets inside stresses me out. My heart rate actually increases and I can’t relax. I’m not able to ignore the unfinished job. I remember back to when my eldest was a baby. I’d be sitting on the couch holding him as I fed or he slept.

I’d look around the family room and my eyes would be drawn to all the tasks that I hadn’t had a chance to get to yet. As much as I loved being a mum and adored my bub, it was hard seeing my home unravel and not be able to do anything about it. Now that I have three little ones, the amount of washing, dishes and toys have increased. It’s just that much harder to stay on top of it all.

I think we all have areas in our house that bother us, and chores that are important to get done in a timely fashion. My top three areas of stress are the kitchen, toys and washing. Once I realised what these were, I’ve developed systems to stay on top of managing these.

It’s important to figure out what these areas of focus are, what your level of tolerance is, and how well you need the tasks to be completed.

For me, I need things done and away. Although a perfectionist at heart, I’m no longer interested in perfect. I know that’s not achievable, especially not in my season. I have had to lower my standards since becoming a mother.

RELATED : Survival tips for getting on top of the washing

While I have a separate post on survival tips to get on top of the washing, here are my laundry hacks that keep me sane:

1. Designate areas on the line.

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

If you have an old school Hills Hoist line (the one that spins around), allocate every member of your family a side. If you have four people, hooray! Everyone gets a side. If you have less, allocate one for linen and towels. If you have more, some can share. In my family we have five people, so our kids have their own side and hubby and I share (I guess we share a bed so we can cope with sharing the washing line!).

2. Coat hangers.

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

Whilst travelling in Asia, I saw people drying clothes on coat hangers all the time. Such a simple idea but it can make such a difference. Use coat hangers to hang things that normally get hung. This way, the creases can come out and you can transfer them straight from the line to your wardrobe without needing to fold and then hang up. Store extra coat hangers in your laundry if you have space or even just on the line.

3. Use the delay cycle.

Most washing machines these days multiple options and settings. Put a delayed cycle on overnight so you can hang out in the morning. This uses off peak energy so it can be a cost saver. Alternatively if you are not a morning person, program it to finish in the early evening , so you can hang them out in the dark.

Figure out what your ideal time to put on the machine is, and when it’s most convenient to hang out. For me right now, this means nap time (which utilises solar power) or once the kids are in bed so I can enjoy some quiet time getting jobs done.

4. Label the laundry baskets.

How my laundry routine hack keeps the washing (and my sanity) under control

This hack might seem ridiculous and a tad overkill, but hear me out. It’s revolutionised my life (at least when it comes to washing anyway). Make sure that you have one laundry basket for everyone in the household. They have to stack together (you can buy 6 sturdy ones for $77 on Amazon). Next, write everyone’s name on one in permanent Texta. You need at least one per member, and an optional extra one for linen.

Grab a thick permanent marker, even different colours ones if you want, and write everyone’s name on a basket. If it helps, write their size next to their name (this is particularly helpful for your other half to remember what size little ones are in right now).

5. Taking off the washing.

When it’s time to take off the washing, simply place your baskets on the ground in age order (or alphabetical or rainbow colour!), take off each item from their side of the line and into the correct basket. Fill up the baskets as you empty the line, and take them inside.

Put them inside the bedroom they belong to. With older children and partners, you can expect them to put this away and then return the basket to the laundry. Personally I don’t fold, because my kids often pull out all their clothes. If I don’t spend time folding, I don’t panic when the clothes end up on the floor (because they do).

In my stage, I put away the baby’s clothes, and depending on the day will either put the toddler and eldest’s clothes away too, or ask them to do it with me. (Sometimes like packing up toys, it’s just quicker to do it myself. There’s time later to train them to do it.)

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I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer washing to be done not perfect. Not folded or ironed but at least away and out of sight. On sunny or windy days, I aim for out and in on the same day. It means I can have laundry free days where I can focus on cooking or cleaning or just getting through the day.

I no longer dread doing the washing or putting it away. It now feels achievable, dare I say it, almost fun, now that I have a system. My hubby initially thought I was a bit crazy buying so many laundry baskets but now he gets it. It’s a simple solution to a chore that that quickly becomes overwhelming.

He does his fair share of washing, especially on weekends or days he is home with the kids while I work. He will do the job from start to finish because the system works. As our boys get older and have more practice, they will regularly put away their clothes to develop responsibility and to take pressure off of me.

I’ve found that by decluttering what we have, it has reduced how much inventory I need to wash. This has been a lifesaver for me as a busy mum. If we can sell and donate the excess, the washing will stay under control.

Do you have a system or hack for keeping the laundry under control? If not, and you find it becomes all too much, perhaps give this a go. Let me know how it works for you!

Leave a comment below or come say hi on Insta.

“I’m just a …” Why we need to be intentional about how we talk about ourselves.

“I’m just a …” Why we need to be intentional about how we talk about ourselves.

I’m just a mum.

I’m just a relief teacher.

I’m just a …

How many times have you uttered these words: “I’m just a …”

It often happens subconsciously. We often don’t mean it.

We just seem to downplay our role. Our stage. Our season.

We feel that because we have taken time off to raise children, gone part time, taken on a different role, declined a promotion, earn less or stepped away from our career that we are less of a person. That we aren’t as interesting or valuable or worthy.

That perhaps if we include the word ‘just’ when explaining what we do, it might stop someone else from using it. We either feel that what we are doing is less important or worry that the other person might think that. Because work in the home is often seen as less important, less valued, if even seen at all.

Many of us go from working full time in a professional career to taking some time away to have a baby. We are all changed from this experience. Even if we return to the same job with the same hours, we are no longer the same. We have grown a life inside of us.

RELATED : Reducing the overwhelm.

We have an attachment with a little human. Our bodies look and feel different. Our sleep is disrupted. Our homes are full of baby stuff. Our brain doesn’t work like it used to. We are no longer the same person. Everything is different.

For those who return to work, the juggle becomes real. Most women feel like they have to be the perfect worker and perfect mum and don’t know how to do it. They feel like they are failing at both, or feel bad when they let one of them down. Their time is divided and the mental load is insane. They can want to be home with their baby but then when they’re with their baby, feel bad that they should be at work.

For those who stay home full time, it can be hard to justify what they do. They are home all day but have nothing to show for it. Even the simple act of having a shower or eating breakfast or lunch can feel impossible. They are needed constantly and it is hard to get anything done. They don’t have a boss to show work to or hear any praise from. It can feel like no one notices what they do.

They no longer earn a pay cheque so can feel like they are not productive or independent. They not only stop having money going into their bank accounts, but also contributions to retirement. Time out of the workforce can stunt career development and opportunity to work up the corporate ladder. It can be isolating and incredibly lonely.

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For those who go back to work part time, they have the best of both worlds. They also struggle in both areas too. They can feel like they don’t do either well. They aren’t really SAHMs and they aren’t full time workers either. They feel they need to justify how they spend their time. Their career can feel like it’s on hold. They miss out on some meetings and forget to be told about some things.

They get overlooked for promotions and opportunities. Their days at work are so busy as they have to get up to speed with what happened when they were away and feel they have to prove themselves. Their days at home are busy with fitting in all the appointments, meal planning and prepping, cleaning, present buying and playing.

I find myself in this third camp but have been a stay at home mum too. It’s an adjustment after working full time. I miss earning money and feeling important in my job. I miss having a single focus and feeling good at something.

For the last five years, I’ve fallen into this pattern of using ‘just’ in my language. I’m learning to catch myself and stop. Now I try to say things like:

“I’m a mum. I’ve chosen to stay home with my kids.”

“I’m a teacher. I’ve chosen to work in a relief role right now so I can be more available to my family. I like not having to bring work home and can stay home more easily if my children are sick.”

Although I know logically that what I do for a job does not shape my identity, it can be hard to remember. We live in a society that places importance on what we do.

RELATED : Why adjusting to isolation was hard, but why I’m not ready to come out of it just yet …

I’m learning that who I am and who I care for are just as important as what I do for a job. Being a mother is the most important job that I’ll ever do.

I am not ‘just’ a mum.

I am not ‘just’ a relief teacher.

I am not ‘just’ anything.

Words are powerful. When you change your language, you value yourself more. When you value. yourself more, others will see you differently and value you more too. We become more self assured and confident in who we are and the choices that we have made. The language we use affects the way that others see us.

I challenge you this week to think about the language that you use. Think about how it affects the way that others see you. Try to be more intentional about what you say, especially how you talk about yourself.

You are not ‘just’ anybody.

How we get 3 children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

When I mention to people that our three young children are in bed, in the same room, and lights out by 6:15 every night, we often get the same response.

How do you get children into bed before 6:30 pm?

They want to know the answers.

Know that we are far from perfect. We are works in progress. Some nights it is later than this. Sometimes they wake up.

But honestly, changing our bedtime routine has been a game-changer for us.

When our third baby was born, my then two year old stopped napping in the day. He still needed to – he was desperately tired and cranky come mid afternoon. He simply wouldn’t nap unless I lay next to him. I couldn’t figure out how to get a newborn and toddler to sleep at the same time or stop one from waking up the other. I eventually gave up and just focussed on my baby getting the sleep that he needed.

I needed a solution to get through the long afternoons without going insane, and to help my toddler cope. I had to bring bedtime forward. Initially, this was just going to be a short term thing. Something to help until he adjusted to the longer days. It ended up working so well that I decided to make it our new thing.

Like many other young children, my boys wake up early. Regardless of what time they go to bed, they almost always wake at 6 am. I figured that if I could somehow bring bedtime earlier and shorten the dreaded witching hours, we’d all be happier.

With our new bedtime at 6:15, this is what I did before then to make it work.

  1. Screen time after lunch (12:30)
    This time of day I find tricky. Everyone is tired. It gives me a chance to tidy up lunch and grab some of my own, feed baby and put him down for his nap, and ideally prep dinner (and put a load of washing on the line). My toddler and then preschooler watched their favourite shows. This kept them quiet while bubs slept, and enabled me to get a few things done. By having screen time out the way earlier, they had enough play time after this to wear them out before bedtime.

2. Outside play (2-4). Both in the morning and after rest time, I aim to get my boys outside. Fresh air, vitamin D and endorphins all help to make us happier and healthier. My children fight less outside and love exploring. They use their imagination and creativity. I can focus on them rather than the dishes and the jobs. Being outside makes them hungry and tired. I love the 1000 Hours Outside movement and ideally aim for 3-5 hours every day.

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

RELATED : 5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

3. Bath (3-4:30). When my first baby was born, I know that routine was important. Every book I read or person I spoke to told me to do bath after dinner. This is because it cleans them up after a messy tea and helps calm them before bed. I understood this, logically, but found it difficult in practice. I used to wait until my husband got home from work so we could have dinner as a family.

He got home late though so it was hard to juggle a late dinner and squeeze in a bath. One day a kind friend shared that she did this in reverse. She gave her boy a bath in the afternoon, then dinner, then bed. I was so surprised. I’d never thought to try this! I gave it a go that night and I’ve never looked back.

I love this approach because it gives flexibility in the afternoon. If my boys are extra tired or fighting more than usual, I might give them a bath at 3pm (later now I have school pick up). I can give them a bath individually, in a pair or all three.

I can do a quick one if we’re in a rush or stretch it out to over half an hour. It breaks up the afternoon and it’s no longer a task that I have to fit in. Once they are out the bath, they have an urgency to play until it’s dinner time, and know that the countdown is on. They seem to make the most of this bonus play, giving me a chance to do a quick tidy up or last minute dinner prep.

4. Dinner (5-5:30pm). I generally give my kids dinner by myself while hubby is driving home from work. It’s not easy but I see it as the final push of the day. When I had a newborn, I would be trying to get the older two food while often breastfeeding. It was ridiculously hard and I felt like I needed another set of hands.

Now with my boys 5,3,1 at the time of writing, it is still very busy and chaotic but we make it work. They eat dinner and drink milk, dessert on weekends. They know that once they have left the table they need to go straight into the bedroom (otherwise they won’t want to stop playing!).

5. Teeth and stories in bedroom (5:30-6:15). Ideally we would brush teeth in the bathroom but we just make it easy for ourselves at the moment. Brushing teeth with a timer on, and often ‘Daddy dentist’ helps for this (boys take turns to lie down on his lap so he can inspect their teeth and help to brush them).

While hubby does this, I spend fifteen minutes racing around like a crazy person clearing the table, putting things back in the fridge stacking the dishwasher, wiping table, cleaning the highchair and sweeping the floor. We both hate having to face the kitchen later on so I really try to work hard to get this finished or almost finished in this time. I join hubby in their bedroom to put nappies on the younger two and remind the eldest about pull ups. Then for the next half an hour or so, we read as many books as we can together.

RELATED : Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting.

One of us often climbs into a bed with a child, the other sits on the floor with one while bubs crawls over the top of us. There are two single beds (that can turn into bunks) and a cot mattress that we put on the floor.

The boys won’t always share but right now it works for us. At 6:15 (or 6:30 at the latest) we put the books away, tuck them into their respective beds, turn out the lights and put on the white noise sound machine ($40 from Big W). We have a snuggle and talk about the best part of their day. We say prayers and give them a kiss.

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

I still feed our youngest to sleep and then sneak out of the room. They love being in the same room and we think the company helps them to stay asleep. One of them will often pull their pillow and quilt onto the floor to lie next to our one year old. It’s pretty cute.

Bringing their bedtime forward was meant to be a short term thing. Something to help our 2 year old cope with the long afternoons. The crazy thing is it’s worked so well. Even over summer with daylight savings, not once did our older boys question why we were going to bed while the sun was still up. They just know that they go into the bedroom after dinner. They know that lights out is at 6:15.

We can’t really believe it ourselves, how easily it’s worked for us. How it’s been a game changer for our family and sanity

Once they are in bed and asleep, we use the time to get things done. We

  • finish packing up the kitchen
  • vacuum and / or mop
  • pack up the toys
  • organise paperwork or bills
  • prepare lunches for next day
  • hang washing off the line or put it away
  • miscellaneous jobs that need doing

We try to get the jobs done so we can have dinner as a couple, every night. It feels like a mini date night and we love how quiet it is. By then the house is clean and tidy, so other than putting the plates in the dishwasher, there is nothing to do afterwards.

RELATED : How to declutter your children’s toys for good

One of us might go for a run, I might read or have a bath, sit on my massage chair, work on my side hustle or watch a show together. Evenings always go too quickly but because we work hard to get the boys in bed early, we have more time than most. It allows us to get a few things done, spend time together and fill our tanks before facing another big day tomorrow. We are more rested and happier for it.

This won’t work for everyone. For those who both work or work long hours, it will be too tricky. For those with older children, they need to stay up later. For those with lots of extracurricular activities after school, they will get home too late. But for us in our season, with our boys 5 and under, it works.

Brilliantly. I’m so grateful for my friend who encouraged me to try something different with our routine. I’m not sure I would have thought of it myself. It’s made my afternoons more manageable, the evening routine shorter, the boys less grumpy. I am less worn down. It works for us, and it might just work for you too.

5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

Gift ideas for children

We all have children in our life who we need to buy presents for, whether they’re our own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and when our children go to parties. Sometimes it is hard coming up with an idea, especially when the child seems to have enough stuff already.

When a child receives lots of toys for their birthday or at Christmas time, they are initially excited. Most kids love the thrill of opening up a present to find a new thing inside. Once the shine has come off a bit and the gift doesn’t seem so interesting anymore, the following two things tend to happen:

There is an increase in overwhelm for the child. They have too much choice about what to play with. They get distracted. They don’t delve into deep, meaningful play. There is too much mess to clean up.

Secondly there is overwhelm for the parents. This tends to affect the primary caregiver, the one that is home the most. They have to find a spot to store it, create systems for toy rotations, tidy it up, manage the pieces.

It’s a lot. When I’ve gently asked some family members to avoid buying toys or less of them, I have been told, “but they like it,” or “they’ll be so excited opening the box.” Yes, of course they would be but in the end, as a parent I have to manage all the stuff. We have so many more things and toys than a generation or two ago. This wears us down and can steal some of the joy of motherhood.

I have been on a journey of decluttering and it has made the world of difference in our family.

Here are some gift ideas for children that won’t add to the overwhelm, go to landfill or break the bank.

#1. Gift idea: Toy library voucher

Toy libraries are amazing. My local one has gift vouchers for purchase for just $35 a year or $20 for 6 months. It is a brilliant way to give the gift that keeps on giving without adding to the excess in the family home. This can be bought with another family to keep cost down or even put money in the card to go towards buying the membership.

#2. Gift idea: Op shop voucher

Money doesn’t go very far in department stores. When my son went to spend some pocket money, the $15 barely bought one Paw Patrol car. We went across the road to Savers (a large op shop / thrift store) and he was amazed with what he could purchase. There were less options but there was a range of different things he could buy.

You could offer to take the child shopping to spend it, and could go towards books, clothes, shoes, dress ups, or art supplies. If there was a particular toy they wanted they could get that too, and when they get bored with it, sell or donate and then buy a different one. This reduces the impact on the environment because you aren’t buying a new toy with packaging, and the child is choosing something that they really want.

RELATED : Creative ideas for surviving lockdown with kids

#3. Gift Idea: Books

Growing up we had an uncle who only ever gave books as gifts. This didn’t always seem very exciting, but I secretly loved having a new one of my own to read. I loved being able to write my name in the front and keep it in my bookshelf. I could reread it again and again. Books can be expensive but they don’t have to be bought new. You could buy a set of books from Marketplace or Gumtree, or from an op shop for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to check first with the child or parents that second hand is ok. If they say it’s fine, money will go further meaning more books for them!

#4. Gift Idea: Audiobooks

Listening to a story in the car can help to pass the time, especially on long trips. It can be a different option to screens during rest time at home. They can be a relaxing way to wind down at bedtime. These can be bought as a CD format (new or secondhand) or downloaded on a device to listen on a speaker. Apps like Libby and Borrowbox even let you borrow audiobooks from the library for free!

#5. Gift Idea: Buy an Experience

This is my personal favourite gift and love when my boys are given one of these. The options are endless but here are some that won’t break the bank. Some could be money towards an experience, or pay for themselves and the child to do together as a special outing.

> Movie voucher

> Bowling

> Pony ride

> Waterslide

> Swimming pool

> Roller skating

> Play cafe

> Farm visit

> Ice skating

> Animal sanctuary

> Zoo

> Aquarium

> Boat or ferry ride

> Trout farm or fishing off a jetty

> Strawberry or apple picking

> Theatre tickets

> High ropes course

> Mini golf

> Rock climbing

> Cooking course

> Drive in

> Circus

> Plaster fun house

RELATED : Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

We have compiled a list of experiences and outings that our children have never done before. This is stuck on the fridge for ideas and inspiration for special weekends or if someone asks for a present idea. This helps our children to focus on less material things and helps us remember about the fun things we can do as a family.

Too much stuff can create stress in our lives, but meaningful experiences creates memories. I encourage you to be extra intentional with gift giving going forward. Toys themselves aren’t bad, but children can only play with so much. They only need so much. Less things to manage can help families feel happier too. 💕

10 easy ways to develop literacy in under fives

10 easy ways to develop literacy in under fives

As a primary school teacher, I am passionate about seeing children develop in their literacy skills in the early years. It was shocking to me how many children would arrive at school not knowing the right way to hold up a book, or how to turn pages carefully. Some struggled to pick out basic rhymes. Others lacked the ability to sit down and concentrate when being read to.

I knew I was being judgy but I didn’t understand why children were coming into the classroom so ill equipped for learning how to read. I desperately wished that more parents knew both how important early literacy was and also how much easier it would make their schooling life.

Now that I am a parent, I am aware of the reality of exhaustion and lack of time. I get that finding space to read before bed can be tricky. However, it can be done and it’s not as hard as you might think. My eldest was recognising all letters and sounds by two, reading simple books by three and by four could read most texts independently. Here are a few tips to help you develop early literacy with your child:

1. Display books everywhere.

Have some on the change table so bubs can see when he lies down. Begin with simple black and white pattern ones and gradually progress to board books, touch and feel books and then picture books. Have them in their bedroom, play room and lounge. Many stores sell low bookshelves that allow the front cover to be displayed allowing for children to browse them more easily than looking at the spine.

Have some bath books for them to read with you in the water. Look at cookbooks together and find recipes to make, especially from kids cookbooks. Browse the newspaper and look at the comics. Let them circle and cut out items from catalogues, and stick them into a scrapbook. Ask them what they would like to put on their present list. Write letters and postcards to friends and family and read the responses together. Look at real estate guides and compare the different houses that are for sale. Demonstrate that reading is important to our daily life and include them in the many different texts we come across each day to read. Provide as many opportunities as you can.

2. Regularly borrow from the library.

Let them browse the shelves and not be rushed where possible. Borrow a range of books – ones with a special theme, picture books, readers, comics, rhyming books, books with only illustrations, big books, non fiction and search and find. Make it fun by only borrowing books by authors starting with an ‘A’, and next time find the ‘B’ ones, then the ‘C’s etc. Borrow a CD and show them how to read the list of tracks on the back, and the words to the songs inside the cover.

Most libraries offer song or story time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. This is a valuable time of fun, laughter and learning. Children learn through rhyme and repetition, and can often use puppets. They follow along with actions and clap in time. They memorise nursery rhymes and songs which helps them develop language, much of it will stay with them forever. Children have the chance to socialise with one another and how to get along. They enjoy cuddles with their big people and can sit down on the mat independently when they are ready.

Some libraries allow you to borrow toys. You can help choose some items that challenge your children and develop their literacy. There are often book packs with activities ready to go, as well as many games and resources. This saves you money and reduces what you have to store and organise yourself, while rotating items helps to keep things interesting.

3. Have books in your car for them to read.

These can be in place of electronics while they are waiting for you to finish packing the car, to read while you drive (unless they get carsick!) and to take into appointments. We use the street directory, sticker books, activity books and picture books. I keep some pens and textas handy for them to use too.

Sometimes I’ve had to resort to an iPad or phone if appointments go for too long, or to distract a toddler while I’m feeding, but it’s not my go to. I try to see it as bonus literacy time. We can read together, complete activities and practice writing. With the street directory, my preschooler likes looking for parks, the beach, road names and the compass. He finds the street he lives on and follows a path with his finger to places nearby.

4. Toy alphabet.

Have toy versions of alphabet letters they can build into words. Provide opportunities for playing with letters. These can be foam ones for the bath, magnetic ones for the fridge and even duplo style ones. You can buy cheap phonics cards that spell words or build simple three letter puzzles. Focus on the play and practice rather than correct spelling.

Children can practice forming letters in sand (in a sandpit or sensory box) or with playdough. They can use activity books and practice tracing letters I find textas and pens can be easier to use than pencils for some children. They can paint with watercolours or use crayons. The more young children have chances to play with letters, the more they will begin experimenting with reading, spelling and writing.

5. Be strategic when reading books aloud.

Leave off the last word in a sentence or line for them to fill in. Children love reading the same books over and over again, and like to master the text. Even toddlers remember familiar words and have great satisfaction filling in the blank.

Read at least one rhyming story each day. Emphasise the rhymes. Pause at the end of the line for your child to fill in the gap. Highlight the words that rhyme and point to where they are. Ask them to come up with other words that rhyme with it. Mem Fox has some wonderful suggestions in her book Reading Magic.

6. Be intentional.

Take time to read the book carefully together and notice different things. Use different character voices and point out the speech marks. Show what happens to your voice when there is an exclamation point or question mark at the end of a sentence. Demonstrate the change in volume when all capitals are used.

Point out the author and illustrators name, and ask what each person does. Read the blurb together. Talk about what a dust jacket and a spine is. Ask if it is a fiction or non fiction text. Look at the front cover and make predictions about what the book will be about. As you go along, ask what you think might happen. At the end, think about what the moral of the story might be, or why the author decided to write it.

Ask them to find different items on each page, and then give them a go (Can you point to the letterbox? Where is the yellow duckling?). Question how the character might be feeling. Make connections to everyday life by asking if they ever feel sad too. Put your finger under the words so they can follow along if they want.

7. Storytell.

This isn’t my strong suit but my boys love when I tell them stories. It can be retelling the familiar ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears.’ It could be telling them the story of how mummy and daddy met or about when they were little. It could be a made up one. It doesn’t need to be perfect! Your child will simply love snuggling up next to you, listening to your voice and imagining the story in their minds.

8. Make screen time count.

I don’t advocate much screen time but it can be a valuable teaching tool. Reading Eggs is a fabulous program to help young children learn to read. You can sign up for a 30 day free trial here and is suitable for ages 2-13.

Often teachers in the early years of school use short videos to help children remember important things. Our eldest at two learnt his letters and sounds simply by watching 2 videos every day (under 10 minutes) for a month we were on holidays. If you search for ‘phonics song’ and ‘jolly phonics’, it will come up with a few versions.

They are simple and repetitive, and very helpful for young children. These videos can also be listened to on a speaker or in the car so they aren’t watching another show. I also recommend the alphabet song, days of the week, months of the year, seasons song. Nursery rhymes are always a wonderful choice for young children too.

9. Talk with your children.

This develops their oral language skills. It’s so easy to be distracted with our phones or other technology, but our children really do need our full attention. Take an interest in what they do. Talk to them as you walk and point out things that you can see. Chat in the car and explain what the different signs are, the road rules and emergency vehicles driving past. When someone irritates me with their driving, I talk through how I’m feeling about it.

When you’re eating dinner, try to sit at the table together. This is a wonderful time to talk about what happened in the day, who they played with, ask what their favourite part was, something that was hard, and what they’re looking forward to. Cook together and chat as you work through the recipe. There are lots of small opportunities throughout the day to talk and observe, and not only will this help their oral language skills and then their written ability, it will build your relationship.

10. Model reading yourself.

Children watch what we do more than they listen to us. Keep a book or magazine on the coffee or dining table. Depending on your stage of life, read the newspaper over breakfast, or a chapter of your book with your lunch. Try to model using a paper version of a book rather than electronic so it is obvious what you are doing, even if it is purely for daylight hours.

Borrow books and magazines for yourself when you visit the library. Take them on holiday. Make a cubby and each bring some books to read as you snuggle up with blankets. Request books for your gift ideas. Browse for new ones together at op shops. Having a passion for reading yourself is one of the easiest ways to encourage your child to love reading too.

Last thoughts

In closing, there are many simple things we can do to develop literacy in young children. Try to make the most of the time that you spend with them, even if seems like monotonous driving or doing chores. Children will enjoy playing and learning with you. The more their literacy skills develop, so will their confidence. Have fun experimenting with some of these different ways and let me know how you go!

How reducing the clutter brings more calm

The longer I’ve been parenting, the more I’ve realised that by reducing the clutter, it brings more calm. The less inventory we have to manage, the happier we feel. Although my name highlights being savvy with money, if you’ve been around here a while you’d know that it’s not all that I’m about.

I’ve been on a journey of minimalism over the last few years. When I became a mother five years ago, I was suddenly aware of how stuff bothered me.

How it would stress me out.
Distract me from the task at hand.
Overwhelm me.
Make me feel anxious.
Dominate my time.
Steal my joy.

Speaking to many parents, I’d hear a common response- ‘you’ll get used to it.’ The gist was that kids just come with lots of stuff. It comes with the territory.

Learn to live with it because it ain’t going to change in a hurry.

However, not all responded like that. Some were like a breath of fresh air.

‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ You can be a parent and have less stuff. You don’t have to spend your days picking up after your kids. You don’t have to have constant washing baskets all over the house. You don’t have to have toys scattered everywhere. It doesn’t need to be this hard.

This was a relief to me. It made sense to me. It was permission giving and empowering.

By learning how to live with less, I started decluttering what we didn’t need or love. This reduced the excess in our home, helped us to focus better and freed up space.

Selling the excess allowed me to fund better quality, open ended toys (think duplo, Lego, train sets and Connetix tiles). We have less stuff that gets played with more often.

We utilise the local toy library. This helps us to have a fresh rotation of toys, games and puzzles as often as we like. It keeps our boys engaged and reduces how much we need to own ourselves. Toy libraries reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment by not creating more items and also disposing of less.

I have more space in my house and less items to manage. This means less furniture to store toys on, less baskets and boxes. My children focus better on their play and use their creativity and imagination. They don’t get as distracted from what they are playing with because there is less choice. Packing up doesn’t take as long as it used to. I no longer spend my evenings tidying up and sorting out all the things. It means I can be more present in the daytime too and actively play with my boys, rather than stressing about the mess and cleaning up after them.

Becoming more minimal has improved our financial situation. We avoid shopping centres and junk mail catalogs that tell us we need more. We unsubscribe from pesky emails alerting us to new products and items on sale. It saves us money and means relatives don’t need to spend lots of cash on presents. Whatever we don’t use or love, we sell to fund toys that we will. We get outside more and enjoy free activities, or pay for fun experiences instead of lining shelves with more toys.

As I’ve continued to declutter our home, I’ve had more energy and brain space to begin some side hustles. This has turned mere hobbies into income streams.

Reducing our stuff has helped me thrive in my season of motherhood. I am more happy and present, able to live in the moment. I feel more calm. My children play better together and argue less about which toy is theirs. Being a mum doesn’t mean it has to be hard or have your days spent managing all the things.

Money, Minimalism and Motherhood is so closely intertwined for me. I can’t help but write about each of these things because one affects the other.

I love seeing women embrace and thrive in their stage of life (especially if you’re in the season of motherhood), manage their money well and live with less.

Thanks for being here and being part of this wonderful community. I’m so very grateful for you all.

Creative ideas for surviving lockdown with kids

It’s one thing to be negotiating your way through a global pandemic, with lockdowns and masks and restrictions. It’s another thing entirely when you are facing this with young children.

Coping with an extended period of time in lockdown is ridiculously hard. Kids don’t get why they can’t go in the car for a drive, why they can’t see their grandparents or have play dates. They don’t understand why the playground is closed and all of their usual activities cancelled.

Their little bodies need to move, climb, crawl and run. They need to be active and outside, they want to socialise with others.

As parents, we need a break. We need time with other adults. We need to get away from the stress of the house but how on earth do you do that in lockdown?

Last year at the height of the pandemic for us, I struggled big time during lockdown. Severe morning sickness with my third pregnancy, two active boys, tricky behaviour and no support. It was insane.

I’d scroll social media and see friends without children binge on tv series. They took up new hobbies in gardening, craft, painting, learning an instrument, cooking, sourdough. Their houses were KonMari’d and organised. They had time to clean all the things.

Others with kids who were older revelled in having precious time to do craft, board games, cooking and puzzles. They loved not playing taxi driver for sport and birthday parties. Despite the challenges of home schooling, many seemed to enjoy the chance to slow down and spend quality time together.

For those safe at home with young children however, this was a different story. Tantrums and meltdowns with no end in sight. The constant mess without a break. No grandparent help. No kindy or playgroup or mother’s groups. No exploring new places. Damn it was hard. Is hard.

If you’re home right now with little children, I get it. It’s bloody hard. I hope things change for you soon.

Until then, here are some ideas to keep you and the kids sane.

  • organise a treasure hunt
  • have a board game afternoon
  • sit and watch the rubbish trucks
  • watch an old tv show
  • learn a dance routine and record it
  • play soccer in the hallway
  • do dress ups
  • send letters to friends and family
  • paint rocks to hide on your next walk
  • do a different craft activity each day
  • sign up for 30 days of Reading Eggs free
  • have a picnic in your yard or lounge room
  • make a cubby with blankets or sheets
  • write a list of movies to watch
  • create a lockdown scrapbook
  • make a time capsule and bury it
  • do a big room clean out
  • ask them what toys they’d like to sell or donate
  • have a silly fashion parade
  • learn a skill on YouTube
  • move around the furniture in their bedroom
  • bake a cake
  • play restaurants
  • have a pjs day
  • plant some herbs or veggies
  • read a chapter book together
  • create a family art gallery
  • make up a board game
  • draw with chalk
  • have races to complete puzzle
  • write and illustrate a picture book
  • create an obstacle course

For you as parents:

Eat all the chocolate.

Don’t worry about the screen time.

Try to do something for yourself each day – bubble bath or hot shower, run, YouTube workout or yoga, a block of chocolate in bed with Netflix. Whatever it takes to get you through the other side.

If you’re not in a good place or you feel like you can’t cope, please go get help. Not coping takes precedence over Covid.

I’ll say that again.

NOT COPING TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER COVID.

Yes, Covid is bad and we need to do the right things to get through this. However, your mental health is super important and you need to look after your own needs.

If you’re not ok, reach out to a close friend or family member, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Don’t wait for things to get really bad before you ask for help.

Sending love. ❤️

For those on Mother’s Day, or any day that you need some encouragement.

Mother’s Day

During the Mother’s Day service at church this year, I sat in the parents room feeding our third bub. He was only four months old and so I was in the thick of sleep deprivation.

I suddenly had a moment while looking down at my beautiful boy when I realised again how lucky I was. Yes I was incredibly exhausted but gosh I was so happy.

I thought about those around me who so desperately wanted to be a mother and it hadn’t worked out yet. I thought about those who had lost babies and children. I thought about those with empty nests, longing for the noise and chaos to return, even just for a day. I thought about those who had lost their Mum, and how incredibly hard this day in particular would be for them.

I felt a sudden urge to write down my thoughts. I excused myself to go to the bathroom so I could have a chance to write uninterrupted from my children. I sat in the car writing for a few minutes while my kids napped before unloading all the gear. I finally had a few more minutes once they went to bed.

I felt like this needed to be written. Sending love to you on Mother’s Day, and on all the days when things feel tough. ❤️

For the mother who’s finding
everything tough,
for the one who thinks
that they’re not enough.

The exhaustion, the mess,
never enough time,
you love them but miss
the life that was mine.

For those who long for
an extra one to meet,
not feeling like your
family is complete.

For those who never had
a daughter or son,
grieving what could have been,
that special someone.

To those who no longer
have their mum by their side,
who miss having that person
in who they confide.

For those who are longing
for a babe of their own,
hoping and praying
through the unknown.

For those who have lost,
a deep hole remains,
such grief and anguish,
unexplainable pain.

Those feeling rejection,
unwanted, disowned,
now single motherhood-
doing it alone.

For those who wonder
how long this season will last,
for those who are grieving
the seasons of past.

Life is messy and hard,
it’s really not fair,
I want to acknowledge
that I really do care.

So whatever it looks like
for you on this day,
I hope you find peace
and love in some way.

❤️