When we decide to declutter our home, we want to get it done. We often start off strong. We feel an urge to get rid of all the things. We fill up bags full of stuff and our house feels different. Lighter. Once the obvious items have been decluttered, it can start to feel difficult. It can become overwhelming. It can be easy to have motivation but we can lose momentum.
Why not learn from the brightest and the best in the business? Most of these authors started off just like you and me. They were surrounded by excess stuff and wanted a change. They needed to do something different. They learnt by doing and figured out strategies to help others do the same.
Many were parents who felt suffocated by all the things in their home. It was making them feel crazy. Something had to change. Something had to go, and it couldn’t be the kids. As toys tend to be a big part of the problem, they become a large part of the process.
It’s one thing to ditch some plastic junk that you are sick of stepping on and putting away. It’s another to involve your children. Getting your children on board with decluttering is an important step. When we come alongside them to sort out what they don’t love or use, and find new homes for them by donating or selling, we help them to form new habits.
Below are my favourite books on decluttering that might be useful to you too.
1. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
The Minimalist Home is the inspiration you need to start decluttering. Joshua does a deep dive into each room of the house and gives you steps to follow and questions to ponder. This helps you to reduce the inventory so you can focus on what really matters. Joshua has a comprehensive blog, YouTube channel and has published a number of other titles.
Messy Minimalism is for the messy folk out there who aren’t typically good at organising their homes. She takes a judgement free approach to decluttering and is permission giving that your house doesn’t need to look perfect. Rachelle has strategies and solutions that you can implement to create a purposeful home. She runs the Abundant Life with Less online community.
3. Declutter like a Motherby Allie Casazza
Declutter like a mother is written for mothers who are overwhelmed with all the stuff and are desperately seeking a change. Allie understands that season and openly talks about how seriously she struggled with this in early motherhood. In her book she motivates women to take charge, to get rid of the excess and to make a change for the better. Allie has a popular podcast, runs decluttering challenges, a book for children and has a huge following online.
Minimalist Moms is for mothers who seek to live intentionally. Diane gives a convincing argument for why reducing the stuff can have a positive impact on our lives. She gives practical steps to help you declutter your home. She also talks about the benefits of slowing down and saying no to extracurricular activities, and how this can help family life. Diane started with a podcast and has a community of like-minded individuals who strive to do more with less.
5. A Simpler Motherhoodby Emily Eusanio
A simpler motherhood empowers mothers to live life on purpose. When we declutter our homes and make a conscious effort to slow our schedule, it can have enormous benefits for our family. Emily unlocks the secrets to a simpler and more intentional life, and delves into marriage, parenting and faith. You can find Emily at The Simplified Mom on Instagram.
6. Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
Love People, Use Things speaks about the power of reducing what we have in our homes and simplifying our schedule. When we take steps to do this, it can change the trajectory of our lives. Known as The Minimalists, they took decluttering to a radical level and couldn’t help but share their journey. You can find Joshua and Ryan on their website, listen to their podcast or watch their documentaries Minimalism and Less is Now on Netflix.
7. Project 333 by Courtney Carver
Project 333 encourages readers, especially women, to consider how many outfits are in their wardrobe and how many of these actually get worn. Getting ready in the morning can be stressful and partly because we have too many options. Courtney writes about how you can manage with just 33 items in your closet for 3 months, and learn to love it. You can find out more on her website and Instagram.
8. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying upby Marie Kondo
The life changing magic of tidying up takes readers through an expert guide on decluttering. Marie explains the order that she uses to tackle each area of the home. She has a particular way of folding and storing items so that they are visually appealing and are stored neatly. Marie is a multi million copy international bestseller, writes more about her KonMari method on her website and has a series on Netflix.
In closing, these titles are packed full of ideas to get you inspired to start decluttering and practical steps you can follow. I love that these books not help you to get rid of the physical clutter, but help you to become more intentional with the time that we have. Life is short and the time we have with our children is precious.
Books can make great gifts. I know I have so many that I’d love to receive. Why not add a few that catch your eye and save them to your wishlist. You’ll be supporting a hard working author and you can always give them to a friend when you are finished.
These are available to purchase on Amazon or your favourite bookshop. Many are also available to borrow from your local library and can help to save you money. If you enjoy listening to audiobooks, apps like Libby and Borrowbox enable you to borrow titles for free.
I’m so excited for you as you begin your decluttering journey or seek to minimise your home even more. I know that as you reduce the clutter, you’ll gain more space, increase your focus and give you back more time. I’d love to hear about your journey and connect with you on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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, shedand photos
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 💕
This pandemic has affected all of us in some way, shape or form.
For some, it’s meant a halt to travelling overseas. Limited our ability to earn a wage or keep a business afloat. It has reduced social interaction and dating opportunities. Changed our retirement plans. For others it’s make it hard to visit loved ones in hospital or nursing homes, or say goodbye when the time comes.
For those of us with children, Covid has changed the way we parent. As a mum of three boys five and under, it has been a challenging time. We’ve felt stir crazy. I’ve missed my friends and know that my kids have missed theirs too.
For many young children, the world with Covid is all they know. It has been amusing to me, to sit back and watch their play. I can’t help smiling at the ways Covid has started to change this. To them, they are just living out their reality of living through a pandemic. They are trying to make sense of the world they are living in.
Here are some of the ways my two older boys aged 5 and 3, have incorporated Covid into their play.
While playing with a wooden treehouse, my eldest carefully placed little stepping stones along the fake grass. He had some gnomes balanced on top of these. “They’re social distancing mum. They can’t go any closer. They need to make sure they leave gaps in between.” Other times they have drawn crosses on the ground in chalk so their bikes can be spaced apart. They stick masking tape on the wood floor for them to social distance when playing games. Matchbox cars have to leave a gap between each other. Teddies can’t sit right next to each other for tea parties. Pictures in their sketchbooks show space in between people.
There is always a clear spot to stand on and a gap to keep apart. My children take it very seriously because they see us doing it in real life. They don’t always like the rules but understand they need to be followed. They don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing. My eldest reads signs and asks questions about what it all means. It’s a lot to take in for anyone.
My boys are used to washing their hands regularly, or at least being reminded to, and using hand sanitiser when out. One time we went to the supermarket together and went to the automatic dispenser. It deposited a huge amount into my son’s hand. “Ugh!” he exclaimed. He proceeded to rub it all over my arm. “All better.”
One day at kindy pick up, my then two-year-old argued over having to do hand sanitiser. I eventually won the battle and he agreed to put it on. He then crawled around on his hands and knees, licking the ground. “I’m a puppy dog. Woof woof!” He spent the next ten minutes grabbing things off the ground with his mouth, licking everything, dropping his dummy for fun so he could pick it up with his teeth and just generally being disgusting, much to the dismay and worry of the staff and parents watching on. At least he had clean hands.
My then four-year-old ran out to greet one of our friends. He grabbed the hand sanitiser we keep by the door and held it out for our friend. “You need to use this before you come inside.” We were mortified. We’d never modelled doing this or asked them to do it but our friend was a great sport. He agreed that it was important and proceeded to clean his hands thoroughly before he entered the house. He commented that we had our children well trained. Despite our embarrassment, it was a funny moment and we were proud of our boy for taking steps to keep our family healthy and safe.
Covid Safe Check In
When we visit shopping centres, church, play cafes or have appointments, my boys are used to the routine of checking in. They want to do the right thing and follow the rules so like to remind me. “Mum, don’t forget to check in! Can I do it?” This translates to their play at home. When my boys play pretend cafes and shops, they always make sure that there’s a Covid Safe check in at the front. They draw one and sticky tape it wherever they are playing. “Don’t forget to do your check in. Ding! Can I see the tick?”
They have fun creating QR codes to put around the house. Barcodes of all shapes and sizes have appeared in the most random of places. They even made one for our front door so our guests adhere to the rules. People have a little chuckle when they visit and sometimes get out their phone to pretend which of course the boys love.
When assigning roles to play, along with the typical mum, dad, cat, baby, princess, policeman etc, they now include a Covid Marshall, naturally. “I’m the Covid Marshall. I make sure that everyone follow the rules, checks in and social distances. I get to wear a lanyard so people know who I am.” They enjoy getting to be this role because they of course enjoy bossing others around.
My toddler is slightly addicted to tv (confession time). Whenever he hears talk of Covid Marshalls, he finds it all a bit confusing. “Like Marshall from Paw Patrol” he exclaims. “Paw Patrol Marshall!” He breaks into an uncontrollable giggle. It’s a lot for a three-year-old to comprehend. Even some of us adults, let’s be honest.
One of the new games that our kids like to play is ‘Covid testing.’ It’s a fun game where the balance board is placed on its side to form a semi-circle and the boys sit behind it. I drive my pretend car past, after booking in online of course. We all put our masks on, then they ask for my details.
To save time, I have my printed form with a QR code ready to go. Once verifying my identity, they tell me what to expect. “Now this isn’t going to hurt. It will just tickle your tongue and tickle your nose. Be brave and you’ll get a sticker!” My test comes complete with a torch being shone down my throat so they can properly assess what they are dealing with. They are very thorough with their tickling.
One can’t be too careful with Covid testing. It’s a serious business. I must be a good patient because I am presented with stickers. Lots of stickers. I am also bandaged multiple times because apparently I’m very sick and need to rest. I am praised for my bravery and told to keep an eye out for my results. They will message me later.
I am told to come back and get tested right away, because it’s the game and otherwise it will be boring. I drive back into the waiting bay, and this time I go by a different name. This confuses my eldest, because I am still Mummy, but eventually he gets the idea that I’m just pretending to change my name.
I don’t have a printout with my new identity which bothers him. He quickly excuses himself so he can scribble a new one for me, I mean Cynthia Ashlee Harper Rosedale. My two big boys mask up and take turns looking down my throat and tickling my nose. It really is a wonderful experience. Off I go to await results. This involves lying on the carpet on my tummy.
I always hope that perhaps they might come and play cars on my back, play with my hair or give me a back massage. It looks more like being jumped on, stacked on top of, hair becoming a tangled mess or my back being karate chopped and wobbled. After a minute or two of fearing for my life and longevity of my back, I scramble to a different, somewhat safer position.
A few little random moments
Once we tested positive, my eldest put a sign on the front door. With my help he wrote, “we have Covid so please don’t come in.” He drew a self-portrait with a mask on. He keeps saying to me, “I can’t believe I actually have Covid. Can you believe we have the Coronavirus Mum?” My three year old has been saying in a husky little voice, “I have Covid! I have Covid!”
When our boys play doctors, they now wear masks (sometimes two each), ask questions about their movement interstate and overseas, if they are vaccinated and if they are feeling well. They give each other pretend injections and booster shots. For some reason they particularly love giving their parents injections (clearly you can never have too many).
When they come to chat to me while I’m on the loo, they accompany me to the bathroom afterwards. “Mum, you need to sing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands! Two times!” Thanks Wiggles and Playschool I mumble under my breath as I agree that yes, I should wash my hands for longer and reluctantly join them in song.
During early 2020 when things were starting to get serious (but it was still far away from us in South Australia), my then three-year-old was trying to make sense of it all. He would cheekily say ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘cheese’ when posing for photos. This tended to be awkward out in public.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these moments are a nice reminder that it’s not all been bad. I knew I had to write them down or they’d get lost in the chaos of daily life. Our children can still find joy in the everyday as they navigate the world around them.
How has Covid affected the way your little one’s play?
Bluey is such a wonderful show. It’s clever, uplifting and funny. It’s loved by children and parents and has taken the world by storm. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s well worth watching.
However when Bluey comes up in conversation, I often hear mums make comparison to Chilli and Bandit. They feel bad for not playing with their kids so beautifully and so often like Bluey’s parents do. They want to but they just don’t know how to do it. This makes them feel guilty and get down on themselves.
I get it. I strive to be a fun mum, who plays with her kids, spends five hours outside each day, hikes our national parks, plays in the creek, goes to the beach. I love being present with my kids.
For the last five years I have either been awfully sick whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. I have had a child with a dozen specialists, needing constant appointments. Trying to balance work, home life, errands and the mental load is a lot.
Right now I have a preschooler, toddler and baby.
It takes forever to leave the house, even for a walk. I try to breastfeed whilst breaking up sibling fights. I put bubs to sleep and my toddler keeps running into the room yelling. I try to hang washing and having two children crying. I go to the toilet and having conversations about why I sit down to wee but daddy stands up.
If I have a spare minute, I look around at the chaos not knowing whether to duck to the loo alone, make myself lunch, make a coffee (now I’ve boiled the kettle three times), start thinking about what’s for dinner, empty the recycling, reply to that message, fill out that form, clean under the highchair, fill up the birdbath, hang out the washing or wipe down the sink. My toddler wants me to sit down and watch an episode but I know if I do that, I’ll be chasing my tail all afternoon. It’s a constant pull in multiple directions and it’s easy to feel guilty about whatever I’m neglecting in a single moment.
My evenings are spent catching up on the unfinished jobs of the day. Cleaning up, paperwork, watering the garden. Exercise. Time with hubby. Bubs is in our room so it’s difficult to tidy or organise or put the light on to read.
My sleep is broken and we often have a child or two in our bed, or on the mattress beside us. We are exhausted.
It’s just so constant and I don’t often have my hands free to drop everything and just play. If I do, it’s often interrupted and just so hard.
That’s ok. I’m doing my best. It’s a stage.
Coming back to Bluey.
It’s helpful to learn, or remember, that Bluey is 6 years old and her sister Bingo is 4.
Parenting a school age child is different to that of a preschooler or toddler. Your capacity is different. You might be getting more sleep at night and be able to get some things done in the day.
They will spend some time at kindy or school and you’ll have breaks from each other.
Their ability to play games is different, even just that much older. They have a longer concentration span. They can take turns. They enjoy playing pretend.
This age group doesn’t need nappy changes or day sleeps. These sisters don’t have a baby sibling requiring constant attention. Chilli isn’t pregnant or recovering from a caesarean section. It’s easier to be present with your children when you have both of your hands free.
It’s also just a cartoon. It’s not real life.
We can strive to be a better version of ourselves and be inspired by the wonderful show that Bluey is, and also remember that no one is perfect. Chilli and Bandit aren’t perfect parents and they’d be the first to admit this.
One day you’ll look back and wonder how you managed it all. How you coped during the wonderfully hard season of little ones.
Keep this in mind to alleviate some of the guilt that comes with not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting. Give yourself some grace. You’re doing the very best you can.
When you type the following phrase into Google; ‘How to do it all as a,’ guess what words drop down below?
Woman. Working mom. Single mom. Mom. These are the top four answers provided.
I didn’t see ‘man’ or ‘working dad’ or ‘single dad’ or ‘dad’ come up as an option. Why is that?
It’s because we rarely refer to men as working fathers. Their success is boxed into different roles. As a successful CEO. As an entrepreneur. As an author. As a talented footballer. As an amazing father.
People still commend them for ‘babysitting their kids.’ They get praised for leaving early to take care of a sick child or taking the morning off for sports day or assembly. By taking time to look after their children, they are seen as compassionate, gentle and a family man. Don’t get me started on how some people hail dads as heroes when they simply complete a basic parenting task.
I remember one day we were invited to a picnic for relatives we rarely see. I was a sleep deprived mother who had packed the bags and the car with everything we needed for the afternoon. I spent the first two hours breastfeeding, then changing, supervising play on a rug, and then rocking bubs to sleep. During this time, hubby was enjoying a beverage or two, chatting to people, handing out Christmas cards (that I’d written), kicking around the footy and trying his hand at an impromptu game of cricket.
When bubs awoke, I decided to take the opportunity for a bathroom break before I needed to start the feeding cycle again. I gently asked hubby if he could change our son’s nappy while I was gone. Before I’d barely moved away, you should have seen the flurry of excitement that this event resulted from a man changing a nappy. Honestly. The older ladies gathered around in a circle, calling out that wasn’t he amazing for changing the nappy. Wasn’t he such an amazing dad. Look at him with his son.
I was gobsmacked. Had they not seen what I’d been doing for the whole time before this? It was like everything I had done was an assumed duty, an expectation. It wasn’t noticed until a man did the same thing, and then it was put on a pedestal and praised.
My hubby gets irritated at the incredibly low bar placed for fathers. It almost assumes that most men are either incapable of looking after their children, or don’t often do it well. That goes for domestics too.
‘Ohisn’t he amazing!’
‘He’s such an amazing dad. Look at how he plays with the kids.’
‘He did the shopping for you?’
‘I can’t believe he cooks dinner two nights a week.’
‘That’s nice he’s watching the kids so you can have a girls night.’
A women’s success and self worth is woven together with all of her different roles and the expectations that she will fulfil them all to a high standard. The bar seems impossible to reach. Often these expectations come from deep within us. We expect greatness from ourselves. We also demand this from other women, which I’m not really sure why. Maybe our own insecurities spark judgement on other women’s choices.
Have you ever heard someone been told she’s a great mum because she plays with her kids?
Normally I hear women feeling bad because she forgot it was sports uniform or library borrowing day. “I’m such a bad mum.” Pretty sure I’ve never heard a bloke call himself a bad father merely for forgetting something.
I see a real problem with this. Why is there so much pressure placed on women to do it all and do it perfectly? Don’t get me started on the relentless pressure to look put together all of the time either.
We often hear about the mental load of motherhood. How there’s so much on our minds to think about, do and organise.
Make snacks. Cook meal for that friend going through a hard time. Cleaning. Washing. Ironing. Folding. Putting away. Putting grown out of clothes aside for next child / hand down / donate / sell. Buy new size clothes.
Put stuff away. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Research schools, organise tours, fill out forms, arrange interviews; buy uniforms, shoes, stationery. Pack lunchboxes that are healthy, packaging free, allergen aware and that your kids will actually eat. Clean out lunchboxes before holidays and you forget that rotten piece of fruit.
Enrol kids in sport. Forms and uniforms. Use vouchers. Become taxi driver.Figure out logistics and how to coordinate everyone’s schedules. Pack and unpack the car.
Remember birthdays, rsvp to events, buy cards and presents, write in them, wrap them, remember to bring them.Bring something to school to celebrate their special day with their class. Make invitations for parties and keep track of rsvps. Plan and execute party remembering to hand out lolly bags at the end. Prepare for Christmas. Figure out what to get everyone and try not to spend too much. Hide them away and remember where you put them into wrap them later.
Organise the family social life. Research tradies and book in quotes. Pay deposits and invoices. Book immunisations, CAYHS, doctor, dentist, orthodontist and hairdresser. Book in date nights, arrange babysitters, plan weekend getaways and holidays.
Do something with photos. Write in baby books. Record special memories and funny sayings.
Work. (Paid work).
If simply reading this list has made you feel tired, that’s how most of us feel. Burnt out. Exhausted. Over it. Some about to have a nervous breakdown.
Too many hats and balls in the air. Something has to give.
Please know that I am not at all saying that men do not have much on their plate. They certainly do. Many do their fair share of caring for children, shopping, cooking and domestics. They take care of the yard and do projects and fix things and coach sport teams and a million other tasks. I just think that the expectations for men and women are vastly different.
I find nothing wrong with women having a career, moving up the corporate ladder, going back to work after having children and earning leadership positions in companies.
I grew up with my parents in very traditional roles. My father went out to work everyday and my mother stayed home to care for the children and look after the domestics. It was normal and they were happy and secure in their defined roles.
At a young age, I clearly remember going to the shops and wanting to buy a business shirt. I saw one in my size that had a pocket to carry a pen and a notebook. Never mind that it was Dwight Schrute yellow; it was smart and had a breast pocket and I wanted to have an important job and get money. At ten I had aspirations and couldn’t wait to achieve them. I wasn’t allowed to buy the shirt and was pointed instead in the direction of a pretty pink top and lacey white socks.
Here are five things that busy women can do to create boundaries and balance in their lives:
1. Good enough is good enough.
Not everything has to be perfect. Take shortcuts, and only do what you have to do. In my house, I make sure that the washing is put away because seeing baskets full of dry clothes stresses me out. I don’t iron, ever. I also don’t fold. I simply shove it in the correct drawer and move to the next task. I have a basket labelled for each person and hubby puts his own away. My kids are still young and pull their clothes out just for fun. There is no point ironing or folding for this to happen so I don’t waste my time.
Take shortcuts. Buy a Dyson or Robo vacuum. Buy pre-made lasagne and garlic bread. Have takeaway or fakeaway nights. Eat leftovers. Make a bulk lot of mince for spaghetti one night, then do Chilli con carne the next, and shepherd’s pie after that. If people complain about the menu, get them to plan next weeks meals and help cook sometimes. Older kids can take turns cooking. Keep it simple and share the load.
2. Talk about expectations.
Share with each other what things were like growing up and the roles that your parents assumed. Who went out to work, who stayed home, who cooked, who cleaned, who did yard work? Do they want you to be like their mother? Would they prefer you home in this season? Would they prefer you to have your career and they swap with you and be home, or work part time?
Could you hire an aupair or nanny to take off some of the pressure? A change can be a good thing for everyone involved. Some couples thrive when they have defined roles, and others prefer to share. I love when I get to mow the lawn and hubby stays inside to cook and watch the kids. Do what works for you.
3. Divide and conquer.
Everyone needs to pitch in. It shouldn’t all be up to you. You might need to write down all the tasks that you both do and actually allocate them. Give your kids jobs to do. Work as a team. Build in daily and weekly routines to family life so it doesn’t become a nagging reminder. We’ve all seen the joke that the husband says he’s going to bed, and, goes to bed.
The wife says she’s going to bed but has to complete the thirty tasks before her head hits the pillow. How is this fair? Why do we accept this as the way things are and make jokes about it? Put things into place so this doesn’t become normal in your reliant family.
Whatever you can’t do yourself or delegate to someone in the family, pay someone to do it for you. Hire a cleaner. Pay someone to do the lawns. Hire a nanny, whether live in or part time. It might cost you money but otherwise it will be with your time.
There are stages when it will make sense to work more and pay for people to do things that you can’t do yourself. There might be other times when it is better to reduce your hours and save money on these things. This will constantly evolve as your family grows and changes, as your career progresses and you prioritise things differently according to the season.
5. “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
Oprah Winfrey made this wise statement which rings true for us. We can have the amazing career, raise young children, cook beautiful meals, boast a clean and tidy house, entertain guests, run the household, volunteer and travel the world. We can live a wonderful, fulfilling life but we don’t have to do everything at once.
We can’t do it all at once, and if we do, it won’t all be done well. We don’t need to pretend to be superheroes or super women. We simply have to choose what takes priority in our lives right now and place lower importance on the rest.
A lovely colleague and friend of mine often speaks to this quote. She stayed home to raise two sons. She remembers struggling when they were little and they were on one wage. Their fun outing was feeding the ducks with stale crusts kept aside in the freezer. She wouldn’t change a thing though as she loved being there for her young boys.
She went to uni when the youngest was at kindy and became a teacher. Her boys are now grown, and her and her hubby work full time. They enjoy having money to play with. They ride motorbikes on weekends, travel around Australia in their deluxe caravan and when not affected by restrictions, travel overseas at least annually. They enjoy renovating their home and love their life. My friend gently reminds us young mothers of this quote and that there will be plenty of time to ‘do it all’ later on.
In closing, I don’t think that women can do it all. We shouldn’t have to. We need encouragement to do what we can and support to do what we can’t. We can’t continue to carry the majority of the household load while raising children and remembering all the things and running ourselves ragged.
We need permission to decide what is most worthy of our time and energy, and be released to somehow let go of the rest. The harsh truth is, no matter how devoted you are to your job, if you left, they would hire someone else within a month. You are indispensable at work but no one else can be a mother to your children like you can. You are irreplaceable. Your role of wife or partner, and mother should take top priority (Erma Mayes).
Start saying no to the tasks that you cannot devote time to and shrug off the ridiculous expectations that we so often place upon ourselves. Ignore the comments and snide remarks of those who don’t understand your choices. Do what you need to do to help you and your family survive and thrive in this season.
(Special mention goes to Cathy Kelly and her book, ‘Always and Forever’ Allison Pearson and her book, ‘I don’t know how she does it’ and the wise Erma Mayes who spoke to my local MOPS group for some ideas and inspiration for this post.)
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.
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.
One minute you have your home that you share with your other half. You know the one; your stuff, their stuff, your combined stuff. It’s pretty manageable. And just how you like it.
And then you have a baby.
Suddenly your house is out of control. Formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, breast pumps, breast pads, breastfeeding pillows. Maternity clothes, feeding tops, nappies, baby wipes, bassinet, cot, linen, bouncer, rocker, mobile, board books, dummies or pacifiers. Baby clothes, pram, capsule, muslin wraps, blankets, sleeping suits, wraps and carriers. Baby toys, bath toys, teddy bears, pram toys, foot rattles. High chairs, baby spoons, bibs. Walkers, activity centres, ride on bikes.
You have a lot of stuff and then the kid gets Christmas presents or turns one. Throw in hand me downs, op shop bargains and well-meaning aunties and grandparents. More stuff. Colourful, noisy, plastic things everywhere and more clothes than days to wear them.
As they get older and more siblings come along, the clothes and gadgets and toys often get out of control. More toys than we can handle.
Don’t get me wrong. Most parents are so grateful for these things as it shows us that people care and it saves us money on buying it all ourselves.
However, this level of stuff is overwhelming. For many mothers, the clutter stresses them out and they aren’t able to manage it. We are already feeling behind with the washing piles and unwashed dishes, the what’s for dinner dilemma and what birthday cake to cook, the piles of paper on the bench, the unread emails and messages, the dirty shower we never get around to cleaning and the empty photo albums we need to one day fill.
There’s already so much going on in our brain, too many tabs open. When we see toys spread over the floor and chaos surrounding the house, it can be the tipping point.
When there is mention of clutter and children, it is often an assumption that the two go together. It’s just how it is. Children come with stuff. You just have to learn to live with it.
I disagree. While of course you will have a certain amount of stuff when you have children, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Over the last four years, I have learnt that the less toys that are in sight, the calmer I feel and the less mess that is able to be unleashed. Too many toys equal a child being overwhelmed at the choices he is presented with. His brain cannot cope and too much is vying for attention. He will pull something out, play with it briefly, and then do the same with the next one.
My top tips for reducing the toys:
Give away all noisy, battery operated toys (unless your child truly loves and plays with it). Source open ended toys that encourage imaginative play. Your child should be the boss of the toy and tell it what it is and what it can do. This makes for a quieter environment for you and your children and less cost and hassle for you to replace dead batteries.
Less dress ups. Children love to dress up as their favourite characters and heroes. They don’t need actual dress ups to do this. Fill a box with various scarves, hats, jackets and fabric. Ones with different colours, textures and sizes. Sit back and watch your child use their imagination to become whoever they want to be.
Less plastic, more wood. These are more beautiful to touch, lovingly created and much better for the environment. Where possible, opt for high quality toys with good craftsmanship. They feel nicer and often get played with more because of how they grip to each other. These will last the test of time and a better investment for your money.
Model getting rid of your excess things. Regularly go through your clothes, shoes, jewellery, books, kitchenware, nick nacks and paperwork. Talk aloud about how you don’t need this anymore, you already have two, I don’t really like this now, I prefer the pink ones, etc. Children long to imitate us, so demonstrate how you like to keep your things to a minimum.
Toy rotation. Most likely, your children will have more toys than space to store them. They also get bored with the same things. Start by selecting a few key toys to display on your cubes or shelves, and make sure you have a few different types (ie. Blocks, magnetic tiles, scarves or dress ups, animals, cars, trucks, train tracks, dolls, puzzles). Put the rest away in a different room or hidden from view in a cupboard. Some favourite might always be out and that’s ok (for us, matchbox cars are always displayed and played with). Have a regular time every week or so to switch these around. I find it best to do this once my kids are in bed.
Get kids involved. Let them choose what to donate to the op shop and which ones they would like to sell. Teach children the value of money by asking them to choose a price (within reason!), take photos to upload, collect the money from the person, under the doormat or letterbox. My three year old loves this process and happily runs to put his earnings into his jars.
Make gift giving intentional. Part of decluttering toys is making a plan to avoid more coming back in to your home. Create a list of ideas for your son or daughter’s upcoming birthday or Christmas. This could include ideas of clothing pieces and their current size, toys that you have wishlisted or seen in a store, money towards a bigger item (such as a trampoline) or an experience (to the movies, zoo, drive in, waterpark, bowling, etc). This doesn’t mean people must get something off the list and it won’t work for all families. However, if you have taken the time to put ideas together, and people insist of buying annoying plastic toys, I give you permission not to keep it. Quietly exchange it or regift to someone else. You get to choose what comes into your house.
Fiver parties. If you are hosting a party and are freaking out about the huge amount of gifts about to come in, consider writing in the invite if they could bring $5 in lieu of a present. You could mention that your child is saving up for a bike or lego set, and would love if you wanted to contribute to this. Always stress that this is optional, but many parents jump at the chance to spend less on presents and not have to go shopping for another party.
I hope these give you a few starting ideas about how to declutter your children’s toys, and more importantly, stop more from coming in. Know that you are the keeper of your home. You have to clean, organize and maintain the house so you get to decide what and how much enters in.
Start with ten minutes a day, walking around with a box or bag and grab anything that you no longer love. Make regular trips to donate them or list them to sell.