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.
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.
Many parents today are struggling to navigate this consumer-driven world we live in. We have access to too much information. We have too many options of what to stream and watch. We have endless podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. Youtube provides us with unlimited videos of everyday experts on every topic imaginable. We can be constantly entertained, educated, enlightened and engaged.
With this comes advertising in every form. While driving we see this on bus stops, billboards and signs. We hear it on the radio and streaming music (unless we pay for premium). We see it as we scroll on social media or watch free to air television. It’s hard to avoid.
Our children are feeling it too. They often have too many toys. They are invited to too many birthday parties. They have too many extracurricular activities and are overscheduled. The overwhelm is real.
Here are nine ways that we can teach our children about contentment in a consumer-driven world:
1. Avoid junk mail.
At the time of writing, households still get hounded with catalogues and flyers. (I don’t know how this is still allowed with the huge environmental impact it has but I’ll save that for another time). It’s worth putting a sign on your letterbox to prevent this from entering your home. We often don’t know we need things until we see them advertised.
If we as adults struggle to ignore the pull to buy, how much harder do our children find it? Our inboxes get spammed with emails from companies about the latest promotion and sales. Unsubscribe from these. Unfollow businesses on social media that tempt you to buy. If you have older children, show them what you are doing and explain that you don’t want to know about every sale because it makes you want to shop more.
2. Write a list.
A helpful way to reduce what we buy is to keep a list of what we need to buy. We can model this for our children. When we think of something that we need or an item that we see that we really like, we can type it into our phone. I have a general ‘buy’ list, and also categories for each person in our family. This can become part of a birthday wish list to make it easier when people ask for ideas.
When children see a toy or bike in the store that they really love, you can offer to take a photo to remember it. They can save up their pocket money for the item or ask for it for a birthday or Christmas present. Often once we have taken a photo and we leave the store, they will forget about it.
The same goes for me too. I always find random photos of items from shopping centres that I’ve taken. In the moment, I really wanted to buy it. Most of the time, I forget about it once I’m home. We can get so caught up in the moment and want things that we just don’t need.
3. Consider a streaming service.
Although streaming services do cost money, the trade-off is that you don’t have to watch advertisements. Remember watching those ads during Saturday morning cartoons about the awesome Hot Wheel car toys and how they always looked so exciting?
I still remember the disappointment of seeing them in real life. They seemed so much smaller and far less fun than they appeared on tv. The same goes for those mouth-watering burgers that seem so large and juicy. In reality, they are often Lukewarm and sweaty in the paper wrap, small and never as tasty.
When we limit the advertising that our children are exposed to, they desire less stuff. Same for us really. The $14 Netflix subscription fee might save you far more a month in buying unnecessary items, or at least reduce the tantrums when they don’t get what they want.
Try to avoid making shopping a hobby. Don’t take the family on the weekend to browse and wander the shops. Nominate one person to get in and get out. Do it after hours if you can as most department stores are open until nine pm on weekdays (where I live anyway).
Choose online if it’s less tempting or distracting for you. When we walk around Kmart, it’s easy to fill a trolley with gorgeous homewares or find all the things in the middle aisle at Aldi. Stick to your list and what you need. Paying with cash can reduce how much you spend as you are forced to buy what you intended to.
5. Buy secondhand.
Where possible, purchase secondhand from op shops (thrift stores) and garage sales. Let your children bring their pocket money. Their small change will go further with secondhand goods and they will find some different toys to the ones sold new in-store.
Children will feel like they’re getting a bargain for their money compared to a toy shop or department store. It helps to keep items out of landfills, reduces packaging and wastage and keeps items circulating around the community. Profits go towards charities that make a big difference in the lives of people doing it tough. If they want more money to spend, encourage them to go through some old toys and list them to sell on Marketplace and Gumtree.
Utilise your local toy library. These are amazing places. Children can borrow new items every week or fortnight which helps them fresh and exciting. You can test out toys before deciding if you want to buy them.
Personally, I’ve often realised how annoying something is once my kids have played with it for 30 minutes and I’m so relieved that I can return it when they’re done. Our local toy library has unlimited puzzles, baby toys, toddler walkers, bikes and scooters, board games and dress-ups.
You can even borrow large items for parties. I love that we can cycle in new toys whenever we want, and simply swap them for others whenever we want. There is no need to own lots of books and toys anymore when we have access to brilliant libraries nearby, and for this, I am so grateful.
When I was growing up, my parents sponsored a child from Ethiopia. They had money debited from their account each month which went to benefit a local community. The organisation coordinated projects like building wells for freshwater, training for employment, planting seeds for a vegetable garden, school fees, health and maternity care, and skills in personal hygiene to prevent disease.
As children, we enjoyed writing to the sponsor boy and would decorate the letter with stickers. It helped give us perspective on our lives and we liked helping to make a small difference in the lives of his family and community. I have sponsored a child since I was sixteen and had my first part-time job.
It was special being able to see her grow up and know that my hard-earned money was being utilised in such a life-changing way. It is a wonderful way to develop gratefulness in our children and model generosity. There are many wonderful organisations and charities that offer child sponsorship. Here are links to some that I use or have used before. World Vision, Compassion, Baptist World Aid, Marantha Health (not directly sponsoring a child but the money goes towards helping a health and development work in Western Uganda).
8. Model contentment.
Children watch and notice what we do. It is far more powerful than what we say. If we tell them to be content with what they have, yet spend time shopping online and regularly have packages arrive in the post, they will see that we value buying things. If we tell them to write a list but impulse shop whenever we see something we like, they will see that it’s okay to buy things when we desire them.
It is important to model contentment and self-control in our daily life and our shopping habits. We can put more emphasis on giving than receiving, and show how exciting it can be to buy a present for somebody else. We can ask for handmade gifts and cards, or second-hand jewellery and accessories from the local op shop rather than shop-bought things sometimes.
We can ask for flowers in a pot or herbs to plant that we can admire and use longer than a bouquet of flowers would last in a vase. We can make an effort to mend clothes and sew on buttons, even repurpose items if we have skills in sewing. When our children see that we value what we have and are grateful for what comes into the house, they will try to emulate this too.
When we focus on experiences instead of things, we create wonderful memories as a family. They can form part of traditions that we all look forward to and build our sense of belonging. Experiences can make fantastic gift ideas and can be a great option for people to put money towards on birthdays and Christmas.
As a starting point, grab some paper and write down things they’ve never done and places they’ve never been. For ones that cost money, think camel rides, wildlife park, zoo, bowling, ice skating, royal show, water park, movies, drive-in, circus, trampolining centre, plaster funhouse, theatre or a sporting match. Go on a boat or ferry, go caving, skiing, tobogganing or stand up paddleboarding.
For free experiences, why not fly a kite, visit the beach, river, forest, adventure playgrounds, mangroves, museums, art gallery, hiking, fishing or camping. You could do a local city break in a hotel, go on an aeroplane to your nearest capital city or take a road trip. The options are endless, and so much fun! Create a wishlist of experiences that you would like to do as a family and tick them off when you get the opportunity to do them.
Parenting has never been an easy job, though I feel that in this day and age of distraction and comparison it is only getting harder. We need to negotiate this tricky terrain with intentionality. It can be useful to reflect on what type of children you want to raise. What values are important to you? Bringing up children who are content with what they have, where they live and who they are is one that is high on my list.
When we switch the focus from wanting and owning more, to being grateful for what we already have, we create a sense of gratitude and contentment. When we change our shopping habits and declutter the excess, our homes will have fewer toys and stuff. We will have less of a focus on what we don’t have and more emphasis on the memories we have created together. It is possible to raise children to be content, amidst a society that tells us that we need more. It isn’t easy but I know it will be worth it.
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.)
Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.
I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.
I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.
I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.
However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.
It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.
For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.
But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.
We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.
We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).
We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.
My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.
We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.
We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.
It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?
If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.
Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?
If only I hadn’t signed up for those credit cards.
If only I hadn’t signed up for a car loan.
If only I had saved an emergency fund.
If only I had discussed finances before getting married.
If only I had started contributing more to retirement.
If only I had started investing earlier.
If only… if only… if only.
Life is full of moments of hindsight.
As a student, I worked hard but wasted much of my money. I liked shopping and would be tempted by sales and clearance racks. I’d regularly spend until I had nothing left in my account. My account would be overdrawn with direct debits and I would cry at the $39 fee from the bank.
While travelling and working abroad, I was paid in cash monthly. I would spend it quickly and be stressed out for the remaining weeks. I bought so much junk food, put on a huge amount of weight, and kept ripping the jeans that were now too small because I refused to believe that I had a problem. I bought airfares to Greece to explore the islands and had to cancel it weeks out when I looked at my bank account. One time I asked my employer for an advance so I could afford to go on a hens’s weekend. I was so embarrassed and ashamed.
It was a bad cycle. I wanted to get better with money but didn’t know where to start. I was on a low income but that wasn’t the only problem. I couldn’t figure out how to manage what I had well.
I look back and wish I had known then what I know now. How different my life would have looked, and how it would look now.
I want to encourage you that you are not alone. Many of us have been there, and have struggled with money. Know that things can change. You can change. There are a few steps and choices that you can make today that will positively impact your future.
Here are some starting points:
Write up a budget.
You can do this on an excel spreadsheet, on an app or simply in an exercise book. List your income, all your expenses and figure out how much is left over. From here you might have to earn more money, rein in your spending or do a bit of both.
Not everyone budgets, and that’s ok! If you feel that a budget is restrictive or puts you off sorting your finances, don’t do it. Simply spend as little as possible and save as much as you can! Make plans and goals for what you want to achieve.
Get your partner on board.
Ideally when you get married, combine finances and have a joint account. Consider having separate fun accounts that money goes into each pay, and you can choose to blow in one go or save up for something. That way you can still enjoy independence to buy what you want, but it doesn’t mess with your financial goals.
Visit a financial planner or advisor.
This doesn’t have to cost lots of money. In fact, they often offer the first visit for free. If it does cost a few hundred dollars, it might be worth it to get started on a plan. You may like to go once off, quarterly or annually – it’s up to you.
Reading finance books.
There are many amazing titles out there. I recommend starting with one of these:
If you prefer to listen to audio books, the Library app ‘Libby’ is great. It’s free to download, and you can borrow a huge range of books for free.
Listening to podcasts.
This is an easy way to learn while you are in the shower, cooking, cleaning, gardening or driving. Subscribe, download and listen! Here are some suggestions:
The Dave Ramsey Show
The Rachel Cruze Show
The Chris Hogan Show
She’s on the money
The New Money Podcast
Clever Girls Know
We talk cents
Fire the Family
Inspire to Fire
Avoid shopping for fun.
Try not to browse the shops aimlessly. Take off your bank card details from autofill to make it harder to spend money online. Find different hobbies to do instead. Gardening, sewing, photography, decluttering, running, swimming. Spend time with friends and family.
Unsubscribe and unfollow.
Unsubscribe from those pesky emails that remind you of sales. Unfollow brands or people who tempt you to spend money. Be aware of what you spend your time looking at, watching, listening to and who with. If some friends make you feel inadequate for not having the right stuff, maybe it’s wise to spend less time with them.
Begin saving hard for an emergency fund. This will take the place of credit cards and personal loans. These accounts will give you peace of mind for when things go wrong, cars break down, appliances stop working or you lose employment. Start small ($1000) and work your way up to saving 3-6 months of expenses. If you bank allows, this fund can sit against your mortgage as an offset account or redraw.
Once you have money set aside for emergencies, it is also helpful to plan for other things that crop up. Have separate accounts for things you want to prepare for such as Christmas, holidays, school supplies, car upgrade, whitegoods, furniture or renovations. Decide on what is important to you and how much you want to allocate per pay. Set up a direct debit into these separate accounts, and enjoy seeing the numbers go up.
Make plans and work hard to achieve them. Reward yourself at milestones. Journal your progress, publicly or privately. Display your progress visually, whether on a pinboard, pantry or office door, or on the fridge. Download a debt free chart or make your own. Colour in the debt you have paid off and celebrate the wins.
Acknowledge your past.
You may feel proud, or maybe disappointment, frustration or guilt. Life is messy. Sometimes it’s about day to day survival. You have been doing your best. We can’t change what has happened.
Give grace with where you are at.
Show kindness to yourself, like you would bestow onto a friend. Limit the negative self-talk. Know that you won’t always be here. Sit with the uneasy feelings and let them stimulate your future growth.
Have the drive to keep on going.
Now that you are motivated to move forward, you can approach the future with anticipation and with a plan. You can make small, daily changes that will impact on your tomorrow. Get others alongside you to cheer you along on your journey.
Wherever you are starting from, it’s not too late to make a difference to your future. Life can look better, easier and exciting! One day you will look back and know that this moment prepared you for what lay ahead.
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.