If you're feeling like you have too many tasks and not enough time, you're not alone. Life can get hectic, but there are some easy strategies that can help make it a bit easier.
Use these tips to help downsize your workload, prioritize your family time and mental health, and prepare for the busy moments. They'll go a long way to simplify parenting and give you more time and energy.
1. Declutter Your Home and Reduce Toys
Most of us have heard the phrase "less is more." This statement couldn't be more true in terms of your child's toys. In fact, research shows that the fewer options a child has, the more focused their play will be and the more creative the play will become.
Don't forget about your stuff as well! If you want to reduce the time required to clean up each day, think about getting rid of the knickknacks that have no meaning. Maybe you can open up your space by removing furniture that you don't use, or donate "hand wash only" items (unless they have sentimental value). You can prioritize what you need and pack up or get rid of the rest to reduce clutter.
2. Try Family Meal Planning
Whether you do it once a week or once a month, consider planning specific days to prepare food for the week. Casseroles, soups, and quiches are fantastic options to make and then freeze for later. By making this regular commitment, you can simply pop these meals in the oven or microwave and have dinner with no prep and limited clean up on the day you serve them.
To make the most out of your meal planning, portion out both individual and group quantities so that you only cook what you need and limit waste.
Prepping your meat right after you buy it can also be helpful. For example - make the hamburger patties ahead of time, trim the fat off your chicken before you freeze it, and divvy out your portions to limit defrost times. These small steps can save a lot of time for busy families.
Think about investing in a vacuum sealer. These machines elongate the life of your food and can help prevent freezer burn.
3. Buy Family Essentials in Bulk
If you're tired of running to the store multiple times a week, think about signing up for a membership at wholesale stores like Costco or Sam's Club. This allows you to buy bigger portions, stock up, and save on the items that you use regularly.
4. Consider Auto Ship & Grocery Delivery
Think about all the items you buy on a regular basis. Do you have pets? Do you drink bottled water every day? Is coffee your kryptonite? Now ask yourself - which items are available in monthly subscriptions?
Companies like Chewy, Sierra Springs, and Trade deliver these goods directly to your door every month. Once you set up your order, you never have to think about buying these items again!
You can also get family members involved - just put a pad and a pen on your fridge. Have family members add to the list throughout the week and set a designated shopping day. If you have a deadline for when items have to be added by, then you can set up your order at that designated time each week.
Research shows that the average American spends $314 every month on impulse purchases. Even with delivery fees and tips, you're still likely still save money with grocery delivery by reducing impulse buys.
5. Do Tasks Today That Will Help Tomorrow
As you begin to wind down for the night, think about the following day. What has to get done? The baby has to be fed, so bottles need to get washed. The kids have to go to school, so check the forecast, pick out their clothes, and prepare their lunches the night before.
You can put off cleaning and ironing, but there are certain tasks that are harder when you are in a hurry. Put those items at the top of your to-do list before bed.
6. Give Your Kids Some Responsibility
If your child or children are old enough to understand and follow basic directions, they are probably old enough to take some responsibility within the household. Even a two-year-old can throw trash away, take laundry to the hamper, and pick up their toys. Divvy up your daily tasks, take some of the pressure off of yourself, and give your kids some responsibility!
7. Enjoy Time Outside Everyday
Enjoying some fresh air is not only good for the mind and soul, it's also a great way to stay healthy and wear your kids out at the same time! This can make nap and bedtimes easier. Not only that, but it gives you a mini break from your many responsibilities.
One way to do this is to designate a time every day to spend outside - 30 minutes or more can be a good amount of time. Go on a family walk, play soccer in the backyard, go to your local pool for a quick dip, or even run over to the strip mall for some speedy shopping.
8. Clean Throughout Your Day
It's amazing how quickly things pile up when there are multiple people living in your home. Instead of waiting for a huge mess to accumulate, clean as you go. For example, we love these easy ways to simplify the messes of everyday family life:
- Start each day by making your bed. This small task can trigger a snowball effect of productivity.
- Have everyone pick up dirty clothes before school and deposit them directly in the wash. Then, turn it on before you leave for drop off.
- Make a rule that dishes are to be rinsed and placed in the dishwasher as soon as the meal or snack is done.
- Wipe up messes as they occur.
- Last, if you can afford it, invest in a Roomba and have it run daily. (If you can't get a Roomba, consider doing a quick sweep or vacuum on the main areas each night).
9. Set a Cutoff Time for Everyone
If you never stop moving, you'll go crazy. Everyone - both parents and kids - need time to recharge after a long day. You can easily accomplish this by setting a family relaxation window every night before bed. Choose a cutoff time for work and school projects and set a daily alarm to ensure that you honor this period of rest.
When this alert sounds off, spend thirty minutes reading a book to your child, playing a board game, or catching up on everyone's day. Then transition into your regular bedtime routine. Once your kids are asleep, make time to focus on yourself as well.
Take an extra thirty minutes to take a long bath, stretch, meditate, spend an hour of alone time with your spouse, read a good book, or simply watch an episode of your favorite show. This addition to your daily routine can help you and your children have a good mindset for the following day.
10. Learn to Say No
Caring for multiple humans, a home, and pets while working and juggling everyone's schedule is a LOT. Don't get to a place where parental burnout sets in. Think about what really matters and what can be cut. The best way to simplify parenting is to remove the activities and tasks that are unnecessary.
If you don't have time to make costumes for the school play, don't volunteer. If having the whole family over at the holidays is too overwhelming, let your family know that someone else needs to take a turn hosting this year. Advocate for your needs and don't be afraid to say no to certain tasks.
11. Have an Emergency Bag on Hand
Every parent knows accidents happen, appointments run long, and the best laid plans rarely seem to pan out. Handle these unfortunate moments with ease by making sure that you are prepared for anything. This can be accomplished by prepping an emergency bag.
- Have a change of clothes for each kid and keep extra diapers and wipes on hand.
- Stock up on protein packed snacks, water, and formula.
- Have one or two special busy bags to keep your kids entertained in these unexpected moments.
- Don't forget about actual emergency supplies - these include bandaids, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, and Tylenol or Motrin.
Then, store these supplies in the trunk of your car. This can simplify parenting moments that normally turn into quite the headache.
12. Have a Monthly Family Meeting
Another fantastic way to simplify family life is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. What is coming up on everyone's school calendar? What extracurriculars are the kids enjoying, what are they not, and what do they hope to try in the future? Is your son or daughter struggling in a certain subject? Maybe a tutor is in order. Do you or your spouse have big work projects coming up? Let them know so they can help to pick up some of the slack.
Knowing what is going on with everyone can help to prevent double booking activities, make sure that you have help when life will be extra busy, and ensure that everyone is happy with their current situation.
Simplify Parenting by Strategizing Your Time
Simplifying parenting starts with a list. Ask yourself - what are the daily tasks that absolutely have to get done? Next, what could wait for just a day? How about two days? Can you put anything off for a week? Once you've detailed this information, make a family calendar. This can help you see the big picture and stay on track with what needs to get done. Remember, while some tasks are necessary, others can be saved for another time so that you can have a better have work-life balance.