Drastically Simple

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Drastically Simple

Last year we welcomed our forth child and my lifestyle took a drastic shift.   No, not the “life-is-crazy-I-can’t-keep-up” shift. My life became more peaceful, more purposeful, more full and more focused. So what happened?   Having four children in four years forced me to take inventory of my commitments and look at how my days need to run in order for my priorities to be driving my daily activities. I needed to get organized, become more efficient and stop being surprised when meal time rolls around and people inevitably want to eat.   As Tim Kimmel says in his book Little House on the Freeway, “We need to align our actions with our beliefs.” And that’s just what adding another child helped me to do – make my day-to-day LOOK like what is important to me and what I believe.   I now realize more deeply what “I can’t do it all” means. I have to say “no” to good things a lot, but I don’t feel guilty because I rest in knowing that I am doing what the Lord has called me to do and I’m able to stand firm that I am doing it to the best of my ability. (Though sometimes I have to say no to things I really want to do.) I don’t need to add things that cause additional stress or rob our family of time together. I will give you a peek into what I did to simplify my life, organize my days and help me have enough margin to enjoy my family. This will look different for each family, but this could be a starting point for you if you struggle with feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the ordinary tasks of laundry, dishes, meals and bedtimes!   First, I figured out what must get done each day in order for our home to function. Some tasks happen at specific times and some happen at random depending on the flow of the day. Also, I had to take into account the priorities of my husband – i.e. what are the important areas of the home help him feel relaxed when clean, and what areas can be overlooked. These are my three focus areas:   1. Meals 2. Laundry 3. Dishes   I work best doing things in batches. For meals, I spend an hour a day on food prep. This usually happens in the early afternoon. Some days I will grill a bunch of chicken, then freeze part of the cooked and diced chicken in freezer bags for easy access. In the Spring/Summer we like eating a lot of salad and in the Winter/Fall soup is the staple. I have a main menu each week that repeats and then swap out a meal or two each week to get variety. I don’t meal plan by the day because that method is stressful to me. This works for me and the key to to know what works FOR YOU and what you can ACTUALLY implement! There’s no point in making a system for yourself that makes you feel like you are in prison. It must work for your personality and lifestyle.   For laundry, I try to just grab whatever is around in all the laundry baskets and do a load each day. Some families use a one-basket method and I might switch to this, but for now I just grab the clothes do a load in the morning and switch it over when I come home or on my way out later in the day. I barely think about it and the clothes magically get cleaned. When I sort, I mostly just lay kids clothes flat and don’t get crazy about folding. Adult clothes are sorted and put away – and not usually in the same day, unless my energy level is in over-drive. Another helpful tactic is to have less clothes. My kids have enough clothes for four to five days of play and the boys have one-two dressy clothes (my daughter has several dresses, but they also work as play clothes.)   Lastly dishes. Here is where it gets fun because my kids are now apart of making this part of our home economics run smoothly. At night I run the dishwasher. In the morning, they are clean! My five year old (daughter) empties everything on the racks and my four year old (son) sorts the silverware! And they must do this BEFORE they get breakfast. “If you want to eat, you must do your morning chore.” Not much different than mommy needing to feed the baby before she eats her own breakfast! They do a great job, especially if we keep the routine up daily!   Once I got all the basics of our home in a regular flow, I had more freedom to look at the other parts of my day and figure out how much time we had for everything else. We have built in anchors to our day to help us reset and come together, but we can have variability in between.   For instance, I have a mandatory rest time for the whole house – whether you nap or not – for an hour in the afternoon. Some days it’s 12:30-1:30pm some days it’s 2-3pm. It depends on how the morning went and what commitments we have, but this forced time alone allows us to think our own thoughts, get a break from each other and indulge in a hobby or play independently. We also work in a read aloud time at some point during the day – but this can happen at any point in the day – though often happens right before bed. (This goes for mom too. In fact, I have to force myself to sit down some days as the temptation for getting “things done” is great. The reward of rest is greater than the productivity of completing a task.)   This brings me to another area that I’ve had to make a priority with my time and lifestyle and that’s taking care of my body – mentally and physically. Having babies so close together means that I have to treat my body as any other athlete who needs their body to perform well. To be emotionally healthy and physically capable and able to keep up with these little ones I have to exercise. I have found that strength training and metabolic conditioning are essential to helping me feel and look my best.   The other anchor in my day is family devotions. Our schedule changes during the day as babies drop naps and transition to not napping at all, but the evening routine remains the same and that is where we place our family devotions. We spend time in God’s word each night and commit to teaching our kids scripture to memorize. At first, I thought it was overwhelming to think of our kids (and us parents) memorizing scripture, but now that it’s part of our daily rhythm – we don’t even think about it. And the amount of scripture they’ve memorized is remarkable!   All of these little shifts have allowed us to live more purposeful days. I get to the end of the day and can rest knowing that I’ve taken on all I can for the day and enjoyed the process. Some days are more harried than others. Some days leave me craving more community. It is this ebb and flow of life that keeps me tapped into the Lord and seeking His guidance for my life.   Please keep in mind, this is what works for our family and my work-style. Busyness can creep in on so many levels and our time with the Lord and time with one another can be pushed away. But life IS about relationships! We were made to love God and love people. As we learn to order our days it allows us to create habits that are life-giving. If this is an area you struggle with or if you just want to learn more about finding priorities in your daily life, check out Tim’s book Little House on the Freeway.   “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NASB    

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