Below are my 7 takeaways from “Minimalist Parenting,” a book that encourages us to make choices that allow us to spend more time doing the things we love with the people we love.
This book also includes tips on shopping for and researching purchases, selecting schools, organizing play dates, getting your family out the door each morning, planning special events, vacations and how taking care of yourself sets the stage for happy healthy family.
1. It’s OK to Say No – If you don’t love it and it’s not mandatory, don’t do it. We often hear complaints from parents who are exhausted, overbooked and over-scheduled. While some of that speaks to the complexities of modern life, much of that is the direct consequence of choices we make. If you get an invite to something that you’d rather not do, politely decline. You are not obligated to attend every event you are invited to, nor do you need to have a conflict to politely say, “thank you, but I cannot attend.”
This principle extends to all your obligations … even cooking, cleaning and buying gifts. I used to wash my sheets every Saturday. In my mind this was mandatory. Several years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to let go of that requirement, and I haven’t looked back. Have you made up obligations for yourself that could be relinquished?
2. Discover Your Busy Sweet Spot – Find your family’s optimal level of busy and don’t schedule yourself beyond that. The authors suggest logging your activities on a calendar each day for a few weeks. Pay attention to days and weeks where you felt you were too busy, had just the right amount of activity, or wished for more things to do. Count up the number of commitments in weeks where you felt you had just the right amount of activity and work with your family to ensure that you are not scheduling more than that number of commitments each week.
3. Multi-task or Bust – Don’t multi-task unless it is absolutely necessary. Multi-tasking interrupts your thought process causing chores to take longer. Doing one item at a time allows you to focus.
Set aside time to do those tasks that you dislike but need to get done. It frees up brain space and quiets that nagging voice in your head. Outsource when you can. Having friends over for dinner after a hectic week? Stop by the grocery store or deli and buy pre-made food or order out. The sanity might be worth the extra few dollars.
Take advantage of in-between moments. If your kids are playing outside and dinner needs 5 more minutes in the oven, take those 5 minutes to schedule a doctor’s appointment or put in a load of laundry.
4. Less is More – Take inventory of how you relate to things that you buy. Do you need to own every cool gadget you see? If so, does it really make your life better or are you doing it for the momentary satisfaction of the purchase, to keep up with the Jones or because it was on sale? Stop and evaluate before each purchase.
If you find yourself stuck trying to keep up with your clutter, find a way to get rid of it. If you have issues with getting rid of things that are perfectly good, but you don’t use, try to find someone to donate it to. If you have more intense issues with scaling down your goodies, enlist the support of friends.
5. Money for Nothing – Purchase things that will positively impact your life in a meaningful way. Pass on things that will not.
6. Playtime Has Its Limits – You are not obligated to play with your kids all the time. In fact, if you do, you may be hampering their creativity. Have your kids help you make dinner, rake the yard, bake cookies and sort socks. What is a chore for you may seem like play to them if you can approach it in a positive way and break it up into kid size tasks.
7. Meal Time Is a Family Affair – Look at your schedule for the week before your grocery shop and go to the store with a meal plan. Keep meals simple. I frequently feed my children dinner consisting of a Chobani greek yogurt tube, squeezable apple sauce and a piece of turkey or ham rolled up or with crackers. It takes 2 minutes to prepare and 1 minute to clean up. Your family can enjoy salad and spaghetti just as much (or more) than lamb kabobs with roasted vegetables and a demi glace. Involve your kids in the planning, shopping, and cooking (when it is age appropriate).