As another school year comes to a close, I find myself feeling both excited that our very scheduled part of the calendar is about to end, and yet a bit anxious that we now have about 10 weeks of summer vacation timeahead of us and the kids are home with a wide, open agenda. As any parent knows—this can be a dangerous combination! Simplify Your Summer!
One of my favorite parts of summer is that feeling of freedom that comes with not being on the rigid schedule we maintain during the school year. However, even with less commitments, it seems many families still struggle with trying to balance work and play as well as enjoying a less complicated lifestyle.
A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person, but for me it means pairing down my usual “to do” list, finding more quiet time on a daily basis to convene with my private thoughts and basically searching out as much peace as I can find. If you’d like have a less harried lifestyle, Mighty Mommy shares 6 great ways to simplify your summer.
Prioritize What Means the Most
The best place to begin streamlining your life for a simpler one is to prioritize the few things that really matter, and put aside everything else.
Make a list of your top three important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What three things do you most want your family to enjoy most this summer? In our family, the top three things were eating more meals together, decluttering the “stuff” we accumulate throughout the school year, and finding more time to connect outdoors or doing things that don’t require being plugged in. Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
Develop a Wellness Attitude
Summer is a time to get your wellness act together. It starts with you, the parent. If you prioritize exercising on a regular basis, enjoying spending time outdoors, preparing and eating nutritious and vitamin-rich foods, you’re not only filling up your own tank with precious fuel, you’re setting a positive example for your kids and family members. Now that school’s not in session, it affords my family a little more time working on our physical and mental good health. Instead of rushing out the door to work and school, we take the dogs on longer walks first thing in the morning and enjoy lingering around the breakfast table rather than hurrying out the door with a bagel in one hand and our backpacks and briefcase in the other. The simplicity of slowing down, even if it’s just for a part of the day, is tremendously freeing and uplifting.
Spend Time, Not Money
One way to simplify your life this summer, and beyond, is to make more of a conscious effort to spend time with your family, and not just spend money buying them more things. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy treating my kids to a great pair of headphones or the latest music they’ve been wanting to download from iTunes, but the older they get and more of them leave for college or express interest in wanting to hang out with friends rather than do things at home, the more I realize how quickly they’re growing and how much I want to spend as much time as I can (or they’ll allow!) with them while I do have them at home. Not only that, if given the chance, kids really are happy to play with what’s around them. Kids need lots more time outside, as well as unstructured play time to help them make discoveries on their own. This summer we’ve agreed to make the conscious effort to enjoy the things we already have access to in our home, bedrooms, and yard and take advantage of events going on in the community rather than spend money just because we might be bored. As a family, we sat down and pre-calculated that we easily waste over $1000 on silly or meaningless purchases during the summer months, so we’re going to use that money on a weekend getaway at the end-of-summer in the White Mountains for all of us to enjoy before the new school year begins instead. See Also: QDT Block Party. 10 Tips for Your Best Summer Ever
Slow Down and Savor Your Food
This suggestion may sound silly, but please hear me out. As I mentioned earlier, one of our most important goals as a family was to eat more meals together this summer. During the school year we’re lucky if we can all be together for a couple of meals a week due to everyone’s hectic sports, school and work commitments and schedules. Even then, most nights it feels like we rush, rush, rush to gobble down an entire meal in less than 10 minutes so we can get started on homework or get a kid to band or soccer practice on time.
The summer months, however, are less scheduled so that frees us up tremendously to gather around the dinner table at least 4 or 5 times each week. I enjoy cooking meals for my gang much more when I know they are going to be able to sit and actually taste the food instead of inhaling it so they won’t be late for their next commitment. If you eat slowly and savor the food you’ve just prepared, you’ll gain a better appreciation for how “simply” delicious meals can actually taste as well as enjoy the company of your loved ones.
There’s an expression, “purging is good for the soul” that really hits home with me when we talk about leading a more back-to-basics, simpler life. To me, simplifying means eliminating anything that is a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace. Whether your single living in a one-bedroom apartment or have a houseful of kids in a 4-bedroom home, over time, you’re going to accumulate “stuff”. For some its closets chock-full of clothing and shoes, maybe its craft and hobby supplies, with babies and kids the paraphernalia and toys multiply almost overnight—it’s just part of the territory.
My QDT colleague, Get-It-Done Guy, Stever Robbins, recently shared a 2-part podcast on how the popular Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has changed his life. As a mother of 8 kids, I’ve been purging and decluttering our home for over 25 years, but Kondo’s book, I believe, is spot-on and the most easy-to-follow when it comes to giving your home and your lifestyle the purge it deserves.
Most of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is spent walking you through all the excuses you’ll find to keep things that don’t bring you joy, and showing you why you should get rid of them anyway. She starts with the easy stuff, like getting rid of old clothes, and works her way up to how to get rid of mementos and nostalgic possessions. We learned from Marie that we shouldn’t clean by room. Rather, we should clean by category, and we start by discarding everything that doesn’t bring us joy. How do you decide what to discard? I’ll bet you think it’s some rule you’ve heard before, like “if you haven’t touched it in the last year, toss it.” Nope. Marie’s criteria, like everything else about her, is unusual. Touch every object. Pick it up. Thank it for being in your life. Be grateful! Then ask, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, let it go.
Use this idea as your guide when deciding what things (if any) should be purged. It helps to remember that simplification, like frugality, is a tool as well as a goal. The ultimate aim is not to just make your life simple, the goal is to make your life balanced, happy and fulfilled.
As much as I love having our family all together in one place, I also like to encourage alone time for them and myself. Alone time doesn’t have to be intimidating if you practice getting used to the quiet and either relaxing with your own thoughts, reading a good book or simply listening to your inner voice and reflecting on the blessings in your life. It’s so rare for people to have quiet time these days because of the harried pace most of us keep day in and day out. If you want to interject an easy twist on adding a good dose of simple to your life, get your family into the habit of taking 10 – 15 minutes a day to be by themselves in solitude.
Young kids can sit and hug their favorite stuffed animal on the couch beside you as you close your eyes and visualize your perfect summer afternoon. Sit in your backyard with a glass of iced tea and listen to the birds. Use these short snippets of time to let your mind unwind and disengage from the craziness of life. You can instantly re-charge your batteries and the more you and your family practice having quiet time, you might start to crave it and find ways to sneak more of it into your busy days, no matter what time of year it is.