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I googled “simplify your life mom” as I was writing this, and got over a million results. So why one more post about simplifying life? Because, I read a few, and they weren’t simple! The top result had 72 tips to simplify your life… 72! 72 isn’t simple.
Here’s the hard truth. You might have too many things, activities, and people in your life. You may be running yourself so ragged, that you’re missing out on the the things you care about most.
If you are looking for 72 tips to get ALL THE THINGS DONE FASTER, this is not your post. (BTW, that used to be me…)
But, if you want more time and energy for the people you care most about, and if you want to develop long-term habits that allow you to focus intensely on whatever you’re doing, this post is for you. So, are you ready to simplify your life? Let’s go!
1. LESS IS MORE
Ever since I “Kon-maried” our life, we’ve enjoyed the less-is-more philosophy. We are not hard-core minimalists, but I did go through our house by category (not by room), and basically just got rid of stuff we didn’t use. The tedious process helped me change my mind about the kinds of things I want in our home.
With the exception of a few baby items, I didn’t save anything as a “just in case.” If you can free yourself from the “I might need it someday” idea, it will be so much easier to get rid of stuff…
I used the Konmari Method to “tidy” by category, not by room. I have tried both ways and I agree that going by category is more effective long term. Going through everything we owned one category at a time made it easier to see what we have and use, what we need, and what I never need to buy again. (No, I didn’t thank all my stuff. Sorry, Marie!)
With less junk, less storage, fewer toys, and less paper, I now spend less time cleaning, organizing, and looking for things. It’s easier to put stuff back where it belongs, and it’s easier for my kids to clean up after themselves.
2. Get rid of most of your toys!
At the beginning of 2019, we got rid of ALL EXCESS TOYS. Anything that wasn’t played with frequently got donated or thrown away. (With the exception of wooden toddler puzzles, which my 2 1/2 year old is bored with and my 1 year old isn’t quite ready for.)
I kid you not – getting rid of toys was life changing. Even if there’s a huge playdate and everything gets trashed, we never spend more than 15 minutes picking up toys.
We tidy up once a day (twice at the most) and it usually takes 5-10 minutes to get our entire main floor back in shape after a whole morning of homeschooling with toddlers underfoot. The best part is – there is so much less complaining. I think because the kids have learned (through modeling and conversation):
- We only keep what we use and enjoy, and we take care of it so it doesn’t get ruined.
- It won’t take that long to tidy up, so it’s worth complaining about!
3. Embrace usefulness! 1 useful item is better than 10 useless items
Through the Konmari method, I also realized that 1 thing I really like and use all the time is better than 10 of that item that I don’t use. #merica
For example, I had a bunch of purses laying around, but I really only used 3 bags: a tote bag, a medium-large faux- leather purse, and this amazing leather crossbody wallet clutch thing.
I throw it whatever bag I’m using, or wear it solo if I’m running to the store alone or out with friends. Seriously, I’m borderline obsessed with this and want all my mom friends to have it! It’s only $17-20 on Amazon, and they make a bunch of different styles and colors. Treat yo self. (But then, get rid of 5 bags you don’t use… you know, in the spirit of minimalism.)
Update 3 years later: The blue clutch and cognac colored purse finally kicked the bucket. I’m going to reorder it in black. My current go-to bags are in the same categories though:
1. Clutch/ wallet that can double as a crossbody.
2. Small – to medium size versatile purse (big enough to hold the clutch but not big enough to become a black hole).
3. Tote bag – I got one from Marshalls that looks like this.
Anyway, I got rid of the rest of the purses I never used! Now, I never have to decide what purse to use. I never have to go searching for chapstick or debit cards in other bags.
If you love purses, and you love changing them with every outfit, great! Keep them! The thing about the Marie Kondo method that I really like is you can keep whatever you love. But if you don’t love it or use it regularly, then out it goes.
You don’t have to go crazy to use her method. And you don’t have to use every single part of it (some of it is honestly a little kooky). BUT – if you want to feel less overwhelmed, a surefire way to jump start that is to get rid of a bunch of the excess stuff around your house.
This post will walk you through the whole process of using the Konmari method in your house if you don’t want to read the book or watch her show. (Reading her first book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up will give you the best overall view of the process though.)
4. Eliminate All Your Errands
If you’re going to get rid of a bunch of stuff, you can’t keep buying the same amount of stuff you were previously. (Except the awesome aforementioned crossbody wallet. You’re allowed to buy that.)
Here are some tips to minimize buying:
- Go to the store less often.
- Stay out of Target. That store is BRILLIANTLY set up to get you to buy more. (Ahem: “dollar” section + amazingly styled end caps everywhere.)
- Stop impulsive spending.
- Never buy on the first spy... think about it for a week or 2. If you still really want it, then go back or order online. If you didn’t know it existed yesterday, you do not desperately need it right now.
- Have a spending-money budget category. My husband and I each have a certain amount of money we’re allowed to spend on whatever we want, no questions asked. Everything else we spend money on is agreed upon in our budget. This eliminates the “why did you buy that argument!” Seriously, this is one of the biggest secrets to marital budgeting success.
I also shop online as much as possible. Amazon’s reviews are a gold mine of information. I use wikibuy on my Chrome browser, so if the product I’m looking at on Amazon is cheaper somewhere else, it’ll let me know.
Buy Household Products online
I’ve been slowly switching over to buying household products online. I am working on a post entirely devoted to helping people get figure out how to get all their household products online – at the cheapest prices, shipped to your door.
But until that post is available, here are some tips for getting household products online.
Target’s store brand price is always the same as or very close to Walmart’s generic brand item price. If you have a Target Redcard, you get free shipping & 5% off. Plus they run deals, like “spend $50 in household products, get $10 giftcard.”
Target is also VERY good with returns – especially for Redcard users. So if something in your order ends up not working out, you just take it back to the nearest store.I have, love, and use my Target Redcard Debit Card.
- Aldi diapers are dirt cheap per diaper. We used them for a while, but they weren’t my favorite.
- With Amazon subscribe and save, Diapers are 20% off and sometimes there are additional coupons. I’ve found Amazon to be the cheapest option for name-brand diapers.
- Huggies Snug & Dry work well and are the cheapest name brand that I can find.
- I’ve also done bulk diaper shopping at Costco with Kirkland brand diapers. They are almost identical to Huggies little movers – slightly higher price than Huggies Snug & Dry off Amazon, but a little higher quality too.
- We thought Luvs didn’t absorb as well as any of these other options.
- Also, Pampers diapers are ALWAYS MORE EXPENSIVE. If those diapers are a priority to you, great! But if you’re looking to cut costs and you have 2 or 3 kids in diapers (like we did in 2016 – sheesh!), then switch to one of the other options mentioned above.
I get all other household products with my weekly Walmart Grocery Pickup order. Walmart grocery pickup is FREE AND LIFE-CHANGING.
I can not understand why anyone goes into a grocery store anymore – LOL. (Unless you love grocery shopping, which I used to. So I get that.)
Or unless you’re a die-hard Aldi. I get that too! Because Aldi is awesome!
For anything I can’t do Target restock or Walmart pickup on, I use Amazon…
Target Restock is cheaper for most household items and toiletries, and Walmart Grocery is cheaper for grocery products.
For everything else, there’s Amazon. You don’t need Amazon prime to get free shipping either. Just wait until your Amazon cart is over $25 and it’ll ship for free.
6. ONLY GET GROCERIES ONCE PER WEEK!
The 3 things I do to minimize extra trips to the grocery store are:
- Make a monthly meal plan.
- Make a weekly grocery list.
- Keep a list on the fridge.
SYSTEM FOR MONTHLY MEAL PLAN + WEEKLY GROCERY LIST
I’ve done different things for meal planning over the years, but currently I meal plan monthly. Here’s my step by step blog post, or you can sign up for my meal planning challenge to learn the ropes and ask me questions!
I plan monthly, but make calendar adjustments and grocery shop weekly, primarily with Walmart Grocery Pickup. (That link gets both of us $10 off! Woot woot!)
Here’s my process:
- End of January: check our February calendar and plan a month’s worth of dinners in pencil (because it always gets shifted around at some point). Sometimes I go crazy and use my new favorite erasable pens. LOL – gotta keep mom life exciting, y’all.
- We mostly keep dinners simple and healthy. Grilled meat + veggies or some version of tacos or burgers are staples around here!
- Sometimes I use Supercook (to help me use ingredients I already have), my recipe binder, or my pinterest board to add in some fun recipes.
- Jot down what’s for breakfast + lunch for the first couple weeks.
- Use repeat a lot of meals during the month! If possible, I double it the first time I’m cooking and freeze the second half for the next time it’s on the meal planning calendar. I note DF on the day if I need to double and freeze it. (The double & freeze hack is also useful if you’re pregnant and looking to start adding some freezer meals to your stash for when baby arrives. Here are 23 other pregnancy survival tips!)
- Once per week, I look at the meal plan I already maade, adjust anything as necessary, and make a grocery list.
- I put my whole grocery list in my Walmart Pickup cart, and add anything from my magnetic fridge pad. (More on that below.)
Some schedule things to note when monthly meal planning:
- Hosting or bringing something to a friend’s house for dinner
- Watching friends’ kids during lunch/ snacks
- Nights away from home
- Nights we need to eat quickly
It just takes practice to learn to monthly meal plan! Use pencil, and give it a few months to see if it’ll work for you. Of course you can print a monthly calendar and just plan one week at a time!
Whenever I notice we’re low or out of something, I write it on a magnetic list pad on the fridge. When I’m making a grocery list, I look at at every recipe on my meal plan + the list on the fridge.
TIP: you can get a magnetic note pad in your next Walmart Pickup order!!
Of course, sometimes you still need an emergency gallon of milk or bottle of wine mid-week 😉
But overall, if we’re out of something we use or like, we just try to do without until the next grocery store trip.
7. No More Notifications
Aside from texts and phone calls, my phone never beeps or buzzes. And usually it’s on silent. So, my phone doesn’t interrupt me very often. I dictate when I go to my phone and check it.
I’ve had it like this for several years now, and I would never go back. I used to get messages like this all the time in Instagram and Facebook, and I just kept hitting the X. LEAVE ME ALONEEEEE!!!!! I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS RIGHT AWAY.
Eventually I stopped getting those pop-ups.
Update 2019: I’m often off social media altogether, and it’s awesome. No instagram or facebook on my phone! I do use facebook for a couple blogger’s facebook groups, but I have the “kill facebook news feed” extension installed on Chrome so I don’t get sucked into the feed anymore.
I also occasionally re-install instagram for a couple days to browse or check in with people or share something. But in general, I prefer to be off of it.
I love love love not being on social media and highly recommend it!
Listen – if you want to find more time in your day and be able to focus on something for more than 10 minutes, turn off all notifications. You will be SHOCKED at how much magical time appears in your day if you leave your phone away from you and off of buzzing.
I convinced my husband to try it too. So he turned off twitter, email, and work messages. He said he felt weird at first, and was a little nervous something was gonna happen and he would be behind. But now, he likes it!
Just try it for a month! What’s the worst that can happen?
Tell your phone, “You are not the boss of me.”
8. MAKE A WEEKLY TO DO LIST
Every Sunday, I take a few minutes to look at my google calendar, and use it make a rough to-do list in my paper weekly planner. It looks like this. I prefer to write in pencil or erasable pen, and erase things that get done. That way, if there’s still something left on the page by Saturday, I know it needs to get moved to the following week.
This page in my calendar for the week includes everything: appointments, playdates, preschool, and phone calls or emails.
I also add which daily household task I’ll do each day. For a long time my cleaning/ household rotation was:
- food prep for the week (1-2 hours, including kid interruptions)
- laundry (4-6 loads back to back to back to back one day per week!)
- clean the bathroom (15 minutes max)
- dust (10 minutes)
- vacuum & mop floors (20-30 minutes, including helping my kids pick up their floors and letting them do some vacuuming)
That’s my whole weekly cleaning routine, by the way. #smallhouseforthewin
UPDATE 2019: We moved into a bigger house, started homeschooling, have 4 kids 6 and under, and I work on my blog 10-15 hours per week. My cleaning schedule is different to accommodate all those things – I’ll link to my new cleaning routine post as soon as it’s up! 😉
I also take a look at my monthly blogging planner and jot down what I need to get done that week, and what I want to get done that week.
During the week, if anything else comes up, I add it to the weekly page in my planner.
9. TIME BLOCK DAILY SCHEDULE
Right before I go to bed, I jot down the next day’s schedule in time blocks on one of these giant post-it notes and stick it in my planner. At the end of the day, I throw it out!
To create time blocks, just think about when things usually happen at your house. Before school, after school, after lunch, during the nap, after the kids go to bed, whatever!
With 3 kids under 5 at home, our approximate time blocks were:
- 5-7 am
- 7 am – 12 pm
- 12 – 3 pm
- 3 – 5 pm
- 5 – 7 pm
- 7 – 9 pm
Since I’ve started writing down these daily schedules, I feel less scatterbrained about all the extra stuff that has to get done.
If it’s not on the list for today, I don’t worry about tackling it. And if I have 15 spare minutes, I just check the time block and see what needs to get done.
When I first heard about this idea from another blogger, I thought it sounded super over-the-top OCD. But as she described it, I realized that might work for me! I was worried that I’d be stressed trying to fill every hour of the day, or what if something didn’t get done.
But actually, writing down our schedule allows me to be realistic about time and create more margin.
When I saw that we only had 1.5 hours from the time the kids wake up till we leave for preschool, I realized that chunk of time would feel a lot less frantic if I was ready before them. So now I wake up and get ready before them!
What are ways you simplify your own life!?
So, what do you think? Are you going try any of these? Or do you have some other amazing life-simplifying ideas to share!? Comment below – I’d love to hear from you
p.s. if this helped you will you share it on facebook or pinterest!? Thanks for spreading the love!