Monday, June 11

whip-it {simplify}

It seems to be the most frequently used word in parenting at the moment, at least in the circles I move in.


It's no coincidence that it's spelled with four letters.

Thankfully, I seem to be bucking the trend.  In the last couple of years our family schedule has become more simple and less busy.  It's not that we spend less time on the go, it's just that we seem to have found a comfortable stride.  More action, less angst.

Occasionally, people ask me how I've done it and I mentally rummage around for the best tips about how to organise this or de-clutter that.  It's taken me a while to realise, though, that slowing down is an attitude of the heart.  As much as it pains me to say it, serenity does not come in an Ikea flat pack.  {Thankfully, Expedit bookshelves DO, however it's baby steps for now!}

But let's run with that decorating theme for a minute.  A few months ago I found these 5 Decorating Mantras to Live By {they're over there to the left}.  I was excited!  They made so much sense!  They're all about how to make wise choices with your cash in order to make your living environment more comfortable and beautiful.

And then it occurred to me: why not apply those principles to our time?

So {with apologies to Marni Jameson} let me introduce you to

5 Mantras for Living Simply

1. The closer someone is to your heart, the better quality your interactions should be.

This one is obvious, but it's often the hardest one to follow.  I don't think twice about snapping at the kids or nagging my husband.  There are so many reasons for it, but I find tiredness is the quickest way to kill a kind word before it's uttered.

What's worked for me is to tweak my daily routine by moving niggly events into better timeslots.  For example, I've moved homework to breakfast time so the kids aren't as weary {and by weary I mean sullen and surly}.  I've also killed off playdates after school in favour of pint-size dinner parties on Friday nights.  Moving those activities away from the after-school witching hour has been fantastic for our family.

And I know this isn't practical for parents who work and who can't cram another second into the before-and-after school routines.  As a stay-at-home-mum I'm well aware of the luxuries afforded to me!

So if you're a working parent, how would you feel about collecting your child from school at lunchtime once every few weeks?  Spending 20 'stolen' minutes together in the middle of the day could be just the thing to reconnect.  As for the evenings, that first 15 minutes when you all get home can be disastrous. What about if you took a comfy change of clothes to work and pulled them on before you left the office?  Or invested in a travel mug so you can make a coffee to enjoy on the drive home?  You could even create a homecoming playlist to lift your mood and prepare you for what lies ahead.

This mantra of 'quality time' isn't about exhausting yourself in pursuit of glorious moments.  It's about preparing yourself mentally so that ordinary moments become glorious.

2. Fill your day with quality, not clutter. Decide once, decide right.

What are you cooking for dinner tonight?

Did your heart just sink? Mine too!

Decisions are exhausting.  Some researchers recently showed that decision-making is mentally fatiguing and leads to poorer choices as the day goes on, particularly with respect to our food intake.  Is it any wonder we cave into the 3pm munchies?!

So what does this have to do with quality and clutter?  I find that putting the house on 'automatic' requires me to make fewer decisions each day and leaves me mentally fresher.  It's about having a routine and sticking to it.  Humans are creatures of habit, so create a flow and go with it!

3. Inject life into every moment.

For this part, you really can't go past an episode of Glee.  Coast on over to the ten website and prepare to be inspired.  When you're done, make like the Von Trapps and get your family singalong on!


For me, injecting life into every moment means doing the things that increase your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.  It's about being mindful about the choices you make and really thinking through the consequences of your actions.

It's easy to whine (I try to do it every day) but does it bring joy to the person who hears it?  And sending the kids to bed instead of tucking them in is easier at the end of a long day, but those extra couple of minutes allow you to sow seeds that will bear beautiful fruit in the years to come.  {NB I'm the best kind of wife because I frequently outsource this joyous activity to my husband.}

But you get the point... and if all else fails, keep Don't Stop Believin' in your back pocket.  Trust me.

4. Honour the acts of daily living. If it's a habit, make it beautiful.

I can't go past the wise words of Gourmet Girlfriend for this one!  As someone who blogs so beautifully about food and family, Ruth writes that she's often asked by frustrated parents for tips on enticing fussy eaters to chow down at dinner time.  Here's an excerpt of Ruth's wise post ...

What happens is I now focus on the dinner table being a joyful place to be.  Not necessarily a gourmet place to EAT.  There is a BIG difference.

What happens is that we have candles- even when it is Weetbix all round.

What happens is we have music playing.

If this isn't honouring the acts of daily living, I don't know what is.  Anyone for Weetbix?  I'll bring the candles!

5. Life should sparkle. Everyone needs to feel special.

Have you ever experienced the small thrill of hearing your name spoken by someone you admire, especially when you didn't think they knew you existed?  What about that unexpected compliment from that hard-to-please colleague, or a sigh of appreciation from your ever-so-posh dinner guests?

Flattery feels good.  Just as the paid-for flattery of a shop assistant in a poorly lit change room can alter the course of your day, a word fitly spoken can sometimes be all you need to disarm your nearest and dearest.

I could go on about your kids' emotional development but honestly, if you want a quick and dirty antidote to a house full of touchy grumps, just very quietly start buttering them up.  Don't smear jam on their earlobes though, it's not as endearing as it sounds.

So there you have it.

My work here is done!  Get cracking with all that and I expect a full report in the morning!

Okay, so I realise that half of that advice was written by Captain Obvious, and the other half is sadly lacking in verbs {you're meant do to what, exactly?}.  I'll be following this up with loads of quick ideas that work for my family and which you might find helpful.

But for now, here's what I really, truly believe:

I believe a lot of our busyness is permanent.
There are some things we can't shake,
but plenty that we just don't want to shake.
And that's okay.

I also believe that a fair portion of the 'frantic' in our lives
 results from disorganisation, stubbornness, fatigue,
 a sense of sadness and resentment when we feel unappreciated,
 and a lack of vision about what it is we're really reaching for.

I believe that when we deliberately provoke our loved ones
with gentleness and humour, it's possible to create a sense
 of camaraderie within the family home that
transcends the hype going on around us.  

Brenden bought me a fridge magnet that sums this up rather neatly...

So what do you think is the reason for the 'busy'?
What unhelpful beliefs do you think we hang onto?


  1. Love this!! Xx

  2. "The closer someone is to your heart, the better quality your interactions should be"

    This is so, so true. It's important to me not to treat the people I love best worse than I would someone I just met on the street. I try to live it but I'm not always successful. The good thing is that the people who love us also forgive us when we fail because they know the best of us as well as the worst.

    1. Very true point, Katherine!

      Being part of a family is one long study in forgiveness, isn't it?

  3. I adore this post!! Adore it! I really believe you have mastered the art of quietening your soul, something I am greatly lacking.

    Regarding number 3 in the decorating mantras, if I carry my cat from room to room does that count? She's very cute! :P

    1. Haha I do believe every room should have a cat. Go for it!

      But thanks for your comment ... and while I'm getting better at finding the quiet, I'm still a ways off! It took me a while to realise that those special "somedays" never come. Finding the special moments in the everyday stuff is what works for me!

  4. There is so much brilliantness in this post!! Off to share right this second!!

    1. Oh you are too, too kind!

      Thanks Kelly :)

  5. I'm trying so hard to do this.. I think I was high on the busy-ness for years and years.. Interestingly though - the rest of the world makes it hard to get off the round about. It's like an addiction and the world at large doesn't want to think there's another way.. Love your post. Going to print it out now.. Thank you!

    1. Glad you thought it was helpful!

      You're right about the world making it harder to get off the roundabout... technology makes it almost impossible to slow down. Not just by being accessible, but by being able to keep up networks of people that we'd otherwise lose touch with or never meet.

      That's why I put so much emphasis on making those simple interactions better quality and seeing where we can be smarter with our time.

      Would love to hear how you go!

  6. Hello lovely lady. Kelly Exeter just shared this post and your blog with me. I'l be sticking around. Thank you. I just love this and will be sharing it with my husband.

    1. Hi Robin, nice to meet you!

      Kelly's a darl, isn't she haha ;-)

      I'm glad you liked the post, and thank you for your kind words. I just checked out your gorgeous site and I'll be heading back there regularly, so beautiful!

  7. wotisunique11:30 AM

    Love this Karen. I often find it hard to reconcile a modern day 'busy' with one from days gone by. Once (a long time ago), we were busy with the act of staying alive (growing food, keeping warm). Now we are "busy" with the extras (getting my daughter to ballet lessons, cooking dinner as soon as I walk in the door from work).

    I am still trying to find ways of finding the 'quiet'. Thanks for your thought provoking post.

    1. You're right, life is so different now and for so many different reasons. For most of us it's not as simple as just dropping everything. Hope life quietens down for you soon!

    2. wotisunique11:22 AM

      It's OK. I think it's mostly in my head. ;-)

      I had the opportunity this week to spend some time chatting to a fellow whose children are all grown up. I have renewed my committment to enjoying the little things amongst the chaos.

    3. I think the wake-up to me was when Abi turned 8 and we realised she was half-way to 16. Too soon!!!!


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