In the early chaotic and sleep-deprived days, my peaceful ritual was to simply light a scented candle.
Minimalism and decluttering are highly popular lifestyle trends at the moment, and for good reason. The mental and physical space you gain, as well as the financial benefit to the household, reduced stress as parents, and healthier emotional and learning environments for children, create new opportunities to give back.
I started our journey towards simplifying our life after the twins were born. I thought I had nested and gotten our house in order prior to their arrival, but I quickly discovered that with all of the additional items a parent needs for two new children, we needed another cleanout.
De-cluttering your house lifts a great mental burden and inspires you to spend more time with the ones you love instead of cleaning and sorting. I am still trying to find the balance between moving things on, selling or throwing away and retaining items I should keep for the future.
Here are five ways I am seeking simplicity as a parent:
1. Needs vs wants
The baby market is flooded with innumerable items selling an easier parenting journey or playing on the guilt of mothers wanting the very best start in life for their children. When we found out we were having twins, I very quickly drew the line between what we need to survive and what was nice to have.
When you have two children at once, there are many items you do need two of, but there are many items where one will do you just fine. Work out what a baby really needs to survive and for you to stay healthy and strong. Prioritise your needs and fill in your wants later.
2. Think sustainably
I spent a very long time calculating the time and cost of using cloth nappies for my girls. There are many sites that run the numbers per nappy, but also the cost of washing them and it can often round out in the sustainability stakes. I decided for my sanity that there would be other ways that I would contribute towards helping the environment instead.
We have, however, dressed our girls in almost entirely second-hand clothing, used second-hand cots, prams, high chairs, toys, baby carriers, linen and changing tables etc. There is a huge amount of waste in fast fashion and in the high volume production of fad furniture. I love the look of these as much as the next person, but we decided to use second-hand to not only divert them from landfill but to make a significant financial saving. Our little ones' are none the wiser and are still safe, clothed and entertained.
3. Space savers
I am always looking to create space in my home and my life through order and time. After a major declutter of our house, I try to keep new toys and other items to a minimum. I have a proper place for them all to be stored to keep my living spaces clear. This is a challenge! For the last two years, our formal dining room (where the girls originally slept in their bassinets) has been a toy room. The floor was almost completely covered in every form of pram, scooter and ball Ė none of which I had bought for them. We invested in some large storage cupboards and created a toy room so that these items are now clear, ordered and most importantly to me, out of sight.
Another way we try to create space is through time for us as the adults and main caregivers. We choose to say no to extra-curricular activities and overcommitting at work because the emotional and energy investment in raising two toddlers is our current priority.
Instead of birthday presents, we ask for babysitting credits from our family because we value that more than gifts. It allows us to have a few hours away to eat and be merry at our own pace and have space to emotionally connect and refuel.
4. Don't confuse yourself with too many opinions
There are many conflicting opinions about raising children these days and these are more accessible than ever. Your mental and emotional energy can be exhausted when trying to keep up with new methods or images of 'successful' parenting on social media.
I didn't purchase many parenting books or read up on the best tips, but I can certainly understand how diligent parents would want to do so. Unfortunately, even without the reading of books, the confusing messages started before we even brought our girls home from the hospital. I really just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do as a first-time parent and I found it even more difficult when told to just "trust your gut". Ask yourself what are your values about parenting? Aligning your parenting approach with your core values will help to guide your decisions.
5. Simple nutrition and peaceful rituals
I am responsible for the food in my household. I buy all of the groceries; prepare all of the children's meals, my husbands' lunches and all of the dinners. I often lack inspiration for meals but have decided to let simple nutrition guide my food decisions for my family and to also simplify how I shop and what I cook.
Nutrition dictates healthy outcomes and energy can regulate emotions and overall wellbeing. I look for ways to build meals around fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein. Donít get me wrong, there are still many nights where daddy has to 'cook' and we are all eating a less than balanced meal, but it's best not to hold yourself to unrealistic standards.
A peaceful ritual is something just for you that creates space, a deep breath and something to bring the chaos to simplicity. In the early chaotic and sleep-deprived days, my peaceful ritual was to simply light a scented candle. So simple, but it meant so much to me and it was an intentional act to create a fragrant space when my house wasnít clean, if I hadnít slept or if the washing was piling up.
Be it a bath, a cup of tea, fresh sheets, chocolate and a wine, a good book, a shower before bed, a walk before the day begins, or your favourite soundtrack, decide on a peaceful ritual for yourself to seek out simplicity.
I want hours upon hours of delicious sleep followed by hot cups of tea, reading my book and nothingness. But I'll have to get up now to comfort, feed, clean, dress, entertain, love, laugh, play, and repeat.