15 Ways to Reduce Stress and Simplify Your Life As A Mom
I have a big confession to make. I've always considered myself an organized person, and in fact I think I'm pretty good at it. But for YEARS and YEARS I've been living the opposite. There was clutter building in our closets, our basement was piling with boxes of stuff (most of which I had no clue what was inside), my computer was FULL of random crap with no system to organize it, we weren't keeping track of our finances... the list goes on. Maybe you can relate to my experience... perhaps a big project takes over your life and you focus 100% of your time on that to get it done (while everything else falls to the wayside). Or you have a baby and your life gets put on hold while this new person enters your family - then you blink and two years have gone by. Or maybe you move twice in two years and your basement is full of stuff that you have yet to sort through.
All three of these scenarios happened to us. And all in just a few short years. Looking back on it I see how quickly this stuff can get out of hand! All you need is one big life event to happen.
For me, I kept saying to myself "I'll do that soon" or "once I'm done this other thing, then I'll finally get to that". But by the end of 2017 I felt totally out of control. I was scattered, stressed out and easily overwhelmed. And to make things worse, the clutter just kept piling - both physically and emotionally. I felt totally trapped.
Once we had Luella, the clutter in our house nearly doubled. Toys, baby gadgets and clothes were everywhere. I stopped focusing on my own self-care. My husband started working more and more. And we were disconnected from our lives and ourselves. I knew things had to change! So in January of 2018, I knew it was time to deal with it. I decided to dedicate 2018 to be the year of simplifying/decluttering our lives.
As I write this post to you, it's nearing the end of March. And for the past 3 months, I have been aggressively attacking our decluttering in a way to promote a more minimal lifestyle. It's not easy, and yes we have a long way to go, but we're getting there and already there is such a big difference. I've managed to get rid of a lot of extra stuff on Kijiji- baby things, furniture, unused sports equipment! I've started re-organizing and decluttering room by room. And one by one I've dropped off boxes of stuff at our local thrift store.
I've gone through our finances and reorganized them as well. I've reassessed meal planning, our pantry, my computer desktop, and my inbox.
As we go through this huge transition, I am learning that these small steps to simplify our life are really powerful. They take time, but I can't believe how much of a difference this is making on my happiness and my stress level. Less stuff just equals less stress!
Below is a list of things I'm currently working on as we go through our year of decluttering/simplifying our lives. If you're at the beginning of your own simplifying journey and are feeling very overwhelmed by it all, I recommend choosing one thing from this list and working on it until you feel good about it. Once you're done that, pick another. Then another. And slowly over time, you'll start to notice how these small steps will put you more and more at ease in your life!
15 Ways to Reduce Stress And Simplify Your Life
1. Declutter Your Home
It would be hard to write a list of simplifying life without mentioning decluttering your home.
So let's talk about it. How would you rate the organization of your home on a scale from 1-10 right now? If it were me, I'd rate my house at about an 8 right now. But if it were 4 months ago, I would've rated it a 4. At the end of 2017, I made a commitment to myself to get my overall life organized in 2018. This includes my house.
So I've committed the last few months to decluttering our space. It's taken a lot of work! And I'm still going. The process isn't easy but it's definitely worth it. I already notice a difference in my mood and stress level. Less stuff equals less stress and more clarity.
If you're just starting, pick with one room and go from there. Create a donate box and a pile that you can sell on Kijiji. Slowly work your way around your house using this method. Don't stress if it takes you longer than you expected. It's totally worth it!
The second step of decluttering your home is limiting the amount of stuff that you bring in to it. That means buying with more intention. Before you purchase something (clothes, home decor, toys, etc), ask yourself "Do we really need this? Will we use this item a year from now? Or will we get bored of it and want to get rid of it?"
2. Create Clutter Baskets For Each Room
Use a basket in each room of your house to help eliminate clutter. This is especially useful for toys and other random stuff that doesn't really belong there.
Spend 10 minutes in the evening after the kids have gone to bed, and do a quick tidy of the main rooms in your house. Toss all the random stuff in these baskets, fold up blankets, fluff the pillows. Then sit back and enjoy some time to yourself.
3. Speed Clean Your House
Nobody wants to spend their entire weekend cleaning the house! There are other fun things to do! The key to avoiding a day wasted on cleaning is to spend a few minutes each day tidying and to learn the art of speed cleaning. Speed cleaning focuses on the most important things and helps you to get them done fast! I wrote an entire blog post on this subject because it changed my life once I started doing it!
Also, when you declutter, you have less stuff, and your house will also be easier to clean! So it's a win win.
4. Start Tackling The Things You've Been Putting Off
Do you have tasks that you need to do but you've been putting them off for some reason? Maybe you don't want to do that task. Maybe it scares you. Or maybe you're just feeling lazy about it.
These tasks linger in your mind adding to the feeling of overwhelm. If you start tackling them one by one, you'll start to feel more clarity in your life.
First, write every task you've been putting off on a piece of paper. Next, circle the ones that you'll start working on this week. Add those ones to your calendar. (Or you can use the worksheets I've created in the Mom Planner!)
Keep this list handy. Once you complete one of these tasks, make sure to cross it off. It'll feel so satisfying to see these things accomplished when you get started on them!
5. Minimize Your Wardrobe
Do we really need 15 t-shirts? How about 4 in the same shade of turquoise? Probably not.
Minimizing your wardrobe will help you in so many ways. You'll do less laundry, you'll save money, and you'll spend less time thinking about what to wear each morning.
A capsule wardrobe is a great way to focus on timeless pieces that all look great and work well together. To get started, you can look at the articles of clothing you already have and go from there.
This blog post from Encircled is a great resource to begin architecting a capsule wardrobe that is true to your own style (They also have a great free minimalist wardrobe workbook here). The key is to focus on pieces that are timeless quality versus trendy. That way you can wear them for years and years to come.
6. Buy Secondhand When You Can
Thrifting is my guilty pleasure. I used to spend a ton of time in thrift stores hunting for cool treasures. I loved it! But then I stopped for some reason - maybe I thought that I was getting too old for it. I don't really know why I did that. It's weird.
But recently I got back into the habit of going to thrift stores. And it's crazy how much money you can save! I've found beautiful vintage mugs, plates, and bowls for our kitchen, a gorgeous rug in amazing condition for our living room, floor lamps, toys for my daughter, and sweaters for myself. This list goes on really! The price you pay at a thrift store is a fraction of what you will pay for it new.
Some thrift stores even have 50% off sales, so you can get deals for even cheaper! But I must warn you, it's easy to find great deals that you don't necessarily need. So the same questions apply to secondhand shopping that I mentioned above when decluttering your home: ask yourself "Do we really need this? Will we use this item a year from now? Or will we get bored of it and want to get rid of it?" If you stay focused on your goal of decluttering, then you will only bring in the true gems that you really need.
7. Automate Bill Payments
This is another thing that can take up too much brain space. Automating your bill payments is an easy way to simplify because you no longer have to think about it.
If you don't do this already, take a look at all your monthly bill payments that you can automate and add them all up. Next, you'll want to make sure you have that total in the bank account you use for payments monthly. After that, go through each bill provider and set up the automated payment. It requires a little bit of work upfront, but it's worth it for the long run.
Do you get too many emails that you just don't need? You might have too many email lists that you subscribed to years ago that no longer interest you. Or physically, you might have too much junk mail or catalogs in your mailbox. Either way, it's time to start unsubscribing!
Add a polite "no junk mail please" note to the outside of your mailbox. That way the mailman will know what you don't want.
Take a few minutes each day to go to the bottom of unwanted emails and click "unsubscribe". Get off those lists!
Call up the companies that are sending you paper catalogs and ask to be removed from their list. The amount of paper waste just drives me nuts!
9. Declutter Your Desktop
I have this terrible habit where I dump a lot of random files and photos to the desktop on my computer. My husband, however, has folders for everything. And as soon as he creates something, he has a designated folder for it. I tend to be a bit different, where I like to sort through all the stuff on my desktop once a month and organize it then. Whatever method you prefer, try to do it at least once a month. Some examples of folder organization are bookkeeping, family photos organized by year, recipes, workbooks or PDFs you've downloaded online, and business-related folders.
Backing up your files (and photos) is also important! That way you'll have a backup should anything happen to your computer... I can't imagine what I would do if I lost some of my photos of my daughter! This is why I always back up my files.
You can do this with an external hard drive that you purchase or through a service like Dropbox. I also like to print my photos - especially the important ones! Services like Mixbook will help you create beautiful albums and prints of your favorite photos.
10. Create A Weekly Meal Plan
Set aside some time to organize your meal planning. Put together a list of your favorite meals and organize them into a weekly meal schedule. You could follow the popular ideas of Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays where you create theme nights. Or you could design your week based on batch cooking. Whatever method you prefer, setting aside some time to organize a routine will help you feel less stressed when you're done work for the day and don't know what to cook.
11. Start Saying No
Do you find that you say yes to too many things you don't want to do? Well, it's time to start saying no to some of them.
You don't have to do everything for everyone. So give yourself permission to rest when you need to. Saying no doesn't mean you're unkind or ungrateful. It just means that you can't be supermom, superwife, and superfriend all hours of the day!
12. Avoid The Drama
Whether it comes from friends, magazines, social media or tv shows. Drama causes mind clutter and makes you feel bad.
Try to change the subject when your friend wants to gossip about someone else. Or tell them that you just don't want to talk about it. If they still don't get the hint, then it might be time to distance yourself from that friend.
Same goes for tv shows and social media. If you find yourself feeling icky after scrolling through Instagram, ask yourself why. Was there a specific account that made you feel bad about yourself for some reason? If so, it's time to unfollow.
Limit your tv time as much as possible, or better yet, get rid of that cable account. Start reading more books that inspire you! Which brings me to the next way to simplify your life...
13. Get A Library Membership
My husband and I used to go on "dates" to bookstores before we had our daughter. We'd get a coffee and browse through books, usually coming home with one or two to add to the bookshelf. It was fun - but I didn't necessarily need to own each one of those books. I was using these purchases to satisfy feelings. Not to mention that I didn't even read every single book I bought. Some I read cover to cover. But the majority I read 50% or less before I moved on to something else.
Then I discovered the gold mine that is our local library. A library membership is like going to the bookstore on steroids. I can come home with 8 books at a time - spend 3 weeks reading through them, and then return them back to the library to get more! This way I'm not adding clutter to our home. I'm not filling up bookshelves with unnecessary books. And I'm still spending time learning and discovering new things. The same goes for children's books - we can borrow a bunch from the library and return them later.
I still enjoy going to bookstores to check out newest books. But these days I take a photo of the cover of books I want to read. Then I go online to my library's website and I search for each book and place it on hold. Once they arrive at my local branch I go and pick them up! Cookbooks, DIY books, finances, minimalism, parenting... these are all things I've been learning about lately all thanks to my library membership.
14. Create A Mom's Time Off
In my house, we have a Mom's Day Off every Sunday. From Monday to Friday I am a stay at home mom while my husband works full-time. On Saturdays, we have a family day. And Sunday's are my day where I can do whatever I want while my husband watches my daughter. It truly is the best!
Usually, I spend my Sundays catching up on blogging or my health coach studies. I'll go to a coffee shop and spend a couple hours there and write a blog post or brainstorm new content ideas. Sometimes I meet a friend for coffee. Sometimes I go shopping by myself. It doesn't really matter what I do, the point is I get to do whatever I want without worrying about my daughter. And I've got to admit - it feels glorious.
This works well for them too! The Daddy-daughter dates they have are always so special. They always come home so happy to share their little adventures together. I love getting photos texted to me throughout the day. It makes me happy.
Now, I realize that not everyone can have a full day off to themselves. But what about once or twice a month? Perhaps every third Sunday is all yours!? Or perhaps it's every Sunday afternoon. Whatever it is, create a schedule so that you and the whole family know exactly when it is. This is also great because you have something special to look forward to! Something that is just for you. I'm always so excited Saturday evening knowing that I have Mom's Day Off the next day!
15. Invest in Self Care
Last but not least, let's discuss the importance of self-care for us moms. I truly think this is the most important thing you can do for your whole family.
You are the cornerstone of your home. You do so much for everyone in it. You are the nurturer, the caregiver, the organizer - you wear so many different hats for your family. You truly are Wonderwoman!
But if you don't take time for yourself, there's no way that you can give the best energy back to your family. A burnt out mama snapping at everyone doesn't do anybody any good (trust me I've been there).
Here are some simple things for self-care that go a long way:
reading a book at night before bed instead of watching tv
taking a bath with some essential oil and epsom salts
cutting down on sugar and eating better
going to yoga
learning to meditate 10 minutes a day
giving yourself a mini facial with some beautiful skin care products
treating yourself to a mani pedi
doing your hair and makeup in the morning (it's a simple one - but makes a big difference)
spending time baking, sewing, knitting, hiking or whatever your passion may be
One of the biggest takeaways from this list is that Less Is More. By doing a few simple things each day, you can follow these steps to create the simpler life you're craving.
These steps aren't hard to do. But they might be overwhelming if you tried to do them all at once! So choose only one or two and focus in on them for the next few weeks. Then add a couple more. Take your time with this journey. It's not a race.
If you keep following this routine, you'll notice a huge difference in your life by this time next year. You might not even recognize yourself!