Sometimes it’s the simple little changes that make a HUGE difference in making our busy family lives feel a bit more manageable. I’m all about doable changes.
Here are 15 lifestyle hacks from the Plan Simple Podcast guests to transform your family’s days.
Do a 5-minute decluttering.
Overwhelmed by clutter or even the idea of decluttering? Try this tip from Anna Kunnecke: Set a timer for 5 minutes and see what you can clear in one area. Put dirty laundry in the hamper, backpacks in the closet, clear the coffee cup from your desk. This isn’t the time to sort through papers or wash the dishes. Just clear space.
Cut down on how much stuff you have.
The two things I hear most from families is that they are two busy and that they have too much stuff. Too much stuff can keep us busy, so I love this tip from Kim John Payne: Balancing and cutting down on how much stuff your child has (books, clothes, toys, etc.) can reduce pressure on your child and improve behavior. Start simply by cutting clutter to reduce the number of books, toys, clothes, gadgets and other extraneous items in a kid’s room and around the house in general.
No inflow without outflow
Desha Peacock believes in upgrading our lives. She suggests working with the idea that for something to come in, something else needs to go out. If something is worn or not your style anymore or just doesn’t get used, trash it, donate it, or sell it to make room for things that you will use. (And if you are weighed down with stuff, start by simply making space before bringing anything new in.)
Create an outbox.
Decluttering can lead to other change, so I love this specific tip from Anna Kunnecke: Set up one space where anything that needs to leave your house—from library books to outgoing mail to a dish to return to your neighbor—goes. Put outgoing items in that one place, and when you leave the house check to see if anything needs to go with you.
Play with your kids.
Christie Kennedy Manuel talks about a lot of the power of moving your body—how it can clear your head, make you more intentional, give you better sleep, and help you feel better. One way to add some movement into your day is to play with your kids. Instead of using playground time to do more on your phone, run around with your kids. Run around with them, play tag. Get active. It’s good for you and for your kids—physically and for the fun and connected factor.
Block off time for what you value—and batch the rest.
Marie Levey-Pabst advocates for making time for what we really value, but she gets that there is other stuff that just needs to get done. She suggests that you choose something you really value and create a block of time when you will do it. It doesn’t have to be 20 hours a week, but maybe one or two hours, or half an hour a day. Mark it in your planner. Then keep that appointment. Turn off notifications on your phone and have that focused time.
The stuff of life doesn’t go away just because you have focused on your values. Batch like tasks and block off time for that. This could look like setting aside an hour to make phone calls for appointments and deal with papers or setting aside an afternoon to batch cook meals for the week. It could even look like setting aside every Thursday for family time. You’ll know to say no to other engagements that day and if there are things you want to do—a movie you want to see or a museum you want to go to—you’ll schedule it on family day rather than dither about when to go.
Systematize one thing.
Mama CEO and planning expert Megan Flatt says to systematize one thing—and when you’ve gotten into that habit, set up another system. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Megan says, “I started by getting gas at the same time every week. I tied it to a school drop off. No more worrying about running out of gas or running late because I was searching out gas at the last minute.” You can systematize when you get gas or groceries, when you pay your bills, anything you do again and again. It’s amazing how much brain space you clear just by taking decision-making out of these regular tasks.
Put everything—even down time—on your calendar.
Morra Aarons Mele and I are on the same page when it comes to making sure all the important stuff is on your calendar. She encourages you to respect your needs by scheduling everything on your calendar—including down time. Notice how you feel when you look at your calendar. If it is too jam packed, find what can give and add some more off time. Schedule in some down time before you get too busy.
Cut things out that don’t serve you.
It’s easy to say, “We’re so busy” and to feel that everything on your calendar has to happen. Amanda Hinman encourages you to look at your calendar focused on this questions: “Is this serving me?” Where you find things that don’t serve you, start making changes. You don’t have to quit everything today, but feel into where you can fit in more family downtime. And give yourself permission to ask, “But wait…what do we really want to be doing?”
Make date night a regular thing.
I haven’t always been good about date night, but life coach Shereen Thor urged me (and you!) to make it a priority. Ideally, date night becomes part of your regular weekly flow, but start with planning one. It’s more fun to have a family, more fun to be part of a couple when you have date night. Date night changes the communication and flow of energy, so you enjoy being together instead of just running through logistics together. And that flow of energy can carry over into so many other areas.
Ask for help.
Most of us are good at trying to do it all, but Ignite Radiance founder Star Staubach pushes women to ask for help. Put it out there what you need. Be willing to let somebody help.
If you aren’t used to asking for help or receiving and this feels hard, make a small ask: Can you watch my kids for half an hour so I can walk alone? Can you pick up milk for me while you are at the store? Hire a babysitter for the afternoon just to have some time to yourself. See that it’s OK. Get used to putting your needs forward and asking for and receiving help.
Make a list or a spreadsheet.
Online business pro and working mom advocate Monica Froese takes a tip from business and applies it to family: If there are things you do over and over, make a list or spreadsheet to keep track of it.
This helps, because you don’t have to keep all the loose pieces in your head, and by sharing that document, somebody else can help out. For example, your kids can help pack for a trip or your husband can take kids to an activity that you usually manage. By systematizing repeatable tasks, you free up time for other things.
Make gathering for dinner a priority.
I agree with wellness and lifestyle guru Latham Thomas that dinner is non-negotiable. This is a time for everything to be off, except attention on each other. Simplify your meal planning and involve everyone in the house to get dinner on the table. Prep on your days off to prepare for the week. Bring kids into the kitchen to help prep. Make dinner a priority because it will change your life and it will change your relationship with your kids.
15 minutes + all through the day
Personal Trainer Courtney Wycoff from Momma Strong knows that people don’t have a lot of time and also that movement is important for physical and mental health. She believes you can get cardio, strength, and rehab done in 15 minute chunks. But then she encourages you to add in strengthening abdominal work while you are standing in line or in the car or sitting at your desk. Making it a habit to add this in can change your nervous system and your attitude.
Support your spouse in front of kids, even if you disagree.
If this sounds a little off, relationship expert Stacey Martino explains that you can support in the moment and discuss later. Talk about what you feel about an issue—and why. For example, if your husband wants the kids to clear their plates, in the moment, you could say, “Dad’s right. We’re lucky to have this food. We really should eat it.” Later, not in front of your kids, and not from a place of anger, talk about how you feel. You can say, “I was happy to support you at dinner tonight, but here’s how I really feel.” You can explain that having to clear your plate as a kid led to overeating for you and that you don’t want that for your kids. Ask your spouse what’s really important to them about the issue. Is it control? Is it not wasting? Is it fear that kids aren’t getting all the healthy stuff they need? Once you know where you are both coming from, you can adjust your reactions to support each other.
Another way to do this is to let one parent lead on a particular area, and you do this by letting the person who is most passionate take the lead. Maybe you take the lead on food and your spouse takes the lead on education. The critical thing is that you go all in and support each other.
Do not get overwhelmed by this list!
Please look over it. See which idea you feel really pulled towards and work on that one first. When you feel like you’ve got that one covered, move onto the next most meaningful one. There are no shoulds here. Let your gut and heart guide you. You know what needs to happen next.
I always love to hear what makes an impact on your life. Head over to the Plan Simple Meals Facebook page and let me know your favorite hack and how you are using it in your life.