6 Ways I Simplify My Life

posted by Andrea | 03/9/2017
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A couple years ago, I shared 6 ways I simplify my home — and I’m happy to say that I still do all 6 of those things. In fact, they are are habits I do without a second thought; and added together, they play a key role in my ability to keep my home neat, organized, and simplified on a regular basis.

As I was thinking more about that post, I realized that having a simplified home environment has played an important role in my overarching goal to simplify and streamline my entire life.

Since I spend the vast majority of my life at home, it is crucial for me to feel calm and comfortable in my home — and in order to do that, it needs to be relatively neat, organized, and decluttered.

If my home is chaotic, my life feels chaotic. If my home is simplified, my life feels simplified.

For me (and for the rest of our family) having a simplified home environment goes a long way in simplifying our lives — however it’s not the ONLY factor.

I’ve taken many steps to simplify and streamline my life as much as I possibly can, and (along with keeping our home environment relatively simple) there are a few concrete things I do in order to simplify.

I’m sharing those today! 

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1. I abide by ‘all things in moderation’.

In almost every single aspect of my life — food, family, friends, work, home, hobbies, etc. — I am a firm believer that (almost) all things in moderation is the key to a simpler life for me.

I do know that different personality types truly cannot follow the “all things in moderation” approach to life, but for me, this is one of the most essential pieces to my simple-living puzzle!

I have friends with “all or nothing” perfectionistic personalities and it honestly frustrates me to see how much time and energy they spend trying to follow the latest fad diet, create a pinterest-worthy playroom, or be super strict and rigid about seemingly pointless things (like never letting their kids watch TV or eat candy). I want to shake them and say “your life would be so much simpler if you just practiced moderation”.

That said, I do not anticipate ever changing my “all things in moderation” approach to life (at least not by my own free will).

I will let my kids watch TV, we will eat dessert after every meal (sometimes even after breakfast), I will serve some processed foods to my family, and I will consider my bathrooms “clean enough” after a quick wipe-down with a few disinfectant wipes.

I will save loads of stress, time, and energy that I can then use for people and activities I want to use my energy on.

post-nap TV and snack time

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2. I say “no” when something doesn’t fit my season of life.

I know I spend a fair amount of time encouraging and motivating you all to say “no” — but that’s because SO many people I know work themselves into such stressful situations because they simply don’t have the guts to say “no”.

Of course, I do NOT think we should all turn down every volunteer opportunity, church committee, school meeting, or request for help from friends and family. However, I DO think that we need to be mindful of our current schedule, time limits, energy level, stress level, and season of life — and say “yes” or “no” according to what we feel we can truly handle.

Dave and I are still quite involved in school and church — but all in ways that fit with our season of life. For example, I’m now on the Nursery Committee instead of the Women’s Ministry Committee, and I regularly participate in events at Nora’s school, even though I’m not nearly as involved with Dave’s school anymore.

I also try to invite friends and neighbors with small children over on a fairly regular basis (either just to hang out and play or for a meal with our family). I enjoy entertaining, I enjoy cooking, the kids love having extra guests over, I love that we don’t need to get out of the house, and it’s something I can easily do while being home with my kids.

There is no way I could have a simple life and still do everything I did before having kids — and I’m (finally) OK with this realization! I’ve gotten good at saying “no” when something doesn’t fit my season of life (like when I was asked to be on a committee that always met from 6-8pm — a.k.a. “bedtime” in our house) and although I’ve had to turn down some great opportunities, I know there will be more time for them at a different season of my life.

we’re not used to the sun during winter months — they all needed their shades!

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3. I don’t overly-involve my kids in outside activities.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a VERY active household. I participated in nearly every sports, music, and other extracurricular activity I could find — and I loved most of it.

However, our kids are still REALLY young, and even though I’ve seen advertisements for a local indoor soccer league for 18-24 MONTH OLDS (true story) Dave and I feel absolutely no need to get our kids involved in any outside activities yet. Aside from the free programs at our local library and a few church activities on Sundays, they honestly don’t participate in anything “extra”.

At 5, 3, and 20 months, they are all perfectly happy and content to play in our huge backyard, ride bikes on our super long driveway, play with the neighbor kids, walk to the park, or play inside.

And, as I’m sure you realize, this means we never have to bring them or pick them up from anything, nor do we need to work our schedules around various drop-offs and pick-ups.

Now, we will certainly let our kids participate in some extracurricular activities once they are a bit older, but I do think Dave and I might be some of “those parents” who only let their children pick a few activities to participate in at one time (we might come around though — don’t hold me to that statement!)

I realize busier schedules might be just around the corner for us — but for now, we will enjoy the simplicity of staying home!

their new favorite activity… running down the hill!

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4. I delegate and outsource more.

I am not usually the type of person who likes to let other people do things for me — I’m very “hands-on” and much prefer to do everything myself. However, over the last 3+ years, I have learned to start delegating more (especially when a certain activity feels stressful for me).

For example, when I transitioned my business from an LLC to an S-corporation a couple of years ago, I decided to hire the local accounting firm to do ALL my business taxes. They were already doing our personal taxes, but now they take care of all the monthly and quarterly tax prep for me and all I need to do is sign a few papers every now and then and write a check a few times a year. It’s glorious, it saves me a HUGE amount of stress, and it drastically simplifies my life.

Along the same lines, I pay Agathon Group to do ALL the tech, design, and “behind the scenes work” on my blog. If something goes wrong, I email them and they take care of it. If there is a problem, I email them and it’s fixed before I get the kids to bed. If I have a question, I email them instead of spending hours researching and I have an answer in an hour or two. Yes, I could learn how to do all of that stuff myself, but it would take hours and hours and hours, and I would feel SO stressed out all the time… so it’s 100% worth the cost in my opinion.

Another example from home — Nora makes her own bed and usually does a good job picking up toys, books, games, etc. She definitely doesn’t do it to my standards, but it’s done and that’s good enough for me (see #5 below!)

I also get a lot of help around the house from Dave — and although I still can’t get on board with hiring a cleaning person to come deep clean a couple times a month, the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. We do, however, pay a company to plow our driveway in the winter since I just couldn’t let Dave get up any earlier than he already does!

Even when it comes to grocery shopping, meal planning, and household maintenance, I’ve started using many “pre-order and pickup” services that either deliver the goods directly to my front porch, or allow me to order online and simply pick up when the items are ready. It saves me SO much time, often without any extra fees!

I know that delegating and outsourcing often sounds expensive (and I do pay for several of the things I’ve outsourced). However, I’ve come to realize that there are ways to frugally outsource, AND if it fits into the budget, it really does wonders for simplifying life!

my little ‘mother hen’ — she’s actually extremely helpful when she wants to be

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5. I am truly happy with “good enough”.

I have never been a perfectionist (see #1 above about all things in moderation) — but more and more, I have realized that “good enough” really, truly, honestly IS “good enough” for me.

I never thought I’d be OK with dusty baseboards and bathrooms that definitely aren’t up to my pre-children standards — but I can tell you with utmost certainty that I very easily accept the fact that my home will not be as clean as it used to be just a few years ago. I don’t even feel the need to apologize when unexpected guests stop by (except maybe if Simon just peed all over the toilet or something!)

I never thought I’d be OK with running my business in maintenance mode while I focus more of my energy on raising my kids and keeping my home relatively clutter-free… but I’m so happy to be able to do what I love from home, make a little extra income for our family, and share something I’m truly passionate about with anyone who cares to read!

I never thought I’d be OK with a completely weed-infested vegetable garden, but with little to no desire to pull any weeds, and seeing how much fun my kids had tromping through the weeds that were literally taller than they were, I realized I did not care what our garden looked like as long as we were able to harvest some yummy veggies.

I never thought I’d be OK with giving less than 100% of my effort to so many different areas of my life, but it turns out I can actually do a lot more with my time if I strive for “good enough” instead of “just right”.

There are countless other examples I could share, but the fact of the matter is, my life is SO much simpler because I am truly happy with “good enough” (at least almost all the time!)

we save all our bigger cardboard boxes for 2 days and the kids go nuts

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6. I rarely rush.

One of the things that really, REALLY bothers me is running behind and rushing. I hate the feeling of rushing from here to there, yelling at my kids to hurry up, and feeling frantic because we’re behind schedule.

I will do almost anything in my power to assure we arrive on time wherever we go (usually several minutes early) and THIS is huge for helping me to simplify my life.

I don’t forget things because I’m not rushing around at the last minute. I’m not frazzled or stressed trying to hustle everyone out the door. My kids are more behaved because they have time to think and acclimate to their surroundings. I’m not constantly coming up with lame excuses for why we’re running behind.

And even when we’re at home, I’ve adapted a MUCH slower pace of life. In fact, there have been many afternoons when I sit on the couch and read for a bit while James is napping and Nora and Simon are playing nicely upstairs (I know, I’m just as shocked as you are!)

Yes, there are mornings when we have to hustle to get Nora to school on time, but those are not the norm — and if I’m being honest, we’ve never been less than 5 minutes EARLY for school (so I’m not doing too bad!)

Over the last couple of years, I have drastically slowed my entire pace of life, and I cannot tell you how much simpler every day feels for me!

all ready for church with plenty of time to spare

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Dave and I both thrive on simplicity, order, schedules and routine (I think our children do too) so our whole family benefits when I’m able to keep my life and our family’s lives relatively simple.

I realize this way of life will not work for all people and personality types — but if you’re looking to drastically simplify your life, adapting even just one of these ideas might make a big difference!

Do you have any other tips for living a simpler life?

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32 comments

  1. april driggers

    03/19/2017

    I absolutely LOVE this and could not agree more. It’s such a refreshing approach because trying to be Pinterest-worthy in every aspect of your life really is exhausting. I, too, have seen people seemingly going through life only to exhaust themselves on the next project acting as if they’re a martyr for motherhood and frankly, I just think they’re idiots for not just realizing YOU CAN SAY NO! Bravo for this!

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  2. JJ

    03/11/2017

    Your post about clipping a trash bag to the back of the seat and using Dixie Cups for snacks has simplified my life!!! Tha nk you!!! One thing that helps me is having my kids have room time. My 2 older kids(ages 4 and 3) rarely nap. So when my 1-1/2 year old naps, they have room time. They each play in their own space for a set time (I set a timer). They cannot come out except to use the bathroom (I have them go before to help cut down on that). It is amazing how my productivity boosts! And it teaches them to play by themselves. It has given my middle child a sense of security, because it’s a time where no one is telling her what to do and no one is taking her stuff.
    It also allows me to have some quiet in my day. And that definitely recharges me!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay! We use our trash bag EVERY time we are in the car — and the dixie cups are life-savers for keeping the car (relatively) clean when I let the kids eat snacks 🙂

    Also, I like your room time idea. I usually just sent Nora and Simon upstairs to play for about 20 minutes during James’ nap (they share a bedroom) but they do usually end up fighting over something. Maybe once they all have separate rooms we can do a true “room time”.

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  3. Katie

    03/11/2017

    I know you’ve shared this before but what is the thing your baby is sitting in?

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    Andrea Reply:

    it’s a baby björn bouncer — we LOVE it!

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  4. Stephanie Perry

    03/10/2017

    Hi Andrea,

    I agree with moderation in the area of activities/sports/extra-curriculars. We have five children (our oldest is a freshman in college). We always made sure that our children were able to pursue what they were interested in (gymnastics, baseball, debate, music lessons, etc.). We didn’t load up on too many activities at one time though and we didn’t have to travel too far or invest much money in travel expenses. We prioritized meals together and kids doing chores, They got plenty of play time and outdoor time. I am so glad we did it this way as kids grow up so fast and I feel like we had a lot of time just to be together. Also at a certain point, teens get jobs and start saving for cars, etc. They have to balance school, work, and activities plus they need extra sleep. Our sports-loving son made choices so that he could work. I think prioritizing chores and work are just as important as pursuing an activity/sport. I know it can be hard when you have school sports as well as travel teams.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Stephanie — glad to know that moderation has worked for you even as you look back on this season of life.

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  5. Annette Silveira

    03/10/2017

    These are all such good ways from which to view your world. It’s especially important to realize that you aren’t where you used to be, and you aren’t where you may be in a few more years.
    I know you have the usual struggles of a family with small children, but you have done what you can to eliminate as many as possible. Good job!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, yes, yes! We aren’t where we used to be (thank goodness!) and we don’t know where we’ll be in a few more years — but RIGHT NOW, we’re doing the best we can to simplify!

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  6. Jennifer

    03/10/2017

    As usual your post is very thought-provoking and inspiring. I need to work on #6. I hate getting in a rush, and yet it seems to happen quite often. I need to do more advanced prep for our days and especially for outings.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jennifer!
    Sometimes there’s no avoiding a rush… but I do think that the majority of the time, we can reduce our rushing by planning ahead (at least that’s my own personal experience).

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  7. Sandra Knecht

    03/09/2017

    Your photos are adorable. You are a great role model. Wish I had this information when I was a working Mom. Now I’m old and retired. But my daughter has moved back home with her husband and my two grandsons ages 12 and 16. I miss my quiet life but do have some great times watching our grandsons grow up.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Sandra!
    Sounds like you have a busy household now!

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  8. Katie

    03/09/2017

    Love this post! And I agree with the idea of “good enough.” If it weren’t for that approach, I actually just wouldn’t get anything done. I stay at home with my kids, and I also hate rushing and rushing. But I find the alternative can sometimes be boredom.

    I’d love to see a post from you about beating boredom and finding balance during your days as a SAHM. Or even just a few “day in the life” posts (kind of like peek into your week, but more specific?) Like what you did, ate, activities, sleep times, each day.

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Katie — yes, everyone asks for “day in the life” posts but I find it’s so difficult to actually give a realistic view of what a day in my life looks like. It’s on my list of upcoming blog posts but I keep pushing it back because I don’t want to write it 🙂

    That said, we do probably have a very boring life compared to most people and most families. We stay home almost all day every day and always seem to come up with something to do 🙂 It’s easier when the weather is nice, but so far, no one seems to mind being home all day! Sometimes, when we go out, the kids will say “is it time to go home yet? I really like just being home” Looks like they take after their mamma!

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  9. Liz

    03/09/2017

    Number 3: be careful about starting too late!!!!

    As the mom of an elite level high school aged soccer player, I can’t caution parents enough that it is NOT the same game that it was when we were kids. You CAN’T use the same rules and expect the same results.

    Kids start younger and younger into sports. They specialize younger and younger. They go elite younger and younger. By 10, kids have already fallen behind and are excluded from higher level sports. And unfortunately, that track is needed for higher level middle school (high school and college). To break into that track later on is virtually impossible. Freshman year high school kids are committing to colleges for their various sports!!!

    I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying it’s good for the kids. I’m just saying that’s where the current world is at.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I appreciate your concern Liz, but to be honest, this type of thought process is exactly why we have not gotten our children involved in anything yet.
    Dave and I would rather have our kids be on the bowling team or the debate team, or some other team without much “demand” than start them in soccer, t-ball, and basketball when they are way too young just so they have the potential to be an “elite” athlete someday.
    I realize not everyone shares our opinions either — but we can not (more like will not) be the parents who push their kids into certain sports at a super young age just because “that’s where the current world is at”. Our current world is also in a ridiculous amount of debt, very overscheduled, overworked, and overstressed — I don’t want to be any of those things either.
    (p.s. just for information purposes, I was a 2-sport college athlete and Dave and I were probably both considered “elite athletes” in high school — so we do know the fun and benefits that come from being part of a team — we’re just not willing to “sell our souls” for team sports)

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    Heidi Reply:

    Yes! As a coach’s wife, my husband and I see parents all the time who invest thousands upon thousands of dollars and years of sacrificing family time into travel ball and trying to specialize in one sport in hopes of a college scholarship. And so often we see those same kids burn out from their one sport or struggle to keep up with their academics in an effort to focus on their sport. Or they realize that their hoped for college scholarship isn’t there.

    I want to raise kind, giving, well rounded kids who enjoy being active and can get along with other. We play low pressure rec sports (in our tiny little town) solely because of that. If they decide tomorrow they don’t like like whatever sport, then so be it.

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    Ruth Reply:

    I have friends who spend about 10-12K per year on travel sports desperatley trying to get a D1 scholarship. The oldest two never got one so they are full in with child #3.

    All I could think is “why don’t you just save the money and spend it on college!”

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, it’s crazy expensive! even basic club sports are getting expensive too — one more reason we don’t get our kids involved too young!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, Dave coached 3 sports at one point a few years ago — and he saw all sorts of crazy parents pushing their kids so hard that the kids burned out. I kind of understand why the parents do it (they usually mean well) but it is sad to watch.

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    Carrie Reply:

    We feel exactly the way you and Dave do. We have no desire to push our child into something at an early age just because that’s how it is today. Our daughter is 10 and we have lots of home time, family time, friends over and just time to play, be together and have fun with each other. I have so many friends who spend their entire weekends (and week nights) shuttling children to games and practices and are just hanging by a thread. No thank you!
    Shoot, my daughter loves to have her friends over to play and over half of the time, these kids don’t have a free night or weekend to do anything, because they’re busy with their sport. That makes me very sad. Kids need to be kids for as long as they can. They have plenty of time to specialize in something or be busy and stressed out.

    We may get looked at like we have 3 eyes because of our opinions on this subject, but we don’t care! Life is good when you keep it simple!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Carrie! I’m sure we’ll get our kids involved in some extra activities — but not until they are a bit older! And yes, it’s amazing how challenging it can be (already) for us to get play dates together. We have countless neighbor kids and friends from PRESCHOOL who are already so busy every afternoon and evening that they can’t even just come over to play.
    Nora said to me “wouldn’t it be so bad if we were never home like _______’s family?” I wanted to shout YES YES YES! But I just smiled and said I was glad our family stayed home a lot!

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    Carrie Reply:

    My gosh, Preschool…..that is just insane!! We noticed a big change in play date time after 3rd grade. That’s when things really got ridiculous with friend’s schedules. When do these kids just get to be kids? It’s funny because every “expert” you talk to will tell you playing is learning when they’re young. We are actually depriving our children of an important development stage by keeping them super busy this young.

    If you get a chance, you should watch this documentary on Netflix called, The Race To Nowhere. I’m sure you and Dave will enjoy it (especially since he is a teacher). It will only affirm the beliefs you have about simplifying your life and not doing too many activities.

    My daughter, Ella, (10 years old) says the same thing Nora does. She’s always amazed at how her friends are at Volleyball tournaments all weekend long, one has dance every night of the week after school and every Saturday morning, Ella asks, “mom, when do they get to spend time together with each other or just ‘chillax’ (as she likes to say), when do they play with their toys?

    I, in, turn, just tell her she can play with her toys as much as she wants and just enjoy a relaxing evening with mom and dad playing board games and watching movies. She is perfectly happy with this and I can’t imagine it being any other way. Soon she won’t want to hang with us. I want to soak up as much as I can now.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Carrie, I just added that documentary to “my list” in Netflix.
    It might have to wait until after March Madness for Dave though 🙂

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    Sandra Knecht Reply:

    This is so very true! If the less experienced do get in, they are shunned a bit by the experienced players. It’s sad!

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    Ruth Reply:

    This is completely true, the kids start and specialize younger and younger.

    Which is why parents also need to step back and think realistically about what could happen in the future which no one can predict. I’ve seen so many parents get their young kids into travel basketball (which does require height) in an effort for the elusive college scholarship but how do you know how tall they will get? There is NO promise of anything at the end.

    I think what Andrea is talking about, a simpler life and schedule would behoove all those parents. They would alleviate SO MUCH stress during their children’s years at home.

    My son received a D1 sport offer junior year, after only playing community level and one season of travel. I would have never even dreamed he could get something like that and it wasn’t on my radar.

    Senior year, when he got a offer from the top travel club around here, we turned it down. This is his last year at home with us and I didn’t want to spend it that way. Time with us at home doing family stuff is more important as I prepare to send my son out into the world.

    He has grown so much this year, learning how to take care of himself well, he raised a puppy, forged deeper relationships with wonderful friends and family, practiced his athletics, SLEPT A LOT (which made him grow another 2 inches) and spent a great deal of time dreaming of his future and what he may want to do. The worse part of the year, was college apps, but that too was made more pleasant with a simpler schedule. 🙂 LOL

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s impressive Ruth. I don’t know many high school boys who would turn down a sports offer like that. Sounds like your son has his priorities right though 🙂

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  10. Heidi

    03/09/2017

    Our youngest daughter started with rec sports earlier than our first, simply because it gave her something to do while her sister did her sports! I found that I’d much rather have them both busy at instead of having to wrangle her while trying to watch her sister play at the same time. This spring is the first time they’ll both be playing a sport and not being on the same team. The thought of needing to be two places at the same time seriously stresses me out! 🙂 After teaching all day, the LAST thing I naturally want to do is go somewhere else. I keep reminding myself that it’s just a part of my kids getting older, but still….. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    I definitely think it’s different with youngest children versus oldest children — which is one reason I’m waiting to get Nora involved in anything for as long as I can! I know that once she starts doing soccer and whatever else, Simon and James won’t be far behind!

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  11. Beth

    03/09/2017

    Great post! I feel like my family is similar on the not rushing point, we prefer to plan and prepare as much as we can so our life is more enjoyable and simplified. My question is how does your family handle situations where your dealing with other peoples schedules or habits, ex. family or friends? We have some family we love spending time with but there have been times when it has been difficult because they are VERY last minute, non planning, etc. and sometimes it can be quite frustrating.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, we can relate to your “last minute, non-planning” friends and family members too — and yes, it can be frustrating 🙂

    Basically, we just always try to “take charge” and plan the event (since they never do). We say, this is what WE are doing that this time — if you want to join us, great, if not, that’s fine too. Then we know what to plan on and they are free to make their last-minute decision as to if they are going to join us or not. We also ofter to host a lot of events at our house as then we know there will actually be enough food, things will be somewhat planned, and somewhat organized. (we once went to a kids’ party that was suppose to have hot dogs at 5:30pm. We never ended up eating until 7:00 and the hotdogs were totally charred so our kids wouldn’t eat them. I seriously don’t know how some people function like that!)

    Speaking of kids, a huge sanity saver for me has been to NEVER tell my kids about any potential outings with these particular people until they actually show up. For example, if one of our “flaky” friends or relatives say they are going to come over and play with our kids tomorrow afternoon, I will plan to spend the afternoon at home that day, but I won’t say anything to the kids about that person/people coming until they actually show up at our door. I’ve been burned WAY too many times by friends and family who intend to show up, but then forget or come an hour late or something better comes up or whatever. Then I have to deal with crabby kids on top of our schedule change since the kids wonder why so-and-so didn’t come.

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