7 Women Share Their Simplifying Tips & Tricks

If there is one thing I have learned while pulling together the content for this blog post, it’s that there are hundreds of ways one might “simplify” and in the end it comes down to finding what works for you and your family and the unique situations you find yourself in on a day-to-day basis. I also found that simplifying is about being flexible and adjusting to the changes and ebb and flow that comes with living life. I also learned that what works for one person might not work for another. And most importantly, that simplifying also means making a commitment to being intentional when it comes to following a specific routine aka not just making more busy work for yourself because you want to call it a “simplifying technique”.

For me, the need to want to simplify comes after having a pretty hectic 2017. Ok, maybe a hectic last 3 years as Dusty has been pushing through medical school…either way, I thought that 2018 would be a good year to start finding ways to simplify and streamline. I’ve also recently decided to quit my day job to stay home with our 14-month-old son, Rowan, and focus more of my time on this blog.

I started becoming more interested in this topic after reading a few great books. Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and  A Simplified Life by Emily Ley.

In this post, you’ll hear tips and tricks for simplifying from women who have varying lifestyles.

Michell Schmitz
Engaged, works full-time, mom to a furbaby named Ozzie.

First off – my planner is like my Bible. Without that, I would be lost. I keep track of anything and everything in it. I actually learned to color code it so its easier on the eyes to read what is going on. I find having something accessible like this at all times is fabulous at keeping an eye on commitments. Grocery shopping and meal planning almost go hand in hand. Nick and I both love to cook, but since there are only two of us – it takes a little time to plan what we both like to eat and know how to cook – but not too much. We use Sunday mornings before football goes on the tv to write down a list of the things we want to cook and browse the pantry quickly. With this, we kind of have an idea of only a few items we need to get – rather than going in empty-handed. We LOVE to meal plan. We then go to the grocery store once we have our list and get what we need. We almost immediately come home and make our meals and pack them in containers that we can easily just grab and go – so it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning when we are trying to get ready for work. One of my favorite things to make for breakfast is my “omelet muffins” – literally just make everything you would for an omelet but pours it into a muffin tin – they are the perfect size to eat on my drive into work and they taste pretty good for the next week out. Another few time/lifesavers are anything you can cook in a pressure cooker or slow cooker. I have been known to make “freezer meals” and keep them in the freezer until we are ready to cook and eat them. I am a constant “to do list” – I love the feeling of crossing things off – so I find it helpful to keep a notepad or some paper with me at any time just in case I go “Oh shoot, I need to get this done!” I find it helpful when I get home from work t0 empty out my lunch container and repack it for the next day. I also set out my clothes for my workout in my bag and my clothes for work (along with my shoes and tag) – so that I am not wasting time wandering around the house looking for them!

Jess Edwards
Stay at home mother of three, homemaker, lover of plants and strong coffee.

The way I simplify our home is to not have anything (besides plants and photos) that doesn’t serve a purpose. The more you decorate, the harder it is to keep it clean. I simplify my kids’ toys by rotating them. I only keep 1/3 or so out and keep the rest in a bin in the closet. When they get bored, then I switch out another third, and so on. Getting 4 of us ready in time for school drop-offs every morning is quite the task! I keep my kids’ schedule the same: potty, get dressed, eat, brush teeth, shoes on. I keep a basket of all the kids’ socks by the door so when it’s time to go they just grab a pair and put their shoes on at the same time. It saves me a lot of time!

Lane Clark-Bonk
Expat, a mother of two, small online business owner.

For me, thinking about schooling as my daughter got older was stressful. I felt concerned about the amount of time school would take away from us as a family and that the rigidity of the school would limit our freedom. As she got closer to school age I started to doubt whether 8-hours per day in an institutional setting was right for her, or for many children. I worried about larger things like the limits of curriculum, the prevalence of measurement of outcomes/standardized tests, and social conditioning and bullying. As I listened to my neighbors and friends struggle with exhausted kids and hectic schedules, I also wondered about smaller things like my ability or desire to adopt a school schedule that would complicate our lives. I initially started considering homeschooling because we were living away from home when she became ‘school aged’, but after I started researching homeschool, and then unschooling, I became sure that this was the right choice to keep our family life simple and her childhood free. We follow the flow of our days without agenda. We spend the entire day out when we feel up to it, we stay in pajamas all day on days we need rest. I follow her interests and skills as they develop instead of imposing a curriculum. To me, this simplified our life and her learning experience significantly. I know we are extremely privileged to be able to choose homeschooling/unschooling because it’s best for us. I am grateful that I work from home and that my partner and our families support us.

Natalie Forester
Yoga instructor and mother to a busy toddler.

I needed a way to simplify meal planning. This past fall, I decided to set categories of meals each weekday and stick to it, letting that inspire my search. To give you an idea, here are our categories for this Winter: Monday is soup + salad, Tuesday is Mexican night, Wednesday we do a pasta, Thursday is roasted chicken and veggies, and Friday is homemade pizza or another Italian option. When it comes time to meal plan, I can type in the category and easily choose instead of scrolling endlessly and going back and fourth about what sounds good. The decision is already made which I love. We can be flexible every week with what we end up making so it never ends up feeling too repetitive for us.  On the weekends, I’ve got more time to get creative and make more intricate meals if I’m in the mood, or we get takeout. Bonus points for having an Instant Pot – not sure this type of meal planning would work for us without it! For lunch, we usually eat the leftovers from the night before. Life happens, so we aren’t too rigid with it, and I think we’ll switch up the categories periodically, probably seasonally. It might be too repetitive for some, but for us, it has been SO freeing!

Becky Kohl
Software developer, obsessed with city life, almond milk lattes, and her pup Harley.

My fiance recently moved in with me and we needed a way to easily keep track of things we need to pick up or buy. We use the app Wunderlist (but there are other apps out there as well) to keep our lists in one place. We like that it automatically syncs with our phones so if one of us adds an item or checks one off the other is sent a notification. We have a list of each of our favorite places to shop (hello Target, Costco) and then just keep a running list going as we think of things. That way we don’t have to think of all the stuff we need to get right before heading out the door!

Ashley Leonard
Mother to an almost one-year-old, full-time Learning and Development Manager and part-time (aspiring) blogger.

I have all my bills on auto-pay to ensure nothing is missed. I still check to make sure the correct amount was withdrawn, but I avoid manual payments as much as possible. All bills are on paperless statements to reduce clutter around house and to keep them from being misplaced

We have a set cleaning schedule Monday through Sunday where a few items are done each day to keep from being overwhelmed and doing a large clean once a week. I use a custom version of this template.

I de-clutter the house monthly. I go through all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, toss old magazines (I’m guilty of hoarding copies of Real Simple and The New Yorker!) and go through drawers and cabinets in the bathroom. If I haven’t picked something up in a month, then I decide if I really need it (this helps with impulse buying in the long run!). I try to donate items or bi-monthly. My goal is to reduce that to quarterly so I get my house down to the essentials!

For clothing, I go through all the clothes in the house around the same time my daughter, Elizabeth, outgrows an “age group.” For example, when she grew out of her 3-6 month clothing, I went through her clothes and then our clothes. If it hadn’t been worn in the time she was in the last group of clothing, then I try to sell it on Facebook groups (extra cash!) or donate. The exception to this is seasonal items like winter coats. I am also reducing down to a capsule wardrobe so soon there will be less to sort through and less to get rid of.

Every day during the time I set aside to check emails, I unsubscribe from those that aren’t relevant anymore or spam to de-clutter my inbox and simplify what I have to sort through every day

I set the “do not disturb” on my phone from to 9pm-6am so it does not go off for notifications or texts, but it will ring if someone on my favorite list calls for something important.

I try to wake up an hour and a half before my daughter does (she is usually up around 7:30) and I make coffee and plan for the day. I will use the first 30 minutes for myself and then the next hour to plan my work day and respond to emails.

If I am in the office or out in the field for the day, I keep all work stuff in my bag as soon as I get home and try not to check emails, aside from a glance to make sure it’s nothing important until my daughter is in bed. I then spend another hour and a half working after she is asleep if needed. I then spend the last 30 minutes before bed on blog planning, social media post planning and reading/catching up on the day to wind down. I try to do a face mask 1-2x a week during that wind-down time for some self-pampering.

When there are gifting occasions, we ask for more experiences (museums, zoos, etc.) rather than toys. Fewer toys = less clutter and give her the opportunity to focus on a few, favorite toys rather than having an array that she can get distracted easily with. Also, asking for experiences gives us the chance to plan a family outing and spend time together.

Samantha Brown
Mother of a two-year-old and 9-month-old. Working full time, and attending grad school.

Mondays are the hardest day of the week for my family. In order to simplify we have a few routines that help us make it through the work week. The key word in my routine is “Prep”! On Sundays, we start with the kid’s bedtime routine. They get a bath, brush their teeth and put on their PJs. Before reading their bedtime stories I lay out their clothes for the following morning, including shoes and socks. We take any items from their rooms that need to be packed in their daycare bags (sheets, blankets, diapers, extra clothes) We pack the daycare bags, our work bags, and anything we need to bring with us and set them by the door. We also set out our own clothes for the following morning. Then my husband and I make lunches for 3 days. Each day is packed together in the fridge (main dish, sides, drinks, etc.) We also make and label bottles, baby food, and snacks for our infant. Everything but the bottles is prepacked in her bag. On a typical morning, we get ourselves ready before waking the kids. I take the items from the fridge and pack them in everyone’s bags. I wake my son, Jack, up first and get him ready. I don’t wake my daughter, Emerson up until everyone else is ready. I get her ready and bring her straight to the car.

Got a simplifying tip that makes all the difference in your life? Email it to me – samanthaelizabethcollins@gmail.com

Stay tuned for more simplifying tips, tricks, and ideas in 2018.

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