I’m the epitome of a walking contradiction.
For example: I love a clean house, but I hate to clean. And I love creating nutritious, homemade meals, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Maybe you can understand.
This used to mean that I had to suck it up and endure the unendurable, but that’s not the case anymore. And you want to know why? Because I fell in love with systems-the very things I resisted my whole life. After I had R, I realized they were the magic that would radically simplify my life if I would just give in and implement a few. So I did.
In the pursuit of everyday ease, I created a little system to make life as simple and pain-free as possible. This is different from our daily rhythm, which I’ve written a whole post about that I’ll link to below, but they’re connected, for sure.
Think of these two ideas as nesting bowls: the larger bowl is this system, which cradles and supports and enables the smaller bowl that is our daily rhythm. Neither one is more or less important than the other. To have nice, calm, and streamlined days you have to do them together.
1) Prepare easy lunch and snacks for the coming week on Sunday afternoon.
Have a handful of super easy, favorite recipes that you make on Sundays for the coming week. Store half in the fridge and the other half in the freezer, and when the fridge runs dry mid-week, pull out the frozen stash to munch on. My favorites I keep on hand are: Curried Lentil Bake, Mexican Lentil Bake, Beet Hummus, Roasted Carrot Hummus, Vegan Pimento Cheese, Healthy Broccoli Salad, and Thai Quinoa Crunch Salad.
2) Prepare for the day the night before.
One of my favorite principles from the Waldorf tradition is the idea that your day begins the night before. It’s so true, isn’t it? The state of the house, how late you went to sleep, the moods of everyone the night before….all that greets you when you wake up. It makes sense then that the evening time is what sets the stage for next day, so we should put some care into how we flow through it. Maybe that means earlier bedtimes, a quick kitchen clean-up, setting up the coffee maker, laying out clothes, more quiet time, or starting a crock-pot of overnight oats. Whatever will help your morning flow.
3) Start your day in peace with a coffee and your to-do list.
Sounds so romantic, huh? Oh how things change with motherhood. I feel like such a dork, but this really is my preferred morning ritual now. As much as I used to hate to-do lists, I desperately need them now to help me remember the simplest of tasks. Without it, I waste a lot of the day trying to figure out what next to do, and feeling like a bum towards the evening time when I realize I forgot to throw in the laundry. This simple list goes a long way toward simplifying my days.
4) Make the bed.
I never understood the value of a tidy bed, and it took me a year of maintaining the habit to totally get it. But now I do. That simple act has given me so much confidence in my ability to stick with daily habits, which is something I never had before. This is a very underrated task, probably because it’s a pretty simple and boring subject. But there’s a reason people keep suggesting it. You just might have to wait a year, like I did, to really get the significance of it. It lays a great foundation for the rest of your day.
5) Throw in a load of laundry.
This is a small thing, but it’s the antidote to the once-a-week, nightmare of a laundry day. This is a very underrated habit to maintain, but like making the bed every day, it pays off in a big way. Set your loads Quick Wash, and switch to the dryer during nap-time.
6) Do dinner prep at lunch.
My favorite hack ever. This is how I make awesome dinners happen without spending a chunk of my evenings in the kitchen. I love this. I naturally have more energy in the morning and early afternoon, so when I saunter into the kitchen to throw something together for lunch, it’s no big deal to do a little extra work. Chop vegetables, marinate meat, blend up a sauce-whatever needs to be done to make it easy to pull together later.
7) Batch-cook dinners. Freeze the extras.
Another awesome hack, but one that you’ve probably heard before. This one is like giving yourself a gift that you’ll open up in a few days when you’re really tired. Exactly like that. It only takes a wee bit of extra chopping or stirring and you have ready-made, healthy meals to pull out and stick in the oven, which means that you can make a gourmet, paleo lasagna one night and eat that same gourmet meal a few other times without the work.
8) Have a relaxing bedtime routine.
We all need a slow wind-down towards sleep. This is part of the rhythm that I write all about in another post (the one that I link to below) and is an important piece to an uncomplicated life. Rituals and routines give us security and comfort and meaning, which are the things we need so we can let go a little and relax.
9) Be consistent with routines and put them on autopilot.
Once you have a few that you like doing, just do them without questioning it. There are nights when I don’t feel like giving R a bath, or massaging her after, but I do it no matter what. It’s on autopilot. It’s happening. But I don’t mean I mentally check out. I’m right there with her doing what we’re doing, but I don’t allow myself to opt-out or choose another routine all of a sudden.
10) Don’t do anything during your kid’s nap time that you can do when they’re awake (including taking your own naps).
Isn’t this one completely obvious, yet not at all? With a baby, or with kids in general, we moms have so little free time, so why would we waste away the small amounts we do have? Let’s just stop, shall we? I will if you will, and we can start (stop?) by using naptimes as the wonderful gifts they are. Do the things you can't do any other time.
Here’s what you do with all of this:
Start with #1 and #10 on this list. Do those for a while, and then add in #2, and then every couple of weeks add in another step when you feel comfortable with the ones before. If you try and do all 10 at once, it’s harder to stick to them. And you want to stick with these.
Once these steps become a natural part of your life, you will wake up one day and realize that your days have magically become uncomplicated. It’s a lovely problem to have.
So what’s your opinion on this? Have a system of your own that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below :)