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“The days may be long, but the years are short.”
How many times have you heard this old chestnut? It may seem like your newborn will never sleep through the night, your toddler is never going to be potty trained, your teenager will never grow out of this back-talking, eye-rolling, door-slamming phase. But that aphorism is a cliche for a reason: it’s true.
Sooner than you imagine, you’ll be an empty nester — and you’d give anything wish for a time machine to go back for just one day of nursing, snuggling, reading picture books, making cookies, playing with Lego, and dancing to the Wiggles. Maximize your family time by making your home life as seamless as possible. Here’s how you can do it:
If you haven’t yet signed up for paperless billing and email receipts for every business or service that you pay each month, what are you waiting for? Enroll in autopay for your insurance, auto loan, school tuition, and everything else. Not only does it reduce paper use, it gives you one less thing to worry about.
Don’t Feel Guilty For Throwing Things Out
Guilt is probably responsible for the majority of those boxes taking up space in your attic or bedroom. How could you possibly get rid of your grandmother’s silver candelabras, your college notebooks, all the dandelions your children picked for you?
Take a good hard look at the stuff you’re still clinging to. One flattened, dried-out dandelion will likely suffice: frame it, maybe along with a drawing your daughter did around the same age, and it will remind you of all those magical sunny days spent in the park. If you literally never use the silver, sell it. And since you’ll probably never need to consult your 20-year-old notes on Paradise Lost, it’s OK to shred them.
This type of emotional baggage can get in the way of your relationships.
Ditto, Things You Might “Get Around To”
You’ve been saying for years that you wanted to take up quilting so you could fashion a quilt from all your old concert T-shirts. Unless you are signed up for a quilting class like, next week, maybe you should admit you’re never going to get around to it.
Sell the shirts on Etsy, pay an accomplished quilter to do the project for you, or donate them. They aren’t doing you any good sitting in a crawl space. It’s difficult to jettison sentimental items. If you’re truly not sure whether something might come in handy or if your kids might want to have it when they grow up, then label the box and stash it in storage. But be honest with yourself about why you’re holding onto these items.
A Place for Everything: Eliminating Clutter
One thing that you probably won’t miss is all the clutter that raising children causes. Sometimes it seems that the bulk of your parenting responsibilities is dealing with stuff: nagging the kids to put it away, trying to find the perfect system to organize everyone’s belongings, rummaging through piles of random crap in search of that permission slip or party invitation.
It’s time to reprioritize. You don’t have to go full Marie Kondo — your bank statements might not spark joy, but it’s still a good idea to hold onto them — but prepare to get a little ruthless. Trust us, it will help you focus on what’s truly important, and let the rest recede into the background.
“Clutter detracts from the cleanliness and decor of a space,” says White Water Inc., a company that offers quality bathroom products in Utah. “Consider the products you need most, condense, and re-evaluate the countertop spaces in your home.”
Or maybe the fact that every surface is covered with the jetsam and flotsam of family life just makes it that much harder to clean your house, leading to frustration. If you suspect this is the case, keep it out of sight and out of mind. Invest in some modular storage cubes, baskets, rolling carts, or antique trunks — whatever complements your style — and throw everything there at the end of each day or once a week.
Enlist the Gang’s Help
Starting today, institute a new rule: any items left where they don’t belong get thrown out. It’s harsh, but it will work.
A less draconian measure? Ask every family member to take one object with them whenever they leave a room. Going from the den to the kitchen? Grab a dirty plate. All done in the bathroom? Take the contents of the hamper to the laundry room. (And wash them while you’re at it!)
Stop Stressing Over It
If you can’t reduce the amount of clutter, if you’re always struggling to clear off the kitchen counter, if your children’s messy rooms are you driving you bonkers, sometimes the only option is to take a deep breath and do something else besides fret.
Face it — your friends don’t care if your home is messy. The kids would much rather you build blocks, tell them a story, or even watch Peppa Pig with them than always be cleaning. If you have the choice between quality time with your loved ones and whipping out the all-purpose cleaner, then it ought to be clear which option to take.