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Friday, 22 July 2016

Working mum: some thoughts on keeping things simple

It can be hard to find a balance- reading and drinking tea helps me to find some.

This post contains a few thoughts on returning to full time work and having two young children.  It is a topic which is endless and awash with all kinds of implications around gender equality, personal choice, values, necessities and more.  I'm not going to go into our particular set of circumstances because they are our circumstances and each family is so different with its own set of priorities, pressures and particulars. What I will go over is a few things I have been doing (admittedly not always consistently) that have helped to keep things simpler for myself and my family with becoming more time-poor.  A lot of these I started doing while I was on leave and had a baby and a toddler, but they have become even more integral to things running smoothly. I hope that they might in turn be of interest to you as well.

1) I have been slowly building a capsule wardrobe.  I really enjoy Caroline from un-fancy's posts about this.  After two years of being at home, huge changes in my body with two pregnancies, I have found that my wardrobe was in need of some attention.  It has been interesting seeing what I have thought I would wear, and what I actually end up wearing and return to again and again. For instance, I really want to be someone who wears white shirts but I find them so impractical (plus ironing is top of my list of worst household chores).   I know that my capsule wardrobe will be an on-going process and not one that is ever really finished, but only having clothes in my wardrobe that fit me, look nice (in my opinion) and go with each other has made it so much quicker for me to get dressed each morning.  I have also for the first time properly stored my out of season clothes (in a basket on top of the wardrobe) so that the only items of clothing that I can see are ones that are appropriate to the season, which makes it easier to see what I actually have available to wear.  

2) Routines
My Dad is someone who is very organised and likes things done a certain way.  Before he goes to bed each night he sets out everything that he will need to use in the morning.  And I mean everything- the coffee, the mug, teaspoon, plunger, kettle filled up with water, porridge bowl soaking with oats, bowls, spoons and among other things his clothes.  As much as we have all teased him over the years, I must admit I am picking up his habits. I have been trying to get into the habit of when I get home to immediately change from my work clothes into something comfy and select what I will wear for the next day.  It doesn't take long but it saves me a lot of time.  I find the mornings when I have neglected to do this results in me mucking around for ages trying to figure out what I'm going to wear.  The other routine that makes a big difference is ensuring that the kitchen is fully cleaned each night, and setting out the recipe for dinner the following night and taking out any meat that needs to defrost. If I am going to be using the slow cooker to cook dinner, I like to get as much out on the bench to make it easier the next morning to get everything together quickly.  Getting our lunches ready for the next day at night, also makes things run a lot smoother in the morning, and means I don't end up buying my lunch which is not the best option for the wallet or waistline.  The other motto I adopted when E, was a baby was 'a load [of washing] a day keeps chaos at bay'. That was influenced by a post on Apartment Therapy- which has lots of fantastic advice on all things house related.  

3) Planning meals
I started a few lists last year for this.  The first one is a list of meals in different categories for meals (eg lamb, chicken, vegetarian..).  I wrote down meals that we all enjoyed.  It is a list in progress but I have found it really helps to jog my memory when I am trying to decide what we will eat this week.  I have another list in which I have written meals to never make again due to either the excessive amount of prep, dishes or the fact that it wasn't that enjoyable to eat.  I am also training myself to check the contents of the freezer, fridge and cupboard before planning our meals for the week.  We have a tiny pantry which doesn't hold much food, so this is also a good incentive to use up ingredients that have been lying dormant. 

4) Being consistent with sleep
Everything is harder when you're tired.  Everything.  Here is a recent blog post about how important sleep is to our wellbeing from the BePure blog. I have certainly been guilty of not prioritising sleep and am making a big effort to do so now.

5) Decluttering and having a home for everything
I honestly think that this has made such a big difference for us.  Less stuff means less mess for everyone to create. Packing everything away at the end of the day and having a home for everything helps to create a calming atmosphere.  I have been slowly reading 'The magic art of tidying' by Marie Kondo that a friend lent me.  I definitely fall into the 'can't put things' away category so am focusing on putting things away rather than down.

6) Making 'me' time

For me, that's reading. I am and always have been such a bookworm. I find that reading, especially before I go to bed takes my mind off the day that's been and the day that is to come.  Enjoying a cup of tea, or coffee with or without a book is a simple pleasure that if mindfully enjoyed can help to press pause during the day.

7) Being present mentally with children

With less time at home with my two children, the time we have together is even more precious. Having routines in place in terms of the household, means I feel I am more able to sit down and play with them when they ask me. Once they have had my undivided attention they are usually able to continue playing independently. It is actually quite relaxing building duplo, completing puzzles etc as well.

That's all for now.  I will write another post soon sharing our meal lists and another on my beginning attempts to create a capsule wardrobe.  What strategies do you use to keep things simple? x

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