9 Surprising Habits to Simplify Family Life

Cristin Frank is the founder of The Eve of Reduction, a lifestyle movement that nurtures reduction of debt, consumption and waste, through creativity. Cristin loves restoring old furniture, upcycling, and organic gardening.

Having a family isn’t a free pass for chaos. In fact, it’s a rich opportunity to reduce the consumption of mindless entertainment, cheap toys and easy meals. As a mom and a Christian, I want my children to take pride in their work, value what they have and be creative problem solvers.

By setting parameters and expectations your children will progress responsibly. Below is a list to help you reclaim a full life with your children. It lays out a reasonable guide that will eliminate certain hassles, give you as parents more control and, most importantly, bring calmness to the time spent as a family.

1. Teach your kids to try new foods, that way you make one meal for the whole family. This saves the time of making multiple dishes to accommodate picky eaters. You also save money when you go to restaurants. Instead of ordering junk (chicken fingers) off the kid’s menu, share your meal with your little one. A child with a broad palette also has an easier time when he or she is guest at someone else’s house.

2. Limit eating to the kitchen and dining room, therefore eliminating cup rings and stains on the furniture. Save the scrubbing, refinishing and replacing of your furniture. Believe me, a little discipline goes a lot farther than elbow grease.

3. Shop at consignment stores for kid’s clothes. You can get all the name brand clothes for a fraction of the price. And when your kid has outgrown them, you can resell them through the consignment shop. If you resell your kids’ clothes, give them the opportunity to learn about earning, saving, spending and tithing.

4. Frame and hang amateur art. When a disheveled folder full of work comes home, find a spot on the frig for the 30 seconds it takes to critique and choose the best work. Take the time to recognize what is truly good, empower the artisan inside our little ones and don’t clutter your home with coloring book pages. See, when you save everything, it all seems mediocre. When you highlight one – even if it looks like another storm cloud of blue paint – there is genuine recognition. Framing something special builds confidence and makes for a nice conversation piece. Plus, a change of scenery is always a good thing and your child’s art is much more meaningful than store-bought, seasonal decorations.

5. Barter at a flea market for an item that your kids can help fix up. Not only do you get a useful piece of free or very inexpensive furniture, but your kids also learn humility and craftsmanship. By letting your kids take part in the “treasure hunt” they feel empowered by being part of the decision making process. Tip: bring a flashlight and they’ll feel exceptionally authoritative. When they help with refinishing, they experience pride and a sense of accomplishment. The transformation of the piece has real meaning to them.

6. Take family walks around your neighborhood. Instead of rushing right for dessert or TV, extend your dinner conversation away from household distractions. It’s also a great way to get exercise, socialize with neighbors and get landscape design ideas for your home.

7. Keep a journal with your kids. A journal is an ongoing time capsule of your child’s life. It is a great way to capture their personality, interests, friends and experiences. As your child gets older, a journal will keep you connected to what is going on in their life, just remember to honor their privacy.

8. Throw a Barter Party (Barty for short)! In honor of our growing awareness of over-consumerism and green initiatives, these types of “Barties” are becoming more popular year-round – especially for moms! To organize one, tell your mom friends to get out their gently used toys, clothes, household items or holiday gifts that have found their way to a dark corner in the last 5 months. For each item that a guest brings, give them a poker chip. Then they can use their poker chips to “buy” something they want that another guest brought. Win win!

9. Keep basic ingredients on hand to make all-natural goodies for your family or a get together. Baking from scratch has undertones on difficult and time consuming. But stop and think about the time (and money!) it takes to run out to a bakery. If you go the box route, look at what you’re getting: trans fat, artificial flavors and preservatives. Add oil; who wants that? Crack open good ‘ol Betty Crocker and had a look-see: flour- sugar- butter (you totally have all that) – milk – baking powder – salt – (yep, you’ve likely got it) – vanilla & eggs (yeah, covered there) So basically you could whip up an all-natural cake any day of the week. There’s no search for vanilla beans, crème fraîche or figuring out yeast packets. Scratch just sounds difficult. Try it. It makes life easier, cheaper and healthier.

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  1. I like the idea of keeping a journal with your kids! I’ll remember that one when the time comes. I also like the idea of shopping at the consignment shops for children, especially since they grow so fast! I shop at consignment stores for myself.

  2. Randy Redd

    The journal with the kids is an excellent idea…the whole BLOG is very practical and makes you stop and consider ‘How can that work in our family?’ So, thanks for the post!

    Randy Redd rreddink.blogspot.com

  3. KT

    My husband and I have started keeping a journal for each child, as well. It is simpler and faster than scrapbooking. In the evening every week or so, we’ll spend a few minutes jotting down a memory, or development, or milestone. We figure it will be priceless later on in life. We also have simplified our pictures by making one photobook of each child each year. That’s it. Those two things are giving us a great way to preserve memories and are simple and fast to create and keep up!

  4. Allison

    Thanks for all of these tips! I would also recommend checking out this blog written by a working mother who chronicles some of her daily struggles with the work/life balance