“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Its late in the evening. The sun is setting and the first few stars are beginning to twinkle. From my daughters window, we have a gorgeous view of the vivid and rapidly changing colors in the sky from across fields of a horse farm. I call my son into the room to have a look too. We enjoy the moment of natural beauty and then continue getting ready for bed.
Its always the same; my son’s medication, both brushing their teeth and then settling into their beds where I sing, first to my son and then to my daughter. The same songs are requested every night too, except occasionally at Christmas one of them will ask for “Away in a Manger.”
I’m not sure who taught me or where I read the benefits of a nighttime routine with my babies, but that routine has been a rock in the daily life of our family. It serves many purposes and this far into the game, I can’t imagine our life without it. It settles all of us down and signals the end of the day. It lowers our voices and quiets our minds.
Somewhere along this road of living more simply, we also began living more intentionally. As I became more mindful of little things in our lives, I began noticing other routines that our family or that I individually have. Not all of them were working so wonderfully as our nighttime one. It was easy to see that some of our routines were just too complicated.
In her book about habits called Better Than Before Grethen Rubin says, “Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.” You can think similarly about routines. We make them for a reason, they provide some value to our lives and so by simplifying we’re setting ourselves up for winning.
Here’s six very common routines that you could simplify.
1. Morning Routine. Arguably the most important routine because this sets the tone for the rest of the day. Having had kids now for over 9 years, my morning routine has both struggled and been my lifeline. Early on, I realized that while I enjoy staying up late, morning is my prime time and that some time alone to begin my day is necessary. My morning routine has always consisted of time spent reading and praying. Whether I’m going anywhere or not, I’d rather have that time alone than sleep in until my kids wake me. Before simplifying this routine, I used to feel pressure of all that I should get done before my kids awoke, but now, I take this precious quiet moments and use them to prepare myself for the day. Let go of the guilt and create a morning routine that gets your day off to a great start.
2. Night Routine. As I mentioned earlier, this is a rock to my family. We actually used to have more steps to our routine, like reading and while that is often still a part of our evening, it isn’t included in the actual “tucked in bed” routine. As adults, consider how you can create a peaceful and calming time that invites our bodies to slow down and prepare for rest? Is it taking a bath? Reading a chapter in bed? Having a cup of chamomile tea?
3. Cooking. I know there are some of you out there that would cringe at a cooking routine because it is your creative outlet. And that is wonderful! For those of us, who cook not out of desire, but necessity, I have found that the simpler the better. I used to battle guilt over not making enough new recipes or feeling like I made nice enough meals. If you want to make getting healthy meals to your family easier, consider a rotating meal schedule or simplified meals that involve many of the same ingredients or processes. I make several meals that are the same or similar ingredients just switch up the spices. Also, I wrote about One Small Change that really impacted my life and it started in the kitchen. Its cleaning up as I go. While that was a big game changer, I have also simplified HOW I cook. I use less gadgets and more excellent but simple tools, like a great quality knife.
4. Beauty. Ladies, lets be real here for a minute. All the adds, all the magazines, all the products are focusing on our imperfections and showing us what we “should” look like. Can we stop or at least greatly reduce the insanity? I’m all for looking presentable, but not at the expense of my budget, health, and precious time. Maybe its easier to let your naturally curly hair be that way. Maybe you can cut out a few steps in makeup and save the more dramatic looks, for a special date night. Simplifying might look like looking at more natural options.
5. Workout. How many times have I skipped a workout because I didn’t want to put the effort into whatever/however/where ever I needed to be to actually workout? Right now my routine consists of walking or running and some simple exercises such as lunges, squats, crunches, etc. When I was homeschooling my kids, I would get in some reps of lunges and crunches and then if I got the chance to run later, that was a bonus. We often let our desire for perfection stop us from doing anything at all. But doing some, no matter how imperfectly, or in the case of exercise, no matter how simple, is better than not exercising at all.
6. Cleaning. Similar to working out, if I make this harder than it has to be, then the trouble to get things out and ready, makes me skip or dread or avoid this routine altogether. Then I have the regret of not having followed through. Products we use to clean can be another area that we can simplify especially if you’re looking for a more natural way of living.
Often times I put things off because starting them is too hard or requires too much work. But when we simplify our routines, they become so much easier. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, speaks of once you get a routine down to the essentials, they become habit and almost as if we’re on auto-pilot and saving up our mental energy for other tasks throughout the day. Many of us have let extras creep into our routines or we’re purposefully try to pack too much in. Whatever the case, consider some of the above and how you might take a step towards a simpler day.
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