Four Levels of Simplification to Jumpstart Your Simplicity Parenting Journey
by Kate Saffle
A month ago
Wouldn’t it be so nice to just snap your fingers and your home be clean, organized, and free of clutter? Or to have a nightly bedtime routine that the whole family anticipates after dinner and knits your family so closely together? Family life should be simpler, it should be enjoyable, and it should be a reflection of your family’s deeply held values. But if daily life is chaotic and overwhelming, you’ll lose the margin in your days where true connection happens. Let’s simplify your home and family life together, using what Kim John Payne of “Simplicity Parenting” calls the four levels of simplification.
In a nutshell, these are the areas of your family life that will be reimagined and redesigned to better allow time and space for your family to flourish. For some families, you may only need to work on one or two of these areas. In my experience, most families will benefit from tackling all four levels of simplification.
I want to encourage you that although this may seem like so much to change, one builds upon another.
It’s like building a regular fitness habit or remembering to make your bed each morning. As you get through the initial discomfort of working through one level, it will become habit, and then you can incorporate the other methods for simplifying.
Simplifying your environment means creating a sense of calm and order throughout your entire home. It is the art of essentialism, of having just enough and all of it reflecting the way your family wants to live in the space. Your home is not a storage unit for stuff, but the sanctuary in which you build a beautiful life for your family. Equally so, your child’s room should be a space for rest and play, their own little reprieve from the world where they can reconnect with themselves and decompress from the pressure of the outside world.
Many parents find that their children are calmer, better behaved, and more focused when there is less clutter in their bedroom and throughout the home. By addressing the external problem of too much stuff, we can start meeting our kiddos’ internal need for more white space in their days. It’s not like we’ll hear our kids say, “Mom and Dad, please get rid of all of those annoying, beeping toys I have because otherwise they take up the entire floor of my bedroom, and I’m overwhelmed.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Instead, we must pay attention to cues from their behavior on how their environment is affecting them and then proactively make the changes for them. A simple bedroom, with space to breathe and simply be, is one of the greatest gifts we can give our young child.
This afternoon I sat snuggled on the couch with my three children, reading aloud to them from “Little House in the Big Woods.” In the book, the author writes about her mother’s weekly rhythm for completing all of the necessary chores for life in the 1880s. Laura and her sister, Mary, always knew which day the butter would be churned, the bread baked, and the clothes mended. Today we’re lucky if the pile of clean clothes on the bed are folded and put away before it’s time for bed!
If your days are harried, unstructured, and vary from week to week, you may find establishing a family rhythm to be a welcomed change. It’s more than just a cleaning schedule (although that may help), but rather, having a cadence to your days, your weeks, and your seasons. It’s knowing that family dinner is followed by story time or that during the summer you’ll go to your farmer’s market every Saturday morning.
Children thrive with consistency to their days as it provides a sense of structure and safety. This is especially important if your work schedule is irregular or you’re currently in a busy season with responsibilities that you cannot drop. Rhythms do not need to be complicated or lengthy and can be added slowly to the family routine with time.
Ask yourself: at what point in the day do we struggle the most? Whether it’s the bedtime routine, dinner time, or getting off to school in the AM, this is the place to start creating an intentional rhythm for your family.
When you look at your family calendar, do you feel totally overwhelmed or at peace? Is there room for spontaneous family outings or for a relaxed day at home? Our schedules can really impact both how we feel and function as parents and also how our kids feel and behave. If everyone is chronically over-scheduled, it throws off the rhythm of the family and makes it more likely that the home will be messy and cluttered.
Children need plenty of time to rest and process what they’re learning daily. If they’re scheduled with one activity after another for days on end, it can create overstimulation and overwhelm for the child. There is currently a cultural push for children to have the opportunity to experience everything: music lessons, sports, clubs, playdates, camps, and more. By filling our child’s day from morning to night, we are robbing them of the opportunity for boredom and creative play. Children need time to simply be kids; to play imagination, to stare at the clouds, to examine an ant colony, or put on a backyard play with the neighborhood crew. Toddlers and babies need even less structured activities and plenty of time to explore the home environment, play with simple and familiar toys, and look at books with their parents.
If this level of simplification is resonating with you, it may be the best place for your family to start. As you start saying no to new activities more often, you’ll find greater peace within your home.
Filtering out the Adult World |
The final level of simplification is all about protecting childhood innocence. Now this isn’t a nostalgic plea for returning to “the good old days”, but rather protecting children from knowing and experiencing too much in the world before they’re ready.
One of the simplest ways to reduce information overload in young children is to limit their screen time. The World Health Organization released new 2019 guidelines that state that children under the age of 5 should have less than 1 hour to zero screen time per day. Babies under the age of 1 should have none at all. Besides the obvious reasons for why screen time can be so detrimental, there is another that often is not discussed.
What is available on television, computers, and phones are often not appropriate for children. Children under the age of 6 do not have the ability to reason abstractly and will process frightening or mature information in a much different way than an adult. For example, news coverage may be routine to an adolescent or adult, but a child without the developmental maturity to process it may end up having nightmares or other disturbances.
We’ll discuss other ways to filter out the adult world in a later article, but know this: once a child knows, sees, or hears something, it cannot be taken back. We can be the guardians of the knowledge they receive while they’re still little and in need of our wisdom. It’s not worth feeling guilty about how you’ve handled these decisions in the past because no parent is perfect! But you can move forward now in a more intentional direction. Childhood is worth protecting and doing so will bring a greater layer of simplicity to your home.
In Future Articles….
We’ll dive deeper into each layer of simplification in future articles with all of the practical brass tacks of HOW to actually make this happen for your family and within your home. Although this is a process that will take time, it’s so worth it to create a peaceful life for your family that allows you to raise happy, resilient, and connected kids.
Let us know in the comments below which of the Four Layers of Simplicity you want to start with in your home!