Too much! Too much! Too much! Too much!
Is that from a movie? I swear I've heard it before. It runs through my head like a quote from a movie, I just wish I knew which one. Today I'm posting about something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I think a lot of it began with a post I read here about a lovely lady and how her children's lives were vastly affected by the fateful day she took all of their toys from them. She stripped their room actually, pretty bed comforter and all. It was all just too much, they didn't respond well, they were overwhelmed, and they were refusing to clean their room. So she just took it all away. And you know what? She said it's made things so much better. I recommend you read the post.
I read this post several months ago and it has resounded through my head ever since. It actually came at a time when I was in desperate need to purge our basement and it's clutter. We had moved in months before and there were still boxes littering the floor. Unopened tubs, bags of fabric, buckets of toys mismatched and spilling everywhere. It was the 'play room', but my kids hated it, and I knew it. We all avoided going down there. It is so easy to keep our normal living spaces clean and in order, but the basement? It was like someone had taken everything down there, turned it over and thrown it across the room. You could hardly walk, and I knew I had to get in there and fix it. It was daunting. I'm not kidding, I felt so overwhelmed that I'd just go down there and cry. It is hard for me to get rid of things I think we will 'need' sometime in our future lives. It's hard for me to see the large organized picture and see where things need to go. It is also hard for me to concentrate on more than one thing at once, so when I was elbow-deep in a box, trying to keep my piles organized and my children would climb all over me and ask "Why? Why? Why?" about 300 times... I hated it. But I stuck with it for about two weeks. The night I finished I skipped out on family movie night so I could run down and throw the last few papers away, vacuum, and then lead my family into the newly wide open space of our large basement. I set up my sewing table in the corner under the window, the large bean-bag chair sat fluffed against a wall, and the children's toys were no where in sight. We loved it. It was clean, empty, and the kids had so much fun running back and forth trying not to get caught by daddy. This is the first time I saw for myself how much less is more.
Children crave simplicity.
Adults do too for that matter.
I've noticed that the simpler our lives are, the more time and care we can spend on things we fancy.
So I took my children's toys from them. Their rooms have never really held anything but their beds and clothes, so it was mostly a matter of hiding everything in the basement under the stairs. Over several months I collected plastic tubs from Walmart, trying to get the right size for each set of toys. Each toy has its place, and there were many that were simply thrown out. I still feel like they have way too many toys, but I went through everything several times and I only kept what I felt was a good healthy toy for them to play with. They actually want to play with their toys now. The forbidden is always so enticing isn't it? They come to me and ask for a certain tub to play with, and we have to make sure the last bucket has been cleaned up and put away before I'll pull out a new one. It's exciting when I bring out something they've forgotten about. Their toys are valued.
But it's not just about toys. And it's not just about cluttered basements (although I've found the more I purge my paper stacks and boxes of knick-knacks around the house the happier momma is), it leads into so many other areas of our lives.
I used to listen to music about 50% of the time my husband was away at work. Pandora strummed from our computer constantly. I don't know when it happened, but I haven't turned on the radio for a very long time now.
And the biggest area of our lives where I've seen 'simplicity' turn everything for the better is in our diets. I have a confession to make. I used to judge people and their picky-eater kids. 'You have a picky eater?' I'd think, 'Well force it on their plate, keep them at the table until they've learned who's boss.'
I believe anyone with a toddler can agree that it's actually not really possible to force a kid to eat. You can be very very persuasive at times, but making a kid eat something they'd rather not is not only very un-fun for all those involved, but in my opinion (now, my opinion now, see? I've changed my mind) probably not very healthy for their views on food, power, and family in general.
As my children were growing from their milk to baby food to toddler food stages I believe I had a slightly incorrect feeding policy running through my brain. I was so afraid they would starve or become dehydrated, I began letting them eat lots of unhealthy snacks and drink lots of juice. I've slowly begun realigning the cogs in my brain and tried to teach myself that not only will my children eat and drink when their bodies need it, but it's also about quality and timing.
My children were so used to sugary drinks and flavorful snacks, cutting back to simply water and milk and simple foods has been a process a year or two in the making. I slowly began cutting the juice out of their diet, and now that I don't buy it anymore, gone are the acidic diaper rashes and gone is the money wasted on a sugary drink. We still buy gummies, but they are actually a 'treat' now and get pulled out very sparingly.
We also work on timing. Letting my children raid cupboards was getting us nowhere in the healthy eating department. Why would my son want to eat carrot sticks when he had just snacked on some goldfish he found on the counter? We've now established the simple rule that mom and dad decide when it is time to eat and what is offered. Children decide if they want to eat it. Although we try to get them to try a bite of everything on their plate before they get out of it.
Now to the simplicity of the foods we eat. It has taken a long time, and a lot of plates left untouched before I've gotten my kids to learn to eat things like sugar-snap peas and carrots for a snack. They are learning to enjoy blueberries, plain greek yogurt, and a nice slice of whole wheat toast. They are actually becoming picky eaters, but only because they eat the same natural foods every day. I feel like it brings a whole new definition to the term 'picky eater'. Of course it is easy for a child to reject what is not present in their daily diet. My son will still not touch french fries or chicken nuggets. Oh boo hoo. It is so much easier for me to keep a mental checklist of the grains, dairy, fruit, and veggies they get if they eat very simple foods. And although my kids still appreciate a nice glass of chocolate milk with their lunch every once in a while, I think their bodies crave for simplicity as well.
And as an added bonus, it has brought down the stress of our grocery shopping trips. We hit up a few routine isles through the store and then head straight to the produce section. I no longer even bother to waste the energy of walking down the isles filled with chips, candies, and puddings.
Too much food, too much sugar, too many processed foods... it is all just too much.
I want to provide my kids with the healthy nutrients they need to be able to explore, have energy, and focus through the day. And I think it is the same for adults.
For a really great lead on eating 'clean' check out this post here. Melissa has some wonderful ideas on how to keep your meals yummy and exciting while eating things that contribute to a clean and healthy lifestyle.
So anyways, those are my thoughts. I've noticed that the simpler our lives are, the more time and energy we can spend on work and play. What do you think?