I think husband and I are at an age when responsibilities can be overwhelming. I want to think that our family is at the building phase, praying we are being wise and not foolish builders.
Both on our mid-thirties, with children still on their formative years, doing the dailies on our own as we are very far from family, husband embracing bigger responsibilities at work, and the two of us growing each day in the faith, and thereby in service to ministries (all thanks to His grace), I accepting teaching jobs here and there, then supporting my Young Living essential oils team, and lots of other endeavors we hope to share in the coming days –That’s our family in a nutshell.
Along with our hustles last year were the many valuable life lessons we gained, mostly about simplicity like minimalism and using our time wisely. If your family is on the same busy building stage or at whatever stage, we pray you can get something from our life lessons last year. Here are some:
We started the year arranging a new house. The move worked perfectly for our family’s resolve for minimalism. Prior to the move, we were most of the time one-step forward and two-steps back in the journey. It was a struggle to my husband being a tinkerer who finds so much values in scraps and spares. But we embraced a drastic change when we moved, mostly because of my insistence to discard and go light.
Sorting and letting go became easier with each month that passed by. By the end of 2018, seventy percent is a conservative assumption for the total domestic possessions we donated, handed-down or gifted, some thrown away.
Embracing minimalism has improved many aspects of our family lives. Less is more. Because less means more time and energy for the things that matter like playing with kids, rather than spending so much time decluttering their toys. Hassle-free preparation going outside, instead of spending more minutes just deciding what to wear, or sorting what to bring. Less stuffs, less chaos, less stress, less friction and more presence with loved ones.
If anybody wants to start a journey to minimalism as well, we can recommend the KonMari method of simplifying and organizing home. Marie Kondo authored four books from 2012 to 2016 about that method, and she has so many materials available on the web, which are really helpful.
Our minimalism also impacted our view of consumerism. Impulsive buying became a thing of the past; since we are careful not to accumulate things. We lost the appetite for recreational shopping.
Recreational shopping – I don’t know if there’s really such a term but to me, it is a walking or sprinting exercise most women and some men do when we’re happy or sad or in between. Because let’s admit it, people always have the reasons for shopping for as long as the wallets or the credit cards allow. I think it’s also by the grace of God that material things have suddenly lost their affinity on us. Our 6-year old Matthew still has struggles, though. Being a rainbow baby, he was showered with all the things he wanted, even the things he didn’t ask for. He had our time and attention already, but our love was still overflowing and all the spills, we equated to toys and clothes and endless things. It was a mistake we did not repeat with his baby sister, so the concept was much easier to introduce to Ruth, our 3-year-old.
Our current family practice is doing the weekly shopping for food and things we particularly need. Meal planning is also a resolve but we are not successful yet. Aside from avoiding waste, it is also about going for healthier options. Praying we can be consistent with meal planning this 2019.
Making the Ordinary Come Alive
Husband and I often resorted to less-complicated family time last year, mostly avoiding long drives. And you know what we learned? We actually found so much joy in simplicity and the ordinary. It was fun staying in the garden, laughing to our children’s antics, seeing them enjoying the water sprinkler one day then building their “soil-castle” the next day. Or holding your loved ones’ hands while strolling to a nearby cafeteria and convenience stores, then munching on cookies on our way back, sitting on the lawn when we are tired. The days when we go to the beach and nearby pools. Or stay in the tent during a nature trip nearby, watching meteor shower one night in December, and just using our tents anywhere, even in our living room. And that’s just one advantage of having the spaces of the house for ourselves rather than for our stuffs. So once again, lessen the stuffs, give space and make the ordinary come alive. When our children grow up, we want them to remember that our ordinary days are all special and love-filled despite us adults losing our cool on them sometimes –those times when they’re too mischievous to handle.
Establishing New Good Habits Each Month
I used to have habit tracker apps for establishing healthy habits. However, I wanted to share the habit building to my family so I made a printable habit tracker and posted it somewhere it is always visible to all. For our family, it is posted on the wall above the water dispenser. It’s just a simple excel file where we can color the days we practiced the habit.
Simple habits like drinking ample amount of water each day, having adequate sleep, reading the bible and having personal quiet time with the Lord are important to our family. For the children, their habit tracking starts with personal hygiene, and participating in daily chores like bringing out the trash to the garbage room.
Most of my reads say it takes 30 days of consistency to develop or break a habit. Consistency is key. We are mostly successful, we are failing at some; but having a quantifiable goal and tracking each day really help.
Learning to Say No
Perhaps one of the major lessons we needed to practice last year was learning to say no. Quality and passion have always been our thing; but in the middle of 2018, we noticed we spread ourselves too thin already. Something’s got to give. And in our case, we sometimes felt the toll in our physical bodies. We coped up by filtering commitments.
Learning to say no is healthy. But as always, starting healthy practices feels difficult at first. We actually had moments feeling guilty for declining requests or for simply missing people’s events but as we all know, we can’t pour from an empty cup. Let’s take care of ourselves too so we can give a part of ourselves more.
It’s Never Picture-Perfect
You may possibly have that picture of a shining shimmering splendidly clean house and a very harmonious family by now. Sorry to disappoint you but NO. The house and all the cupboards are spacious, that is. But there are signs of life everywhere. During school days, it’s neat and tidy after 10 AM until 4 PM. When my kids start to play, they build forts and castles and military camps from pillows and blankets and all things they can grab. Matthew forges swords and guns from our drum set sticks and ruler and tapes. My 3 year old girl cooks and bakes anything in her tiny kitchen and I better pray there’s no soup. She also learned how to take care of her Barney stuffed toy, to the extent of giving it a bath. I’m thankful we only have one Barney to dry up. The thing is, it’s usually beautifully messy when I can keep my cool; but when my patience dries up, I find myself yelling before I realize it. I’m really thankful the kids are so forgiving. And that they are cute.
We live in an era where social media tends to show picture-perfect life. But I’m telling you, this life can’t be perfect at all.
To our family, there’s only one that satisfies –only Jesus. And the only perfect life is the eternal life with the Father. And it’s only by the Father’s grace, through believing that Jesus died for our sins can we be worthy of that life.
Below is the bible verse we tried to live by last 2018:
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. -1 John 2:15-17
May we all have a blessed 2019.