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5 ways parents can make space (physically and mentally) in the new year

There's a natural momentum to a new year that spurs people to hop on their treadmills clean their closets, or finally stop chain-surfing the web until way past their bedtimes. But while the new year naturally helps you think about what you want to add to your life, implementing changes works better if you first close certain experiences and clear space by letting go of the parts of your life that are dragging you down, are sapping your energy, or are no longer needed.

It is not just an act of getting rid of things, it's an intentional practice of brightening energy by making room for the new.

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This is a great time for strategically removing from your life all the things that are not working or not flowing. Reflect on the parts of your life that are weighing you down—bad habits, stressful activities, addictions, negative thought patterns, old resentments or things that puts you in a sour mood every day. When you declutter your life, you create an invigorating, inviting space for passion, action and creativity to take hold.

Here are a few practices that help parents clear the old to make room for the new:

1. Create closure with gratitude

One of the best ways to achieve closure on the year is by expressing gratitude. Reflect on the few people you've been most grateful for during the year and creatively thank them.

One man was grateful to his chiropractor for helping cure his chronic migraine headaches, so he sent her a thank you card stating what her care meant to him. A mom was thankful for the friendly crossing guard who not only helped her kids cross the street every day, but who also greeted them with warm smiles or compliments—sweet and simple gestures that made them feel welcomed onto the school grounds. She thanked the crossing guard with a snuggly scarf for winter, hot chocolate and a card that her kids helped make. One couple was grateful for their reliable, patient and fun-loving babysitter who made it possible for them to enjoy date nights without guilt. They wrote her a letter detailing the positive things they appreciated about her.

Closing with gratitude lets you reflect on the year and sets you up for continued positive experiences in the year to come. As a bonus, research suggests that when you thank others, it creates an enormous increase in your own happiness as well.

Action step:

Think of one person to whom you're especially grateful toward this past year—such as a friend for listening, a grandparent who helped with child care, a teacher for helping your child, a mentor who gave you new ideas, or a boss who treats you great—and write them a detailed thank you card (or bake them cookies).

2. Declutter your to-do list

Decluttering your to-do list—especially the tricky stuff—frees up energy for creativity and playfulness. There are to-dos that all of us get stuck procrastinating on, whether due to an unconscious or conscious "block," an underlying fear, or a timing issue. Create a tiny bit of movement in your most-stuck tasks.

Action step:

Think of at least one thing hanging over your head or causing you stress—that complex medical bill that's hard to sort out, the enormous pile of socks without matches that stares you down every weekend, an old friend you've always been meaning to call—and take a small step toward taking care of it.

3. Declutter your space

Clearing your environment encompasses throwing out expired food from cabinets, decluttering closets, giving away toys or clothes, or going through old papers. Research suggests that managing a huge volume of possessions is a "crushing problem" in many homes, which often increases mothers' stress levels.

One study by Princeton researchers found that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. Decluttering "stuff" may help kids too. For example, a recent study showed that too many toys actually reduced the quality of toddlers' play, whereas fewer toys helped toddlers play more creatively and in a more focused way.

Action steps:

  • Get rid of 10 toys
  • Get rid of 10 pieces of mail
  • Get rid of Tupperware without matching lids
  • Get rid of 10 things from your garage
  • Empty 1 drawer
  • Get rid of 10 food items from your kitchen and donate them to a food pantry
  • Get rid of 10 pieces of clothing from your closet and donate them
  • Clean the papers off your fridge
  • Delete 10 old voicemails

4. Declutter your schedule

There is increasing pressure to sign kids up for structured activities such as karate lessons, gymnastics, painting classes, chess clubs, and the like. A Pew Research Center survey showed that a full 31% of parents say they always feel rushed. Constantly running from here to there increases stress levels in both parents and kids. Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, argues that children experience a "cumulative stress reaction" from too much enrichment, activity, and choice.

Decluttering your schedule helps rebuild time for free play, time for connection, and cozy time (also known as hygge). Reclaiming children's unstructured time is especially important, as research consistently finds that children absolutely love free time, especially outside. One survey of mothers in 16 countries found considerable agreement that free time—especially playing outside, at playgrounds, or at parks—was their children's most enjoyable activity. Backing off a busy schedule also allows children to spend time nurturing natural friendships through imaginative, kid-directed play.

Action steps:

  • Remove at least one structured activity from your schedule.
  • Take your kids outside for free play over the holiday break, even if it's cold.
  • Remember something you or your kids used to like to do for fun (like snowshoeing, knitting, having dance parties, doing puzzles, or watching animated films) that got edged out of your schedule due to busyness, and make a plan to reintroduce it into your life.

5. Clear a bad habit

Think of one aspect of your parenting you don't like, are exhausted by, or are tired of, and identify one way to clear it by "doing something different."

One mom hated the way she nagged her daughter to get her socks and shoes on before they went somewhere. She "did something different" by putting a bin of her daughter's socks and shoes by the door and, if her daughter had them on by the time they left, she played her daughter's favorite song as soon as they got in the car.

A dad got tired of yelling at his sons to go to bed, so he "did something different" by adding a few extra rituals into the bedtime routine—some time for playfulness, some time to talk about their day—and giving them 10 minutes to read or look at books before turning off the lights.

Action step:

Identify one thing you dislike that you do as a parent and get specific about how you'll "clear it" by handling things differently. The more you clear and work toward closure, the more you make space for all the good waiting for you around the corner in the new year.

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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