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I first learned about minimalism when I had my oldest daughter in 2012. While my newborn was napping, I would spend time reading the blog The Art of Simple (formerly The Simple Mom).


From there I was introduced to The Minimalists, and my desire for simplicity and less “stuff” increased.

Minimalism is gaining traction in the mainstream community, but in case you haven’t heard of the concept, minimalism is the desire for less to enjoy more.

Minimalists desire less physical clutter, a simple routine and schedule, and less material items.

By enjoying the freedom from “stuff”, minimalists are free to enjoy quality and quantity time with family, a simpler lifestyle free from the need for “more”, and more financial freedom to give generously and spend on experiences like traveling and memory making.

Although I wouldn’t personally call myself a hardcore minimalist, I certainly crave less and enjoy more when I focus on immaterial things over material things.

Duane Elgin said it perfectly when he shared his philosophy on the simple life:

The intention of voluntary simplicity is not to dogmatically live with less. It’s a more demanding intention of living with balance. This is a middle way that moves between the extremes of poverty and indulgence.

Although I believe many of us crave simplicity, the constant media bombardment of materialism and accumulation makes it difficult to achieve that. Statistically, most Americans are not living simply.

Don’t believe me? Here are some stats:

  1. 25% of Americans don’t use their double-car garages for their cars (LA Times)
  2. Since the 1950s, the average American home has double in size (NPR)
  3. In Britain, the average preteen has 7,000 British Pounds worth of toys. They play with only a fraction of them (The Telegraph)
  4. Americans spend on average 40 minutes per week playing with their children. (Workplace Psychology)

If you’re not convinced, read 21 more statistics like these.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how do you pursue simplicity without completely changing your life?

Here are five suggestions that can be easily applied.

1 | Ditch the clutter, room by room

Perhaps my most time intensive suggestion is also the most rewarding and necessary. Spend some time going room by room, closet by closet, and ditch the excess clutter from your home.

Do you have seven spatulas? You can probably manage with three.

Purge toys, clothes, and old cans of soup.

An excellent resource in Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.

2 | Simplify your schedule

Many North Americans spend their days running from one appointment to the next. Between sports, school, work, medical appointments, and other extracurriculars, we are running on empty and have little blank space.

Consider putting a limit on your children’s activities, or saying no to a dinner event. Practice saying no and adding margin to your life, and use your margin to do things you want to do and enjoy.

3 | Get outside

80% of youth are uncomfortable with being outside because of bugs and heat. Start spending some family time enjoying free or inexpensive conservation areas, or exploring nearby hiking trails. Start small, aiming for 30 minutes of outdoor time, and enjoy the health and relational benefits of time spent outdoors.

If hiking isn’t your thing, try something else outdoors as a family, whether it’s fishing, playing soccer, or just sitting outside on your porch with a nice cold drink and a book.

4 | Avoid shopping if you don’t need anything

It’s difficult to embrace minimalism if one of your favorite hobbies is shopping. If you do spend a few hours a week shopping, you can minimize that time and create more blank space for new hobbies. If you aren’t shopping, you won’t be buying things or accumulating more stuff, which will keep you on the right track towards the simple life.

5 | Donate, Donate, Donate

Many people like selling the items while simplifying. While I do find value in selling items, I typically try and get my items out of my house as fast as possible. That’s hard to do if you’re trying to sell every item you’re minimizing.

Instead, pack your items into boxes and try spending an afternoon dropping your items off at different buy and sell shops. Whatever isn’t purchased that afternoon donate to your nearest thrift shop.

As you minimize your belongings, reduce your consumption, and simplify your schedule, notice as you feel lighter in your spirit and mind. Reducing material items will even bring your family and kids closer, and help you to see what really matters.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

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