How good are holidays? The best. Ever. There’s just so much to love. My favourite bit is stopping. Even with three kids, you can still stop (somewhat). There’s no running around, no commitments, no extra house work. Just the little tidy up, meals and a bit of laundry. Which means time to relax and time to do things as a family and enjoy your kids being kids. Best ever.
We recently went on our annual pilgrimage to our beloved Forster. We stay in the same unit year after year and do the same thing year after year – beach, cafe, sandhill, walks, repeat. I even managed to finish some books I’d downloaded on my iPad and a novella (fancy word for medium-short story?) and got a big chunk of knitting done too. Plus I discovered Rachel Khoo on Foxtel and watched a few episodes of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals (a book I now have on my wish list).
The books I read mirrored exactly what we were experiencing on holidays – a clutter free, well enjoyed, relaxed family lifestyle. I finally finished reading Ruth Soukup’s Unstuffed, which really summed up what I was feeling on holidays – a need to stop, a need a breathe and a need to simplify. We took a holiday after Christmas, but being a big family trip with a 7-week old baby, it wasn’t particularly relaxing, or at least not as much as we’re used to on a holiday. Then school started and life was non-stop, despite the fact that I’m a stay at home mum who doesn’t do that much (compared to what many other mothers do these days, anyway).
Unstuffed talked about all sorts of things – practically unstuffing yourself from ‘things’, but also from paper clutter, over scheduling your diary, and even people (it sounds completely terrible, but it’s about recognising dangerous relationships and cultivating the wonderful ones.) It ends with a beautiful and very vulnerable revelation about Ruth herself, which just made me appreciate the book even more. She’s not a ‘made’ woman; she’s journeying through unstuffing in her own life, and it’s not weird or pretentious like some home organisation books can sound. It really made me consider where I’m at with all of this, on the back of already having been pondering it after just one day of holidays!
The other book I got through was the very enjoyable For Better or For Kids, by husband and wife, Patrick and Ruth Schwenk. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this, and I devoured it. The book is a thoughtful piece of marriage advice; a discussion on why it’s so important to nourish your marriage and not let your kids become your first focus. Obviously your kids are important and demand a lot, but a healthy marriage just makes life so much more enjoyable, is God’s design for families, and is something to be cherished and nurtured. There is a lot of practical advice and the book covers a lot of topics that commonly cause tension in marriages.
These guys have four kids of their own, and again, they’re just a couple going through these things themselves. It’s full of anecdotes from their own journey, and many times I found myself nodding along, sometimes having a chuckle and other times having those light bulb moments. It’s written in a really relaxed, conversational tone. I found it a bit odd at first, as it reads like they sat down with a tape recorder and just took turns speaking, but once you get used to that, I think it works well. It’s a book you can read on your own or together with your spouse, and being written by both a husband and a wife, it’s relevant to both halves.
After being on holidays, I’m proud to say that we actually came home and bizarrely rearranged the bedrooms. Maybe that’s a bit weird, but we put the big two kids in together (it hasn’t been entirely successful yet, but they’re starting to get used to it) and the babe in her own room – which means we have our room back! Our older two went straight into their own rooms as newborns, but with more beds than bedrooms this time around, we opted to have the littlest in our room up until now. To be truthful, there were perks to this as I didn’t have to get out of bed to nurse, especially nice when some nights were particularly cold! But it did mean we couldn’t really relax in our room; we had to talk in tiny whispers and even the rustling of the sheets or the opening of drawers could disturb her.
We have also cleared a fair bit of clutter. I loved not having so much to clean up while away and even having fewer toys was beneficial for the kids. Their play was more sustained and focused, and there weren’t the same overwhelmed sighs and sulks that can come with suggestions for play or requests to clean up. We talked about this with Bean and he agreed that he was happier with fewer toys. I’ve culled quite a few toys since coming home and no one has really noticed. I’ll keep culling little by little. And, I finally gave in and signed up for banking e-statements. I’ve always been a paper lover, but I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of paper these days, so it just made sense to drop them, since most of our other bills now come via email these days.
As a couple, we’re turning in earlier which means that we can talk and read and not have the distraction of the TV or the jobs we ‘should be’ doing (or the coldness of downstairs… Electric blankets!) We’re making an effort to have date nights, even if that’s watching a movie at home or having some fancy cheese one night of the week. Budgets and babysitting require simplicity, but I do think it’s the thought that counts. We’re trying to be more relaxed about nap times and dinner times and just go out, even if it’s cold or late in the day. And I’m trying really hard to stress less about the house work and be more efficient with it – including cutting right back on social media. I really noticed how much time it was eating up when we were away from home without WiFi and limited data allowances. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
So where to from here? My list includes more decluttering, more simplifying, more spontaneity and more relaxation. It’s sounds like a lot of ‘more’, but it’s actually ‘less’. Making downtime a priority: knitting, reading, hanging out. Making family time a bigger priority and not worrying about driving down to the beach if we can only spend half an hour there. Who cares, right. It’s still fun! More free activities – less entitlement and less focus on ‘getting’; more focus on exploring and being together and making memories.
Blog wise, it probably means fewer posts, but hopefully they’ll still be valuable, maybe even more so. Less on Facebook, but more on Instagram where I can share photos of life (it’ll be linked up to Facebook, as will the blog, so you can still stay up to date there.) I do have lots of ideas for things I want to do and try out, but it’ll truly be on my own terms and not on the back of a self-imposed, guilt-laden feeling of “I should be doing x, y and z”.
I’m excited about the changes and already feeling a little lighter.
Here’s to holidays, and here’s to holiday life living on at home.