Two basic items that make this Mama’s life simpler

I often have a messy house, and I often find myself at 5:00 in the evening with no dinner plans, so please know that I’m making no claims of mothering perfection here, especially on the mess and dinner fronts. BUT, I am making this claim: There are two items that make this mothering life a whole world easier. And that is no exaggeration. I mean it. I couldn’t imagine my days as a mother without these two items, and the great part is: they are both easy to find and not super expensive. What are these two magical items that make my home cleaner than I could have ever imagined (on some days…) and that make supper ready when we are ready for it, despite the so-called “killer hour” of 4:30-5:30 when everyone melts down?

The first is a…..basket. Mothers everywhere generally have baskets everywhere filled with all sorts of goodies and not-so-goodies, but this basket it different. This basket sits in our laundry room and is labeled “DONATE”. And any time I see a toy or book or clothing item or whatever on the floor that we could do without or that isn’t taken care of, it goes straight to the donation bin. As I fold laundry and notice a pair of shorts that are a little on the short side for my kiddos, they go straight to the donation bin. As I reach for the big platter at the top of my kitchen cabinet, I catch sight of a second gravy boat that has no need to be in my house, and (guess what?…) it goes straight into that donation basket. And about once a week, sometimes three times a week, and sometimes once every other week, that basket is full, and we place the contents in a bag, put it in the van, and then drop it off at a local organization in need. This sounds basic, but the key for me is that I have a designated place to put things we are ready to let go of at all times, which keeps me from putting it away for later to take up space or make another mess. It was only recently that I realized the key to a clean house (NOT saying I always have one, but maybe one day…), and that key is simple: HAVE LESS STUFF. Homes in magazines look beautiful and clean because there generally aren’t overstuffed dresser drawers and extra sunglasses and purses covering counters and overflowing toy boxes. Everything can’t be in its place if there are more things than places, right? And I am not a person who would ever stay on top of organizing if I didn’t have this basket, sitting and waiting and reminding me that there is a place for all of those extra stuffed animals and purses. Plus this basket reminds my family that it makes much more sense to share the stuff we have, especially when we have way more than we need.
And the second item making my mothering life easier? A big ol’ pot. This one is so simple. I am a morning person, and my kids, like most kids, are morning people, at least after-breakfast morning people. And I am not a late afternoon person, and my kids, like most kids, are not late afternoon people. We all tend to lose steam around here or lose tempers or hurt feelings or need a nap or need cuddle time or skid knees or fall behind on math lessons or need to talk out an important issue or learn a major life lesson right at the time I might need to be chopping and preparing dinner. SOOOO……I have found the secret to success on the supper front around here is to chop stuff up in the morning, throw it in a big ol’ pot, stir and season and check on it throughout the day as it simmers and makes the house smell like effort and goodness, and then when my role as mommy is at its most pressing, I can be the mama my kids need, and know that as soon as we are done talking things out or straightening out an argument or putting on the band-aid or learning about Mozart or whatever, supper is ready and waiting in the pot. And some days, I encourage my kids to come up with random goodness on their own to help throw into the pot. “What vegetables are in season locally and would taste good together?” Kids just love to be creative in the kitchen, and slow cooking really lends itself to experimenting, since you can usually fix things as needed, adding a little more salt when it was forgotten in the beginning or throwing in a few more potatoes along the way when kids (or parents) got a little too ambitious with the salt. I like to use a huge enameled casserole pot or an old-fashioned iron pot, but a crockpot works, too. And a plus here is that the kitchen clean-up is much easier after dinner when only one pot is used. My “poor” kids probably have stew, roast, chicken and dumplings, beans, soup, or something along those lines a few times a week. When they get older, I wouldn’t be surprised if the big ol’ pot goes missing at some point and I find a pizza pan in its place. But until then, I’m enjoying days of having the work of dinner done before the morning is over.

What makes your days simpler?