20 Small Steps Toward an Easier Day – Fifteen Minutes at a Time


I hope you have been enjoying our month long theme of rhythm and routines as much as I have.  The discussions and questions that have come up in the comments have been very thought-provoking.  I thank you for your feedback, especially the way you’ve been responding to each other.

Before we delve into this topic further, I want to remind readers that there is no “one size fits all.”  What is one family’s simple solution might be another family’s complication.  Life at your home doesn’t look exactly like life at my home, or the Simple Kids contributor’s homes, or your neighbor’s home, or even your sister’s.

Your routine must reflect your own family’s individual circumstances and season of life in order to best serve you.

I hope by sharing examples from our lives of what works – and doesn’t work – for us, that the contributors and I are inspiring you and giving you some ideas that you can take and apply to your own lives.

My goal is to get you thinking about ways you can make things easier for yourselves and help life flow smoother for your families.

Photo by Kara Fleck

I also want to gently remind you, in case you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, that most of the families I know who have steady rhythm and routines in place didn’t get there in a day or even in a week.  These routines evolved over time.

With that in mind, I thought this was a good time to revisit an article I wrote last year on Small Steps, Big Changes: the idea of keeping it simple and giving yourself small, manageable goals that are realistic.

Specifically, these are changes you can make fifteen minutes at a time.

Making over your entire day all at once? A daunting task. Making small changes, with big benefits, just 15 minutes at a time? Now that is something you can do!

Changes You Can Make, Fifteen Minutes at a Time

Not every item on this list will apply to every family, of course.  Today I’m offering twenty ideas for you to pick and choose from as you make small changes in the flow of your days.

Here are the original 10 changes:

  1. Spend 15 minutes preparing the night before for the day ahead
  2. Set your clock for 15 minutes earlier in the morning
  3. Get in the habit of spending 5 minutes immediately after each meal washing the dishes with your child (3 meals a day = 15 minutes)
  4. Start your bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier in the evening
  5. Spend 15 minutes outside with your child and work your way up to an hour (or more!)
  6. Do 15 minutes of structured play or crafting with your child
  7. Spend 15 minutes reading to your child.
  8. Take in 15 minutes of peace and quiet. Do nothing. Slow down.
  9. Have a 15 minute Tea Time or After School Snack with your child
  10. Set one 15 minute toy pick-up at the end of the day (or three 5 minute toy pick-ups during the day)

Photo by Kara Fleck

And here are 10 more changes you can make, fifteen minutes at a time …

  1. Take time after each meal to set the table for the next meal (3 meals = 15 minutes)
  2. Spend 15 minutes the night before filling up sippy cups and/or bottles, so they are in the fridge and ready to go in the morning (for younger kids)
  3. Spend 15 minutes after dinner packing lunch for the next day (for older kids)
  4. Take 15 minutes and designate an assigned spot for library materials so that you don’t have to spend time searching for them every week when they are due (Bonus: take 15 minutes and read some of the great advice readers gave me last year when I was looking to get my family off of the library’s “most wanted” list)
  5. Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the week going over the calendar – include your spouse and older children so that everyone knows what is on the agenda for the week.
  6. This Spring, take 15 minutes and attack your clutter with this week’s Project Simplify assignment at Simple Mom.  Just 15 minutes a day will add up to a big difference in just a few weeks’ time!
  7. Give yourself a 15 minute break before dinner to relax, meditate, and take some time for peace and quiet before one of the busiest times of day begins (a wise suggestion from contributor Jaimie last week).
  8. Lay out the next day’s clothing for yourself and your children the night before.
  9. Are you already getting up 15 minutes earlier than you kids? Great! Now I challenge you to get up 15 minutes earlier than that to give yourself a half an hour of quiet time in the morning. Looking for some motivation in this area?  Check out Kat’s Hello Mornings on Inspired to Action.
  10. Spend 15 minutes a day this week getting your family’s paperwork and important documents organized.  A couple of suggestions for this are to build a Home Management Notebook (my friend Mandi has some great printables to help you do this at Life Your Way) or, if you prefer paperless planning, as I do these days, check out the resources at AboutOne and see if they might be a good fit for you.

Pick one fifteen minute change or pick a handful, but please do consider these small steps toward big changes in your routine.

Do you have a big hurdle that is blocking your daily and/or weekly routine from going smoothly? Could you break it down into smaller steps? What changes are you focusing on to help life flow more smoothly for yourself and your kids?  What small changes can you make?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. You have presented some very manageable changes. Thank you!

  2. Kara, great advice. One thing you left out – however – is exercise. I stayed fit while my kids were young by not finding a gym that had day care but by integrating it into our family life (fortunately I’ve got a husband who’s a big fitness innovator too!)
    But key to this (and now, even while the kids are grown) is doing exercise in short spurts. Sometimes it’s tag with my kids or dancing together. Sometimes it’s doing a set of jumping jacks or jumping rope for 10 minutes as a break. It not only adds up to a major workout to keep you trim, but it also keeps you mentally in shape. It works as a fantastic stress buster and energizer.

    I have many of my tactics on my family fitness site. You might want to start with this one:


    And thank you for the other ideas. Even though my kids are older, I still need to put some of these ideas to use to keep things flowing smoothly here!
    Sarah Clachar´s latest post: Warm Winter Clothes- What To Wear Outdoors

  3. Love this! Thank you!

    adventuresinbabywearing´s latest post: Stage Mother

  4. I can’t tell you how insanely helpful these posts are. When I decided to leave corporate America to stay home with my daughters and freelance, I had no idea how much work it would be. I knew, but I didn’t. Being a homemaker does not come naturally to me so posts like this and blogs like this give me great fuel to create peace in our lives.

    We’re doing a few of these and they really do help. Filling the sippy cups is such a small thing but so helpful. We’ve also taken to reading 3 books at each meal. It takes pressure off the rest of the day if we don’t get to reading with the kids. As they get older, I imagine we’ll change things up but right now it’s perfect.

    Thanks for all the great inspiration!
    Carla´s latest post: Thinking About Japan

  5. I needed all of these right now! I’ve realized just how much I’ve slipped on these. Little things like getting the breakfast bowls, spoons & juice cups out the night before, pulling lunch supplies out, packing the kids’ backpacks up the night before save us so much time and drama in the morning. So worth it.

    But I’ve gotten out of our routine. Thanks for bringing me back.
    Gina´s latest post: One of Those Nights

  6. These are GREAT reminders ..I think it is SO easy to be perfectionists and think that if we cant finish something 100% then its not worth doing at ALL. I am learning as I juggle homeschooling two under 6 and having a less than one year old, along with church service and home, is that alot CAN get done in 15 minutes, and even if I dont get it done I am 15 minutes more done than I was before then!

    • Yes, Courtney, perfectionism brings down many a potential family rhythm, I think. I wish we could all learn to be a little bit gentler on ourselves, extend ourselves a little grace, and give ourselves credit for all that we DO accomplish!

      And, there are certainly days around here where 15 minutes doesn’t happen but 5 minutes is more do-able. And, yet, even 5 minutes is more than was done before. Small steps, big changes 🙂
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: 20 Small Steps Toward an Easier Day – Fifteen Minutes at a Time

  7. My favorite tip is 15 minutes outdoors with your little one. That always relaxes me and rejuvenates me for all the rest of the activities we squeeze into a day!
    Scarlet of Family Focus Blog´s latest post: Space Saving Toys That are Beautiful and Developmental

  8. a lot of these things i already do, but it’s always encouraging to be reminded that those families that seem to have their routines down pat didn’t get there overnight. their years with toddlers were probably as crazy as mine! 🙂
    andie´s latest post: rachels favorites

  9. I would really like to know where you acquired the beautiful wooden toys.
    Great tips too.

  10. It is amazing how such simple things as you have brought up here, can make such a difference in our family and our days. Implement 4 or 5 of them, and you have created a huge impact! Don’t negate the little stuff!
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Moms need a timeout too

  11. Great Post Kara. I am a working mother and i can see that some of the tips can really help me in handling the juggle better. Thanks !

  12. I definitely agree with Carla! Sometimes these things don’t come naturally for me — the switch to SAHM or WAHM is a big one … one that most underestimate. It’s these basic, but incredibly helpful posts that give me tools in my toolbox and spark creativity for other things that “work” for our home. Thank you!!

  13. Great post! Especially the part where you read a book to your child. That one I missed. I only do that when I have spare time.

    Thank you for sharing these amazing ideas! Cheers!

    Alex Wilde – El Experimento´s latest post: Mea Culpa! …lo lamento!

  14. Hi Kara.

    Thanks so much — several of these are tweaks I can make. I have recently started a much longer – chapter book – reading with the kids at night; 30-40 minutes instead of the 10 we were doing. While they initially resisted, now they caught up in the story and I have noticed, since we started it, that suddenly they are all requesting more lap time in the day time. I think it’s not only that they are more in love with me but that I am softer toward them too. Each little change makes a difference; especially the one about a 15 minute deep breath before dinner!


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