“Would you both just stop shouting at each other!” I yelled across the living room at my kids. The irony was not lost on me. Yes, I was yelling at my kids trying to get them to stop yelling at one another.

I’ve danced the work-from-home dance for over a decade now. And I have it dialled in to a strong 9/10 most days. So I thought that transitioning into this new routine, with my kids at home, would be easy. 

“How hard can it be?” I thought. Extremely, it seemed.

I stood in the kitchen, preparing yet another round of snacks (How can they eat so much before midday when they usually come home from school with food still in the lunch box?). I was lost.

One moment I wanted to let them run wild and free and then the next, I was ready to launch Vari’s Military Bootcamp and whip them into shape. It was messy and chaotic and stressful.

Then the realisation landed on me. I wasn’t simply trying to continue to work from home.

I was trying to coordinate every aspect of each of my family members lives – school, work, exercise, meals, social connection, entertainment, down time and sleep – within four walls during a crisis situation and global pandemic!

I looked up from the deconstructed fruit platter I was preparing (grapes, blueberries + strawberries on a plate, no cutting required, #parentwin) watching my sons launch LEGO at each other across the dining room table. 

I was beginning to understand that in order to navigate this new routine without all the chaos and overwhelm, I was going to have to adopt a different approach.

Here’s how to create less chaos and more calm in your home during these uncertain times.

1 // Declutter one small space each week.

Physical decluttering helps with emotional decluttering. The more calm and order we can feel in our home environments, the more calm and orderly we’ll feel on the inside.

Each week, choose one small area you’re going to clear out and reorganise. It might be the kitchen pantry, your car, the kids bookshelf, that ‘everything drawer’ in the office, the bathroom cabinet, your sock drawer.

This small and consistent action helps us feel like we have an element of control to our lives when there’s so much uncertainty in the world.

2 // Stop saying yes when you mean no.

The reason for so much chaos at the moment is because you’re mostly likely saying yes when you mean no.

You don’t have to join in the family online quiz night if you’re exhausted and would rather get outside for a long, slow walk. You can politely decline the Friday night virtual drinks with friends if what you really want is 30 minutes to yourself in a long hot bath (with noise cancelling earphones. I have found these to be the best quarantine purchase for any parent.)

Remove yourself from any Facebook group challenges, online summits and virtual conferences that you don’t really want to attend. It’s amazing how much space it opens up when we say no to things we don’t actually want to do.

3 // Simplify meal times.

Now, I have absolutely no desire to be the next MasterChef, yet when we went into lockdown, my kids started getting used to smashed avocado and feta on sourdough for breakfast each morning. Every other cafe and restaurant may be closed but Mom’s Cafe was most certainly open for business 24/7. This, I realised, was not sustainable. 

Save these types of dishes for the weekends. Opt for simplicity and ease when it comes to weekday meals.

Also, saving the ‘specials menu’ for weekends helps to shake off the monotony of the day to day. It creates a way to shift from the energy of the work / school week to the less structured, more relaxed weekends.

4 // Set your priority for the week.

What’s one thing that you want to accomplish this week? Is it to workout 3 times? To finish that pitch document for work? Want to be available to support your kids in their school work.

Decide at the start of the week what your priority is. This will help you stay on track and save you from saying yes when you mean no. (see point 2 above.)

5 // Create Work-to-Play transitions.

Developing simple methods to transition in and out of work and school modes has been a great way for me and my sons to create some gentle routine.

This might be a meditation, a short yoga practice, a walk around the block with the dog, burning a particular scented candle or oil during work time and a different one during down time.

Transitions that engage all our senses help our brains switch on when we need to get to work and switch off when we need to rest and play.

The Wrap Up

It can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Especially when we’re navigating uncharted waters.

Yes, as the internet has been repeatedly telling us this last few months, now is a great opportunity to dedicate time to those project that we’ve never had time for in the past.

But now is also a really great time to get down to the essentials, to prioritise what’s important. And that will most likely look different for each and every one of us.

Implementing these steps has reduced the niggling, low-level anxiety that was becoming a fourth member of our family.

The reality is that whilst this time is an opportunity for many of us to slow down and step back, that’s not true for us all.

Many industries and professions are being asked to show up in bigger, bolder ways than they ever have before. But we do not have to be fuelled by chaos.

So be gentle with yourself, be gentle with your kids, and know this – beans on toast is an acceptable dinner at least one night each week.