Tag Archives: family

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

by Kelvin Belfon

Keeping Your Car Clean

I enjoy driving a clean car.

But my expectations have drastically changed since the addition of our four children.

Over the last 2 years, my children have decisively marked their territory in the backseat of our car with toys, leftover food, snacks crumbs, dishes, clothing, books, crayons, paper, rocks, stickers, unfinished experiments, and all such things required in their world.

I know that for them, everything is in its necessary place, but from my perspective, it just looks like a dump, like the aftermath of a hurricane. Going back there to access the damages from week to week can be pretty disturbing for someone like me.

Our cars were a never-ending nightmare to keep clean. After spending a good chunk of time cleaning, vacuuming and wiping down the seats, my heart would sink in disappointment and frustration when after just 3 days the warzone would return with a vengeance.

I’ve had far less problem tidying up and de-cluttering our home; but our cars…! They just seem to be my kryptonite.

I’ve been tempted quite a bit to raise the proverbial white flag and surrender in defeat. I had the right excuses too: I’m a busy parent of 4 small children. It’s winter, extra muck is to be expected. Carwashes can add up to an extra, avoidable budget expense! Everyone will understand. Some won’t even care or notice, right?

But recently I decided to regain control and conquer this Achilles heel. First, I gave the car a thorough cleaning with both my 4 and 7-years helping out. Then we had a short family meeting. Yes, I included our 12-month-old twins in there too, but they gave no input!

It’s been almost 2 months. The exterior of our vehicle is in need of a wash but the interior remains significantly improved. The frustration is now at a minimum. And I’m less freaked out.

 

Keeping Your Car Clean_vanquotepic

 

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

1. Avoid food in the car. As parents, we are always rushing from one event to the other. So snacking in the car is a normal routine. But if you can, don’t make it the norm. Reserve food in the car for emergencies only. Resist the habit and you’ll win every time.

2. Provide a home for the trash. This was the game changer. I’m not sure why it took me so long to adapt. Each child has a plastic grocery bags to dump trash in. Professional trash bags for cars are also available if you want a fancier look.

3. Empty the trash when you refuel. This is a handy tip used by lots of parents. But even better, every time we get home, we do inventory and the kids pick up their space before leaving the car. This will help avoid bad odors and garbage building up.

4. Keep toys to a minimum. Toys will clutter your car in a heartbeat. This will happen if your kids treat your vehicle like their entertainment hub. Encourage conversation and sightseeing as alternate activities. This will also help improve their attention span. Another big reason to limit or even eliminate toys is because they can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

5. Follow the clean car golden rule. What goes in, must go out! That is, if your children bring something in the car like a toy, coat or book…at the end of the day, they must put it back where it belongs.

6. Use a seat organizer. Seat organizers are great for helping keep things in their rightful place. Some may also protect your leather seats from showing prints as well. But avoid the tendency to store all the possible non-essentials you can find in your seat organizer, or you’ll be defeating the purpose and committing the same crime you wish to reform your kids from.

7. Wipe-up during downtime. You are sitting in the school line waiting for your kids or at the park watching them play…quickly use a wet wipe to dust off the dashboard or clean up a spill. Regular cleaning intervals will reduce the need for a major car wash project.

8. Enlist your children. Put your little ones to work. It will help reinforce the idea that they need to own the damage they do to their space. Moreover, use the occasion as another opportunity to connect with your child.

9. Use an air freshener! This will keep funky sports equipment odors at bay. Use the ones that eliminate bad odor and not just compound bad odors with perfumes.

10. Schedule monthly cleaning. Your vehicle can still accumulate trash or crumbs despite all the aforementioned. So once or twice a month, take some time to give your vehicle a proper clean. The good news is, it won’t be a war zone at this point.

It’s unrealistic to have a spotless car at all time when you have children. Be reasonable, messes and spills will happen. In our home, we also adjust during certain seasons, like snowy winters. But still, you don’t have to succumb to the helpless parent syndrome like I did. You can take proactive steps!

We are always teaching and modeling behavior as parents. What we allow in moderation, our children will do in excess. Be consistent, intentional and in the process you’ll be helping your child for years to come.

What other tips do you use to keep your car clean?

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What I Learned from my 3 Mothers

by Kelvin Belfon

My 3 Mothers

Over the course of my life, there have been 3 mother figures that have wholly influenced who I am today.

First there is Lizzy, my biological mother who gave birth to me in her teens. Because of our age difference, people would often mistake us as siblings. Actually, we’ve always been more like best friends more than anything else.

Mom worked long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs in order to put food on the table. She’s always been encouraging and supportive in all my endeavors. In my book mom’s number one.

Then there is Cooley, an upbeat, business minded, no nonsense single mother of 2. She had a contagious smile and persuasive personality while selling at the local market. I lived with Cooley from ages 3-5.

Finally there was Sister Nelson, a short, slim, soft-spoken but driven woman. I’m not sure of the exact number; but she had over 10 children, helped raise the majority of her grandchildren as well as the children of non-family members, like myself.

Sister Nelson had many roles: wife, mother, grandmother, friend, farmer, businesswoman, matriarch, spiritual mentor, and community leader. I lived with her from age 11-21. Two years ago she passed away. Oh, how I miss her so.

These 3 women expressed their love very differently, but equally impacting, toward me. My mom was a hugger and giver. Cooley and Sister Nelson were less emotional. But you couldn’t tell with these 2 women because they treated me like family.

I also learned many things from each of these heroic women. I’ve observed their actions, rehearsed their wise counsels, and modeled their ideals. Maybe there were life lessons to be learned after being reprimanded or spanked. I’m glad they loved me enough to correct me and guide me in the right path.

What I learned from my 3 mothers

So, here are the 16 lessons I’ve learned from my 3 mothers.

Cooley

  • Say please when asking for things
  • Say thank you when given things
  • Say excuse me before interrupting adults
  • Show respect to strangers, and especially your elders

Sister Nelson

  • How to wash clothes by hand and iron them
  • How to be grateful for the small things
  • How to clean a house and keep a yard looking good
  • How to love God with all my heart and care for his people
  • How to grow a backyard kitchen garden and care for animals like sheep, goats and chickens

Lizzy

  • How to cook
  • How to eat with a knife and fork
  • How to take pride in how I present myself, especially in the way I dress
  • How to be responsible and independent so that I can take care for myself without asking for handouts
  • How to work hard and sacrifice for long term goals
  • How to keep going despite setbacks and obstacles
  • How to not take no for an answer, dream big and focus on ending well

I’m grateful for my biological mother. She’s been a very close friend to me. But women who care for those who are not their own, are exceptional. They have a special gift. Their love is a choice, not an obligation.

Mothers are human, not perfect. They share a unique place in our hearts. Their love is sacrificial and unconditional. Mothers work tirelessly without proper compensation or appreciation. They are willing to give up their dreams for their children. I witnessed these qualities from all 3 mothers that I’ve had.

I honor all mothers: biological, married, adoptive, step, single, nannies, and all who serve as mother figures. You never hear it enough, but…

Thank you!

What have you learned from your mother?

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Living with Less in a Bigger Space

by Kelvin Belfon

Living with less

I’m a minimalist.

I love the idea of less –that is, less clutter, less cleaning, less organizing, and less storing.

I also enjoy smaller living spaces which is ideal in minimalism. Seldom do folks talk about upgrading in my minimalists circles. But a few months ago, a series of unexpected events lead to my family’s decision to go bigger.

Although our family experienced a 50% growth, I still resisted the idea of relocating. The thought of moving with 4 children was too stressful, especially when two of our children were as young as 6 month old. Plus, our 2-bedroom townhouse was cozy since embracing the newly discovered minimalist lifestyle.

Yet, in spite of our wishes, a move became inevitable when our landlord decided to sell the townhouse. My wife and I secured a similar minimalist space for rent. To our dismay, that deal ended up being a rental scam. Now frantic, we began looking, a process that would cost us about 4 months of uncertainty.

You can imagine our relief when we finally found a well-maintained house for sale. But the home was loaded: 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with half bath and utility room, garage, and backyard.

It was perfect!

We had way more than enough room to entertain; and the children had a good sized fenced yard to freely roam. Happy and grateful over these big pluses, I was at the same time nervous about all the potential maintenance responsibilities. Hadn’t I just spent almost 2 years de-cluttering every area of our home?

I gotta admit, the moment was pretty emotional for me. The return of more clutter, cleaning, and expense of furnishing rooms and updating spaces…“This house purchase was a step in the wrong directions,” I concluded.

It’s been 6 months and we’ve settled into a routine. I’m less anxious about the big house. Everyone is happy about the extra space, even our now one year old twins who love crawling up stairs. The best part…our family remains committed to a simple lifestyle. We are living with less in a bigger space!

With everything now unpacked, we continue to de-clutter our home and find new purposes for old things. It’s a never ending process. We still sell and donate unused furniture pieces, kitchen appliances, dishes, clothing, toys, and books, just like in the past.

Everything must have a home! That’s shoes, coats, clothing, bags, toys, mail and those little things that seem to collect all over the house. This is a struggle for me though not the case for my wife. We’ve also renewed our fight against the ever growing accumulation of children’s toys and junk mail.

Storage containers are good on the eye and keep us organized. But over time they can become clutter magnets, keeping stuff hidden for years and even decades. So we decided to empty a handful of containers, and use or giveaway the unused contents.

What’s more, we have in fact added some new things to our home. When you own a house, you want to customize and make it your own. It’s only natural, especially if you’ve been renting for a handful of years.

 

“Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!”

 

But at the same time, we’ve built in strategies to keep over-accumulation far off. For example, limiting our trips to the home improvement, appliance and furniture stores. We’ve also focused more on quality vs. quantity and intentionally left some areas of our home unfurnished because not every space needs to be filled.

Not all minimalists live in tiny houses or apartments. That’s because your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. Some prefer a little more real estate, especially those with larger families. Minimalism is not about seeing how much misery you can tolerate. There is no right or wrong methodology. It’s a lifestyle and mentality; and this will work differently for everyone.

Minimalism is also more than subtracting the unnecessary. It’s about creating a safe, positive, meaningful and enjoyable space where lifelong memories are forged. Big or small, this sacred place, I like calling home!

 

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Raising Children in an Excess Age

by Kelvin Belfon

Raising-Children-Minimalists-Excess

 

Pull out your Webster’s Dictionary, and have your child define minimalism. Then have them memorize a few simplicity quotes.

For a weekend assignment, have your child read Joshua Becker’s Becoming A Minimalist. “What does minimalism means to me?” would be a great topic for a 1-2 page report.

Finally, encourage your child to discard 10 of their toys, take down all bedroom wall decorations, clear out all cheap plastic trinkets made overseas.

I know what you are thinking.

“Kelvin, are you serious?”

We can all agree, this would be a highly radical method, bound to be received with a bit of resistance.

In our home, we avoid using minimalism terms when speaking to our 7 and 4 year olds. It’s not necessary. Plus, our children are not deprived of owning toys, games, musical instruments and of a decorated room.

I can’t assume my children will become minimalist by default. Minimalism was my choice, not theirs. It would be nice, but there’s no guarantee. But I can’t coerce them or demand absolute loyalty for the cause. What we can do as parents is to love our children unconditionally.

So how do I go about making this important to me message stick with my kids?

Be an example. Speak less and model more! Actions have more credibility with children. Make your child a priority and spend more time with them over caring for your possessions. Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want your child to emulate. It’s the best way to communicate minimalism to your child as recommended by Courtney Carver.

Get your child involved. When my wife and I are working on a de-cluttering project, we sometimes involve our children. If it’s in their bedroom, they help decide what clothing item, book, or toy stay and what gets donated to charity. They may also accompany us to the donation center. Whatever conversation happens along the way we use to clarify ideologies, answer questions and develop interest in simplicity concepts.

Encourage your child to give. Children are inherently narcissistic. My children love the word mine! and I’m told I did, too. It’s normal. But encourage your child to give back and share with others. When possible, create opportunities for them to gift possessions to a friend, someone in need, or even better…their time, like serving in a local food pantry.

Minimize your child’s media consumption. Television commercials are a catalyst for materialism in children. “Ads exacerbate children’s desire for material things; and this desire gradually leads them to equate consumer goods with happiness and success,” says Suzanna Opree. I’m sure you’ve experienced the “Dad/Mom can I have _____?” after a TV commercial.

Remove the electronic box from your child’s bedroom. Set a TV viewing time limit. DVR your shows and fast forward through the commercials, opt for approved educational shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime and use a DVD player to avoid overexposure to commercials. Most importantly, discuss the ad messages with your children that they happen to view. This will empower them to make decisions on their own.

Help your child appreciate what they have. Our children are not entitled to everything they see. It’s just not realistic. My neighbor’s children have a garage full of the latest toys. What do I do when my children come home asking for what they’ve seen? Your answer, like mine, might be no even if you can afford it.

Also, sometimes having your child wait for an item or save up their own cash to purchase it helps them learn sacrifice and appreciation. Use these moments to teach about the values you wish to foster within your family without condemning other families.

Teach your child to value experiences. As parents we love giving things to our children, especially material possessions. It’s a valid expression of love.

But may I suggest that a much better gift might be to use occasional opportunities to teach our children to value the experiences they share with people. Going to the museum, camping in the backyard, making conversation as you go for a hike, or watching a movie with homemade popcorn are priceless events! What happens in those instances is what will be cherished forever.

“Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want

your child to emulate.”

Raising children in an excess age has its challenges. We cannot totally shelter them from the influences of people who do not share our values or monitor all their media consumption.

Be patient. Love your child. Model your expectations. Focus less on seeking a minimalist label or ideal. Rather, teach them the timeless values of generosity, moderation and simplicity. You’ll still be successful even if they never call what they do minimalism.

 

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10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

by Kelvin Belfon

Reducing-Children-Toys-Minimalism

Who doesn’t like giving gifts to their children? It’s how we are wired as parents. I’m easily moved to buy toys for my children since I had few of my own as a child.

Growing up, I had to build my own toys most of the time. I made toys like spinning tops, kites, and playhouses from various parts of coconut and banana trees. We also enjoyed outdoor games like marbles, and hide-and-go-seek.

While living in Venezuela, around the age of 7, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever. It was a black and white remote control car with multi-color flashing lights. My mom had saved up enough to buy the perfect toy. And I treasured it because it was one of the very few store-bought toys I had ever owned.

Things are so much different today. Without any effort on the part of my wife and me, our children can easily accumulate a huge amount of toys from friends and relatives alone. Toys easily flood our home from birthday parties, holiday gifts, freebies given out at events, and school events. It’s not surprising that the average American child receives roughly 70 new toys per year. And although only 3.1% of children live in America, they consume 40% of the world’s toys!

 

10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

When my wife and I started decluttering our home, our toughest challenge was the children’s bedroom. Their toys were a major source of clutter yet we hesitated to get rid of ones we thought were special to them. Still, we remained committed to facing these kinds of challenges along our simplicity journey. In the end, we purged their room not once or twice but on several occasions. As I reflect over the last few months, here are 10 lessons learned from reducing my children’s toys.

1. The donated toys were not missed. Wanting to get rid of your child’s favorite toys is pretty gutsy move. Who can anticipate their reaction? To our surprise, life for our children continued as normal. They weren’t fixated on what we gave away but played with the toys that remained without any complaints.

2. The focus was on quality, not quantity. We had specific criteria for what we kept or tossed. Some toys are like dust collectors; they are cheap and serve no educational or creative value. Those got tossed first. Also, the size of the toy didn’t matter either. One quality toy is better than 20 oversized toys that junk up the place.

 3. Creativity was stimulated. Too many toys in a room can create overstimulation of varying sorts. Fewer toys encouraged more space to create, imagine, and invent new things.

4. Parent-child bonding was promoted. I’m often enlisted to help build space ships, helmets, shields, robots, musical instruments and more. These projects demand extra time and imagination. They don’t always look pretty; but doing them creates the most memorable moments. My children are proud of their accomplishment and value their time with dad because of it.

 5. Simple was just as fun. Sometimes my children are super heroes with a bath towel, Jedi knights with a piece of stick or the masked Zorro with construction paper. Have you noticed your child playing with an empty box instead of the $50 gift that came with it?

6. The bedroom was easier to maintain. Fewer toys meant over all less clutter, less organizing and less cleaning. What would take hours, now only takes minutes to complete. I love it!

7. Sharing was encouraged. I noticed my children playing and cooperating with each other even more. We also maintained a policy that whenever a new toy is brought into the home, one must be given away. It is our desire to instill gratitude, contentment and generosity in the process. My children have embraced this idea really well. They’re actually very eager to give away their toys to other children!

8. Children got involved. Before touching anything in their bedroom, we discussed the idea of decluttering to our children and involved them in the process. We even took them with us to the donation store. When it was time to tackle their toys, it was a natural progression as they helped decide what stayed and what was went.

9. Children were not as overly sentimental. We kept the toys that added value to our children’s lives and discard those that did not. It didn’t matter how the toys or who gifted them to us. We took an even bolder step in this process. To reduce waste, we communicated to our family and friends our preference for educational toys and museum and park memberships. Our friends and family are slowly but surely catching on to our ideals.

10. It’s not about the parent. We often try to relive our childhood through our children. The notion that, “I had little, so my child will NEVER experience lack,” is not reality or a good lesson to teach our children. The experience of lack is part of life.

Toys are important for a child’s social and mental development. This is why our children still own toys. But I do believe fewer toys can benefit children. I turned out to be all right with less and I think my children will as well.

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