The Simpler Family author Christine Klein shows families how to make their dreams come true by making smart choices about the way they spend their time and money.
Proven, real-life strategies help families increase their free time together, reduce stress on parents and children, improve parents’ work/life balance, increase healthfulness and save time and money.
In This Episode
- 00:37 – Opening: The Simpler Family
- 05:59 – Home Matters
- 07:57 – Challenges Families Face
- 17:43 – Extracurricular Activities
- 18:46 – Question of the Day: Rita
- 20:13 – Grocery Shopping
- 25:10 – Preparing Meals
- 30:50 – More Ways to Simplify
- 34:37 – Success Stories
- 37:25 – Closing Comments
About Christine Klein
Christine Klein is married and the mother of two. She left a successful marketing career to pursue her dream of living her life on her own terms, by working less and spending more time with her family. This book is the product of the strategy she created to accomplish that. Now a marketing consultant and freelance writer with plenty of time for her family and herself, she lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Christine Klein: This is Christine Klein author of the simpler family. You’re listening to Vicky And Jen. What really matters.
Vicky: Hi this is Vicky and making life simple so you can enjoy what really matters. Welcome, thank you for listening to our podcast today. We are so pleased to have an author with us, Christine Klein. Actually, Chris, I guess I need to ask should be calling you Chris or Christine. OK, Chris. OK. She wrote the book the simpler family. It’s a book of smart choices and small comfort for families who do too much and actually before we get started.
Jen: Vickie I know you’ve heard this but kind of wanted to tell a story about how he came across this topic. Vicki. You got to see this book. You got to see this book. It’s great. This is what our podcast is about. This is it. It’s simple. Simplify the family. So I go to the library and I get this book and looking at it and I’m looking at it and I’m like me and I know this lady.
Christine Klein: I did. I worked with her for the whole summer at the swim club and didn’t even realize she was a famous author. And now I’m referencing her book All the time and I really love it that you really do. I do. I love this book.
So Chris, tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write the simpler family.
Well, I started the idea of writing the book. It was way back in 1993. My husband and I had two small children who are not small anymore but my daughter was 3 and my son was one and we were a two income family like everybody else that we knew in our day very very hectic. But that’s the way everybody’s life was. You know the friends that we had we didn’t get this to be. I was just going to say that I thought it was supposed to be that way and then there was that one morning when my daughter just had a meltdown on the way to the child care center because she didn’t like the way the scene felt of her sock over her toes and she had a meltdown and then I had one of my own and then my son who was one didn’t know what to do so he just cried. And after that, I was driving to work after dropping them off and I thought you know something’s got to change. This just cannot be this way anymore. And so with the support of my husband I decided I’m going to start working part-time.
I left that job and I started working part-time someplace else. And it really was the happiest year of my entire life because suddenly we were in control of our time and we were in control of our money and although our income went from 76000 to 30 something thousand that year I actually was a breadwinner. It still was the happiest year of our life and I had so many people say to me you wish I could do that.
And I knew that they could do that. And so I wrote the book because I wanted to show them how they could do them. So it wasn’t really the same of her sock was it those darn socks that deserve. It’s just that little stuff. And you know that’s not really what it was. You could fix the scene.
But yeah I think she was just tired of being shuffled off every morning and you know maybe just wanted to stay home I’m not sure. So did you quit your job altogether or did you cut back your hours and now you’re working part-time. I actually left there and started working part-time at a different place. But it worked. You know that was fine. It was a good arrangement at the time. Later I started working for myself. Now I have my own business. I’m a freelance writer. So I’ve been working from home. At first, I did not. But now I’m working from home.
On Simplifying Family Life
So would you say you are a family who did too much then?
I think we definitely were doing too much and not we didn’t purposely do too much. It just happened. And I think this happens with a lot of families especially those with young children now.
Well at your point at that point your kids weren’t even old enough to be in like extracurricular activities. That’s. I think when I think of a family here he does too much. You know it’s like the typical Saturday that you talk about in your book you know it’s get up front here on there and you know you’re missing the family dinners because you have soccer practice for one kid and baseball for another and you know I think we all probably know a lot of people like that and I do too much. I think that that’s I think one of the reasons why I really like this book because I do not want to fall into that. You know I don’t want to keep up with the Joneses. You know I want to enjoy time at home and do that so I think that’s the main reason why I like this book. I’d like to follow all the guidelines in there and get myself in order so that when my kids want to do an activity I know how to approach it a little bit better.
Yeah. So. So you said you wrote this book in 93 correct. And you have. So have you been a simpler family ever since?
We really have. I mean maybe there’s been some changes along the way as the children got older but for the most part yeah we have a simple lifestyle we don’t spend a lot of money we don’t do a lot of things outside of the house that cost a lot of money. But yet we’re very happy that it has worked out beautifully for us.
So why do you think spending time at home? You know why does that really matter so much. Well because know because in extracurricular activities are important to you are right about that
When we spend our free time in our weekends and up in a frenzied kind of running everywhere which is the way many families do it. It leaves us feeling exhausted at the end of the weekend and we’re not really ready to get back into the work again. And let me just give you one example of what I mean by this. There was one summer when my son he was kindergarten age he wanted to go to Chucky Cheese’s is the name of the place where he there were video games and little things for kids to do. He wanted to go there in the worst way. And I had no intention of taking a mayor. I had other things I wanted to do at home and I really didn’t want to go anywhere and I happened to notice that my neighbor had an old television a little portable TV out by the trash. And so I asked my neighbor do you mind if we take that it was in the trash, of course, he didn’t Garvin’s. And I gave it to my son and I said you don’t want to take the use the tools that we had just given him for his birthday and take the back off of this and see what’s inside. Well I’m telling you he got started on that on our we have a quite a large front porch. He got started on it. And every kid in the neighborhood ended up on our front porch. There were things everywhere. He took some pieces to show and tell it can for kindergarten which he said was very cool. And then on Halloween, he glued all of these little gizmos onto the inside of a baseball cap and was Franklin’s Halloween that year. All because we found something that he was able to use this creativity to do for the entire weekend and it didn’t cost one single nickel and he forgot about Chucky Cheese.
Oh absolutely. Some places a little overwhelming even. Yes, I have that.
On Challenges With Time & Money
So what other challenges do families face who families who are doing too much? What other what other challenges are common.
I think I think the first challenge that a family has who does too much is to believe that they can get by without doing so much. It’s really believing that you can simplify and still be very happy and quite possibly happier than you are right now.
So I think that’s the first challenge. The second challenge is getting yourself to step off of that treadmill because I know most family once those kids get you to know they get in that groove of doing so many things that they’re doing and many times mom and dad are doing a lot of things too in addition to working. They are just running on a treadmill that they can’t get off of. And so it is definitely a challenge to take that first step and get off the treadmill and start working towards simplifying.
It is. You know you mention that some things just really aren’t important you know it’s OK for the kitchen to be a mess. Right. You know I think that that’s going to be my challenge is I have a really hard time sitting down and not to say I’m not lazy I would love to be lazy. But I have a hard time sitting down because I’m sitting in a room and I’m looking around and there’s like toys laying all over and it kind of drives me nuts. That’s I’m starting to work on that now which you probably noticed the other day when you came over my house that I left the toys because it didn’t really matter at that point that there were toys laying all over. And I think that’s going to be the hardest part for me is just relaxing and picking and choosing her I guess and that’s why I’m starting now is because my kids are young. There’s you know two and three and I think it’s going to take me practice.
I hear parents at the library when we take our kids to storytime and that you know oh I just had to get out of the house just couldn’t stay there any longer.
And I had to get out. And if they’re at home and then it’s difficult for them because they feel like they have to be productive. They have to be doing laundry. The toys are bugging them and they just have to get away from it. Right. So you know what. What would you say to those people Chris? The people who have a difficult time just staying at home and enjoying each other and not letting their to-do list. Get to them. What advice do you have for those besides practice?
Best Practices on Saving Time
That was one of the things I was going to say is just keep practicing it because it does get easier and unfortunately, I think in this situation the payoff may not be immediate. The payoff is a little bit later. And so you need to believe that you’re going to see that pay off. But you know for us for one thing staying home was really a money saver and money was an issue for us at the time and so you know that’s one reason but other reasons is because you want your kids to enjoy being home and using their creativity to occupy itself’s instead of letting the soccer game or the video game out or the movie theater to entertain them it’s good for them to be able to entertain themselves. So that’s definitely a payoff.
Well, I think that you know the practice comes on our part as parents. But the kids are going to totally notice that something’s something’s up. You know something’s going on. You know why are we not leaving the house today. You know why.
I think I mean they notice that little stuff and it’s I think of it in a good way. I know and I think it’s going to take maybe them a little bit of practice to learn how to entertain themselves a little bit without you know. I do have to say I was a very hands-on mom I mean as soon as Jasmine would start crying I’m right there. You know I’m right there I was one of those that I just didn’t like to hear her cry you know when she was little we had a little bit of a medical issue that I couldn’t help her and so she would cry and I would hold her and then most the time I would start crying too. And I just knew I couldn’t do anything. So that when she was crying and it was because she wanted me to hold her. I’m right there. You know and I know. So she was a very hands on you know so and it takes her she’s she is now you know almost fought. Well, actually she in me for next month and she is she’s really good now at playing by herself.
But it took time and practice and patience and you know I’d give her things to do. You know some paper and blank paper you know and markers do wonders and right. It’s like 8 and in his stationery supplies, it has a compulsion with stationery supplies.
Yes, he said he might wake up each morning and he might say, Mommy, who’s coming over today or what are we going to do today. And see you know. You know just I could say well is coming over and we’re going to cut pictures out of magazines and get out some of your art supplies. He would be equally enthused about that is if I said well we’re going to go to a festival and go to the movies you know in the first choice it doesn’t cost a dime. But it’s a lot easier. Right. I think that taking apart the television is just it’s just a great thing.
Now I do have to say I have somebody told me once in a speech that I was given that all that is not a safe thing to do. So do it at your own risk. No problems in the sense that he’s taken apart many many recordings. Yeah we well that first I think a lot of times staying at home idea is more difficult for the mom and dad than it is for the kids because they’re used to going going going in one piece of advice I’d like to give parents who I know have that problem is to decide at the start of the weekend that we are not leaving the house this weekend we’re just going to stay home or we’re going to get used to staying home.
And if you don’t think you can do it you know to take the car keys and put them in the freezer. Tell the kids to hide them somewhere so you possibly leave. And at first, it’s it’s very it’s an anxious thing to do to not be able to go anywhere. And then once you get used to the idea that I’m not going anywhere you really start to enjoy what you’ve got right around your house. So we spend so much time and money making our home look the way we want it to look and then we admire it as we’re backing out of the driveway.
That’s a good point. Really crazy. I mean and I think you need to lower your expectations as well. And you know I I wanted to do a little bit of cleaning before you came over and Jen and I have a few other interviews lined up for this week. But you know I didn’t get to it Aiden wanted me to sit out on the front porch with him and he brought out all of his art supplies. And I thought oh you know I had my to-do list today and I thought you know what though he’s only four and a half once and there’s going to be a time where he doesn’t want to sit out on the porch with mommy.
So I find that I’m getting better at lowering my expectations when it comes to cleaning and my to-do list and still be there tomorrow. So you know I’m proud to say that and then I sit there and I really think you know this is really a beautiful moment we’re just sitting here and we’re hanging out and we’re drawing and we’re having good conversation and that’s really what matters. So you have to kind of prioritize and lower your expectations and keep telling yourself that.
And I think you do get used to practicing and I think that’s true. You practice and it gets easier.
Well, now I know your kids are involved in sports. When did that start? And like how did you limit that and what do you say.
Do some sports. They don’t do. They’re not involved in a sport. Every season of the year but in fact, my son chose to play football this fall. And just yesterday said you know I really think I need the time off at the beginning of the school year and I’m not going to play football next year. So I was proud of him for recognizing that there’s a value in taking time off because a lot of parents I know think that their child needs to be busy especially when they get to like middle school age. They want them doing something after school every day and there definitely is value in not doing anything.
Yeah, and you even commented in your book about you know when you get home from school you know sit down have a snack which cereal their favorites.
Yeah. Yeah. Is it still. No no.
You know and it just looks like a wind-down time right. You know to come home and try to I guess reenergize try to finish the day on the positive note. I know that when we get to about cheesily for 30 to 5:00 I can peg it every day. I just. And this is going to sound so negative. I call it the witching hour because I can I can just feel you know the kids kind of get wound up and you know they’re starting to get hungry and you know the day we’re almost through the day.
Come on let’s just say no because I still have you know the two home runs right now.
And it’s a lot of hardest job I ever did. I tell you it’s the hardest. So the most rewarding job. It is. It is.
So when your child comes home from school and they want to add something else onto the plate what is the good language to save when you know you scentless say they’re already involved in one thing like soccer and they want to do more. How do you what language can you use to tell them that you can?
I think sometimes this is just my opinion but I think sometimes we need to remember who the bosses. And you know that we’re we’re there.
Sometimes you just get you to know sorry sweetie soccer is all you’re doing right now. Maybe next year and we do know what’s race next year. Yeah, it’s you. Shoes. Remember that you wanted to do soccer and you also wanted to do cheerleading and so think them through and I do think it’s our job to help them think through an activity before you sign their name up before they commit.
Yeah because I feel pretty strongly that once you make that commitment you’ve got to stick to it. But let’s make sure that it’s the right commitment before you sign up for first place.
By the way, Paula Newton and I are listening to that I have a long list of obligations and commitments.
And I would like to cut some of them out. Where do I start?
Saving Money While Grocery Shopping
We really you know it’s kind of like going into the kitchen and cleaning out every cabinet of your kitchen and then suddenly it’s so much it’s a much more efficient place to work if you get rid of all of the extra things on your calendar like I often recommend to people that you know sit down and make a list of everything you have to do for the next month and then really evaluate every one of those things which one of those things is really adding to the family relationship. And really it’s a valuable thing to do and which one of those things could you really kind of travel which ones do exactly like doing anyway then start crossing them off. And if you and if it’s something that you can’t back out of wealth and certainly don’t recommend once the time is up and we just started eliminating things that we did on a regular basis and I made grocery shopping more efficient than it used to be because we very were very strict about keeping a good list and thinking in advance what we wanted to have an even grocery shopping in our grocery list in an order of the way that I know I can’t believe that when we were talking about the book and the whole you know the grocery list and the planning out the meals it’s kind of, you know, I’ve been told that before.
But then I think what was great if you actually had your list in that book. You put a lot of things in that book. You aren’t just you know suggestions and ideas you put your stuff in there. You know you have your recipes and you have your grocery list which is kind of personal, isn’t it.
The list is kind of like oh wow. So you know but that whole I’d like to know is it seems like a money-saving technique that you have forgo shopping and meal planning.
And in a time saver this thing that I did do right.
Right, when I started work part time and sort of full time is that I actually went and I checked prices at three to grocery stores because I really was curious as to which grocery store had the best price for me. And so then we found the store we were going to shop at. Then I wrote down everything that we typically would buy in like a two or three week period. Every item and then I rewrote those items in an order that they appear in that grocery store that we were going to start shopping.
How did you do that? Did you go through the store and write down all your aisles.
Well, I have time to kind of everything would be walking by you. What is that lady? My dairy together and produce together but never said that I miss them. I have to go all the way back. And it’s usually really far back.
But then I took that last one when finally I had everything written in order on a piece of paper and then I made like 20 copies of it. And I always had one of those lists on the side of my refrigerator. So anytime we needed something we just circled it and typically it was on the list because remember that list was everything we bought just for Herriott. Then when it’s time to go the grocery you grab the list you go in and it’s really you’re winning. Yeah yeah. I know I have to say when my kids are really little sometimes it was fun spending a lot of time in the grocery store because just be me. Sometimes all you can do with using that system you can definitely get in and out it is one chore that I do not like to do now.
And if I do forget that one item I don’t go back I’ll call my husband and say hi got to pick this up because I couldn’t do it for you know my kids are really young. It’s not something that I enjoy. The kids probably can tell I mean I’m trying to you know can you go help me and you know to get this and I do. I have learned to very much involve the kids in grocery shopping because otherwise, it’s awful you know.
So for younger kids, the goals in and out but as you get like Aiden’s age you know he doesn’t sit in carts anymore and he takes his own paper and pen. So yeah. So but occasionally backtrack and it’s like I get mad at myself cause I thought my grocery list was so organized and I wanted to spend less time in the store you know backtrack but then there are times roll so you know what it’s not that important.
Yeah, I’ll get it a little bit left at home I’ll get it next time yeah. So just to try to get out of there a little bit quicker.
And I do also like the idea of always having on hand the fixing fur like those three meals you know always on hand I mean I got to start doing that one.
Well so. So now you have a list of things that you need and you can go in and go out. But how does it save you money? Well because first of all I’m not enticed by all of the little displays of things that grocery stores are oh so savvy about putting in various places
That just you know to stick to your head right to the item I’m in and out and that’s it.
But you said you compared prices among stores. Do you have to go to more than one still now?
And that was something I felt like we needed to decide the store that had what we thought overall would be the best price. I’m not into running to four different stores to save three dollars. I’m not sure that that’s worth it.
Preparing Meals: Quick & Budget-Friendly
So we pretty much just stuck with the one, especially with gas prices. Yeah, we spend more gas to get to them directly. Yeah well, we actually had a listener. Right. And since we’re on the topic of food. Right. We had a carrying meals preparing meals. One handed with a toddler hanging on their legs and stuff. Did you ever deal with that and how did you if you know gosh it’s been a long time since I had a lot more on my waist.
But I do know we had a lot of crock pot meals. I had a lot of you know I try to cook more than one meal at a time and then freeze the other one and you know those types of things.
I actually did that yesterday that works totally. Well you know I figured I’d get everything out. And it’s all dirty anyways let’s just go ahead and go for a couple right. You know mixed up meals.
That’s a tip for library mom yes. Who submitted that question on our forum is to use your freezer that really does work and makes double. I doubled. I need spaghetti and meatballs tonight. Doubled the recipe made a lot of meatballs. I’m going to freeze half of them and I didn’t put them in the sauce but I’ll freeze them so the next time they have that meal I’ve got meatballs on hand. I don’t have to buy the premade ones that cost a lot of money I need them myself. So that’s that’s one good idea for our listener. The other idea I think you had said in your book perhaps having. What was that you said John about ingredients on hand.
Oh yeah. Yes. I thought it was a good idea to you know choose three or four recipes that everybody in the family likes and just make sure that you have the ingredients for those meals on hand all the time so that if you get to a point where you’re at a loss or some you don’t know what to make and then you know it’s a no-brainer.
And those are the recipes that are in your book. Yeah pretty much right. OK. What keeps you from running the skyline.
Last minute Jacqueline. So you just have something you can whip up that simple and quick. Yes exactly. You have to. And you know I have to say there’s nothing wrong with having a bowl of Cheerios for dinner and a banana. We’ve done that and you know she’s is going to die over it. We do it on a regular basis.
Actually just last week Jasmine and Jade wanted macaroni and cheese for breakfast so I made it.
And then at dinner that night we made scrambled eggs and cheese reverse flip-flops today all day we were joking about having breakfast for dinner. You know little jade is running around. Breakfast for Dinner. You know like Jasmines making up songs about it and I thought was silly and this is funny. And the first thing they said was a cool daddy when he got home as we were having breakfast for dinner.
So it’s funny to have to say that I am you know I do have to say I don’t do a lot of the stuff in your book yet. But I am looking forward to it because there is such great ideas in there but I am proud of a lot of the silly things that we do. And again it’s easier because my kids aren’t in the activities and stuff yeah we do eat meals together and we do you know we do singing circles at dinner we call it. We all have to sing a song and we go around the table and you know Jasmine will tell us about our day and then she’ll sing but she’ll make up a song about it and then now it’s our turn to sing and I have to sing about the day and you know little stuff and I think you know that mealtime again coming back to food because I think all of our families are focused around food these days but mealtime is just such an important bonding time.
And there are a lot of studies that have been done that prove the value of a family having dinner together more than three times a week. Children Cincinnati Children’s Hospital did a study many years ago and it was just redone by a different hospital with the same results that children who have dinner with their family at home. I think it’s four more times a week. Absolutely. Are less likely to get in trouble less likely to do drugs.
Well, things like healthier you know it’s really because of the communication that goes on around the dinner table and it keeps everybody in touch with each other. Right. So there are fewer surprises.
Well and then as they grow older actually your kids being teenagers. That just scares me. I being teenagers you know they are probably very comfortable you know talking to you.
And so Chris I take it that is a commitment in your house. Everyone sits down and deals to go through that.
Believe it or not almost every day the week except on the weekends, things that don’t happen but almost every weekday we have dinner together the four of us around the table and we’re very much in touch with who’s doing what and what homework is due and my projects coming up things like that. Because of that if we didn’t have dinner together I’m not sure when that communication would go on. Now do you ever dine out or is that dinner. It’s about more now than when they were younger and you know we have a little more money now than we did then. But yeah we dine out with friends on maybe on Saturday night so it’s usually a Saturday night thing and we don’t go anyplace fancy but it’s just fun to get away. But when we were young when they were younger and we had less money we had friends over a lot everybody brought something that kind of stuff. A lot of fun.