May’s Book Club: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Last month we read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the discussion that took place around this book was great! I was really happy to get so many perspectives and ideas about the book. Choosing this month’s book was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to get something that was current enough so that people could find it easily, either online or in a public library, but not so current that its popularity made it hard to borrow.


Yay for library books.

A few people suggested Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, More Secure and Happier Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross. It turned out to be a great choice. Even though the part devoted to dealing with physical clutter, my biggest challenge, was relatively small, there was a lot of information about simplifying across the board.

If you weren’t able to get the book, or wanted to see what others have said, here are some additional links:

  • The author, Kim John Payne, has a website. When I looked at it, I found myself feeling both amused and overwhelmed, because the site’s not simple. As soon as I opened the page I was greeted with dramatic piano music, and the menu at the top features eleven items. The site’s main goal is to promote his courses and lectures but there is a blog with a lot of good, free information.
  • Here’s a summary which focuses on decluttering toys.
  • Here’s another good review.

What I liked:

  • The book was really well organized, based on addressing the four pillars of ‘too much’: too much stuff, too much information, too many choices, and too fast. The section on too much stuff used an approach similar to the KonMari method: get everything (toys, clothing) in one place, and start from there. I feel like I’m in an odd place with toys, because Emma is getting to the point where they won’t really be part of her life for too much longer and that makes me feel like I can deal with them since the end is almost in sight. I also don’t want to rush her through this phase of her life, which is also an element Payne addresses in the book.
  • Payne referred to ‘rhythms’ which I think most of us refer to as ‘routines’- bedtime, dinnertime, getting ready for school. Even though the end goals are the same, I liked the word ‘rhythm’ better because it’s less rigid. There were a lot of great tips for establishing and improving these rhythms.
  • One of the challenges of writing any parenting book is that we all have unique situations, due to jobs, obligations to other family members, and so on. Payne shared a few examples of how families with challenging situations still found ways to simplify.
  • The chapter on schedules really spoke to me. Even though I have my moments when I get carried away by dreams of Emma participating in every activity possible, I’ve not over-scheduled her nearly as much as I could have. Next year, she’ll do Girl Scouts and one other activity. I found myself thinking about who all these activities are really for- the parents or the kids? My fixation on organized activities had more to do with me wanting to do as much for her as possible while I was not working, to make up for what I missed when I did work. But though she loves the few things she does, she’s very content most days to come home, do her homework and play with her friend. If a genuine interest should come along, we’ll see what happens but in the meantime, she likes her life.
  • I also want to refer back to the section on technology, though I think I read enough to know the benefits of less time with gadgets and screens. Since getting a smart phone a year ago, I know I spend too much time glued to it, and Emma spends too much time glued to the iPad. We used to have family reading after dinner, which we haven’t done in a while, but it;s something I want to resurrect even if it’s just a couple times a week. Summer is a great time to rely less on technology and TV since the weather is so nice and the sun is up longer.

What I didn’t like:

  • The idea of the “toy library” seems good in theory- it’s Payne’s take on rotating toys which was something I tried to do. And maybe it works for some people, but I found it a lot of work. In my case, I stored the extra toys in the garage, and they weren’t easy to access. Someone who has more easily accessible storage might find this more feasible.
  • Overall, I really liked this book and found little fault with it. If I have a true complaint, it was that there was almost too much information. I felt a bit overwhelmed while reading it. More than once I felt like I needed a pad of post-its beside me. A book about simplifying could have cut to the chase a lot quicker. But I also realized I was looking at this from the viewpoint of my former self, the busy teacher. Back then, when I had to sit through staff development, I cared little about the theoretical and only valued the practical. I think I liked The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up so much because I felt it got down to the hands-on practical steps much quicker. But I am really thinking about buying this book because it would have been so much easier to highlight the things I wanted to revisit.

What did you think? Share your comments below.



3 Responses to May’s Book Club: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

  1. I agree that there is a LOT of information in the book. I actually bought it, so I an reference back to it whenever I get stresses and busy. Which I need to do again. I found the rhythms very helpful, even though I’ve always been against “routines.” Everyone in my family moved a little more easily with a rhythms — at 7:15 we read, at 8 bedtime (no! Not time to start a pillow fight with Daddy!), it’s Wednesday so we’re getting noodles for dinner…

    I look forward to seeing what other’s thought of this book.

  2. I almost didn’t read this book, thinking it wouldn’t offer me much because we’re a childless couple (hence the delay in commenting). But I checked it out of the library and found it a good complement to the first book. Where Marie Kondo gave us the “how,” Payne reminds us of the “why.” I substituted myself, rather than a child, in the author’s explanations of why “too much” is so stressful. I found the four categories of simplification (environment, aka “stuff,” rhythm, aka routines, (over)scheduling, and filtering) useful, though the last obviously needs a little reinterpretation to fit an adult’s life. I shouldn’t avoid adult topics, but limiting fearmongering media and excessive electronic screen time makes sense for everyone. One other point he made I thought was good for anyone to consider — the need to balance three ways of using time: stimulating activity, deep play (which I read as intense absorption in a pastime, whether reading or a hobby), and downtime — just hanging out, “doing nothing.”

    The book isn’t relevant enough to my situation for me to rush out and buy a copy, but I found it thought-provoking and worth my time.

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