Simple Happy Parenting: The Secret of Less for Calmer Parents and Happier Kids

Simple Happy Parenting: The Secret of Less for Calmer Parents and Happier Kids


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Create space for calmer, more creative kids and restore order and happiness at the heart of family life.

In Simple Happy Parenting, Denaye Barahona, Ph.D., provides a revolutionary approach to parenting, full of practical tips to help you step back from the system overload so common in modern family life and, instead, create more time to enjoy living and learning together. From easier meal planning to mindful shopping, worry batching to waste reduction, Simple Happy Parenting is an honest and practical roadmap for all families striving for balance.

Start with the Simple Manifesto:

  1. Buy less.
  2. Fear less.
  3. Referee less.
  4. Hurry less.
  5. Entertain less.
Then begin your journey to simple by embracing a new, lighter way of life in your home. Step-by-step projects and realistic goals guide your way. Discover how a curated toy cabinet fosters imaginative play; a smaller, carefully selected wardrobe reduces stress; and structured, nourishing meals create relaxed family dinners.

Next, expand the simplicity to your mindset. Learn how letting go of fear provides children with valuable opportunities to grow and develop; positive discipline strategies strengthen family relationships; and inviting more unscheduled time in your calendar gives your family space to thrive.

Not only will these straightforward solutions allow your children the room to progress and flourish, this mindful approach to family life will provide you with more energy, calm, and joy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781318645
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 202,752
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Denaye Barahona is the inspirational voice behind Simple Families blog, podcast and community, where she spreads her simple solutions for thriving in motherhood. Her work has been featured on the like of the Today Show (where she is top contributor on the parenting team), Pop Sugar, and Parenting Magazine.

A clinical social worker with a speciality in child and family practice, and a Ph.D. in Child Development, Denaye has spent much of her career working with parents who deal with challenging behaviour in children. She lives in New York state with her husband and two children.

From her on-the-job training as a mom and her professional experience, Denaye has learned how desperately all parents want to get everything right – yet in the process, have the tendency to overcomplicate, over-think and get overwhelmed. Denaye’s refreshing philosophy is that simple really is smart. She advocates taking a holistic approach to helping the whole family stay well: physical, emotional and relational. That means living well by developing a healthy relationship with yourself, your family and your home.

Read an Excerpt




First, let's talk about the stuff.

Long before I had a family, I had a clutter problem. Growing up in a working- class home, I was financially responsible from an early age. I worked hard, I bought many of my own clothes, I purchased my first car, and put myself through college and graduate school. I prided myself on being frugal and making good decisions about the way I spent my money.

That also meant I spent too much time stalking the clearance racks and finding the best sales. Even though I was spending less, I was buying just as much. And because I was careful about the way I spent my money, I was also cautious about letting go of the items that I spent my hard-earned money on.

My clutter accrued, and I had a twofold problem: I couldn't put things away and I couldn't throw things away. As a single person, my stuff accumulated fast. But as I started accumulating people (husband, baby #1, baby #2 ...) I was swimming in it.

And I am not a strong swimmer.

Perhaps we shall say I was doggy paddling in all the stuff.

In my gut, I knew I needed to make better choices. But the day-to-day busyness that occupied my life kept pushing my head under the water.

The clutter in my home only compounded the clutter in my mind. I was drowning in stuff and life but I knew I didn't want to take my family down with me.


My husband got the first taste of simplicity. My frugal nature had me sign our first-born child up for the cheapest baby class in the neighborhood, which happened to be at the Montessori school across the street. My husband was on duty the first week.

When he came home, he was wide-eyed: "Everything has a place. Each toy has a specific spot that it belongs."

I rolled my eyes.

But then I had my turn. I went the following week and found myself uncomfortable and understimulated. The classroom was serene, perhaps even a bit boring. The caregiver sitting next to me clearly shared the discomfort with the silence and asked for permission to play some music on her phone.

For the first time in my life, I was basking in white space and it was completely foreign to me. I wasn't sure exactly what it meant, but I found myself taking mental notes about my surroundings and the way they made me feel.

The truth? White space scared me.

Although I was disarmed by this type of environment, I couldn't help but notice the impact on the children I observed: They were calm and engaged.

And frankly, so was I. I looked forward to this magical little window of time each week where my baby and I could disappear into a tranquil space and be completely present with one another. I knew that I wanted to bottle up all that peace and bring it home — less to clean up, fewer emails that needed responding to, doing barely anything, but creating a bond that meant everything.

I wanted to create a simple home that focused on the people more than the stuff.

Once I tasted simplicity, I knew that I had found the secret sauce that I needed to create a more harmonious life with children. I didn't know what it meant or how to do it. But the next step was to figure out all the ingredients.


The first step in simplifying the family is to simplify the home. A simple home allows us to focus on connection over content. The space we live in serves as a landing pad: When the outside world gets to be too much, we can always return to our home for security. When we feel like hiding out from everyone and everything, we go home.

When we make a life with our children, making a home is a large part of that life. In that life, it's important that we create those safe spaces for our children to grow, develop, and thrive. As a new parent, I knew I wanted this for my children. I wanted to make our home that space for them — a place where they could always come to find comfort and connection.

But sometimes our comfort zone becomes less than comfortable. As parents with full calendars, our homes become even fuller. It becomes even more critical to make our home base a place that allows us to focus and prioritize the things that matter the most.

We want to give our children the world — and that includes all the stuff. But the reality is, they don't need it. They just need us. So as you go about making a house a home for your children, be mindful that you need a heckuva lot less stuff than you might think.

Less toys, less clothes, less furniture.


More presence, more intention, more patience. More you.


In my quest for creating the simple home, I felt the hard pull towards simplicity. I wanted to get rid of all.the.stuff. But I have a family. I still need stuff.

So I redefined my mission: Pare down to the essentials and create a space that is both beautiful and accessible to the whole family. I wanted to create a home that invited my children to gradually learn how to respect others, themselves, and their environment (both indoor and out). But I also wanted to have nice things.

I aspired to do the following:

• Create a home that was child-friendly, rather than child-proof.

• Give everything a place — that way I could easily clean up and teach my kids how to clean up, too.

• Design a beautiful space in which we all loved to spend time.

I wanted to be intentional about the way that I furnished our family home and give reverence to the impact a home has on the journey of the people living inside of it.

But this doesn't happen overnight. It's a lifelong course that I am still stumbling along. But we can start at home with patience, faith, and trust.

And perhaps a little bit of pixie dust.


We all want to make our homes places that are loved, welcoming, and accessible to both children and adults. To do this, the "stuff" needs to be curated and what remains arranged with intention. Our aim is to create a home that is lovely, but functional; safe, but accessible; filled with essentials, but embraces white space.

The three steps below will help you to first rationalize your existing stuff to provide a blank canvas (or at least a clearer canvas) on which to design your simple family home, and secondly to carefully consider the items that you need. By adopting an intentional parenting approach that embraces providing children with the freedom and space to grow, we automatically get rid of many of the "things" that are sold to us to keep kids safe or make family life easy (hint: These are marketing ploys, they want us to buy all.the.stuff).

1. Protect your active spaces

At the start of my journey I just had too much stuff. No organizational system could save me. I was in too deep. Whenever I needed something I first had to dig through a thousand other things I didn't need to find it. A clean out and careful curation of our home was the first step. I kept all the things that my family used and loved, then re-homed the rest.

The first step in simplifying your home is to recognize and protect your active spaces. Our homes are actively used spaces: People live in them and it should show. As an actively used space, your home should only contain actively used items. When you start mixing in unused and unloved items into these spaces, that's when things get messy.

When you open my kitchen cabinet, you will find only the items I actively use. That means I don't have to sort through twelve types of beans when I really only ever use the black ones. When you open my closet door you will find only the clothes I actively wear. My favorite pair of jeans isn't buried within twenty- four pairs that I never wear. When you walk into the playroom, you will see only the toys with which my children actively engage. That means carefully chosen items can be easily accessed to create and innovate by children of different genders and different ages.

When sorting through your belongings, examine each item and ask yourself a question: Is this an active item, a storage item, or a share-the-love item? This question then provides a guide to what should be done with that item:

Active items belong in active spaces

Items that we use daily or weekly belong in the active spaces of our home. These are the zones of the house that we use regularly, for example the mud- room where we drop our shoes and coats, the kitchen pantry, and clothing closets. These spaces need to only contain actively used items.

Storage items belong in storage spaces

On the other hand, items that we use infrequently belong in storage spaces. These are areas that we place things we do not use on a regular basis. That might mean the pan we roast our turkey in twice a year or the Easter baskets. A select number of mementos and pieces you love may belong in this area as well. This might be in the attic, a storage closet, or perhaps under the bed. The items are still easily accessible for when you need them, but not cluttering up the active areas of your home.

Share-the-love items

If we don't actively use the items, nor do we ever pull them out of storage, then they belong in a 'share-the-love' box. These are items that will leave your home and find love and worth in the possession of another family. Items that belong in this box are children's books and clothing that are outgrown, the four extra crib sheets you ordered "just in case", and the shoes you "outgrew" in your last pregnancy.

As I moved through this process my home was transformed. The share-the-love boxes went to families in need, the storage items were carefully posited for future uses, and the curated remaining active items started to live their best lives in our home.

Once I got rid of the stuff, I stopped digging and started living.

2. Create a child-friendly home

Once you have curated your stuff, you are ready to turn your home into a space that is safe and welcoming for your children, allowing them to be active participants in all aspects of family life. To do that, it is important to start giving them small amounts of independence starting in the earliest of months.

For our family, that meant the first child was standing up washing vegetables at the kitchen counter as soon as he could walk. Our second child was sleeping soundly in her big-kid bed before she was weaned. Our toys are all down low so that the children can both access them easily and put them away (and they usually do!).

I absolutely don't say this to brag, I say this to illustrate the fact that children are capable human beings that can do far more than we expect when they are given the time and white space they need to grow. This will look different for every family depending on what they are comfortable with and how they live and play.

The key is that we want our kids to be able to move about freely in the home without fear of injury and to create a home that is child-friendly rather than child-proof. But in today's world, child-proofing is big business. There are gadgets galore to keep children out of unwanted territories. While I am a firm believer in making a home safe from life-threatening risks, putting a child- proof lock on the toilet seat to keep your kid from splashing around is more convenience than critical.

For me, I wanted to move away from child-proofing and convenience parenting. My mindset was that if I don't want my kids to get into my make-up drawer, I need to teach them to stay out of it. So we covered the electrical outlets and secured the furniture to the walls. Then we capitalized on all the teachable moments we had as our kids learned about boundaries and limits in the home.

If that sounds like a lot of work, that's because it was. Intentional parenting, my friends, is work. What it does do however, is release you from the truckload of items that the stores tell us are essential for a safe family home. With this philosophy in mind, you can reassess your current home environment to see if there are any unnecessary items you can remove, and also take forward when considering new purchases or updates.

3. Don't fear the breakables

An extension of step two, when considering how to furnish our homes or choosing homewares we need to let go of the fear of breakables; the automatic reach for the wipe-clean, indestructible option. I am here to tell you two things: First, you can have nice things, and second, your house doesn't have to look like a plastic three-ring-kid-circus.

When I registered for my first baby, I went a little wild. My list had all.the.things. But even then, I questioned the need to kid-ify my home. I wanted it to look like a place that adults loved, but welcomed children as well. I wanted us to coexist in an environment that didn't resemble plastic hell.

More seasoned mothers warned me: "Until further notice, you cannot have nice things. You must hide the breakables. You must remove the valuables," and I started to wonder if I was having a baby or preparing for an armed robbery! But I am here to tell you that you can coexist: You can have nice things and children can survive with relatively few things. And not just survive, but thrive.

A baby does not need a high chair covered in wild-colored, tropical-print plastics (unless of course, you love it). A baby does not need toys that simultaneously make noise, vibrate, and light up. A baby does not, in fact, need all.the.things.

When we simplify the environment of our children we improve their ability to focus, decrease stress, and give them more opportunities for creativity and innovation. We also give them opportunities to practice independence and caring for the items they love.

If you give a child forty toys, they will litter the floor and get stepped upon. If you give a child four toys, they will be treasured, valued, and cared for.

I knew that I wanted to make my home a place that was loved and accessible to both children and adults. When given the opportunity to learn, children are capable of caring for fragile and delicate things from a very young age.

Children actually benefit from toys and items that are simple in color and design. We know that children focus better in less distracting environments, so keeping their spaces at home simple is an important piece of that process.

By curating the number of objects that exist in our home, it makes it a lot easier to clean up. That means fewer toys, clothes, and random items scattered across the floor. It also means fewer piles in the bottom of the closet. When everything has its place, it becomes easy to take good care of the items that remain.

So yes, you can have nice things.

Just not white sofas, never buy the white sofas.

How to tackle a clear out

I can tell you firsthand that a clutter-free home is the first step toward a chaos-free home. Reducing the amount of clutter in your home will allow you to spend less time tidying and more time focusing on what matters the most: the people.

Clearing out the home is the first step to living a simpler life.

I spent years trying to organize and move my stuff around until I finally figured out the root of the problem: too much stuff. Therefore, I am confident that tackling a home clean out will put you on the path to simplifying your family life.

Here are the five steps to executing a clean out:

1. Take out all the stuff. Start with a single space and empty it. The space should look like the day you moved in (leave the furniture!). Seeing the space as brand new will shine a light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Select only the most vital objects one at a time. Only the active items used and loved should be kept accessible in the home. Items used less frequently should be placed into storage or put into a Share-thelove box (see here). Carefully replenish the space until it reaches a point where it feels light, yet comfortable. It should feel calm and relaxing in this room.

3. Box up the rest of the stuff and put it into "purgatory." You don't have to discard everything just yet, but do put it out of the room. Choose a space that is out of the way, yet visible. You don't want to hide it away and forget it exists.

4. Live in the simplified space. Spend some time living decluttered. Get a sense of how it feels to live lighter. But be warned, it's addicting in the best kind of way.

5. One month later. Pay a brief visit to the purgatory. Are there any items you absolutely need or want to save? If not, drive them straight away for donations. (Hint: Avoid indefinite purgatory in the trunk of your car.)


Excerpted from "Simple Happy Parenting"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Denaye Barahona.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Welcome to a Simpler Way 06

Letter to the reader 08

What is simple parenting? 10

Less expectation 19

Discovering a simpler way 22

The simple manifesto 28

Design a Simple Family Home 32

Getting started 34

Choosing furniture and housewares with children in mind 38

Creating a capsule wardrobe for kids 54

How to minimize the toys 62

How to simplify meal times 76

The Simple Approach to Parenting 94

Expanding simplicity to your mindset 96

Less fear 100

Less rush 116

Less distraction 128

Less referee 146

Less stuff 164

Acknowledgments 182

Endnotes 184

Resources 185

Index 186

About the author, photographer and illustrator 190

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