Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Organized Chaos

I get asked a lot, "How do you do it?"

I am never quite sure whether that is truly a request for information or more of a nice way of saying, "Why on earth would anyone want to have four kids, a dog, and a job outside the house?  And blog too?"

The truth is, I really have no answers. Some parts of my house are fairly organized. Other parts are a big mess.  I can be really on top of things (like school paperwork) but at the same time we have all of our bills electronically taken out because sending the check in the mail is not our strong point.  Our children are probably not as social as they would like to be and most of the world is...some days getting out for a simple birthday party is a challenge.  And then there are the parenting challenges themselves, like the ones I mentioned in the last entry. answer?

I don't do it.

At least not with guaranteed success.

Some days, I just feel like I am surviving.

Okay, most days.

That being said, there are a few things I have found that do make my life a little less crazy.

Nothing to write a book about.

And actually several things I do that others poke fun of and sometimes even critique me for.

But to me, organization, even among the chaos, is important.

It gives me just a little sense of control.

And goodness knows I can use some of that.

 I probably have written about some of these things before, but I thought I would share again a few of my tips.  I would love to hear what tips you have for running your household smoother too.  I am always in search of new ideas!

One summer suggestion I have is that I cannot see my children before 8.  I rarely get to sleep that long since I usually awaken when hubby is leaving for work. And the youngest child is not really very quiet though we are continuously working on that.  But he does know how to read the clock nowadays.  And I shouldn't see him before 8.  (Obviously they can get up and quietly run to the bathroom if needed...if they wake up and there is sunlight, they are allowed to play QUIETLY in their room or listen to books on CD)  With some early risers, it is a way of ensuring a little quiet time for me before we hit the ground running.  I also have a mandatory 2 hour quiet time (which is true on the weekends during the school year).  The older ones usually read books or use a little of their screen time.  The younger ones listen to books on CD, read, or rest.  Obviously, if we are out and about during that time, we skip it. But it is a good quiet time for the kids and for me. :)

Next up is the "daily menu".  A couple years ago, I was tired of the "What can we have to eat for breakfast?" or "What is for lunch today?"  So last summer I started printing a little "menu".  It has a couple of purposes.  One is that it lists the day's chores.  There are three main chores that the older three rotate through; the youngest child will be participating soon. One is emptying the dishwasher. Another is re-loading it (because by then the sink is usually full of dishes).  And the third is taking out the recycles which accumulate throughout the day on the counter.  That person is also responsible for helping set and clear off the table.  In the summer I also have an "extra" chore, such as sorting clothes, dusting certain rooms, and cleaning certain areas of their room.

The other purpose is the breakfast and lunch "menu".

Like most kids, my kids would eat chicken nuggets or Ramen noodles every single day for lunch or Pop Tarts for breakfast daily.  Not that Pop Tarts are bad, but I just can't afford to have four kids eating Pop Tarts seven days a week.  And while Ramen noodles are a very cheap lunch, we do occasionally have leftovers that need to be eaten. They won't be...unless choices are limited. So now I give about four or five lunch choices (including leftovers)
I think I shared this before but I keep this on my wall in the kitchen.  I change it weekly with a dry erase marker.  (I usually plan on Saturday for the next week what our meals will be, then I make grocery lists based upon that and use the Grocery IQ app on my phone.  I also post our weekly menu on our cooking blog, mainly for accountability. :)  I still get asked a few times a day, "What is for dinner?" But I will only answer the youngest child who is not reading yet.  The others, I just point to the wall...
One thing I do for my youngest child is "bag" outfits in gallon size ziplocks.  I keep several in his bottom drawer.  Each day, he chooses which outfit he wants to wear and puts the bag back into the drawer empty.  It gives him some choice in his clothing but helps make sure they match.  When I do laundry and put his clean clothes away, I refill any empty bags as I look through the other clothes drawers.  With my 8 year old, I do something similar, just minus the bags. I pair outfits and keep them in one drawer. Otherwise, she tends to dig through drawers trying to find matches, and then we end up with a really big mess.
These are the dirty clothes baskets in our (Mark's and my) closet.  We have a "whites", "Off-whites/yellows/khakis", "reds/pinks/purples", and darks (blues, greens, and blacks) basket.  When it is sorting day, the kids either move the baskets to the living room or bring their dirty clothes basket to the closet and sort them.  By the way, even my five year old can sort with assistance.  One tip my friend Katie shared recently was buying mesh laundry bags and having the kids keep socks in them, then just washing the bag. Saves on lost socks and trying to match up. I haven't bought any yet but I am going to do that. I think I will have them throw undies in their too.  Should save me a lot of sorting time.

We also have a separate towel basket. And speaking of towels, each child has a set color so we always know who they belong to. 
The snack drawer.  The kids know when it is snack time, they can get something out of the snack drawer or the fridge (like fruit, yogurt, crackers, etc).  They used to dig through the pantry and would on occasion use an ingredient for an upcoming meal.  So this has saved me a little frustration. :)
These are just a few of the things I do for the sake of my sanity

What are some of your favorite organizing tips?



  1. I have one of those medium-sized plastic drawers storage units that I keep in one of the kitchen cabinets. I labeled on drawer for each child. This is their "sweets" drawer. They keep their candy that they get on holidays, from school or church, or whatever in them. This keeps them separated and out of the rest of the house. I don't allow any food, candy, or gum (even in a package) to be kept in their rooms. When a child asks for something sweet I can say, "Go choose one thing from your candy drawer." We also periodically go through them to clean them out...if everything doesn't fit, something has to go.

  2. I have hooks hanging in the set for coats/jackets, one set for backpacks. Each child has two hooks for coats/jackets and one hook for backpack and Awana bag. This keeps us from searching for those items when it's the rush hour of the morning trying to get out the door for school. I also have a bulletin board above the backpack hooks that is just for kids extra curricular schedules/school info. I also keep the monthly school lunch menu on it (which our schools provide). Each month I have the kids go through the menu and select a certain number of "hot lunches". Each child has a highlighter color and we highlight their choices. Then each morning we can glance at the menu to see whether we need to make a lunch and if so, who needs it. This also helps me keep track of how much is being spent on hot lunch. I limit the number of times each month they can choose hot lunch. Our hot lunches cost $2.45 per person per day, so that can add up quickly.


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