organization, Parenting

When Schedules Collide

With four growing kids, you can imagine how ridiculous our schedules can get. I struggled to try to find a way to keep everyone connected. We used Google Calendar, and I still do. But somehow we ran into some hiccups where my husband wasn’t seeing things on my calendar, a few things mysteriously disappeared…basically just chaos happened. We needed something better!

A friend of mine is a Mary & Martha Consultant. I hadn’t heard of the company until I became friends with her, but their products are awesome! As a super thoughtful gesture, she gifted me a weekly calendar notepad, similar to the one in the picture that I found on Zazzle. It has been a game-changer. I’m positive she had no idea how big of a help that was. Or maybe she actually saw that I was a hot mess and was gently trying to help. Who knows!!Either way, I will forever be buying these things because they have majorly changed things at our house!

On Sunday afternoons or evenings, my husband and I write everything from our calendars (digital calendars, school calendars, activity calendars…everything) on one of these pages. We ask the kids if there’s anything they need to put on there like due dates for projects, spelling tests, activities we didn’t know about, or anything else. Not only do we make sure everything is laid out in one place, it’s a good reminder for us as to what the week actually holds. It’s easy to look at my calendar on my phone and think I’ve got it all. But to actually have to carry it over and write it down? It cements it in my brain and makes it harder to forget. Not impossible, but harder!

When it’s all on the counter in one place, not only can we make a plan to divide and conquer if needed, but the kids see what the week holds. It is SO easy for them to see which nights are jam-packed and which nights are free. We are all on the same page and there’s no surprises. It has made all of our lives so much more streamlined! It’s such an easy thing. I’ve seen notepads like this in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve even bought them. But I don’t think I fully understood the need for them until there were six of us going in different directions at once. Now? Now I get it!

The most brilliant part of all of this is that we’ve started using the back of the sheet as a grocery list. Whenever somebody uses the last of something, they’re SUPPOSED to write it on the list. My husband and I are good at this but the kids aren’t quite trained…yet. It’s still been super helpful though! We usually place a grocery order on Saturday nights (we are QUITE the interesting couple, I tell you!), so it’s right there in front of us, ready to be entered.

Now, we still forget things here and there, but it’s been such a practical thing that we put in place that has made a huge difference! If you’re starting to feel like a chauffeur that has no idea where they’re going, give it a try. Go back to the basics of a pencil and paper. There’s something about it that just works for us!

organization, Parenting

Toys, Toys Everywhere

If you aren’t careful, toys can take over your life. I mean that in the most literal sense possible. It’s never more obvious than after Christmas when you have multiple kids with a lot of people that love them! So. Many. Toys. All over the place and it’s overwhelming to keep up with keeping them picked up and put away. Why?? Well, because they’re new and they don’t have a “home”!

When your kids get new toys, you need to take time with them to figure out where they go. Where do they want to keep them? They need to find a home for each and every toy. It needs to be a place that makes sense to them so that they can easily remember where it is. I know it seems like a tooooooon of work, especially when there’s a bunch of new toys from Christmas or birthdays. But honestly, it’s no more work than having to pick that same toy up every single day! If you have an overabundance of toys, have your kids pick their favorite ones and give them the most prominent “homes”. In our house, this means spots in their bedrooms. Everything else either goes into the playroom or the basement (which honestly is the last stop before being donated!!). If it’s going in the playroom, it goes into a categorized bin (cars & trucks, dolls, puzzles, games, etc.). Usually it gets forgotten about and can be purged later. But every once in awhile, they’ll head in there and play with something that wasn’t originally given prime real estate. Then we know it’s more valued and probably needs to find a new home in their room.

I find that by declaring “homes” for new toys, they tend to actually get played with more because they aren’t ending up in a pile somewhere, shoved in their closet or under the bed (their favorite place to put things when they don’t know where to put them…). If things are out of place or the messiness is starting to take over, which I seriously can’t handle, all I have to do is ask them to put things in their place and they know just what to do. You don’t have to lift a finger! It’s like magic!

organization

When the messiness is NOT fine!

If your house is anything like mine, it can seriously become a cluttered mess in a hurry. With four kids, if each of them even leave a handful of things out in a day, it adds up REALLY quickly! I used to try to act like I was fine with it. I’d say it was no big deal because our house looked lived-in and that’s exactly what it was! But in reality, I was not actually fine with it. I tried to fake a tolerance for it, but inside it was making me crazy. Then I would try to keep up with the mess on my own. My husband would, too. It was impossible! Eventually, I’d be grumpy and upset and it would just bubble over and I’d have myself a little freak-out moment. Tell me I’m not the only one that does this!

So something had to change. When we added baby #3, it all just got worse. Not only did we have toys and items for a 6 year old AND a 3 year old, we had all the baby paraphernalia, too. It was just a lot to manage myself. When it was my hubby and I trying to pick up after every single one of us, it was exhausting and overwhelming. That’s really kind of all we got done in a day…picking up. Not long after we became a family of 5, we moved to a different house. I was determined to create order that ALL of us could follow. Well, except for the baby. But eventually, even he would be able to help keep things tidy. There were a ton of things that I put into place: all clothes go immediately into the hamper, we installed a hook for each kid for book bags and coats, each person had a shoe basket to put their shoes into when they took them off. There were lots of new procedures and I told my older boys that those were just the rules at this new house. They went with it…thank goodness! I refused to pick their things up any more. Just like that, I stopped. If their book bag was on the floor, I called them to come hang it up. They were annoyed, but eventually they just started doing it on it’s own…and my life got a bit easier. This is HUGE! Stop picking things up for them or you will be doing it forever. Nothing changes if nothing changes!

But my biggest weapon in this transformation? My label maker. I know, I know. It’s ridiculous, right? How in the world does a label maker do anything besides make me a Monica-like wife. Well, my friends (See what I did there?), it is a game-changer. I labeled things that people might think are strange. My kitchen drawers, for example. I don’t have labels on the outside for the world to see…I’m not that weird! But inside the drawers on the organizers, there’s a label telling what goes in there. When my boys empty the dishwasher, they don’t have to ask where things go. They also have absolutely no reason NOT to put it in the correct place! My husband always was great about putting things away, but sometimes his opinion of where it went was different than my opinion and we’d find ourselves searching for things. Not any more! Anybody could come cook in my kitchen! (And I’m totally serious if you want to come cook for us…)

These days, any time I find an area of our house that we just can’t seem to keep neat and tidy, I go at it with the label maker. We still get clutter and mess, don’t get me wrong. Now though, if I call attention to it, we all jump in and have it all put away within minutes. Every once in awhile, I find the same things being left out over and over again and I realize it’s because nobody knows where it goes! Labeling forces you to categorize items, take stock of what you have and find everything a home.