Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Family of Seven: Staying Organized

I've been wanting to do this series for awhile.

Probably the second most asked question, right after, "Are they all yours!?!" is in regards to how we make this thing run with so many little people.

I like to think that organization is one of my spiritual gifts, which is good, because it's critical to making sure we get to where we need to be on time with smiles on our faces!

I'm going to take you on a tour through some of the key areas of our house, so that you can see what we've done to make our home run efficiently.

I love a pretty house - I really do. One day when all of the kids are grown and gone, magazine pages will be a reality. Today, function has the highest importance.

Tip #1: Choose Function

Every weekend, I sit down and look at our 7-day calendar to map out meals and clothes. Weather and events always effect the outcome.

We'll talk about meals later.

I lay out (and coordinate) clothes for each kid for the week ahead (Monday through Friday). This brings GREAT freedom in the mornings. We also put other specifics to the day in these bins. For example, the boys keep their library books in the weekly drawer that they need to remember to take them back to school. It's liberating. I don't have to remember who needs money on this day or which boy has gym on that day. I do this, without fail, every week.

While I don't layout my own clothes for the week, I do choose my next-day outfit, every night, before I go to bed.

Tip #2: Clear Expectations

We have posted charts for each boy that gives them clear directions on what they need to do each morning, afternoon, and night. Our charts are eye level and plastic-coated. When we first started this, last fall, they used a dry-erase marker to check each box, every day. Now, the charts serve more as a reminder. Only one of them needs to still use his, diligently, because remembering is not his strong suit.

Several months ago I lost it over a crumpled towel on the floor. I was so angry at....well, me. The boys couldn't reach the hooks on the back of the bathroom door, so what else were they supposed to do, but throw it on the floor for me to rescue? I made it my job to find hefty bathroom hooks to suit our family. Now, the boys can be responsible for hanging their own towels after every use. Sigh.

Tip #3: Everything Must Have a Place

With seven people in this house, everything must have a place or we would be overtaken with clutter. I am a fanatic about this rule and keep a large stash of hooks and velcro on hand for those pesky things that try to sneak-attack. Fly swatters to soap bars, everything has a peg, bin, or cupboard. No exception. It's the only way to stay tidy.

Because our mudroom only accounts for half our family, the littlest Pinchbacks have hooks for their coats and backpacks outside their bedroom door, at their level. Every morning, Edie gets her own coat and backpack on. She's only 2, but she knows the routine and we've made it easy for her!

Toys and school work seem to be the biggest culprits around, here. Some of my solutions include homemade clipboards for artwork (these only cost me a few dollars each to make - we have several around the house).

My favorites gets printed (Artsonia) and framed in one of our picture galleries. You'll see Cisco's sweet owl below in the far right.

We have a command center in the kitchen for notes, cards and reminders. The bins below the corkboard organize our mail and papers into neat to-do piles.

My kitchen is not large and we don't have a pantry. Space is a premium. When the kids daily folders and art supplies started exploding, I had to find a solution. The re-org required me to part with items that we don't use, daily, like my waffle maker. Sure it's a bummer every three months when we think about it, but the freedom from clutter is WELL worth it. I'll see that large salad spinner again...in a decade or so.

I heart refrigerator and food organization, too, and keep our snacks at little-people grabbing levels.

While we're in the kitchen, let me show you my favorite nook. Yes, the bread is placed in its properly marked container, but my favorite item, here, is the velcroed-to-the-wall chalkboard that serves as our 10-day menu planner. Above it, I keep a very official sticky note for items we need at the store. Milk 
is always on the list.

For toys, we keep it very simple. I think it took me about 3 1/2 kids to realize that we had way too many. We are intentional, today, with the gifts and toys we buy, so that we don't create waste.

Edie and Hunter have a kitchen set in their bedroom with preschool-like picture labels to tell them where items go. With a little help from an older brother, Edie is getting really good at picking up her room.

I use our TV cabinet in the living room to hide our most played with (Hunter proof) toys - Kid K'nex, Magna Tiles, Duplo Legos, and miscellaneous baby toys.

 And these awesome IKEA shelves hide all the big-kid toys in the basement playroom. They started out with pretty, clean white labels on each bin, but Edie has taken to slowly peeling them off when she gets a chance. Stinker.

The playroom also has our well loved and worn play clothes. This is probably the most visited center by the four oldest. The boys are most often in capes, but Edie gives preference to her inner ninja turtle.

I'll end with this. My kids are collectors - all of them. Inevitably, where I see trash, they see treasure. They each have their own special bin. They can keep anything - and I mean anything - they want in their bin. I am not allowed to meddle, organize, or color-code their special place. It's just for them. There's only one (sneaky) mom rule. When the bin is too full to close, he/she must go through it and prioritize which items to keep versus toss. I can't even tell you how many arguments and tears this saves.

I understand that not everyone loves to straighten as much as I do, but I hope these tips will give you as much freedom as they have me. And maybe a boost of confidence that you, too, could add one more foster care lovie to your home....