Remaining a week behind, I'll address this topic today.
For me, it is not only about physically having our "stuff" organized, but also about routines and chaos.
Four years ago, after our move to Michigan, we were drowning in chaos and confusion. In part, this was caused by the move. I personally do not adjust well to change, and moving felt like having my entire life put into a blender and mixed up. It took about a year for the dust to settle. During that year, there were many lost library books, late permission slips, and crying children as they walked out the door to catch the bus. The house was also dirty, and the kids slept on mattresses on the floor for almost a year, as it took us that long to get their bunk beds set up, etc. It was a combination of disorganization and just being overwhelmed by moving.
During that time I became a Flylady (www.flylady.org) devotee. A lot of people criticize her technique, don't agree with some of her "rules." I took from her what helped me and ignored the rest. She is doing a fabulous free service. I never created a control journal, or really set up hard and fast weekly schedules/routines. I did, however, internalize many of her suggestions and ideas. I broke tasks down into smaller pieces (I didn't have to clean the entire refrigerator in one day) and adopted a strict "Do it now!" philosophy. She also helped me manage paper, and, of course, clutter! I no longer participate in the Flylady's system, but have internalized many of her philosophies, so I know I will never be as disorganized as I once was.
Kids' school papers were the bane of my existence. Now, I look at them, if not immediately, the same day. I fill out permisson slips that day, so they won't be lost, or send in money, or whatever is required, so that I don't have to remember to do it later. Most of the paper gets recycled. Any original work of one of the kids that I feel is really special gets saved and put in his/her individual memory box. I recently purchased this with a drawer for each school aged child and one for me to hold important papers like a list of classmates and their phone numbers, grading policies, etc. At the end of the school year I clean them out and toss most of the papers, which are no longer needed.
I have 2 piles for filing, both of which are kept in an empty file cabinet drawer--one is business/tax paperwork and the other is personal stuff. I just stuff anything that I need to keep into the drawer and then once a year I spend an hour or two filing all of it at once. I find this is more efficient for me than to try and find 10 mintues once a week.
I created a bedtime to-do list for the kids, which I need to start enforcing again, as it is being ignored lately. It worked great for the first 2 years, however. I even took clip art and printed small pictures for children too young to read. If they follow the list, they will have laid out clothes, boots, etc., packed backpack with library books or sports equipment, packed a school snack, and read the school menu and decided if they will take or buy their lunch the next day. The list also included the typical bedtime chores of putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, etc.
Things that work:
A friend recently recommended using a basket to hold books for small children, as it is easier for them to put the books away in a basket than back on a shelf, so I got this basket.
For socks, at the present time this very unsophisticated system works for us . People just dig through the basket and find their own socks. What enables this to work is that each child has one dozen pairs of identical socks (24 socks each). Each child's socks are different from his/her siblings, and all are athletic socks. Hanes makes some nice ones with the name Hanes in different colors varying with size of sock on the sole. 11yodd has pale pink Hanes, 8yo dd has bright pink, 10 yo ds has blue, 13yo ds has grey, 5 yo dd has purple, 2yo ds has green. I have thrown away all of the "different" socks. I have unique socks, but I don't usually lose mine or have trouble finding them. I do occasionally mate socks, but once a month or less. When I do, I toss any with holes.
What doesn't work:
I've found that any system is only as effective as it's least efficient user, which means that some of the following things COULD work, given a little more effort on the part of the children.
We have a shoe rack that looks like this when shoes are arranged neatly on it. We also have coat cubbies that can look like this. The cubbies are too small, and we are working out the details of creating a mudroom when we do some upcoming home renovations. Regardless, the children make no attempt whatsoever to hang things up, and so the entryway usually looks more like this
As for the children's rooms, they are supposed to keep them clean, but there is no real penalty for messiness except that you can't find your stuff, you don't have any clean clothes because you haven't put them in the hamper and brought them down to the laundry room, and your room never gets vacuumed since the floor is never clear. The girls room is the worst. I will concede that part of the problem is living in a 144 year old house, which has no closets. We all lack storage space, and I submit A's "bedroom" as a prime example of this. The room is actually a small anteroom off of our bedroom, and it has a large window, so it is not really a closet, but functions as one as well as being her bedroom. Our room has no real closet and this keeps her close so when she wakes to nurse it is easy to get her. When she gets older she will share a room with a sibling.
I keep snacks and cereal in this drawer which, again, could work fine, but no one bothers to put things back neatly, roll up bags, etc. so the bottom of the drawer is usually full of loose cereal and crackers.
As for planning, scheduling and keeping it all together, I use this calendar exclusively. This year I bought 2 since there are more of us with places to go and things to do. It works well for us. As you can see, each person has a column, with the dates going down the side. So each person has a square for every day. I just look down the row that is Feb. 9 and see who has what and when.
That about sums it up for us!
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