When people hear I have six children, they usually think I'm a little crazy. They may be right, but I love each one of my kids. Each one is unique and brings joy to my life.
I'll start with Meals and Shopping: For years now, I have collected simple, easy, cheap recipes in a binder. My kids have food allergies and don't always enjoy recipes designed especially for them, so my binder has been a life-saver. A few years ago, I also took the time to write out four shopping lists that I rotate. At the top of the list, I wrote the seven dinners I plan for the week. Then I wrote out the ingredients by category, so I can find them easily in the store. I used to do menu-planning every single week, and it took me way too long. I find I save time and money when we repeat our twenty-four favorite meals over and over again. Recently, I also started a non-foods shopping list, so I can stay stocked with items like tissues and vitamins. This saves me time because I don't have to make a special trip when I run out of napkins or shampoo.
Nevertheless, raising six kids can be a lot of work. Today, I thought I'd share some tricks I've learned over the years to make things easier for myself.
House-Cleaning: A few years ago, I discovered Flylady.net. She helped me establish routines that save my time. I keep a control journal in a little photo book to remind me of my routines. I love Flylady's Weekly Home Blessing Hour podcast that I keep on my mp3 player. It helps me get my house shaped up in about an hour. (Click on the link if you're interested.) I also love her control journals, especially the one that helps me prepare for Christmas.
I also listen to books on CD or mp3 files while I clean. I get lost in the book and forget I'm cleaning. This is also a great way to read spiritual materials.
Laundry: Each of our kids has his own dishpan, into which we put his clean clothes. Ideally, the children put away their own clean clothes when their dishpans are full. That doesn't always happen, but the dishpans save me the grief of having laundry always piled on a bed or sofa.
Doing laundry is part of my routine. I do a load of laundry each morning, and I keep rebooting it until either the day is over or I reach the bottom of the pile. I sort laundry according to the Harry Potter sorting hat method. Ghosts are whites. Rags are Slitherin. Light-colored clothes are Hufflepuff. Dark-colored clothes are Griffindor. And towels and sheets are Ravenclaw. You would think this would make my kids more excited about sorting laundry, but it really only worked once.
Kids' Chores: The chore system that works best for us during the school year is to assign each child a ten-minute chore to do after dinner. Since they only have to work for ten minutes and they all work at the same time, they usually do their chores quickly without complaining. Our ten-minute chores include: washing dishes, collecting dirty laundry, clearing the table, sweeping the kitchen, vacuuming, and cleaning the living room. The youngest usually helps an older child. During the summer, I give the kids more elaborate chore charts that I print off the computer. I require them to finish their chores before they get screen time or outside time.
Keeping personal items separate: It's definitely hard to figure out who owns what. I have tried giving each child a different color toothbrush, but inevitably, the dentist will give them a toothbrush that is the wrong color. Permanent markers help on occasions like that. If the marker tends to rub off, you can put a piece of packing tape over it. I sewed rickrack on the edges of the kids' towels, so each child will have a towel that is unique to him (much cheaper than monogramming.) We also keep labeled plastic baskets in our smaller bathroom, so each child has a place for his toothbrush, deodorant, etc.
Finding time to write: Now that my youngest is in preschool, I have a lot more free time to write. Still, I have a few tricks that help me make the most of my writing time. First, I write on a laptop that doesn't have access to the internet. Second, I always keep a pen and paper handy, so I can write when inspiration strikes. I have a light-up pen and steno pad beside my bed. That way I can write down my thoughts in the middle of the night.
What are some of your tricks for saving time and staying organized?