I received an email from a dear friend about a year ago. I read it and then "organized it" into my email inbox. Clearly I need to actually heed some of the advice in this email because the helpful advice was lost all this time. For lack of a better place to put it, it lands here. Hope you find these tips (that I did not come up with, mind you) helpful. I can't wait to implement some of them!
(Ginger, maybe you could forward me the link to your friend's blog that gave you this help. I would like to give credit where credit is due.)
Here are a few tips that help keep the Rexine six-pack organized and working as a team.
* In the kitchen I keep five stacked paper trays each labeled with a name. Mom on top, Riley next and so on. When the kids get home from school, they unload papers for me into my bin and things like spelling words or weekend homework into their bins. We also store things like Valentine lists, school project information, and library books in their bins. My bin usually contains information on fieldtrips, school parties, school and sports pictures/schedules and other things that I need to remember FOR my kiddos. Brady's bin has a few coloring books and scratch paper so he can reach and do a "project" all on his own. He has learned to put everything away in his bin when he is finished and used paper goes into the recycling bin. He takes a lot of pride in doing this. I know you are a year or so away from all the homework, etc...but it may be helpful to get this system in place early. No searching for the missing library book or the dog ate my homework excuses.
* Four colored laundry baskets (labeled) on a cheap shelf in the garage. Kierstyn and Riley's on top, Julia and Brady on bottom. These contain all of their shoes. No more searching. They go in as soon as they come off.
* Four large printer paper boxes (labeled) to hold those special art projects/stories. When I have to put things in a box ( I am going to try to have only 1 per child for their entire school career) I am very choosey about what I save. I have 4 files in the file cabinet in which all questionable artwork goes into, and every 3 months or so I deposit the most precious into the printer paper boxes. The rest is discretely recycled.
* Large cork board hung vertically in the hallway. (I actually found an old picture at Goodwill, cut the picture out of the frame, hung the frame and filled the center with cork tiles.) Everyone can reach to put up those special drawings. When the board is full, some pictures have to come down in order to put others up. The kids chose one of their own to replace with a new one. They then put the old piece in my bin mentioned above. When I go through it, I put the special ones in their file, which will later go through the selection process with hopes of making the big box. See the process in action :)
* Book Basket Basics.....My children all LOVE books. We have a basket of book downstairs, 3 upstairs and even one in their bathroom. This helps keep a mess from being dragged from room to room. They also actually look at all the books, not just the same ones on the top.
* Laundry room....tubs for a garage sale. I keep masking tape and a sharpie in the laundry room. When items are too small and can no longer be passed down, I launder, mark and store them. I hate wasting time on handling items more then once. Every spring I have a garage sale and then use the money for the next seasons clothes. I don't feel overwhelmed, because everything has already been gone through and marked. All I have to do is pull it out and viola!
* Start those memories now.....Every year school year I save a pair of jeans from each child. I mark their name and grade (starting with preschool) and store in a tub. They will each get a quilt made out of their jean squares for graduation. A great way to use jeans that look worn or have holey knees. Some of the squares will contain pockets, others zipper and the girls have some pink jean in their collection.
*BINS BINS BINS..... I just love them. After Christmas, you can get them cheep. They may be red and green, but who cares. Plus they are easy to spot :) In our pantry I have one with games, one with easy bake oven ingredients, one with play - doh and one with puzzles/flash cards. It makes it very easy to find what we need and still organized. (I also stock up on Dollar store shower curtains. They make awesome mats for play-doh, cooking with the kids, shaving cream art, carving pumpkins. If I can clean them up great, if I don't have to...even better :)
* Next year Anessa will have to bring her own snack. On the weekend we make 5 labeled zip lock baggies for each kid for the week. Some sit in the pantry and others in the fridge (like carrots). It sure makes packing a snack much easier and what's good for one works for all. They can chose which one they want on which day.
*Plastic drinking glass drawer.....low cupboard right by the fridge. The kids can get their own glass of water. It's amazing how much time we spend getting drinks when in reality, with the right tools, most of them can do it themselves. If you don't have a water dispenser on the fridge, small sports bottles kept with water in the fridge work awesome.
*Chores...all of our kids have chores ( keep in mind...ours are older :))) They all make their own beds and pick up before they move onto the next activity. They all have daily chores, like making their beds, putting away their clothes, picking up toys. Riley helps clear the table, takes out the garbage and cleans the litter box. The girls empty the dishwasher, and fold laundry, and help set the table and Brady feeds the fish, and helps clear the table. I know family's that give allowances and it works well for them, but we really don't want out kids looking for a return being part of a family. They do, however, know that because they help out, it gives us much more "fun" time with them. A pedicure with pretty polish for the girls or tossing the ball with the boys is really what makes our kids the happiest. As your kids get older, the advantages of a large family really start to show themselves. We have grown into a wonderful team.
*Meals...I usually plan 2 large meat dishes and 3 leftover dishes. I.e. Ham dinner.....then scalloped potatoes and ham, and Hot ham and cheese melts or ham and bean soup. Chicken dinner....chicken pot pie, and chicken with penne pesto pasta. I do the big meals on Mon and Wed. and fill in with the leftovers. It really makes my meal planning a snap, not to mention I save a lot of $$$$. With our busy schedule, I usually put everything in the crock pot right after lunch and then when the 2:30 rush of children, snack and homework begin, I am prepared. I can relax into the afternoon routine still knowing that a great meal is on it's way.
* Laundry...1 light load and 1 dark load a day. I have 2 separate baskets, so everyone separates their own laundry when they drop it off. A colored basket for colors and a white basket for lights/whites. I wash during the day and then the girls and I sit and visit as we fold.....and our meal is cooking itself :)
* Breakfast....set the table for breakfast right before you go to bed. The kids love to come down to a ready to go table.....and SO DO I!!!
* Shoe Boxes.....The girls each have a shoe box of treasures under their bed. They got to decorate it with stickers and markers. This is where they put all of those things that really don't have a place and yet they don't want to get rid of. Birthday cards from Grandma, rock collection, glittery chap stick, beaver bravos etc. They are happy and I don't have to get anything caught in the vacuum cleaner.
*Stair basket or bag....Hangs on the banister or sits on the bottom step. This bag/basket (I love the reusable Fred Meyers box shaped bag) and gets filled with the collection of upstairs items that seems to walk downstairs throughout the day. I bring the bag up before bedtime and everyone is responsible for putting the items that belong to them away. If I need to ask them more than once, the bag is put away until the next day and they will not be allowed to play with the items within the bag. They will have another chance the following evening. Julia once had to go to dance without her ballet slippers and explain to teacher Tammy what happened. Needless to say.....it has never happen again. They have all learned the consequences and comply with a smile. I just love smiling :) :) :)
* And my final tip is cleaning aprons.....The girls and Brady love this....Riley is a little too cool at this point:) I found in-expensive aprons with pockets and stuffed them for cleaning day. A dust rag, a few paper towels, small water spray bottles with Windex, ponytail holder for the girls, and a plastic Freddie's bag which I loop through the tied belt for garbage. Turn on a little music and we are off on a mad yet fun cleaning spree. Brady is quite the baseboard duster.
additional tip from Ginger:
Another thing I've heard from a Megan, who runs a businss called Disorder 2 Order. She said, Horizontal is Hidden...Vertical is Visual. I had these ominous stacks on my desk of papers and 'stuff', and there would always be some bill that would inevitably get sucked in and lost at the bottom and we'd get a late fee on it. argh!! So she said sort things into one of three piles. To DO(bills,forms to be signed, etc), To READ(magazines, articles, research), and To FILE. So I got some cute pee-chees? sp? and a magazine holder thing and everything goes into one of those three folders. I have an extra folder for Anessa's artwork that keeps showing up everywhere. It's nice because it sets a limit: When the File, or Read folder gets full, I have to take care of it, it can't get any fatter. So I take it upstairs to the office and file away, or sit down and read and toss. It's nice because papers aren't being carried up one-by-one to get lost before they reach the office.