Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 4

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you for advice on things I could do to make life easier, juggling lots of responsibilities, three kids and the fact that I'm a crappy housewife. Your comments and suggestions were awesome. But there were so many of them, that we had to write multiple. Your comments fell under the following categories. To read more on any of these topics, just click on the link.

For the complete list of suggestions, click here and read through the 200+ comments. Today we'll discuss Managing Kids and Their Stuff and Staying Organized.

Managing Kids and Their Stuff
1. Baskets
If there's a problem area where your kids' random stuff always finds itself (for me it's the family room), give each kid a basket and put it there. At the end of every day - put their stuff in their basket. At the end of the week, they take the basket to their room and put everything away. The Patron Saint of Mommyland also does this and she calls them CRAP BASKETS. Because the kids' crap goes in their baskets and not on the floor and therefore your house appears to be more tidy.

2. Deadlines
Here's how these bad boys work. The kids have something to do, for example - put away everything in their crap basket. They know that they're supposed to do it Friday when they get home from school. Nothing else fun is allowed until they get it done. Wii? NON. Spongebob? NON. Play with the kid from the down the street? NON. Go on the planned sleep-over at best friend's house? Sorry... NON.

Do you know what else this empowers you to do? And some moms do it every day. HIDE THE REMOTE and POCKET THE CELL PHONES. When homework and chores are done, you can have them back. The end.

3. Do as much as you can the night before
This includes laying out clothes, packing backpacks and putting them by the front door, pre-making lunches, etc. Because it appears that even the most organized and together mommies find that the 20 minutes before you have to leave for school is an unmitigated cluster. Is it very wrong that that makes me feel better?

4. Chore charts
These are so, so helpful. When we have little behavior problems at our house, we also sometimes use "Good Choices" charts. I told Guru Louise about that and she was all: "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE?!" Here's an example of how one mommy uses a chore chart:
I got this one for about $9 at Target.
"We have a Chore Chart on the side of the fridge. It's on a piece of paper slid into one of those page protectors. Each day has chores that need to get done on a daily basis (dishes, counters, litter box, cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.). Then each day has one special chore that gets done weekly. (Laundry, dusting, vacuuming, trash, bathrooms). We each have a different color of dry-erase pen, so that when we do a chore we cross it off. That way we know 1) that the chore was done and 2) who did it. It gives a good visual of whether or not everyone is pulling their weight, and who needs to try harder. It also gives the hardest worker an excuse to point out how hard they work, and that they really, really deserve a break. Or some chocolate."
5. Checklists
Like chore charts, they can be a really useful tool.
"I stole this from my sister in law, but adjusted it for my "not old enough to read yet son." He has a list on his bedroom wall containing pictures of the steps he needs to take to get himself ready in the morning and before bed. For the morning: 1.) a picture of the potty 2.) toothbrush 3.) shirt 4.) underpants 5.) socks 6.) pants 7.) jammies in hamper 8.) a pic of pancakes to remind him to go downstairs for breakfast. At bedtime 1.) potty 2.) toothbrush 3.) pull-up 4.) jammies 5.) pick a story

He still needs occasional prodding to hurry up (I am thinking of getting a timer), but this frees me up to get myself and the baby ready in the morning. Also, it gives him a sense of accomplishment that he did it himself. With older kids, same checklist with words."
7. Artwork and School Work
A friend told me she had figured out how to stay on top of this. It's a 5 point strategy.
  • Tell your kids they can only hand you important papers from school in the kitchen (or wherever is close to your family calendar and/or a trash can). Tell them if they give it to you anywhere except there, IT WILL GET LOST.
  • Any dates/deadlines/events go directly onto the calendar.
  • Each kid's artwork/school work gets one folder per month. Anything that looks like a keeper or needs follow up goes in the folder.
  • Everything else gets recycled.
  • At the end of the school year, go through each folder and the keepers will be obvious. The rest gets recycled when they're not looking.

Sigh... Isn't it beautiful?
Staying Organized
1. The area by the door
We all want a mudroom. With hooks and shelves and cubbies and little lockers with crown molding. Except most of us don't have one. So some very smart mommies decided to re-purpose their hall closets with plastic or fabric hanging shoe holders to serve the same function. It helps organize their kids' stuff and even though it doesn't look all swanky - who the hell cares. It's a closet, close the door.

2. The Mail
This idea is genius and I have already done the same thing. GENIUS, I tell you.
"I made a mail organizer from an idea I got from the blog Controlling my Chaos. Mine isn't as cute has Jill's, but it has really helped me feel like I'm on top of things. When it's time to pay the bills, I just grab the folder and I don't have to spend 1/2 hour finding the bills.
3. Flylady
Apparently, FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself. AWWWWWW! I love that. I've heard about this site for years and have read many things on it myself. I know it has helped so many people. It's great for people who are feeling really out of control with their chaos, which she calls Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. Is it for everyone? Nope. But nothing is. Lots of people love her and I think her non-judgey, you go girl vibe is pretty badass.

"One word, Lydia: Flylady. Okay, this comment is obviously more than one word, but seriously, check her out. Because I think Flylady understands all about being a boobstain. I certainly do, and her messages really resonate with me."
4. Ten Minute Rule

So many people talked about this. Set a timer. Do something for 10 minutes - just 10. Clean your kitchen. Fold some laundry. Start purging crap from the junk drawer. You will be amazed what you can get done in 10 minutes. I tried it this week. I stopped playing Words with Friends during the day and whenever I had a few minutes (like that weird break before I have to go the bus stop) - I would just start cleaning. It works. By Maude, it works.

Having just moved, I can't tell you how cathartic it was to just get rid of stuff. Having less stuff means there is less clutter, less to clean, less to deal with, less crap to be overwhelmed by. If you haven't used it or needed it in a year - get rid of it. We've discussed methods for doing this, including our buddies at Here are some of your options:
  • Donate it
    • For pick-up, we suggest our buddies at - you tell them when and they'll come get it. It's awesome.
    • Salvation Army and Good Will took about ten van loads when I moved last year
  • Sell it
    • Craig's List (But be careful of internet weirdos - wait. I am an internet weirdo. Never mind)
  • Freecycle it
    • You know someone is getting it who wants it and that its not ending up in a landfill
  • Consign it
    • Great option for kid stuff and it's that time of year in these parts
  • Throw it away
    • Some stuff isn't worth donating. Recycle what you can and don't be afraid to but stuff out a day early - I was SHOCKED what people came and trash picked. I was also gratified, though. Because I would much rather people get free stuff that may need it than for it end up getting wasted.
6. Less mail/information – unsubscribe from everything
This momma is absolutely right. We're all bombarded with too much information every day and I think it adds to the sense of being underwater with everything.
"Reduce the amount of information coming into your house. Whether it's junk mail, email or RSS feeds, spend a few minutes here and there unsubscribing from these things as they appear. It will make you feel more sane and you'll have a *few* less things to handle each day in the long run. If you miss a sale, a great blog post or an email from someone you actually know, I guarantee another one will pop up again eventually."
Here's a good resource on how to stop junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers (and telephone solicitations).

7. Auto bill pay, or e-bills
I truly, truly hate to pay bills. I feel like everyone except me has been doing this on-line bill pay thing for years. I didn't because I was like "I don't have the time to set it up and I hate paying bills so I don't want to even think about it."

Just in case there's still a few hold-outs - come to the dark side. It's so amazing here. It takes me 5 minutes to pay bills now. I have less mail coming to the house - so less clutter and crap to deal with. I save money because I don't pay for postage anymore and I avoid late fees because it's so dang easy. It does everything for me and it gives me back time and it makes something unpleasant and hard, much easier to bear. And that's what she said.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 5 - The TV Interview!

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. Another fun piece of advice for "freecycle" is to have a swap party. It is fun (and not just an excuse to get together with friends and drink because you get to drink with friends, get free stuff, AND purge stuff too! So, basically, it rocks).

    What you do, is get a list of women that you would like to invite. Email or text them with the date and time. Tell them to bring clothes, jewelry, kitchen utensils, home decor, etc that they no longer want/need but is still in good condition. Then, at the specified date/time, get together and have a free for all. Pick out things you want from others, and they do the same. Then, in the end, whatever is left over, donate. We donated the extra clothes to the local womens' shelter and the other non-clothing items to Goodwill. Voila! Fun and purposeful.

    This has been so successful for us that we are hosting our fourth swap party next month.

  2. I just put all the materials for that mail organizer on my shopping list! Thank you for that. I've been trying to devise a way to get it under control for about 5 years! And I am going to do the basket thing too. Daddy will also get his own basket!!

  3. I have started taking photos of the kids artwork/special papers and projects before recycling them... There is a company which will take your photos and turn them into photo books or you can just DIY with Shutterfly or any other photo book company...

  4. Great advice!! Your readers rock. One more suggestion I read recently which has been surprisingly life changing is that if it takes less than a minute to do something, just do it now. Papers that need to go to the office? Don't set them on the stairs, walk to the office and put them where they belong. More often than not, it saves me from touching something twice that could have been dealt with in the beginning.

    1. I love this idea! Gonna try it today!

  5. Chore charts also get your husband to help you with the work, because usually husbands don't quite realize how much work needs to be done. A chart really puts a new perpective to it. Plus, no more "I would have helped you, but I didn't know what needed to be done".

  6. Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for this series of posts!! Lately I am finding myself even more overwhelmed by the chaos and the clutter than usual, and these tips just may help save my sanity. Every single room in my house looks like a bomb went off, which means basically 3200 square feet of disaster zone. Now we're thinking of (gasp!) putting our house on the market to move to a better school district (i.e. smaller house with much less storage space) and the thought makes me break out in a cold sweat. Quite frankly, it is always a relief to see that I am not the only mom who lives surrounded by junk - and even better to know there may be a way out!

  7. Let me add my two cents about timers....
    Coming to parenthood from special ed teacher world I brought timers. They worked in my classroom. They work in my home. Get the kind that count up and down. For some things (bath time, morning routine, turn taking) set the timer. There is no arguing with the timer. It beeped, you are done. period.
    For other things (clean your room) count up. Can we beat our time putting away laundry this time? Ready set go!
    I heart my timers!

  8. Amen to the purge. Less stuff = less to clean = awesome. Also, I decided how much kid stuff I could stand to have out and, in turn, clean up, all at one time (for me it's two ikea cubes). That is all they're allowed to have out. Ever. Their toys are sorted by type into cubes (legos in one, doll baby stuff in one, train stuff in one). I have 2 kids, so each kid can choose one set of toys. The rest of the toys are in the top of their closet. To play with something different, they have to pick up their toys and trade me one cube out for another. Clean up is fast, because even the 3yo can sort 2 types of toys, and if it's not done every day, that's ok, because I know everything COULD get cleaned up in 5 min.

  9. Ok the mail idea is the BEST idea ever! I am so going to make that. Our mail is always laying everywhere.

  10. yikes!!! you guys with all your stuff, rooms, projects, chorecharts, plans, bins, schedules, and on and on ...

    makes one's head dog paddle.

  11. I love the 10 minute rule. That's how I do every. last. thing. around here, including my exercise on the elliptical trainer. Heck, start with 5 minutes if that's all you have. My motto is, if you have more than 10 minutes to spend on something, you'd better make it a nap or an episode of something fun watched with your sweetie. Time is too precious to spend more than 10 min (at a time) on chores.

  12. I'm in like with the idea of hanging baskets on the walls to get the clutter off the floor. Saw something like it on pinterest. I will be doing that as soon as we get into our own house.

  13. The idea of baskets in the living room has transformed my house! I bought one for my baby and a small one for my cat's toys. The next day i was so motivated by not having to think of places to put things that i actually VACUUMED. (I also bought new shoes and kept the box to store papers that need filing) My baby sleeps for half an hour at a time during the day, so i think of two things a day that i can do during her naps. The house is getting so clean that tomorrow the only thing left is dusting!




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