How a Mom of Six Gets Stuff Back Under Control
Usually, my husband says I run a “tight ship.” This morning, I think he just used a bunch of words that rhyme with “ship.” With this many souls running around, I need to keep on top of things. When I don’t, everything breaks down, like it did sometime between 7 and 8 am today. Between losing about 6 hours on Sunday at the Emergency Room, working on my kids’ Halloween costumes (because every year I forget that it is not easier or cheaper to make them yourself!!! I need to auto-email myself the beginning of every October with that reminder,) and having to take 4 kids to another Specialist appointment this morning, well, as my Grandma would have said “Everything’s gone to pot!” There was no cereal for breakfast, no clean underwear for the preschooler, and just the general “chicken-with-head-cut-off” running around, which ensues from such a situation. I need to get my, er, ship together fast.
So, here is my quick and dirty guide to re-attaching the head to the proverbial chicken:
1) Deal with urgent things first
Usually when things are this bad, you have a couple of burning fires that need attending to ASAP. My lack of breakfast, for example, an urgent email that needs a reply, bills that are overdue, the over-flowing kitchen garbage, or permission forms without signatures, are things that you just need to muscle through. All those little tasks are about to turn into major problems. Get them done first, and try to leave the non-urgent things alone until then.
2) Laundry, laundry, laundry
If you are a Mom, you have laundry. I can guarantee it. Children make laundry. Sometimes, I wonder if they have a magical ability that enables them to reproduce their clothes, so 5 shirts turn into 10 by the end of the season. And, in the rush to do all that laundry for the little ones, I am also going to guarantee that you have been putting off your own, so that you are “recycling” those yoga pants and your last clean t-shirt for more days than you want to mention. Make laundry a priority and it will reward you with a happy home. Remember – laundry’s not done until it is folded and in the drawer. This is a cruel reality, but any woman who’s had to walk out of the Hospital with a newborn still wearing her maternity pants, knows life’s not nice.
3) What are you going to eat?
Mealtime screw ups and laundry are the two big killers to household harmony. Write down, or commit to memory what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch and supper for the next 2 to 3 days, or until next big grocery shop. Now, I don’t mean “Coq au Vin on Monday, Poor-man’s Paella on Tuesday…” If you usually end up eating Mac and Cheese with Weiners, then write down “Mac and Cheese with Weiners.” If breakfast is always cereal and juice, then write that down for each day. You’re not trying to impress the editorial staff at Bon Appetit, you are just trying to save stress at meal time. Then, check if you actually have the ingredients to make those meals. Do you have enough bread, bologna, chicken fingers, yoghurt or are you about to discover, right before you load the family into the car for yet another unscheduled restaurant visit, that you are running out? Either make substitutions, or buy enough to tide you over.
4) “Emergency” Clean your Home
By this I mean, clean the house the way you would if your mother-in-law was due in 20 minutes, without all the closet stuffing. Grab a laundry basket and pick up everything on the floor, tables, etc. Hang up jackets and straighten shoes. Wipe down the counters quickly with a cleaning wipe. Suddenly, everything will look better. There is something calming about seeing bare floors and flat surfaces. Now, take that basket and start sorting by the garbage can. Why? Because 80% of that basket will be either garbage or laundry. Children adore trash. I had a friend whose son refused to throw out the cotton ball taped to his arm after a needle. He wanted to create a special box for it, so he could keep his medical waste for ever and ever. This is typical childish behaviour. The only thing they like as much as junk, is to drop their spontaneously created laundry all over as a way of marking their territory. So toss, toss, toss away. All those lame fast food toys, lidless markers, foamy craft shapes, pieces of sticks, Sponge Bob colouring sheets — gone. It’s going to feel freaking awesome. Be ruthless.
By the way, this is not the time to “tackle that closet” or “create a filing system” or “finally get organized.” With the 20% that’s left in your basket, assign a kid (if the are able) to help put it away. Pile up (or file if you have a place) bills and important papers. Note dates from school and extra-curriculars on your calendar — remember to toss/recycle the paper once you’re done. You don’t need to keep a lot of the paper that comes into your home. Just put it on your calendar, which is the safest place anyway. When’s the last time you lost your wall calendar? Stack dishes in sink, or empty the dishwasher and stack them in there. Recycle all those bags and paper towel rolls you’ve been saving for “crafts.” Breathe deeply.
I hope my tips help you out. It goes without saying that your kids can help with a lot of this. Even a toddler can run around and put things in a laundry basket. You’ll be amazed just how much better everything will be once the frozen lasagna is in the oven, there is a path to the front door, and you are looking forward to wearing clean jeans tomorrow. Trust me.
Now, I’m going back to sewing gold sequins onto Athena’s chiton. (I know, I know…next year I’m buying a costume…)