Moms with lots of kids generally get one question more than any other: "How in the world do you do it?"
Well, actually, that's probably the second question. The one I get most often is "Are they ALL yours?" This query is usually accompanied by an eyebrow raise. Come on people, I'm not Mrs. Duggar - I only have four kids! Not that many in the grand scheme of things.
But anyway...the short answer to the "how do you do it?" question is "Because I HAVE to." I mean, things HAVE to get done and kids HAVE to be kept track of, so you just suck it up and make it happen.
But I do have a couple of tricks that make it happen a little easier. I am a huge fan of blogs that offer parents' tricks and "hacks" for keeping their homes organized and everything moving smoothly and I thought I'd share a few of my own. If you are NOT a fan of such websites, you should probably at this point go over to Google and search for "Blogs That Are More Interesting Than Cyndi's".
Still here? Great. Here we go...
Problem #1: The literal REAMS of paper that spew forth from the older boys' backpacks on a daily basis.
Solution: Permission slips and other items that need to be sent back to the school are put up on the side of our fridge under heavy metal magnets. So are spelling lists so we remember to go over them with the boys during the week. The side of our fridge is the exact center of our house - I've actually had it confirmed by survey. (Not really.) and if things need to be noticed, they always go there.
Ninety percent of schoolwork is reviewed, praised and/or discussed depending on the grade, and thrown in the recycling bin. Really great artwork and graded assignments the boys are especially proud of (the other 10%) are saved in a big plastic bin in our corner cabinet. At the end of the school year I go through the big bin and decide what's going to make the final cut for their memory books.
School newsletters, sports schedules and anything else that needs to be saved for reference gets filed in this awesome binder I like to call "The Great Big Book of Everything" (nod to Stanley):
Each boy has a "school" section and an "activities" section:
Anything I think I will need to reference in the future goes in this binder. This includes all that info that comes home at the start of the year - school schedules, classroom rules, teacher's contact information, etc. under each school tabs and sports and activity schedules, coach contact information, etc. under the activities tabs. Since two of our kids are in the same school, general stuff that comes home from their elementary go under a separate tab in the back so its not duplicated. Having everything at my fingertips has saved me on more than one occasion.
The book resides in a basket in our kitchen so we can grab it whenever we need it (and we need it a lot!). Since that bright red cover wasn't the best choice to coordinate with the rest of the kitchen decor, I slid a sheet of coordinating scrapbook paper in the back clear pocket and we put it in the basket facing backwards. Now it's functional and pretty. My two favorite things.
Problem #2: Keeping track of what's going on and who needs to be where when.
Solution: A two-part calendar system. I have a calendar I keep with me at all times that includes all of our activities for the foreseeable future. The boys (and Joe) really don't need to look that far ahead, so on Sunday nights I sit down and fill in the master calendar for just that week, which is hung in the prime real estate on our refrigerator door.
This calendar is a product of Parents Magazine and we found it at Target last year. It has been the key to our survival now that all three of the older boys have moved on to high-level sports and practice several times a week (what's pictured above is actually a pretty low-key week since spring sports haven't started yet).
Unfortunately, this calendar is out of print, which I discovered when I went to Target pick up a refill. I searched all over online with no luck and finally emailed Parents Magazine in an absolute panic. A few days later I got an email from the head of their marketing department who broke the news that the calendar was no longer available BUT offered to send me one she had floating around her office. Yes, please! It arrived a few days later and I will always be a HUGE fan of that magazine. Smart move, marketing lady.
So, I've figured a few things out but I'm definitely no expert at the organizational thing. And it must be said that organization is only as good as those who are willing to keep it up. For instance, to corral all the stuff that congregates in our front hallway (shoes, boots, sports bags, school backpacks), I put up a big configuration of sturdy shelves in the closet. On the shelves each family member has a full-sized laundry basket in which to keep their crap. Yet here was the scene in our hallway last night: