12 Ways to Stay Organized When You Have Kids
As parents of 3 kids, Kristi and I find one of the biggest parts of what makes raising kids challenging is the sheer logistics of it all — from soccer practice to music lessons, parent-teacher conferences to birthday parties. Heck, just getting them ready in the morning is an exercise in logistical planning and execution worthy of a battalion commander.
While there are no simple answers, here are some tips and tricks that can help keep you sane.
1. One calendar unites all. Enter everything in one calendar, preferably one that everyone can access online and via cell phone: work stuff, personal stuff, kid’s school and extracurricular events, birthdays, family gatherings, reminders to follow up on things, school holidays, and much more. Use it to keep all of your scheduling in one place, and never have to worry about remembering again. Make it all viewable on one calendar. Whenever you schedule something, quickly enter it into the calendar. Now you can just look at the calendar, from work or home, and see what’s going on that day, or the next day. Our family uses Cozi Family Organizer, but there are several options out there to choose from.
2. Teach them to be self-sufficient. Sure, it seems easier and faster to shower them and dress them yourself than to watch them do the same tasks much more slowly and badly. But it prevents them from the opportunity to learn a new skill and doing it yourself will get old, possibly sooner rather than later if you have multiple kids (or even just one kid). The answer is to teach them to do things themselves. It takes a little more time at first, but within a month, it will more than pay off. Teach your kids to shower and dress themselves (and pick out their own clothes), feed themselves breakfast, clean their rooms, brush their teeth, comb their hair, get their stuff ready, wash their own dishes (well, maybe not the youngest), vacuum, sweep and mop. The only thing you will need to do in the morning is fix their lunches. Older children can learn to help out with meal prep, babies and other more complex or responsible chores.
3. Plan enough lead time. There was a time when an hour to get ready was enough. Then you had a baby (or another baby). Now getting out the door is like herding cats and you are late for everything. So plan for two hours to get ready. Your preparation time will be much more relaxed, everyone will be less stressed and you will be more on time than before. Usually.
4. Make a weekly dinner menu. Plan out the dinners for the week — let the kids make suggestions — and go shopping with the week’s menus in hand, and the ingredients listed out. There are online tools that will allow you to import your recipes and will generate a shopping list for you. It makes things easier come dinner time — no decisions to make—just whip out the ingredients and cook it up.
5. Plan easy dinners. Anything that takes a lot of time to prepare is too much trouble. Try to stick to meals that take around 30 or 40 minutes to prepare. Have a couple of “pantry recipes” (meals you can make with stuff you always have on hand) in your back pocket for emergencies.
6. Keep gear packed and by the door. Having a checklist for sports gear, music lessons, or other similar events is a good idea. Prepare the night before for the next day, assemble everyone’s stuff by the door and make sure you have everything. Forgetting someone’s cleats and having to go back home to get them is a pain.
7. Pack a bag with extra clothes. This is a great tip for those with little ones! Keep a small bag packed with a couple of changes of clothes and underwear for each child stowed away in the car. If there’s an accident, or some of the kids want to spend the night with grandparents, that bag is very handy.
8. Have family meetings. It’s a good idea to have the whole family sit down once a week and talk about any issues that family members have. This communication is key to having a happy family.
9. Eat at least one meal together. You may not be able to do this every day, but try to sit down together and have a meal together as a family several nights a week. It’s a good time to talk about each person’s day.
10. Have an inbox, and clear it often. All papers, bills, letters, flyers, schedules, school papers and more go straight into a single inbox. The inbox should be cleared every day or every other day — just plow through it, one item at a time, making a decision, taking action, filing or trashing each item right away. Don’t put it off or stuff will pile up!
11. Teach kids that everything has a place. Each thing in your home should have a “home”. Teach the kids where that home is, and get them in the habit of putting it in its home. They’ll never get perfect at it, but the more that everybody does this, the fewer things get lost. Also, clean as you go to keep the house fairly clean at all times.
12. Declutter often. Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in years that take up space in your closets, the stuff that clutters up the house, the junk that clutters the garage. Have regular decluttering days. Teach kids to give away toys and clothes to charity. It’s also a good idea to clear out old toys when kids they get new ones on birthdays and holidays.