I spent December and January pulling this family out of survival mode. I'm pleased to report that we're starting to find our footing and feel more settled.
This wonderful turnaround has been largely accomplished with a Mission: Organization. We've engaged in these missions before. I got the idea from a friend who teaches organization workshops. I think humans, for the most part, operate better when things are orderly. In a large family, organization isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. The more people you're trying to get moving in the same direction, the more structure you need to reach your goals and get where you want to be.
And everyone knows things don't just stay in place. They have a way of surrendering to the law of entropy. Legos get stuffed in kitchen cabinets. Pens end up in the toy bins. Socks land in the t-shirt bin. And this...
in a hurry. (Austin has no idea how that happened.)
So, I've come to realize that regular missions are necessary to maintain order. Once we've got good systems in place, these missions can be just short, targeted strikes against mess, but sometimes, if things have been especially crazy or we've had major upheaval to our life (like a move or a new school), we have to put some serious boots on the ground to get our house and schedule back on track.
There are different ways to go about organizing. I usually like to tackle a room at a time. Here are my Mission: Organization steps:
- Set aside a few days and cancel other things. Plan easy meals. Get everybody revved up about it. (Or at least let them know what's coming.)
- Throw stuff away. LOTS of stuff. Nearly all of us could live with 1/3 of what we have. The more stuff, the more mess. I tell my kids constantly that the more they have, the more they'll have to clean.
- Have piles for Goodwill and piles to sell, if you're the selling type. I used to be, but I don't have the time anymore. I take clothes in good shape (read: Megan's clothes) to resale shops, but other than that, it all goes to Goodwill.
- Start with the closets and work your way out.
- Drag everything out, throw away as much you can, and only keep what you need. Seeing all the stuff out in the open is usually a shock to the system.
- Growing up an Air Force brat, it seems like if you had more than your allotted weight of stuff to move, you were charged $1/pound to ship the rest of the stuff. When faced with an item (or a group of items) that I can't part with, I ask myself if I'd pay $1/pound to ship it. I'm cheap, so the answer's usually no. And then I get rid of it.
- Sort things in a way that makes sense to whomever is going to be in charge of putting it away. The younger the person, the simpler the system. (The less the person cares about tidiness, the simpler the system.)
- Label things. I have neglected this in our new kitchen, and I have to get around to doing that soon. I can't hold the kids responsible for where they're putting things if I haven't taken the time to label. Note to self: My family cannot read my mind.
- Don't bring in new junk to take the place of the old junk. Once again, I'm cheap, and every time I get rid of stuff we're not using, I just see it as a colossal waste of money. (Except, of course, in the case of items which served a good purpose but just aren't needed anymore.)
These take care of the "stuff" in our home, but I find that the most important organization I do in our family is the time I spend evaluating what's working and what's not and getting routines and thoughts out on paper. The only way to quit dealing entirely in the realm of the urgent is to start planning ahead and figuring out how to take care of things before they become crises.
People are often curious about the strategies that I use to keep our family going. I might post more on that later- I do spend a lot of time thinking through these things. From this "brain work" comes chore charts (you're welcome, kids!) and routines and processes that get us back on track. And back on track is a great place to be.