Saturday, September 15, 2012

Organizing Tips and Tricks for Life with Little Kids

I have always loved to organize.  When I was a teenager, I used to combat stress by cleaning and organizing my walk-in-closet.  I guess it's how I'm hard-wired.  Now that I'm an adult, I still love to organize, but I have a lot more real estate and more people to think about.  I always ask myself, "Will this make my life easier, make my kids more independent,  or make our family happier in some way?"  I'm always looking for simple solutions to accomplish those goals.

If you have little kids and are looking for some organization strategies of your own, here are four things to think about:

Think about height.
Little people are... well... little!  They can't - and shouldn't - be expected to thrive in an adult-sized house all the time.  Of course, you can have step stools all over your home, but how much easier would it be to just bring things to the kids' level?  In our house, we've done that in a few key areas:

The Bathroom:

Instead of hoping that kids will fold and rehang their towels on a towel bar, we moved the towel bar over the toilet for guests to use and gave each of the kids their own hook at an age-appropriate level.  (I specifically chose to have the bead board go high enough to make the towels fit on it and not puddle on the floor.)

We also removed stress by having custom towels made with built-in, embroidered hangers, so the towels don't keep falling on the floor.

The Kitchen:

We special ordered sliding drawers for a low cabinet close to the kitchen table, giving the kids independence in getting cups, bowls, and plates.  It was expensive, but hear me say that it was worth. every. penny.

The Closet:

Command hooks are your friend.  Your children aren't going to be able to hang things on hangers high up in closets, but they can be expected to hang up coats or bags on hooks at their own level.

Think about where you use things.

Keep things close to where you actually use them.  If you always get a glass out of the cupboard and pour a drink, don't keep the glasses across the room from your refrigerator.  The same goes for kid and baby items.

All of our bedrooms are upstairs, and I have no interest in trekking upstairs every time I need to change a diaper.  Instead, I set up a diapering cupboard in our family room, and probably 80% of our diaper changes occur right here on the floor (on a changing mat, of course).  I have been changing diapers in front of this cupboard - in multiple houses - for six and a half years now and my whole extended family knows just where to find spare wipes or clean diapers when they come visit.

Think about reality.
I wish my stairs wouldn't always have stuff on them, but they just do.  It's reality in a house with five people.  Instead of denying it, I decided to embrace it and buy stair baskets.  We have one for each kid and one for Jim and me together.

(Someday I will actually print and laminate the name labels for these baskets!)

Another reality I have embraced is that my kids do not outgrow their clothes all in one night.  They gradually outgrow them one item - or several items(!) - at a time, and I don't want to keep hanging them back up and forgetting that they are too small.

In each kid's closet I have a large Tupperware container.  When someone outgrows something I fold it and move it straight into their container.  When the container is full, I label it with the clothing size, put it in storage, and start a new container.

Think about routines.
Sometimes having places for things make no difference if you don't train your family to properly use them.  In our house, we have lots of routines.

I have a few routines just for me that help me to stay sane.  One is my laundry routine.  I don't always do things the same way, but what I have found works best for me is when I put a load of laundry in right before bed, move it to the dryer first thing in the morning (I'm talking maybe seven or eight hours in the washing machine... certainly not enough time for mildew to grow), and fold it as soon as possible.  Sometimes I don't actually get to put it away until after dinner, but at least it's clean and wrinkle-free.  If I do a load this way every day it takes minimal time and keeps me from doing ten loads on weekends.

Speaking of laundry and routines, I have a great system in Brennan's room for his clothes.  I bought one of these hanging closet things, and I put his clothes in it for six days at a time.  He knows he should always take from the top and work his way down.  I thought about labeling each one with a day of the week and doubling up weekends in the last one, but so far it hasn't been necessary.

If we have a special event or soccer practice, I put the uniform/swimming trunks, etc. into the right slot along with his clothes, and it helps to remind him that things are coming up.  The best part of this system is Brennan doesn't come in my bedroom when I'm bleary-eyed to inform me that he has no clean underwear or to ask me, "What matches my blue shark shirt?"  He can just get dressed with no fuss and no problem.

I am also trying to get better about packing lunches in advance.  I'm bad about this, but I think that when dinner is cleaned up and the kids are in bed, the last thing I want to do is make another mess or prepare another meal.  Anyway, when I can get motivated, I sometimes make several lunches at one time.  I use these awesome Ziploc containers and stack them in the refrigerator.  They fit in the kids' lunch boxes, and the compartments individually seal, so things don't get soggy!  If there is something I can't add until the morning of, I put a note on the container.

So, I promised a little sneak peek into my organization tricks, and now you've seen a few of my favorites.  I want to give a little disclaimer and say that I don't think a single thing I do is original.  I don't think I have brilliant, creative, one-of-a-kind strategies, but then again, does anyone?  I mean, don't we all just kind of take the things that work for us?   Anyhow, I can't give credit to everyone whose ideas I have stolen because half the time I don't know where I have gotten them, but I don't have some crazy notion that I'm just so smart.  I'm only sharing this stuff in the hopes that it will help someone else's life to be a more efficient or a little less stressful.  Let me know if you adopt any of these strategies in your home!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Seth: Five Months Old

Sleeping Patterns:  Seth sleeps from about 7:00 PM (give or take a half hour) until I wake him around 5:30 or 6:00 to eat, and then he goes back to sleep until around 8:15 AM.  He is awake for a couple of hours, takes a morning nap until lunch time (roughly 10 AM until 12 PM, though our schedule makes it hard to know how consistent this actually is), and goes back down around 1:30 for a long afternoon nap.  The little boy likes to sleep, and he really wants to do it in his crib.  If we are out running around during nap time, he protests loudly.

Eating Habits:  He's still eating about every three hours.  The note from his well visit a month ago said he should be going four hours now, but he's not unless he takes a four-hour nap.  Oh, well.  He's not a grazer, he's efficient, and he sleeps well.

New Discoveries Made:  Seth loves to shriek and make long, throaty sounds.  Mommy and Daddy have made a discovered something too:  The Exersaucer is a guaranteed "poop machine."  

Accomplishments:  Yesterday Seth said unsupported (tripod-style) for the first time!

Places We Went:  We didn't go anywhere very exciting.

Memorable Events or Holidays: Labor Day was pretty uneventful.  We made the mistake of going to Opry Mills Mall that weekend.  It was a zoo, but Seth was a champ.

Baby's Weight Gain:  I have no idea how much he weighs now, but he is wearing size 3 diapers and 6 month clothes.

Mommy's Weight Loss:  I have four pounds left to go until I reach my pre-pregnancy weight.  I'm not sure those four pounds will be enough to get back into all of my old pants, though.  All moms know that returning to your previous weight does not necessarily mean that your clothes will fit the same, especially if you're nursing.  Oh well.  My boots fit now!!  :-)

Seth, I love you so much.  You make me smile, you make me laugh, and I cannot kiss your little head enough.  You are an easygoing, thumb-sucking sweetheart, and I delight in every minute we spend together.  I am so thankful for the days we have alone together when Cora and Brennan are in school.  Even though I am looking forward to the day when we can all go places together and have fun as a family of five, I am trying really hard to savor ever minute of your infancy.  You are so precious to me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Unexpected Long Weekend

I am home today with a sick kiddo... and so it begins.  Again.  Poor Brennan has had monthly fevers since he was two years old, mostly because he cannot keep his hands out of his mouth.  I feel like he is just as oral as he was when he was a young toddler.  Last year he missed ten days of school, and I got a letter from the school about his attendance.  It was heart-breaking, mostly because I can't change anything.  His oral tendencies are completely subconscious, so harping on him doesn't make any difference at all.

The good news is that today is Friday, so B will definitely be back in school on Monday.  And so today I will do what I can to keep everyone happy until Daddy gets home.  Right now, that involves Caillou and computer games until breakfast.  And so, while everyone gets their daily allotment of screen time, I blog.

Yesterday was my second day having Cora in preschool for five hours.  It was awesome.  Honestly, I felt giddy, being able to run errands with just one child.  And when I got home and Seth took a nap, I dove into an organizing project I have been itching to do for a while.

It is no secret that I get pleasure out of being organized and efficient.  This is especially true in my home.  My house is never completely clean or picked up, (I do have three kids!!) but I do have lots of systems in place to make my life simpler and help everyone stay on track.  My mother-in-law comments every time she comes to visit that I have a new system in place, and she is always learning new tricks from spending time in my home.  She said she loves it because she always knows where to find things and how to step in and help me.  She told me I need to post some of my organizational strategies because they just don't come naturally to everyone.  I thought this sounded like a good idea, so next week I am going to post photos and tips on organization for life with little kids.  If they are obvious, forgive me.  But if they are helpful to even one person, I'm glad to share.

In the mean time, I'll share some photos of yesterday's achievements.  The closets in our house have been driving me crazy for some time.  I picked up a few plastic shelving units at Home Depot yesterday, and voila!  Instant organization.

Brennan's closet before:

... and after:

Seth's closet before:

...and after:

I'll talk about some of the things in the kids' closets during next week's post.  Until then, I'll leave you with some photos.

Brennan and Cora were both supposed to bring family pictures to school, and we realized we hadn't taken one since we were in the hospital when Seth was born.  We threw up a black piece of fabric, set the timer on the camera, and took a few impromptu pictures after church (Jim had been home with the sick baby, so he isn't as dressed up as the rest of us).

Look who is sitting up?!  Oh, wait!  That's a picture of Brennan!  Well, it's awfully hard to tell them apart.  Thank goodness for dates on digital pictures because they are nearly identical at this age.  Check out Seth!!

Have a great weekend!

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