From Tiffany, my assistant! Filling you in on some great organizing tips!
With 4 kids aged 18, 15, 10 and 1 I have someone at basically every stage of parenting. I was breastfeeding my newborn at my daughter’s welcome week for college! Some days are comical to be sure, and if I had a nickel for every time someone asked, “how do you do it?” I would be rich.
Track meets, youth group, student council meetings, Bible study and many more things fill my calendar each week.
Here are some tips and tricks I've learned through the years to help you busy families cope!
1. Choose Wisely
When it comes to being busy we have gotten a little “out there” in our culture. We feel stressed overwhelmed and down right crazy. We are eating junk most days of the week rather than cooking because we just don’t have time to keep up. We schedule our families to the max. Our parent’s generation didn’t run 4 kids to 3 different activities 7 days a week, so why do we?
Being busy is a choice.
I know it doesn’t really seem like it, but it is.
- How have this year's choices blessed you, your family, your marriage, and others?
- How do your activities serve ultimate priorities?
- How have they hindered you?
- What would you like to change about these decisions for next year?
My advice to moms just starting out is to be careful what you choose, especially when your children are young! You are shaping their ideas about what makes a person happy and successful and modeling for them what family life is.
2. Plan Ahead:
Someone once said: “No one ever plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.”
Don’t wait to update your calendar. When you get those seasonal calendars for sports, clubs, school, and church take the time to write each obligation into your calendar for the entire year at once. You will be so happy that you took time to write it all out before the rush sets in.
Don’t forget to include the things that you don’t think you would ever forget on your calendar. For example, I include “youth group” on my calendar even though my husband is the director and would not forget to go. When I had a part time job out of the house I put that on the calendar too. I put these things on the calendar not to remember, but rather to visually see what my week really looks like. I can see at a glance if I truly have time to spontaneously meet someone for coffee today.
Once a week I go over the calendar’s events and put an agenda up on our white board which includes my meal plan. This way I know what I am cooking and can make it early and take it with us if I need to!
Everyone in the family can easily see what is going on and make sure they are ready. If they see something is missing (which can often happen) they are able to remind me and write it in themselves. This is so helpful in preventing last minute scrambles.
3. Start the night before:
The short answer to the question "How do you do it?" is “God’s grace… and I started last night.” (In some cases I started on Saturday for something that would happen on the following Friday.)
The main idea is to pack lunches, lay out clothes, backpacks, Bible study stuff, breakfast stuff, all the night ahead and know what your day will look like before you go to bed. Get as ready as you possibly can and then you can get up and out with the least amount of stress possible.
I pack about three different diaper bags each week. And keep them ready to walk out the door by cleaning them out and restocking each time I use them.
I made this little baby backpack for my toddler that carries a couple of diapers, a cup, a quick change outfit, and a binky. Perfect for Sunday school and short trips around town.
I have another all-day outing bag. This one is for when I plan to be gone for a whole day and will need food, napping supplies and a couple of toys to keep baby occupied. I use this when I’m running errands or visiting grandma’s house for the better part of the day.
I have another for track meets. This has tons of toys that can be played loudly and actively during the three hours we are cheering and waiting and cheering some more.
The track meet bag can be altered to have quiet toys for youth group, meetings or a visit to a friend’s house.
One thing I have found helpful (especially when my mind is occupied) is to have a key clip in place in my purse or diaper bag where so I can always find my keys in a hurry. It is much easier to clip them in the same place all the time than having to empty the contents of your bag on the hood of the car while juggling a toddler and a screaming newborn!
4. Keep your eye on the prize and prioritize
What are your aiming for in your activities? Keep that goal ever in your mind. Not only will this help you to press on when you simply want to quit it all, but it will also help you to make the hard decisions when its not going as you had hoped.
We often feel that we need to do everything and do it perfectly and we suddenly allow the activity to dictate how we spend our time. If you think that the choice you made is not working out as you had hoped, its ok to pull out. You didn’t decide to do girl scouts so that she learns to be a cranky spoiled little camper right?
If your commitment conflicts with your ultimate goals you must evaluate whether or not you should say no. Our daughter has told her coach that she had to miss a cross country meet so that she would not miss her grandmother’s 70th birthday party. It was a very hard decision, but she needed to learn to be devoted to her home-team above all others. Ultimately this decision didn’t effect her running one bit, though at the time, our teen felt the world would likely end if she missed this meet. We could not sacrifice the ultimate goal of her growing into a dedicated young woman who loves her family in favor of the less important goal of dedication that her participation in sports is teaching her. It is always good to learn to say no to what is good in favor of what is best!
I just want to add that my assistant, Tiffany, has claimed to NOT be so organized to me. But, I honestly am amazed at how she has really had to work at getting things organized and I can truly say that she works hard at it. Having a little one when you have older kids is tough! I don't know how she does it - except that she's truly learned to be very organized with her family. They rarely ever eat out. They don't spend any excess money on things. They live on a tight budget - - so understand when she shares this, above, that she is speaking from her heart! If she can do it - SO CAN YOU!!
For more ideas on organizing kids, I've got a LOT of help with schedules and organizing and free printables!
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