I’ve always loved organisation, order, routine, schedules, lists! Whilst I’ve always had this natural need for order, having two children with needs has made me more inclined (some might say rather ‘high end’!) towards order. Being organised means that you have more room to move when things don’t go according to plan or if someone is really out of sorts. Routines and organisation help to make our household run in a much less stressed way.
A number of mothers have asked me recently what I do in my house to keep things organised because they genuinely really struggle to keep on top of everything. I want to be absolutely clear about something. We are all different aren’t we? Some people naturally have good organisation skills and others require more support with it. As mothers, parents we already give ourselves a hard enough time so please don’t add “poor organiser” to the list. I offer these ideas simply as short cuts you may not have considered, it’s not meant to make you feel inadequate or guilty. The most useful thing I’ve learnt with regard to household organisation is that you need to plan, you need to delegate tasks, you need to involve everyone in the house, you need to ask for help, and you need to give explicit instructions. This is how an average week runs for us.
1. Therapy programs and documentation.
I plan what therapy we will address and when at the start of each school year. We generally cannot manage more than one therapy per child at any one time. I’ve also discovered that we work better with 6 week blocks followed by 6 weeks consolidation at home. I think we get far better value for money this way and the boys can maintain interest for 6 sessions. Talk to your therapist and discuss what your needs are. The boys love to swim and generally swim at least once a week for recreation. We like to do one formal swimming lessons block per year.
I have a lever arch folder for both boys. Every time we get a speech program, an IEP, a report card, a doctor’s letter … I file them all into the folder which is divided into sections with coloured tabs. The folders live in a large plastic crate on their own. If I’m short on time I will just put the paperwork into the crate loosely on top of the folders until a later date when I have the time to file things properly. Having the folders together is great for doctor’s appointments and IEP meetings when you may need to be able to get your hands on specific information about your child quickly. Special art work, school awards etc also go into the crate.
As documents come in, particularly medical or therapy reports, I have begun scanning them or requesting an electronic copy so that I can forward them to the school or to medical specialists via email when necessary. I have an electronic folder for both boys where I keep any emails, scanned reports or other information that may be useful down the track. I also take photos of any art or other work and save this into that same folder with the date. If I didn’t do this we’d be bursting at the seams with all kinds of creations and pieces of paper.
I have a small crate for both boys on the kitchen table. I keep their current therapy programs, home school programs, schedules etc in there. When you’re packing school bags and ensuring you have your therapy folders with you on the right days, it’s helpful to be able to place your hands on them quickly.
2. Groceries and cooking.
Each weekend I plan the menu for the week and write my shopping list from there. I do my shopping on the weekends as I find this much less stressful as I don’t need to take the boys with me. I like to freeze meals. I tend to cook more than what I need of an evening and then freeze the leftovers. These are then great, quick lunches or an easy reheat for busy nights.
I own a Thermomix – the best thing I’ve ever bought and I also love my crockpot. These two items allow me to cook a couple of meals at once and give me greater flexibility with time management. I often load the crockpot up in the morning and leave it on all day whilst we are at school and work. When we get home all the hard work is done!
I also like to bake on the weekends (cupcakes, muffins, biscuits) and freeze these for the boy’s school lunches throughout the week.
3. Little luxuries.
I know that money is tight for many families so not all homes have funds for “extras”. We are fortunate enough to have a few “extras” each week that makes things a bit easier. We allow for one tuckshop day for the boys each week. We also allow one takeaway night per week (usually a hot chicken and chips or pizza – something we will all eat). I plan these extras around our routine for the week. If I know we are going to have a long tough day of a Wednesday, then that will probably be the take away night.
I wash every day. There are four of us and if I don’t wash every day I find that the washing just gets out of control and it seems an insurmountable task. I collect all the washing after everyone has showered of an evening. I then load everything into the washing machine straight away. The only exception to this is delicates or whites which I will put aside and wash every other day or when there are sufficient items for a wash. Sheets and towels are a weekend job.
In the warmer months, I wash at night and hang the washing out to dry overnight. In the cooler months, I start the wash the following morning and then hang it out.
I put business shirts, uniforms etc on hangers to dry as this significantly reduces the need to iron.
I bring the washing in at the end of each day. I have a small area in my laundry designated for folding and I fold things straight away.
I have a small ironing stand where I place any items that require ironing. It lives in the corner of our study, out of sight. I iron on the weekends. It’s an easy job as everything is already in one place, on hangers and usually they only require a quick press as most of the wrinkles have fallen out by then due to hanging.
The boys are responsible for cleaning and tidying their own rooms. They are also responsible for ensuring that if they make a mess with toys etc that they must clean it up. At the end of every day their rooms need to be tidy, clothes put away, books and toys put away. Before we leave of a morning beds needs to be made (we still provide assistance with this) and their rooms need to be tidy.
The rubbish goes at as we leave every morning. The boys often do this job.
The fridge is cleaned out once a week, the night before the bins go out for rubbish collection.
Weekends. I wash my floors once a week on the weekends. I do a whole house vacuum of a weekend and just do a quick touch up with a handy vac where required across the week.
Any extra washing of bed linen, towels, hand washing only items is done on the weekend. The bathrooms get done of a weekend and as needed across the week. My husband and I split these jobs up of a Saturday morning and just get it over with! My husband likes to be involved but requires direction and for tasks to be delegated to him (sound familiar?)
Apart from the larger weekend clean, generally we just do a quick clean up each morning and we all do a quick clean up at the end of every day. This really helps to keep on top of clutter and general cleaning jobs.
In the mornings, (when my back is good) I get up a good hour before everyone else and go for a walk – sometimes on my own, sometimes with friends. It’s a spectacular time of day. When I get home, I wake the boys, turn the washing machine on, and then I sort breakfast whilst the boys get dressed (they still need some help with buttons and laces). My husband has his shower and gets himself organised. I then organise the lunch boxes and get the water bottles. I dispense medication and ensure the boys eat something.
When my husband is ready he comes out and sorts the bedrooms and beds, cleans up the kitchen and sends the boys to brush teeth etc. I have my shower and get myself sorted.
My husband and I then have our breakfast together often watching the news. By the time my husband leaves for work the boys are organised and bags are packed.
I usually have about 20-30 minutes at his point before we need to leave the house. I use this time to hang out the washing, run the handy vac over any untidy areas and do a quick clean up where needed. I also ensure that we have and therapy materials we may need for the day.
I have an old sideboard in the garage. There is a space for each boy’s school hat, school shoes and school bag. The boys leave their bags here each afternoon as we get out of the car. They put their shoes and hat straight away, and bring their lunch boxes and water bottles into the kitchen.
The boys get out of their school uniforms as soon as they get home from school every day and change into clothing of their choice. This moves them from school to home mode.
I give them some afternoon tea and then we commence home school and therapy programs. Tom always goes first, then James. At the end of each boy’s time we talk about what is happening the next day and ensure that anything they need for the following day is packed into their school bags.
Between about 4-5:30pm the boys like to go outside. We have a street filled with children which is lovely. They ride scooters and bikes, play bull rush and generally burn off some energy together. Sometimes I go outside too and sometimes I do need to intervene but overall the kids just play happily which is amazing and so good for them.
I feed the boys early – generally around 5:30-6pm. If I leave it any later they just don’t eat well and if they are particularly hungry I may even feed them earlier. They eat their dinner up at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. I dispense medications to the boys. I also prepare the meds for the following morning, placing each child’s meds in an airtight container.
Whilst the boys eat dinner, I prepare lunches for the following day and we chat about the day. I also then do any pre-prep I can do for my husband and my dinner. We eat together as a family on the weekends when time is not as tight.
During dinner I fill the bath. I do this for a few reasons. First of all, the boys hate the noise of the bath filling and secondly because I use Epsom salts, coconut oil and essential oils in the bath and they need time to dissolve and settle. Immediately after dinner, James has the first bath and then Tom has his. Once baths are finished, this is the time of day when the boys play a computer game, video game or iPad game of choice. This gives me an opportunity to complete any jobs I need to do. My husband generally then arrives home and helps out where necessary.
9. Boys Bedtime.
At 6:30pm we all watch a TV program together – the boys choice – usually Tom and Jerry or similar. At 7-7:30pm the boys go to bed. Depending on the day, we read a book with the boys or just have a ‘private talk’ with them in their beds, one parent with each child or all in our bed together! It’s my favourite part of the day with lots of cuddles and calm.
10. After the kids are in bed.
I made my own rule when the kids were little that once they went to bed at night I would down tools for the day. This motivates me to keep to my routine throughout the afternoon. My husband and I have our showers as soon as the boys go to bed and then we have our dinner together. He cleans up the kitchen whilst I cook and prepare, and we have time to chat. The kitchen is clean and ready for the morning rush. The night is then free for us to enjoy as we see fit. If one of us has a commitment at night time, we can leave at 6:30-7pm knowing that all is sorted at home and that the boys will be settled.
11. Our bed time.
I used to be terrible at going to bed at a decent hour because I’d so enjoy those quiet hours after the boys were asleep. What I am learning however is that it’s actually far better to go to bed at an earlier hour (9:30pm) and have a good, restful night’s sleep so that I’m able to face the next day feeling refreshed and full of energy. When I go to bed at 9:30pm I sometimes do a crossword, read a book or play a game on my phone. The upside of going to bed early is that when I’m tired I’m then already in bed to catch that sleep wave as opposed to nodding off on the couch. I have recently resolved to try hard not to use my iPhone, Facebook or watch TV after 9:30pm. Work in progress!
So in that rather long-winded way, that’s how we run things here. It’s not necessarily a routine that would suit everyone but it works well for us. Generally, we manage to keep on top of everything and things rarely get too far away from us. Having a sense of order and a routine to the day helps my boys hugely and it also helps me. The routine that is in place ensures that everyone plays their part in keeping our home orderly and organised. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” means less stress on me and more time for us as a family. Winning!