19 Simple Organization Tips for Busy Families

In the blink of an eye, the heady days of summer freedom are over and we're all back at work, school, and on that never-ending treadmill of breakfasts, packed lunches, after school clubs, playdates, dinners, bedtimes and all the other calendar hogging that goes on during normal life.  Unless you have some systems in place, it's all going to go horribly wrong.  In this post I'm going to share what works for us as a busy family of 5, and some of the other ideas I've heard about an will be giving a go this autumn.

Many busy mums swear by their bullet journals, others by the multitude of apps on their phones, but a lot of us are just winging it from morning to morning, pick up to drop off, and desperately trying to find ways to keep it all running smoothly in the meantime.  We may not have the school pressures here, being home edders, but with 3 aged 7 and under, life is hectic enough.  Throw into the mix trying to run not one but two businesses, set up another one (yes, I know!), and actually do some of that educational stuff, and keeping it all together can be tough.

Finding clever strategies that work and smart shortcuts that save time, effort and energy, means you get more done in the time you have, and there is still some capacity left over for the really important stuff - the fun that being a mum should be.  Here's what works to make life easier for us, and some other ideas you could try:

1. A schedule.  I loathe the word routine with its connotations of Gina Ford etc, but having a plan is crucial to making the days and week go smoothly.  A chart on the wall that shows exactly what needs to be done and who needs to be where that week is a lifesaver for us.  Get into the habit of making next week's every Thursday, and then they have the weekend to tell you what else should be on there!

2. Meal planning.  Oh I bang on about meal planning a lot, but how anyone manages without doing it is beyond me.  I meal plan every Monday for the following week, and make a shopping list as I go along.  That way I have plenty of time to schedule a grocery delivery or get to the supermarket.  Topping up with fruit and veg every few days works best for us, as the girls get through a lot, so dry goods can be bought any time.  If you don't already, here's how to meal plan.

3. Lay out clothes the night before.  And teach everyone to put clothes in the laundry basket.  Avoid buying hand wash or dry clean only clothing.

4. Set up a family calendar and encourage everyone to write everything on it.  This is the basis for your weekly plan (see above), and if it ain't on, it ain't happening!  Colour coding works well for older kids.

5. Keep snacks in your car.  Buy up a stock of long-life snacks that you can keep in a box in the car, along with drinks and 2 litre bottles of water.  That way any hunger or thirst crises can be dealt with before the meltdowns.

6. In fact, keep everything in your car!  We have SO much stuff in our car: changes of clothes, wellies, cardigans, coats, beach equipment, swimming stuff, Crocs, towels for swimming or drying playground equipment dependent on the season!, cosy joggers and tops, picnic rugs, blankets, toys, drawing equipment, notebooks, colouring books, nature identifiers and guides, tide timetables, and playing cards.  That way no-one can ever be bored, have to sit in wet clothes, or unable to do what they want to do.  And we can just get out the door as soon as we're ready rather than hunting for everything we might need - at least that's the theory anyway!

7. Time out.  Establish a period of quiet time, for everybody, every day.  We're still working on this one.  Supposedly it's after lunch and we all sit and read or write or draw quietly.  Whether you manage it with everyone or not, make time every day for your time out.  Not sure how?  Read our guide how to fit relaxation and 'me' time into your every day.

8. Keep on top of your paperwork.  Open and deal with post as it comes in, and ideally never touch a piece of paper twice.  Set up automatic payments and direct debits for everything, and opt for online statements.  If you're overwhelmed with piles already, here's how to organise your paperwork.

9. Establish a cleaning schedule, a realistic one, and stick to it.

10. Keep a running to do list on the kitchen counter and add things to it as you think of them or see them.  Gently encourage (!) your other half to tackle some of the jobs on there too.  Steve tends not to 'see' jobs, so this works to make sure things get done, e.g. wonky handles, broken toys etc.

11. Outsource what you can.  Treat running family life like your job.  Would you really do everything yourself?  Leave job lists like I do above, or hire a cleaner once a week/month/season, employ a gardener, or find a local seamstress to alter clothes.  You don't have to prove anything by doing it all yourself.

12. Keep baskets in 'hot spots', those areas that breed clutter.  Once a day spend 10 minutes sorting the junk and putting things away.

13. Buy birthday cards and gifts once every couple of months.  Check your diary at the beginning of each month and address cards then, posting all at once or keeping somewhere safe until the right week.

14. Set up a gift cupboard and buy a few generic gifts to keep in there for those 'surprise' birthdays or last minute invitations.  It's a great place to store those duplicate toys or games for re-gifting too.  not that I would ever...

15. Lay the breakfast table the night before, and have snacks, lunches, backpacks, book bags ready to go in the morning.  Mornings go much more smoothly and there is less stress for everyone.

16. Organise toys so that they have designated spots and make sure they are always put away there at the end of the day.  Yep, it will probably be you that does it, but small children may eventually be persuaded to help.

17. Set up places for everything.  A place for shoes and backpacks to be left, a place for book bags and letters from teacher, and a central spot where you keep post to send, library books to return, and other errands to run.

18. Keep cleaning products in several places, and vacuum cleaners too if you can, so they can be grabbed for a quick 10 minute tidy when you have the time.

19. De-clutter everywhere, but tackle it a drawer, shelf or cupboard at a time so as not to feel overwhelmed.  Then keep on top of everything and make sure it doesn't build up again.

Just remember that, whatever you are juggling, you don't need to be super woman.  Even Superwoman isn't super woman!  If your house gets messy, you forget a birthday card, or something goes a bit pear-shaped, it doesn't matter.  On the worst days, just be grateful that you kept everyone healthy and the house didn't fall down.  But if you can put some of these systems in place, I promise life will be simpler and you'll have more time for what really matters: playing, talking to and having fun with the human beings who share your life and home.

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