The Five Kids Guide to Home Organization

Dec 15 2011

She’s a new friend to me, so she might think I’m kidding when I say that my toilets often go unscrubbed, or that my laundry feels confused and disoriented when it’s not in haphazard piles, or that I’m grateful for the showers at the pool after weekly swimming lessons because they mean that I can reliably say that I washed my children at least four times this month.

But get this. Right after my friend told me that she’s pregnant – surprise! – with her fifth baby, she asked me for pointers on home organization.


If you’ve been reading for any time at all, you know that I rarely dispense advice. And I have some very good reasons for that. Did I say reasons? Reason. Singular. And it’s this: I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. So I tell stories, and I do it from the “I” perspective, and if you learn anything from me, then you ROCK at mining for life lessons and you should probably take up panning for gold because you’re really good at finding treasure in the muck.

To be fair to me, I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing. And if I do figure something out, like, oh, say, teaching my kid not to punch another kid in the nuts (which hasn’t happened more than once, so I’m TOTALLY counting that as “figuring it out”), then you better believe I’ll report it to you with alacrity. Because there’s nothing like learning a personal life or parenting lesson to make me feel like I just managed to get some of my crap together. And there’s nothing like yelling “I HAVE SOME OF MY CRAP TOGETHER” on the internet to give this bewildered mama a solid pick-me-up.

But back to the fact that my friend asked me for advice on home organization.

Bahahahaha! (Sorry; it’s still funny.)

Bless her exceedingly kind heart, my friend thinks I’m a mama worth asking for advice. And, you know what? She’s right, dang nab it! Because I’m a mother of five kids and, by golly, I am STILL STANDING. I put one foot in front of the other every day. And I never ever, except for once or twice or three hundred times, lay my head down in defeat and declare that I cannot go on. (Cannot. Go. On.)

So I thought long and hard about what advice I may be able to actually, sincerely offer, and, in honor of my friend’s pregnancy with her fifth child (hooray for the crazy five kids mamas!), I offer these five pieces of home organization advice:

The Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids
Guide to Home Organization

  1. Release the expectation that you should (or that others do) have it all together. People who pretend to have a perfect life balance (kids, husband, God, home, personal hygiene, etc.)… well, their pants are on fire. With five kids, your house may never be organized again. Embrace the insanity. Go with healthy and happy as goals, instead; you can’t control those things, either, but they’re mighty fine excuses for the raging mess.
  2. Reject the folding of laundry. I realize that’s a radical statement… and that I will make 1,000 enemies when I say this… and that my blog readership will fall… and that this is exactly why giving advice is never a good idea… but there has never been a bigger waste of time than folding laundry. I’ve never met a kid who appreciates a folded towel or unwrinkled sheets or a t-shirt that came from a drawer. (I would like to meet that kid; if you know him, please bring him over so I can stare at him, like a balm for the mama eyes.) The only reason – I repeat, the only reason – to fold laundry is if folded laundry soothes your soul. I know mamas who revel in a nicely stacked linen closet. You know what? More power to you. If folding laundry isn’t your respite, however, then I suggest never doing it again. (Hehe! I’m such a rebel.) You can read all about our FAST laundry system here; in the meantime, here’s a photo of our Great Wall of (Clean but Unfolded!) Laundry:
  3. Replace towel rods; use hooks, instead. Rods mean folding and straightening towels (and I think I’ve made my feelings about folding clear), and they tempt children with their jungle-gym-like qualities. Hooks mean tossing towels upon them, they make clean-up a snap, and if children hang upon them, they create a way, way smaller hole in the drywall. (I’m nothing if not practical.) I’m in the process of replacing all of the towel rods in our house with heavy-duty Ikea hooks. At $1.25 per hook, I can actually afford them!
  4. Recycle school lockers. Greg found these at a scrap metal warehouse, and they have saved our school paraphernalia lives. The backpacks, preschool buckets, coats and shoes that used to accumulate inside our front door were equal parts magnificent and horrible. Now, each member of our family has a locker, and all our stuff is wedged inside as soon as we walk through the door. They’re a miracle made out of metal, and we get the feel-good bonus of recycling and reusing.
  5. Rethink bed-making. Making beds is for Marines and people with too much time on their hands. Now, I can make a mean bed; I swear it’s true, and my Marine father will back me up. I rock a precise hospital corner, I know how to tuck bedspreads under pillows, and I can install a straight dust ruffle. But, as I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, “I can” doesn’t mean “I do” or even “I should.” See, Greg and I spent 3 months at the beginning of our marriage living in Germany, and I am here to tell you, I have lived ever since in an alternate bed-making universe. Because NO PLACE in Germany that we EVER stayed had bedspreads, dust ruffles, or top sheets. Instead, they had duvets (some of you may call them comforters) with duvet covers… and that was it; a bottom sheet and a covered duvet. Bed-making at our house goes like this: 1) Wake up. 2) Pull the duvet over the bed. 3) Pat myself on the bed-making back, because – Voila! – I’m done. I am telling you – the Germans are GENIUSES and they have saved me hours and hours of bedmaking. I owe them a debt of mommy gratitude that I can never repay.

There you have it, folks! Five ways to dump home organization on its hiney and walk away laughing.

And to my new friend, welcome to the Five Kids Club! I’m so glad to have you along for this wild and crazy ride, and I wish you every joy,