The Five Kids Guide to Home Organization

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,

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33 responses to “The Five Kids Guide to Home Organization”

  1. I have had 5 children but the last 2 after a 12 year gap. the shortly after my last 2 were born my eldest daughter was killed suddenly and left me with a husband and my eldest son with frontal lobe damage.
    When you have major depression and constant demands on ones self your mind goes blank and you need help with the most simple tasks that you used to be able to wiz through and find solutions for problems without any problem at all
    Thank you sooooo much for those simple ideas that is going to make me feel that Im normal again and can clean a house. such simple but yet so easy.
    Bless you heaps my friend

    • God bless you for even getting up in the morning! Love and prayers to you. If you are even thinking about cleaning and normal your are winning. Prayers and love to you. ❤️

  2. I am feeling very down on myself as I can’t seem to get past cleaning the kitchen today. Man, if we only didn’t need to eat to survive! I also have 5 children which I always declare, but two are away at college. Truth be told, I am just stinkin’ tired of the hamster wheel. Thanks for the Truth! Now, not feeling so down on myself.
    p.s. folded laundry? What the heck is that? I am staring at a basket of laundry that has been in the family room for a month…And it’s probably my laundry…sigh

  3. I couldn’t agree more about unfolded laundry and unmade beds.. I am a mom of 4 17 15 9 and 4 and this is right up my alley. Organization is key not perfection! Thank you for sharing and making me realize that I’m not alone. Amen

  4. Did you know bed bugs and other bits can live in a bed that’s been made. fresh air and sunshine make them all go away. Unmade beds are healthy.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    No matter what.

    I can do made beds or breakfast for the kids. Not both. don’t ask for both.

  5. wild thing I think I love you! I only have one child, a 26 yo mentally challenged son who loathes folded clothes! What I really want is a family closet with washer/dryer etc. His clothes are usually all over his floor. Clean, dirty, makes no difference. I used to hang all his tshirt a but he informed me that was no longer allowed one day about 10 years ago. This solution is for me to be sure! Thanks so much!! Now if I could just get him to put the dirties in the hamper!

  6. Love, love your blog. Just wanted to share my own bed-making technique for my two boys. They go fitted sheet, sleeping bag. Their morning routine: slip out of their still-zipped sleeping bag and smooth it out. That’s about the only bed-making they can manage. I thought I’d hit upon the perfect method. But then my older son decided the only way he could be comfortable in his sleeping bag was to stuff into it: a top sheet, two fuzzy blankets, five or six stuffed animals and occasionally a smallish down comforter he swears keeps him cool. And the arrangement of said items changes daily depending on what mood he’s in. But his morning routine remains the same so it makes for a very lumpy bed. Oh well, I don’t honestly care. Except that it means more laundry for me to do. LOL.

  7. I know I am late to the party here, but it is sooooo nice to hear that I am not the only mom who has forgone bed making and laundry folding. My laundry system is almost the same as yours, and I love it!!

  8. I came across this blog via Pinterest (the no fold laundry system). I seriously think you saved my life. I only have 2 kids 6&8 & a husband who is a former Marine turned golf pro. I was laid off my job of 12 years & thought OK..well I’m going to get my house in order.. hahaha as soon as I lost my job everyone just quit doing anything… anything at all! So I’m sitting here today feeling like a complete failure, I have no job aside from my photography biz which was more a hobby until recent events have pushed me to go full time, my husband is a work ALL the time & my kids well I don’t know what to do about the kids. Anyway hubby still has marine corp mentality and expects the house clean…well I do everything & take care of outside & vehicles plus mind you running a new biz. OK I digress.. laundry is a sore spot & putting it away..impossible. I showed this to him and he said as long as there is room for an ironing board I can build it…:-0 note I meaning me, myself & I can build it. I’ll keep you informed of how that goes.. lol

    Thanks for the awesome ideas & the confirmation I’m not a horrible mother, wife.

  9. Thank you for keeping it real. You have a knack for writing. I have 9 and I have to admit that I rolled my eyes when I stumbled upon your blog. I’m so glad I stopped judging long enough to read it. Thanks again.

  10. To think I dragged home old school lockers only to have my husband load them on the truck and take them for scrap. I had big plans for those lockers. I like to refer to my home decorating style as Early American Hoarding. I do manage to keep the pathways through the home below the knee. I may need to invest in duvet covers. Like the idea.

  11. Four teenagers and a 10 year old at my house. They are all old enough to do chores, which we switch up every week (that way they only have to do the dreaded dirty dishes once a month). Works out great.

    And…um, you make your beds? Wow, we only do that if we have company coming over (-;

    • I laughed and laughed, Randi. I recently calculated that I’ll have 4 teenagers in our house for 30+ days… 8 years from now… so you’ll see why your comment made me giggle. I have to say, though, that so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my kids getting older. Aren’t chores the BEST? 🙂 We’re on a 3-week rotation currently, with our 9-13 year olds cycling through and our 5-year-old twins being assigned as “assistants.” I’d love to hear more about your chore plan if you have time!

      Regarding making beds… bahahaha! If “throwing a blanket over it” is bed-making, then YES! I love getting bed-making points for that. 😉 But do they stay made? Of course not! My kids drag their blankets all over the house, jump on their beds, make forts, etc. We’re lucky if the beds stay “made” for 10 minutes.

  12. I LOVE YOU!!!!! I am in love with the NO folding laundry again!! Hooks in the bathroom GENIUS! Although I do love my top sheet. Then I only have to wash the blankets every few weeks

  13. Wow, I feel a LOT better about my home right now. I have 3 kids 5 and under and am pregnant with #4 and have a small business so I get the chaos! I hate HATE folding laundry, it will always be clean but never folded. I actually toss my boys clothes in their drawers because they just toss it out so why fold it. Love the hook idea, someday when we aren’t renting I’ll definitely implement it. Thanks for the laughs, I’ll definitely keep following your blog:)

  14. I am SO glad that my thoughts of giving up on organization are not completely off the mark! I have 2 kids, and a husband and a full time job outside the home! Your blog cracks me up! i have shared the link with several co-workers, been busted LOL in my cube more times than i can count. Thank you for the humor, candor and relatability! You are awesome and i appreciate your blog!

  15. LOVE it! And Welcome! to the new member of the five kids club! Thanks for both the laughter (I love the towel hook, because both of my bathrooms have holes from towel racks! because they were too tempting in their jungle-gym-like nature!) and the encouragement that I am not the only one who is just barely getting some of her crap together! <3

  16. Oh man, I wish I had room in my house for the lockers!!! And I do have a laundry room, but if and when we ever get shelves in there it will be for all my canning jars and getting all the stuff off my kitchen counters that I only use like twice a year!
    We do use the German method on the boys beds though, I learned that from my husband! And you can get super fun kids duvet covers at IKEA! 😉
    I, however, must have a sheet… so I make my bed… every night right before I get in it! 😉 Because my husband is so wild that if I don’t I will have not a smidge of a chance of any covers by morning unless I start with a perfectly made bed!

  17. I went to the laundry basket non-folding technique for the boys…LOVE it! If I had more room in my garage/laundry room, I’d add baskets for Eric and I. Instead we do the dig-through-the-pile-of-clean-clothes-and-hope-it’s-not-too-wrinkled technique…I guess that’s essentially the same thing. 🙂

  18. The Scottish (I’d assume all the British, but I don’t know) do the same thing. As my husband is irrevocably Scottish (as in, he grew up there until age 9, which is long enough to retain every aspect of Scottishness except the accent [unfortunately]), we have a similar bed-making technique. Fitted sheet, fuzzy blanket (I need extra warmth when I sleep), and duvet/duvet cover. No top sheet– he considers them a waste. And it sure makes bed making much easier!

    As to the other home organization tips, as I am yet childless (and having been married only three months, this is probably a good thing), I am going to cling to folding laundry and towel rods and organization for as long as I possibly can. Having a mother who managed to run an in-home daycare full of children AND keep the house clean has set my expectations far too high.

    • Hey! I’m Scottish, too. And Irish. Pretty much all the drinkers in the British Isles? Yeah – those are my people.

      And you’re absolutely right to cling to folding laundry… it’s important to have standards, else what would we relax when we do become parents. 😉

      (I’m going to have to blithely ignore that your mama kept her house full o’ kids neat and tidy. That doesn’t support my world view. Sticking my head in the sand now. ;))

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