If you’re a mom managing a large family, chances are high you understand the value of organization but you also probably feel overwhelmed the majority of the time. How do you get your family members to chip in and how do you organize all the stuff that comes with big families? Here are my top Large Family Organization Tips to Make Your Life Easier.
It’s no secret that raising a large family can be chaotic at times. But with a little bit of organization, you can make your life a lot easier. As a mom of 7 kids, I know all about the messes and mayhem that come along with having a big brood. But through trial and error (lots of error), I’ve also learned a few tricks to help keep our house relatively organized. So whether you’re just starting out on this crazy journey or you’re looking for ways to streamline your current system, I hope some of these tips can help you.
Large Family Organization Tips To Make Life Easier
After a long day at work do you dread stepping into your kitchen because the sink is still full of dishes and there are Cheerios on the floor? Do you absolutely dread thinking about what you will make for supper? Is there no place to set your clean laundry? How much time do you spend looking for something you know you have but can’t find it? Can you feel the frustration building? Are you tripping over backpacks, random Legos, a cat toy and ultimately snapping at your kids?
Yeah, I’ve been there, too. If looking at the clutter and disarray drains your energy and steals your joy more days than not, then these organization tips for large families are for you!
You Come First
First of all, let’s set something straight. It is okay, in fact, it is healthy, to put your own needs first! You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? I’m not trying to put even more pressure on you by adding something to your to-do list. Rather I am giving you permission. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Organizing your large family is a lot of work so don’t feel a bit guilty about putting your own needs first at times! You can’t take care of everyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. Taking just 10 minutes a day for yourself can improve your mental health exponentially. This might be a quick 10-minute stretching routine or just 10 minutes sitting in the sunshine with a cup of tea. Your kids will notice the effects of this mom time and, soon, they will be helping you protect it.
Many Hands Make Light Work: The Key to Large Family Organization
It is important for everyone in the home to get on board with the mantra “Many Hands Make Light Work”. Mom is not responsible for every little thing. Just like in any job – the boss’s main duty is actually delegating tasks to others. Your home is the same way. With little kids, ask them to be a big helper and then everyone can play a game or have outdoor time when the work is done. Actually, this works pretty well for big kids, too. It’s important for everyone to see the rewards of pitching in.
Routines Make the World Go Round
Work on establishing a good routine. If you don’t already have some routine in place this might be a challenge and take some time for everyone to adapt but it is possible and the pay-off will be worth it. If your kids are old enough, you can ask them to write down how they think their day should go. Do they want to make the bed or brush their teeth first? Do they want to do chores or their homework first? Giving the kids some choice will make sure they are invested in this process with you.
Mamas, make sure you have a routine for yourself, too. Give yourself a little morning routine audit. When do you feel the most productive? Do you feel better if you have 10 minutes of quiet time before the kids get up? If so, make an effort to get up just 10 minutes earlier. Do you like to drink your coffee first or get dressed first? Personal hygiene, self-care, and quiet time first thing before everyone else is awake can help you get the day off to a peaceful start.
Whatever you end up with for a routine, make sure to write it down. This will help you to remember what everyone needs to be doing and when. Kids can mark off their own lists or move items from a “To Do” to “Finished” so they can visualize their progress.
Routines for Large Families vs. Schedules
Keep in mind that a routine is different than a schedule. A schedule is oriented to a specific time such as brushing your teeth at exactly 6:05, making your bed at 6:10, etc. Having a schedule could lead you to more overwhelm and feelings of despair because we all know the day will not go exactly according to plan. Having a routine gives you some flexibility and looks more like this: drink coffee, then get dressed, then feed the pets, etc. This way you are building rhythm into your day without feeling the added stress of a time commitment. Obviously, there are some items you must do at a certain time but in general focus on the rhythm and routine rather than a set time.
Meal Planning is a Must
Designing a weekly meal plan is a must for managing big families. It’s the dreaded 5 p.m. scramble, the ever-present question of “what’s for supper”. Having this planned out in advance will help you know your options and what ingredients you have available. There are experts out there who will tell you strategies for saving the most money and getting 5 meals out of one chicken. However, when it comes to large family organization tips, I again urge you to look for rhythm. Is it feasible for you to plan out an entire month at a time? Or does it fit better in your daily routine to plan just one week at a time? Focusing on the flow of your own home situation will help you immensely with meal planning.
Meal planning is on every list for large family organization tips because food prep takes so many hours in our days. It can be a challenge because you inevitably have schedule changes, illnesses, or activities that can throw a wrench in your plans. If you know your family needs a little flexibility, you might want to loosely plan for a month but only buy the groceries a week at a time (but obviously buy staple items in bulk if you can to save some money).
Are there nights you know you’ll be getting home late? That means it’s a Crock-Pot meal. Are there times you’re going to be crushed for time? Choose an Air Fryer recipe or quick quesadilla. Keeping your monthly plan loose will allow you to account for those schedule changes and unexpected adventures that always pop up in a big family.
If you need to remember to pick something up last minute from the store, set an alarm on your phone or put it into your notes app.
Once you get into the habit of meal planning, you will know exactly what’s in your pantry already and what items you might need to purchase. You’ll be saving time, money, and mental energy without even really trying. Some tools I’ve found to be handy and have saved my sanity is this wall planner for moms and I adore the functionality of this mom’s agenda planner.
An Organized Kitchen is the Heart of the Home
Organize your refrigerator and pantry shelves according to similar products – pasta with pasta, cans of beans with cans of beans, snacks with snacks, etc. This will help family members put things back where they belong. It will also help you do a quick food audit when you are preparing your grocery list. I have found these household labels to be a game-changer when it comes to finding and sorting things in our kitchen.
Speaking of the grocery list, keep a pad of paper out in the open that family members can add to when they use the last bit of milk or have a special request. This will save your brain from having to remember all the things. Having an exact list will also help you prevent those impulse purchases.
Curbside pick-up is pretty much everywhere now. Putting your items into a cart and placing the order virtually will also help you stick to the list and limit impulse buys. Placing the order online also gives you time to get up and check your cupboard if you’re not sure if you already have something or not.
How many lids do you have compared to plastic containers? I swear these are like socks in the laundry – they always get separated and I always end up with a bazillion lids and none of them match the containers anyway! This is a decluttering process that can be done every quarter or every 6 months. Get rid of any cracked or broken food storage pieces. If they don’t have matching lids, think about other ways you could repurpose or recycle them.
Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
One challenge to large family organization is just the sheer amount of stuff we accumulate. Decluttering should be a regular habit. Some items you can declutter daily and others might be done once a quarter or even once a year. For those tasks that happen infrequently, put a note in your calendar app on your phone so you don’t forget!
Use a paper organizer like you see in an office with one slot for each member of your family. When mail comes in or homework gets left out, they can be put in the appropriate slot. As part of the daily routine, these slots can be emptied every night after supper. This will help you keep homework and bills and party invitations off your dining table.
If you have a lot of kids then you will also have a lot of toys or other creative projects. When you notice your kid has stopped playing with certain toys, put them in a bin and put them away for a while. Every few months you can pull the old bin down and these toys will seem like new again. Your kids will find having fewer toys in their room is easier to manage. Putting the excess toys in a bin for a rainy day will help you help them. As the kids get older they can choose which items they want to rotate and take responsibility for this task themselves.
Use a Brain Board
As moms, we use a lot of energy simply remembering all the tasks and responsibilities of everyone else. You can make a brain board as cute or decorative as you’d like. At a minimum, this is a whiteboard with a column for each member of the family. You could post their daily routine charts here, any phone messages, schedule changes, etc. It is each family member’s responsibility to know what is in their column. You could also take a quick picture of the Brain Board every morning and text it to each person with a phone just in case someone forgets something and you aren’t home to double-check.
The One Touch Rule
How many times have you picked something up from the dining table and then put it on the end table thinking you’d take care of it the next time you walk down the hall to the kids’ bedroom? The One-Touch Rule says you take care of everything immediately. If you touch it, you put it away where it belongs in the proper space. (And, no, you can’t use this as an excuse to not touch it in the first place!) Making this a habit for yourself and your kids will save you so much time and energy in the future. It will also keep your house tidier at any given moment.
Although this goes along with finding rhythm and routines in your day I felt the 5-Minute Tidy deserved its own special category. If you are home all day, you might want to incorporate this multiple times. A quick tidy before lunch, before supper, and right before bed will help reset the environment. If you are gone at work or the kids are at school all day then just once a day might be sufficient.
The 5-Minute Tidy should be a part of your daily routine. You can even make a game out of it. This is especially effective with young kids who get a kick out of beating a timer and having fun with mom at the same time. Have a huddle with your other family members and let them know you’ve got 5 minutes to tidy as much as you can (remember Many Hands Make Light Work?). If your kids are very small that’s really all they need to know.
If they are a bit older, they might find it fun to work out more of a strategy. One kid can tackle the bathroom while another kid does the living room and so on. Siblings might also want to work in teams. After you’ve decided on the 5-minute time limit you hit start and everyone just tidies as much as they can, whether it is their own stuff or not. When the timer goes off you are done. That’s it. Maybe your house isn’t 100% tidy but it will be loads tidier than it was when you started. After the timer goes off you give a round of high 5s, maybe a fast dance party, or a quick card game.
Additional Tips for Using the 5-Minute Tidy
If you didn’t finish everything in the first 5 minutes you can tell the kids that for the next round you want to focus on a specific area of the house.
The 5-Minute Tidy also works well when trying to get your kids to clean their room. Looking at the whole mess can be daunting and overwhelming but if they know it’s only 5 minutes then they are more willing to tackle the task. Siblings are also eager to help each other out. It’s fun to go into each other’s rooms and clean everything as fast as they can for 5 minutes. Before you know it, each kid’s room will be tidy and there will be time for a fun family activity.
Pro Tip: For some kids a timer causes a lot of anxiety so choose a long song instead. This could be their favorite or yours and you pick up for as long as the song is playing.
It Takes Time to Make New Habits
If it feels like too much to apply all of these large family organization tips at once, that’s ok. Start with incorporating one idea for a month and see how it goes. Then add in another tip after a few weeks. Once everyone starts to see and feel the difference, they will be more likely to keep helping.
You will feel more in control and less overwhelmed. You will have more mental energy available for the things you really want to focus on. Finally, after a long day, you will be able to sit for a few minutes and enjoy your organized home.
You are worth it, mama, and you deserve to enjoy both your home and your family.