There’s no way around it – a big family means chaos! But there are simple ways to organize the chaos and create a peaceful home for your lively crew. Here are 10 of my favorite ways to organize my big family.
1. Travel. Whenever we travel, each kid gets his own backpack. It’s the exact same backpack in five different colors. Each boy knows which is his at a glance. No arguing, no, “Where’s my bag? That’s mine!” And look how they zip up small for storage. This makes me giddy.
2. Chores. I’ve tried multiple charts throughout the years and this one takes the cake. It’s simple, easy to rotate, and keeps the home running smoothly. We have one chart in the hall for morning chores (unload dishes, breakfast clean-up, living room pick-up, laundry, brother helper) and one in the dining room for evening chores (set table, clean table, sweep, take out trash, brother helper). I move the arrows each day. (Note: For a copy of our “Be a Gentleman” chart, click HERE!)
3. Weapons. I realize it might be strange to have a “weapons” category in an organization post, but when you have five boys, weapons are a big part of life. If you have any toy swords, these mop and broom holders are gold. Bonus: they have hooks that fold out for hanging super hero capes. Does it get any better?
4. Dishes. Lots of kids means lots of dishes. Kid cups used to overflow my sink. It took me several years of labeling cups or giving everyone a “cup spot” before it dawned on me: kid water bottles. Like the backpacks, everyone has their own color/style. They take them in the car, bring them to the table for dinner, and use them all over the house with no spills. Best part: they only dirty ONE drinking dish a day. Combine this with paper plates and you’ll only have to run the dishwasher once a day.
5. Legos. We have a huge bin for Lego pieces and shelves for finished projects. But what about the projects that are in progress? Enter: Lego trays. These trays allow the kids to clean up the floor without losing their work. They use them to sort, build, and protect projects from younger siblings.
6. School Work. It’s hard to decide what to save and what to toss. Start by asking yourself: What do I want to make space for? I decided I wanted to make space for ONE magazine holder per kid. The magazine holder represents their ENTIRE school career from k-8th grade. (I will probably do a second one for high school.) Each year I choose a couple samples from each subject and organize them into one labeled folder. The folders can double as scrapbooks because they also hold sports certificates, Awana certificates, birthday cards, and pen-pal letters. The kids love getting them out and looking through them.
7. Room Cleaning. Kids have trouble cleaning their rooms because they don’t know where to start. We hung this simple sign in our kids’ rooms to help them break a huge job into bite-sized pieces. First they find all the trash and throw it away. “Doesn’t belong” means toys from another brother’s room, cups and bowls, or living room pillows (for forts, of course). “Big” means pillows, blankets, clothes, and anything else that covers the most area. Then, all that’s left is “Small:” Legos, game pieces, crafts supplies, etc. This list also helps my kids stay focused. I hear them reading it out loud to see which step they are on.
8. Photos. Digital photos are great, but I wanted my kids to be able to actually pull an album off the shelf and look through it. I found these awesome space-saving albums. Each holds 100 pictures. I put two years of photos in each album. We still have thousands of photos in our dropbox, but this is a fun way to look at the highlights. (Picking 50 photos per year is NOT easy…..)
9. Clothes. Since most of my kids’ clothes are in drawers in their rooms, I only need one rack for all of their dress clothes. I made these closet separators using my handy dandy laminator. This helps the kids pick their own clothes and it also helps them put clean laundry away.
10. Holidays. In a big family it’s easy to lose things – especially during holidays. Every Christmas morning I set out one empty bin per child. After the gift-opening, the kids put their new items in their labeled bins. I let them keep the bins in their rooms for about a week before we find permanent homes for their gifts. I collapse these and take them to my mom’s house when we have Christmas there. (We don’t believe in Santa, but we definitely believe in bins.)
What are YOUR favorite big-family organizational tips? Share them in the comments!
For more practical tips on creating a peaceful home in the midst of busy motherhood, check out my books for moms: