Peek behind the curtain: even though I have 5 kids I don’t absolutely love my life like this.
I have become known “Leigh-with-five-kids.” This was especially true when we were living in England. Let me tell you, it’s not the exact identity I had in mind for myself! When I wake up in the morning, I find myself just as astounded as everyone else that we had 5 kids!! I gotta dig DEEP before I can move through yet another day with all of them. I do love them (but not all of them all at the same time). There is always one or two hindering my tranquility at any given moment.
The days are hard, but not impossible. In order to minimize the impact, we have been forced to develop a few coping mechanisms. I mean, systems. I probably have hundreds of systems at this point…and they really do improve daily life.
Even if you don’t have a large family, these quick-fixes might help streamline your hectic life also.
I *was* going to start with the classic trash-bag-as-food-storage hack. But I changed my mind. This one is probably a stretch for outsiders, not relatable at all, or makes the impression that I am a maniac. In my defense: have you ever made a salad so big that it outgrew every bowl you own, and won’t even fit in your upside down Rubbermaid cake keeper? A-ha! Thank you, 13-gallon trash bag, you are the unsung hero of the large family! They have so many uses–I always travel with 2 or 3 of them. Below you will behold the greatest feat it has ever accomplished:
Yes, I have served them dinner out of a trash bag. Anyone? Just Me? I am not saying show up to the company potluck with a trashbag-salad slung over your shoulder…but come on. This does do in a pinch.
If you are still reading…perhaps the next five things will be more realistic to put into play.
When we travel, these are an absolute must. They keep me from breaking out into impulsive violence while we are trying to enjoy our mandatory vacation. Nothing makes you regret having 40% more kids than all your friends, then by spending a week in a small room bestrewn with 7 people’s laundry.
Enter packing cubes. Each person gets one for the entirety of the trip. They contain ½ week of clothing. The cube contains 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, 4 socks/undies, 1 sweatshirt and PJs. They will be wearing another entire outfit. I shove the packing cube inside a regular backpack, and everyone effortlessly carries their own crap. We do laundry once or twice while on the trip. It is so simple. It also keeps our accommodations very tidy.
I pack like this for short and long trips. I even packed in cubes for our 2-month PCS from Hawaii to England! The seven of us moved abroad with just two and a half suitcases! These things streamline everything and minimize loss. It also minimizes laundry, because it forces us to wear things twice (or 3x) whenever possible. You know, most kids want to wear the same three things over and over anyway.
When you have a family of seven, the laundry is utterly bananas. I don’t need to paint the picture.
Actually, I will:
Do you remember that trash monster, in Fraggle Rock…it lived above the Fraggles’ underground construction site? Yeah. Think of that. Our trash monster is loaded with all sorts of fearsome finds. It is like an active trauma scene: still-steaming workout clothes, dripping-wet bath towels, trousers covered in english manure-mud…and it’s peppered by seven people’s worth of soiled underpants. You know its bad when my own hallowed clothing has actually been stained by the laundry pile itself!!!!! I think you get the picture. Don’t be jealous.
I spend a lot of time with this…pile. And don’t forget the amount of time it takes to sort it once it’s clean. But I learned a little secret from Heidi St. John:
I know what you are thinking. I would have never even CONSIDERED the thought of not folding my laundry either. I would have thought it would only increase our chaos. But then I remembered:
No one keeps the clothes folded. It’s all scrambled up once it hits their dressers. True confession: I don’t keep mine folded either. Whether it’s balled up in a drawer or hanging in my closet, I end up ironing almost everything anyway.
I am never folding again, and neither are you. As the clean clothing emerges, you just effortlessly stuff it into the person’s basket. Done. Folding laundry: an inconsequential, futile, unproductive, fruitless use of time. I lost hours of my life folding for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Note: I do fold our socks, my type-A hubby’s clothing for him, as well as the linens.
When first lived in Hawaii, I blissfully invested in lush, beautiful, fluffy beach towels. The instant I laid out them out, they were wet, salty, and embedded with flour-consistency sand. And heavy. They never really dried, and the sand never shook completely out. I quickly realized that the crappiest towels make the best beach towels because they dry so fast and are easy to clean.
The same thing applies to the kids’ bath towels. When the towels are cheap and chintzy, who could care that they were used to sop up mess of an overflowed toilet, to clean up nail polish spills, or wipe off rugby cleats? Save the plush towels for yourself and guests, and equip your kids with the thinnest, cheapest, lamest towels that money can buy…even better if you can get them for free! Think one step up from paper towels. They dry fast even when they are balled up on the floor, and they’re easier to maintain overall.
Next time you see an ad selling towels in the dollar store, and you think to yourself, “who is buying their towels at the dollar store?” The answer is you. You are.
Downside: the kids constantly go after the nice guest towels; they must be guarded with my life, and that’s another challenge altogether.
If you simply can not bring yourself to buy crappy towels, but you want the benefits of light weight and quick dry time, then you can invest in Turkish towels…which have the same exact benefits of the chea-pass towels, but at a much higher price point. Wowsers, they are so much cuter too, and can be used as a beach wrap to boot.
Assign your kids the chores that YOU despise doing. Those are their burdens now. Stop giving them the jobs you can do with your eyes closed.
Some household tasks just seem to happen, and I accomplish those mindlessly. For instance, laundry. I am OCD about my trash monster, so no one can come near it. Loading/unloading the dishwasher just happens for me. Also, I effortlessly do quite a bit of vacuuming, probably because of the enchanting and glorious white noise that obscures my surroundings.
I don’t make them do anything that I automatically seem to do.
However, I happily burden the kids with every bit of grunt work. The worst jobs of all. The stuff I never get around to. I’m talking baseboards, cleaning out from under beds (even mine), mopping, vacuuming stairs, tidying the front and back stoops…this is just the tip of the iceberg.
- Have them clean your laundry room. This is the best kid chore of all. Nothing is more refreshing than walking into a sparkling clean utility room…after all, I spend a great deal of time in there not-folding the kids’ clothes.
- Skip the mop bucket altogether. Make them wash the floors Cinderella-style, with Windex and paper towels. This is the most efficient method. Sloppy mops and buckets just create so much more work and mess, IMO. It is so fast, and much easier for the kids to do without too much of your oversight.
Now, just how you get your kids to do these jobs well is another article altogether.
One of the chief complaints of most parents is the total lack of privacy. I have great news. Kids after a certain age do NOT bother you if there is any risk whatsoever of seeing you naked. On the contrary, they actually run for their lives.
All you have to do is shout, “I’M NAKED” and you have bought yourself 20 minutes of privacy, minimum.
This amazing parenting hack does not start working until the children are age six or seven, however. So, in our case, 40% are still not phased by parental nudity in the least. I guess we have another three years or so before we are entirely home free.
If you have a 5-year-old, try shouting this at them, just to test the water and see where they are at. Your 5-year-old may have early-onset nudaphobia, and you are golden. 🙂
There you have it. All these little systems have been wonderful breakthroughs for us! Don’t parent for 14 years before you adopt some of these. All of this is free chicken for everyone!! We are all in this together. Anyone else have any must-share parenting hacks to save you time, eliminate hassle, or buy you some privacy? Don’t hold out on us!