5 Creative Systems To Awesomize your Family Life


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:

Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad has never looked more appealing. 

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.

Amazon Basics Packing Cubes


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.

For a 5-day trip to Paris, I packed all of this for 6 people…
stuffed into these four backpacks


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:

Quit folding

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. 

I do fold my linens and my husband’s stuff–because I love him. ❤


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. 

the posh version of “threadbare towels” are called Turkish towels, and they are great–but no need to waste your money on them for the kids. (But these are a wonderful gift idea!!)


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. 

Insider secrets:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
 You can create your own set of housekeepers–they are guaranteed to get it right!  

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!




8 comments on “5 Creative Systems To Awesomize your Family Life”

  1. A couple things:
    – You have the most luxurious guest towels ever, especially for crunchy-towel plagued Americans living in Europe. Thank you.
    – Your enneagram 4 and my enneagram 1 will never see eye to eye on the laundry folding. I love it. I fold my underwear and all my drawers are perfectly folded. I fold my family’s stuff regularly just for kicks.
    – A million times yes on the farming out chores you hate. My kids clean toilets, sinks and do all the dishes..and my husband cleans the showers. I will cook every meal, do every scrap of laundry, pay the bills and vacuum for days. When people have more kids, the chore problems go away.
    – I feel like I pack light, but you ALWAYS inspire me to step up my game.


    1. No one visiting my house would ever ever be forced to experience the crunchy towel. However, are we denying them an authentic European experience? WHY WOULD YOU GO BACK AND FOLD inside people’s drawers? Man. You have more time than I do!!! One of the biggest bummers of my kiddos being in full time school was that i had to be the one to clean the house again, because they honestly did not have time. It was horrible. You do pack light–i saw what you came with on your last visit. :):):)


  2. Just spent a precious little bit of alone time reading this blog and it did not disappoint! Trash bag salad made me lol. Also, we must be living the same life because I just discovered the power of saying I’m naked AND after 15 years of beat towels we got for our wedding I upgraded to fluffies and they are the worst. My dryer will be dead in six months tops. Anyways this was so fun to read. Thanks for the much needed smiles! Best to you and all of your people (:


    1. It was actually my husband who figured out “I’m Naked” and uses it too much…it must be used sparingly or its crying wolf. If that happens, maybe we just need to set up a scenario where they actually walk in on us naked—it will be reinforced pretty well. Does that have any moral or ethical consequences? I need to think it through


  3. Ha, I loved this and I laughed, Leigh! I may still need to fold because a) I am slightly OCD and b) I despise ironing more than folding. BUT, I do not fold underwear, and I may be able to let go of folding T’s undershirts because I do not enjoy those. I am amazed by your packing and will need to give it a try!! I am an over packer/what if person. I use my kids for chores, but we are just entering this stage ( although emptying dishwasher silverware and a few other non-chemical, you are tall enough ones are going strong). My problem is while my 7 yo old is reliable for a job well done, my 5 yo boy loses focus—2 and under will help pick up, usually… We have recently discovered our 5yo is excited to clean toilets and mop, so bathroom chores are about to begin!! I like trash bag salad—I hate when the bowl is not big enough! Large beach towels drive me nuts—we will use while we have, but when they are done, I will remember this suggestion.


Leave a Reply to Laura Heebner Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.