I get questions sometimes from people thinking of adding more children to their family but wondering if they could juggle it all. They ask me how I get things done, and how I organize my life with eight children.
Decide What To Let Go
My first secret to sanity is the willingness to let go of perfection. You have to decide what’s really important, and choose to let go of the less important stuff. Do you really need to dust every picture every week? Would it be OK to use bath towels two or three times before washing them? Different families will make different decisions about what is acceptable. But if you have a house full of kids, you’ll be much more likely to stay sane if you can pick some stuff to let go.
One of the things I’ve given up on at my house is perfect laundry. We don’t do the dry cleaners. We rarely iron. Occasionally we toss a little bleach in the wash. Our clothes are clean, and people who know us would tell you we always look fine. But laundry is not something I obsess over. And really, I prefer it that way. Twenty years from now, when my house is much quieter, I still cannot imagine spending tons of time searching for the prefect whitening products.
Get The Kids Involved
My second secret is to train the kids to help out. After all, they make most of the mess. Why not have them participate in the cleanup? You can read more about my job training techniques here: Kids and Jobs, Part One and here: Kids and Jobs, Part Two
Have A Plan
My third tip is to set up a schedule in your home and follow it as much as you can. My plan began by making a list of basically everything that needs to get done to make our home run smoothly. I divided that list into categories: once a week, twice a week, or every day. Here’s the framework of our plan.
There are four main daily jobs that keep our home functional:
1.)Laundry–a load is begun after every meal. We sort into individual baskets (one for each bedroom) or hang up straight out of the dryer. Then on Wednesday and Saturday laundry is folded by the owners of each item.
2.) Loading dishwasher/ cleaning kitchen– done after every meal.
3.) Pots and pans– done after every meal
These first 3 jobs are rotated among 3 of my big kids, ages 12, 14 and 16. They each do one thing for a week, then switch, so no one gets too horribly sick of any one job.
Then there is:
4.) Living room cleaning
Living room cleaning at the moment is the job of our two 8 year olds. Every day after lunch they clean and vacuum the living and dining room.
The weekly and twice-weekly jobs are divided among the kids, with each child doing one job every day after lunch.For example, Mondays and Thursdays the kitchen gets mopped. Tuesday the trash goes out to the road. Friday is bathroom cleaning day. Wednesday my plants get watered.
At the start of each school year I re-evaluate the list, promoting kids to more challenging jobs as they are able. As kids have gotten older and more capable I have been able to add a few ‘nice-but-not-essential’ jobs to the weekly list. For example, the dusting now happens a little more often, and my pantry and my fridge now get straightened every week.
All my kids are learning to be efficient workers. I think that early training will only benefit them in the future. They do have playtime too. My little kids love swimming and biking. My big girls are avid readers. And my teenaged boys can play a mean game of Battlefront II. But they know the fun comes after the work is done. And their assistance in our home makes all the difference in the smooth functioning of our home.