I’ve had so many people say to me “how are you do it all?!?” and so today I thought I’d share with you my top seven tips. If you are new to the blog we have two biological children, ages 7 and 5, and 17 month old twins that we are in the process of adopting. Our goal is for us to lead a full life but not a hectic or crazy one (although sometimes it’s both hectic and crazy!). These tips will reduce chaos in your home and in your mind plus will give you and your children some semblance of calmness and order. And please know that many times our home feels like it’s lacking calmness simply because there are children with an abundance of energy running around… this isn’t a fool proof guide to leading a simple life but when AJ and I follow these guidelines it’s amazing how much easier our life seems to go.
Prioritize what is most important at that moment.
Without a doubt that has had to be the number one operating principle. I can’t do it all. I can’t get out the door with four kids and have them be on time to things and leave a perfectly clean house each morning. So I choose to have everyone look decent and be on time for school (often the babies are still in PJs while I do this) and know I can deal with the house when I get back from school drop off and errands. As Emily Ley says “I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection”.
Another example, dinner prep time isn’t always the easiest time of day. Sometimes I just throw the towel in and say “I’m not going to have a pulled together house when AJ gets home… but I’m going to have happy kids” and I’ll let the babies throw everything out of the cabinets. I pick my battles.
Early morning is key.
We have done our errands bright and early since Drew was little. If I am at stores when they open or shortly after everyone is in better shape because of it. There are less people at the store which means it’s just an easier shopping trip to start off with and I’m getting everything over with right before naps. I always find the traffic to be a lot less when I go first thing as well so just getting there starts me off on the right foot. Sometimes just the 15 minute power nap that the babies take in the car is enough to push them through to the later napping time I like (earlier naps = hellish dinner prep hour).
Have a “uniform”.
This spring my uniform has been a pair of skinny jeans (I rotate between two pairs, but mostly these affordable white skinnies that I buy in petite because I’m 5’3) and a cute top with leather flip flops or wedges. All summer long I wear dresses or bathing suits every day. I don’t even own a pair of shorts (other than running shorts). The simple choice of choosing a dress keeps me looking pulled together and takes about half a second to decide what to wear (even faster than choosing which workout clothes to put on!!!). I do the majority of my shopping at Marshalls or J. Crew Factory (I regularly get their emails announcing sales and wait to purchase items for when they are having additional percentages off).
The kids clothes are from an amazing kids consignment shop, Marshalls or J. Crew Factory. I feel like I’m purchasing clothes constantly but I have the same general principles with them to making picking out clothes simple. Elle has a closet full of dresses and Drew has a few pairs of shorts / jeans that he will pair with cute t-shirts from J. Crew Factory or polo shirts.
We’ve taught our kids ownership
Every morning Drew and Elle need to make their bed in a 5 star way (5 star differs for each age) and then I like to have them spend at least 10 minutes every day neatening up their room. This is flexible… some days it’s 10 minutes, some days it’s zero and some days it’s 30 minutes.
They will help sort laundry and always put their own clothes away (I will do all the hang up stuff). I never fold their clothes. I let them just put it directly into the drawer and if it needs to be ironed I’ll do that for them in the morning. I can’t even begin to tell you how much stress it saves from not folding everyone’s things.
I cannot stress enough how important it’s been to give them jobs from a young age because now, even though they will sometimes moan and groan about their jobs, they generally know what’s expected of them (and yes, I still usually have to encourage them to do their jobs… they aren’t that good yet ;)).
This Melissa & Doug job chart is a pretty good one if you want a reusable one!
We hide our TV behind the painting!
This is a hotly debated topic but I have zero problem with letting them watch some TV if it helps me get stuff done. They can watch a show in the morning if it’s before 6:30am while I get breakfast and lunches together and then watch another show while I make dinner if their rooms are clean, homework is done and the downstairs is picked up. The TV is right in the kitchen area so I always know what they are watching.
We don’t have cable to save money, we instead subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime (which has some great kids TV shows and movies!).
Timers are one of my go-to tricks for all areas of my life. Often I will set the timer for five minutes and give the kids that amount of time to run upstairs and get their clothes on. Then three minutes to brush their teeth. Five minutes to make the bed… you catch my drift. It’s never a race of the kids going against each other (because I always find that results in fighting) but it’s a race against themselves.
I do the same thing for myself and I’ve started memorizing how long it takes me to actually do things. I know emptying and putting away everything from the dishwasher takes between 5-6 minutes. Cleaning my kitchen floor takes 10 minutes. Scrubbing a toilet takes about one minute. Breaking down jobs into little bite sized pieces changes the way cleaning looks. So at the end of the night, when everyone is finally in bed, all I want to do is sit on the couch but I know I need to clean the kitchen and vacuum the floor (ps: this is my favorite vacuum ever ,it’s super affordable and even works for cleaning the car!). Knowing that I can have the kitchen looking pretty spotless in 20 minutes seems manageable most nights. But some nights I’ll just set the timer for 10 minutes and tell myself that’s all I have to do… it’s a mind game. I hustle for 10 minutes and then I’m on such a roll most times I end up spending an additional 10 minutes polishing the space off.
Plan Plan Plan… and don’t be afraid to say no
I would be totally lost without my planner. I need to write everything down and check in with my planner at the beginning of each day to make sure I know what’s going on. Often I will write down my to-do items in specific spots in the scheduled part of the day so I know I can fit them in.
Recently I said no to a really fun morning book club with some of my best girlfriends because it was one of my three mornings a week with nothing while the babies were napping. Sometimes to stay sane I just need to say “no” and do stuff around the house… being an introvert means I really need that time by myself to rejuvenate.
Lastly… bonus tip: Say YES to things that rejuvenate.
Work out… even if it’s hard
AJ and I usually give each other time to work out each day. If I know only one of us has a chance to exercise I’ll do my BBG workout with the kids around. It’s total chaos but they see me making a healthy decision and I get it done while being with them… plus they think it’s hysterical to do the exercises with me. (In June I’ll be sharing the results of my 12 weeks doing this program!)
Say YES to getting away
Over April vacation we took the big kids to Florida and stayed at my in-laws condo. Say yes to a vacation that saves cash (we didn’t have to pay for a hotel) and gives you much needed time away! Save for it and get it on the schedule!
One of our best times was when when my parents took the kids for a weekend and AJ and I had a staycation in our own home!
Say YES to easy dinners and desserts
For the past six months or so I’ve been obsessed with All Recipes magazine and making the easy meals for my family out of the mag. It’s about $10 for six issues and it’s choc a block full of good ideas.
Also, have some EASY desserts to bring to a friend’s house for dinner. This 10 Minute Chocolate Mousse does the trick.
Say YES to furniture that makes your life easier
In December we traded in our old clip on to the table high chairs for these ridiculously easy to clean plastic ones. I can’t tell you how much less stress these are to keep clean.
What are YOUR tips for making your home work?