Are you a stay at home mom and another day passed you by and left you to wonder how you got so little done? Do you not even bother to make a to-do list anymore because it’s too depressing to see very few things get marked off? Do you feel stressed because you’re not able to play with your children or get all of the housework done? Stop fretting! You can do it be an organized stay at home mom! Here are some tips to help you get organized.
I am a stay at home mom of three sons. My oldest will be five soon, my middle son is 2.5 and my youngest is 4 months old. My days are spent trying to keep peace and order in my home while my husband puts in a 70-80 hour work week. I often feel like a single mother. My husband makes an effort to be at home on Friday mornings so that I can run errands kid-free. Well, almost kid-free. My youngest comes along for now because he nurses, won’t take a bottle and isn’t ready for solids. My first few months as a mother of two were extremely difficult. I learned a lot about staying organized in that time, however, preparing me for life as a mother of three. Any busy sahm can benefit from the lessons I learned about being an organized mom!
First, take stock of your week. Write down how long you are actually at home each day and what things are going on while you are at home. Be aware of your children’s waking, napping and bedtimes. If these times are not consistent, work to make them so. Sure some weeks will bring unexpected doctor’s appointments, impromptu play dates and unfortunate illness that will collapse the best of routines, but if you have a routine in the first place it won’t be difficult to get back on track once things have settled down.
To help stay organized, start a spreadsheet of what time certain things take place around your house. When each child is tired, what time are meals served, and what time are their favorite TV shows on, for example. Work activities outside of the home into the mix and see what is left.
Get up before the children do and get yourself ready for the day. Take that time to make you feel confident and in control. If playing short order cook at breakfast is an ordeal, then, with the help of your children, make a breakfast chart that shows them what foods are available each morning. If on Monday, for instance, you don’t have time to cook pancakes, make it cereal and toast day and save the pancakes for a morning when there is less to do.
Make a list of things that your child has to do before leaving the house such as dressing, brushing teeth, washing their face, etc. Let the children help you with these things as their age and skill allows. Let them know the night before what things are expected of them.
Impose a quiet time each day. For older children who are not in school, but no longer taking naps, have them watch TV quietly, read, or play with quiet toys. They should understand that you are not able to play with them at this time. Use the time to do household chores. Usually an hour a day is enough to do chores outside of the daily things such as dishes and laundry. After quiet time is over, read and play with your children for at least 20 minutes. This will allow you to relax and give them incentive to play alone or rest during quiet time.
Plan menus in advance. Don’t wait until three hours before dinner to decide what you’re eating. Plan a week or two ahead and have your ingredients on hand and your recipes in order.
Decide which chores you must have done every single day. For me it’s dishes and laundry. Decide which chores you need to do two-three times per week and which can be done once a week or less. Keeping a routine for cleaning will allow you to get it all done and keep up with what still needs doing.
Return phone calls, write letters, sort mail, polish your nails, etc while in the carpool line. Anytime you are waiting to pick up a child from an activity or for an appointment you can be multitasking.
Check out websites that help you become more organized. Find and print a calendar that lists chores for you do to each day. Do them, check them off and then relax in your clean, peaceful home.
My biggest distracter from housekeeping is my children, naturally. Finding activities that they can do alone or with me helps tremendously. If you are cleaning, let them help as their age and skill allows. They love to help out when they are young but it won’t last forever. Take advantage of it! If you are doing a chore that they cannot help with, set them up with crayons and paper, puzzles, a favorite DVD, bubbles in the backyard, or a sink full of unbreakable dishes and some warm soapy water. Have them sort clean laundry while you fold. Let them sweep even if they are merely moving dirt around on the floor.
Other distracters from staying organized include the phone, the internet and over extending yourself. Let the voice mail get the phone and return calls at your convenience. Set aside 20-30 per day for checking your email and talking with friends online. Stop saying yes to everyone who asks you to do volunteer your time. Let go of the guilt and pare down. Volunteering is important, sure, but you can give your best to a few things instead of giving a little to everything.
My best advice for stay at home moms is to really know what you’re working with. Get into a predictable routine that allows you to get things done. Don’t give yourself too many chores in one day. Space them out to ensure that they are all done well and as often as necessary. Don’t try to do it all.
These years at home with small children are fleeting. They will be gone before you know. The last thing you want is to look back over your time with your preschool children and see that your energy was expended in wrong places. Life only gets busier as they grow so take this opportunity to organize your life so that you can make the most of these days.