Here on the blog, I write about how busy Moms can get organized– because I do think that being on top of your schedule, what you'd like to accomplish, and keeping your home decluttered helps to make this whole parenting journey much more enjoyable! But can you be organized when the kids are young and not in school?
The other day I received an email from a new reader, Meg, that asked this great question…
“Hi Sharon! I just discovered your site and you have a new follower. I just love your blog! I saw your posts on summer camp and love them. I love how you've organized your time and time with the kids. My question is before they were in school, how did you manage to be organized, get everything done and play with the kids? Did you wait until the weekend then to do the shopping and cleaning too, like during the summer camp?
I have a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old, both boys and feel like I'm so far behind in housework, getting organized (love your Evernote tips, so this will help) and finding time to do it all. Thank you in advance! -Meg”
Well, Meg- let me start by saying that you are not alone here… there are so many Moms with young children- babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who struggle with just keeping up!
Trying to get the house cleaned, the laundry done, the meals prepared, and the kitchen cleaned up are more than a full-time job when you are home with the little ones.
Can you be organized when the kids are young? How?
Now in the spirit of full disclosure here, when my oldest three kids were young, I was still a working woman who earned income outside of the house. Back then my kids were cared for at a fantastic daycare center while I was in the office, and I had someone come in once a week to clean my house.
But later when my youngest three joined the fold, I became a stay-at-home Mom complete with all of the juggling of the housework and being with the little ones that this job entails. So I've walked down both paths- the one with help, and the one where I am doing it all within the home myself… and here is my advice:
Adjust your expectations!
When you are a Mom with young kids at home- it just isn't possible to get the housework done, “be organized”, and find time to “do it all”!
The early childhood years are about the basics- food, shelter, water, and babies. This generally isn't the time to start a big home improvement project (trust me, I speak from experience here), or the time the to get the closets organized!
Limit yourself to a defined amount of time during certain blocks of the day when you will try to “get stuff done” and then forget the rest- for now. Because your real job is to spend time with your young children- not tackle your to-do list. That day will come… I promise!
Accept that some work will need to get done while the little ones tag along
House cleaning and laundry need to get done. And your kids are home with you. So you are going to have to combine the two and try to clean while entertaining the wee ones.
I highly recommend some pint-sized cleaning equipment- such as a kids vacuum cleaner or ironing board This is an affiliate link: MomOf6 earns a commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you. (not that I EVER actually iron, mind you)… and let them play while you work.
Feel free to give them an extra duster which will be the Best.Toy.Ever!
Shift errands and grocery shopping to a time when you can do this alone
If you sincerely enjoy running errands with your youngster(s), then by all means- make this a team effort! But if you find (as I did) that grocery shopping takes twice as long with a companion and leaves you feeling frazzled- then try to do at a time when you can leave the kids with someone else- Dad, Grandma, a babysitter.
I find that getting to the grocery store right after it opens on a weekend morning allows me to accomplish that task in peace. The store is usually pretty empty at that time of day, so I don't have to wait in a long check-out line or frustrate the person behind me because I am forking over dozens of coupons.
Even better- is when I order the groceries online and have them delivered to my home. Sure it costs me an extra $20 to do this, but sometimes my sanity is worth the price!
Are you a busy Mom who could use some support?
It helps if you have “the right tools for the job”! Busy Moms need a great calendar or planning system (you can find my favs here This is an affiliate link: MomOf6 earns a commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you. ) and an efficient command center This is an affiliate link: MomOf6 earns a commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you. to keep things running smoothly for the whole family! You can find more great resources for busy Moms over on my Amazon influencer page This is an affiliate link: MomOf6 earns a commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you. !
Consider paying for help
If you can afford to do so, consider paying for some sort of help on a regular basis. Maybe someone to clean your house, or someone to watch the kids so that you can get some errands done weekly.
If you are hesitant to do this, remember that it is only for a few years- just to help you out until the kids are in school (or even preschool) and you get a few hours each day “to yourself”! (A phrase that always makes me laugh because those hours I get to myself is my time to clean, do laundry, and so on. Doesn't really seems to be all about me, does it?!)
Start a list but don't expect to get much done on it
Sometimes it just helps to write down all of the things you wish you were getting to do, but don't have time for. It kind of frees the mind from thinking and worrying about it.
So go ahead and make that list. And then set it aside- to do in a few years!
If you are feeling especially desperate to accomplish some home organization- then have your hubby, your Mom, or a trusted babysitter take the kids one weekend afternoon so you can knock a few things off of that list. You'll feel better for it, I promise.
Looking for some more info on helping busy Moms to get organized?
- 15 Fantastic Command Centers to Help Busy Moms Stay Organized
- 20 Organized Kids Bedroom Ideas
- 10 Organized Laundry Room Ideas
- 12 Organized Closet Ideas
- 12 Ideas for Entryway & Mudroom Organization
Does anyone else have some suggestions for Meg on how to be organized when the kids are young and at home? We would all love to hear them- so please leave a comment!
This is such a struggle for me- my kids are 8, 10, and 12. We homeschool, so everyone is home for most of the day. Two of them have autism and the other has an anxiety disorder/ADHD so they are all kids who need a lot of my time and are not able to contribute much in terms of chores, etc (we do work on those skills!). We have therapy and tutoring going on in our home 6 days a week and it needs to be clean enough for those helpers to come in and not feel uncomfortable. I have tried so many things but can never get a rhythm for completing what needs to get done and things are forever falling through the cracks. I’m looking through your organizing posts to see what might help in our situation. 🙂
You know what Tamie? You are honestly at a time in your life when you need to give yourself permission to not “get it all done”. Because with everything you have going on, it is just not possible. I think the best advice I have to offer is to tell you to give yourself a bare minimum to-do list. If you feed the kids 3 meals a day- who cares if it is on paper plates that you can just throw away. Cooking, cleaning up the kitchen is already a huge undertaking. And then make a list of one task you will tackle (maybe as an all-family project where it makes sense) to do every day. Mondays=laundry, Tuesdays= clean bathrooms, Wednesdays= dust and put away belongings Thursdays= vacuum, and Fridays= laundry. Tackle grocery shopping on the weekend at a time when your spouse or a neighbor can watch the kids while you do that and run errands. And that’s it! Try to simplify your schedule and your to-do list as much as possible. Perhaps some day you’ll have cleaner floors, and drawers that are neatly folded. But that day doesn’t have to be today.
Hugs to you and I’m cheering on all that you do!
Erica Filpi says
Hey Sharon and other Moms. My name is Erica and I am a single mom of 6. I take as many shortcuts as I can. When it comes time for my kids parties at school, will they remember they had cupcakes for their birthday lunch with their friends, or would they even notice that mom sat up all night making them from scratch and perfect? We do disposable plates/cups/silverware atleast once a week. Most importantly I have realized that I cannot do it all. I am a full-time college student, I volunter as a VP for our schools PTA, one of my kids goes to physical therapy twice a week, someone is forever needing to go to a doctor *L*, and did I mention I have three cats, and two dogs (one of whom I am potty training)? I choose my battles and I choose them wisely. Monday I may clean the living room, Tuesday is the bathroom, Wednesday is laundry, Thursday are the floors, and Friday is just preparing for the weekend. The weekend I don’t clean anything, I just try to stop the big messes *L*.
Seriously it’s so doable having a big family. My kids and I just got back from a vacation at Disney World. It took some advance planning, I bought everyone’s clothes and packed a week in advance (the big kids packed their own admittedly). I made sure the house was clean and our regular clothes were washed. Good thing I did because the night before we were scheduled to leave I got so sick that my teenagers had to pack the car because I couldn’t even get out of my bed. But you know what we survived vacations, we can survive daily housecleaning, with a great sense of humour.
Erica- you ROCK! And you are right- you had to do what works in your life and let the rest GO! Because what your kids will remember are the cupcakes, not how they were made. They’ll remember the amazing Disney vacation, not the dirty house.
I am so happy to connect with a fellow Momof6!
Love these suggestions. Thank you, Sharon!
I am a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom of three children, and a pilot husband with an unpredictable schedule. Young kids are BUSY, and we don’t know from one day to the next what Daddy will be doing.
I have discovered it’s best to chunk my work together, rather than trying to answer emails every time I walk by the computer (most days). That kind of multitasking doesn’t work out so well. Most of my freelance work gets done when children are in quiet time/nap time, before they are up for the day, or after they go to bed. I’ve used a one day/week Mom’s Day Out program since my oldest was one year old. It’s good for them, and it’s good for me.
A friend who cleans houses started helping me with mine at least every other week. It’s been a great relief, and a great help. I really struggled with the pride of it as a stay-at-home mom, but the work of managing a home and children and everything that goes with it is a never-ending job. I have discovered that lots of people use housekeepers (and maybe just don’t admit it).
Several other cultures have helpers who come every day and help do a bit of everything: kids, cooking, laundry, etc. I saw this firsthand when I visited Brazil many years ago. What a great help that would be!
Don’t be too hard on yourself, Meg, and make little housework jobs part of your children’s daily routine so they are used to it growing up.
I love your tip about chunking together the work when the kids are napping, or early morning, after bedtime. During the school year I can of course work during the day…. but in the summer it is a struggle to keep up with the work-related things that I am pursuing! And I find that I keep trying to squeeze in one thing here and one thing there…. which just ramps up my stress because I am trying to hard to multi-task!
I found this post on Twitter, and it’s very refreshing to read. I have two boys, ages 5 and 2, and let me tell you, you are right when you say to lower the bar. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no outside help…can’t afford a babysitter, and grandparents are only available if I need them to sit for a doctor’s appointment or something (they lead busy lives too). I’ve only been able to keep up with laundry and the dishes, but up until now, my house has only gotten cleaned when company was coming over. My husband helps a lot with the grocery shopping, or I take the boys with me, and usually one errand per day is all we do, if we go out. Now that they are getting a little older, it’s getting a little easier. I have declared Mondays as cleaning days, and if they help me clean and also LET me clean during the day, they can have Monday movie night in the evening. They are finally starting to get to where they’ll play by themselves at certain times, but it’s very unpredictable. Sometimes my 2yo is just plain fussy and I can’t get anything done all day. I’ve had my ups and downs and frustrations, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being home with my boys and also homeschooling. I think I’m finally coming to a place where I’ve let a lot go and I’m really focusing on what is most important. Plus, it’s amazing what you can get done when you use your time wisely. Thanks for the post. It always feels good to hear another mom say “relax and don’t worry about getting it all done!”
Wow Shelli- thanks for sharing this! I think we beat ourselves up too much for what’s undone (and believe me, I am guilty too)…. and we don’t pat ourselves on the back enough for all that we DO do! We need to recognize that some days it is a triumph just to have fed and clean and happy kids. Really, a triumph!