A few weeks ago, I was talking with our local priest about my desire to make our home a pleasant place for Brian and Bella...a sort of haven from the world. Father told me that one of the noblest tasks a wife and mother has is to make her home "a piece of heaven on earth". He went on to explain that besides the necessary attitude of charity within the home, the house itself should also have a sense of balance and harmony in the way it is "decorated" and kept up. It does not take a lot of money to accomplish simplicity, harmony and order but it will take a little time, organization, and perhaps ingenuity.
Coming from a large family, I've lived in a household that often had at least ten people under one roof. As other large home-schooling families know, you must have some sort of organization to keep even the smallest level of sanity! Although there is not such thing as a "perfect" house and there are times when the dirty dishes should be ignored (especially when there are no older children to help), we all need to find a balance between being a clean-fanatic and being a messcat! Since I have received requests to have a page of "household tips" I'm sharing things I've learned from experience, from my mom, and from other amazing mothers I can only hope to be like! Please share your own tips with us and I'll post it here! Thanks and happy homemaking!
Make a Menu-Calendar
To save time and money, I plan meals ahead by at least a week. (Some moms plan a month ahead but a week is all I can handle at the moment.) I print out a calendar from the computer and have it posted on the fridge. The meals for the week are listed with at least one day for "leftovers". I check the menu the night before to see if I need to take anything out of the freezer to defrost. Planning ahead also allows me to grocery shop only once a week.
Cook in Bulk
After being used to cooking for 10 people at home I had a hard time adjusting to cooking for two (then three). Sometimes I'll stick with my "bulk" recipes and just freeze extra portions for future dinners or the extra portions can brought to an elderly family member or our local priest to warm for a future dinner.
Never Too Young to Pitch In
In our family, we all had to pitch in with the upkeep of the house, regardless of our age. The youngest of the family did easy thing such as dusting a shelf or setting napkins on the table while the older kids washed dishes or vacuumed the carpet. In fact, recently we visited my family for a week and I noticed one afternoon that my 16 year old brother was scrubbing the bathroom clean. I laughed at the sight of my baggy pants/ shaved head little brother scrubbing and asked what he was doing. He said matter-of-factly, it was Thursday, the day to clean the bathroom. I couldn't help but smile. (Some day his wife will thank my mom for teaching him how to pitch in!) Today in our home, Bella (nearing the age of two) has her own little chores such as putting away the dish towels on laundry day (a job she relishes) and emptying out the spoon holder of the dishwasher. I'm still working on getting her to pick up her toys when she's done playing but there are still plenty of time for training!
If you travel often in your car with your child(ren) keep certain small toys or books just for the car. The novelty of the less-used item will keep them more content during the ride. If your children are older or tend to fight over who gets to play with what, keep separate little containers (such as a plastic pencil box) with their names on it containing similar items such as a small tablet, colored pencils or little race cars. A few minutes before you arrive at your destination have the kids pick up their things and put them back in the containers.
Growing up with a house full of kids, it can get difficult to keep track of people's belonging. Mom helped solve the problem by assigning each of us kids a color. (ie. I was yellow, Bridgette was red, Rob was green, Nathaniel was blue, Elena was orange etc…) Mom would them buy items from plastic water cups to hair brushes to tooth brushes in those colors. We had to use our own color and put it away when we were done. When their was a green cup on the floor or a yellow hairbrush left on the table, mom knew just who to call to pick it up.
Double Duty Linen Closet
In our family linen closet we have lower shelves set aside for towels and sheets and we use the higher shelves as a "bathroom pantry" for supplies that we buy in bulk - such as toothpaste, bar soap, tissue boxes, toilet paper etc. To keep in order small items that take up space laying on the shelf I keep stackable plastic shoe boxes with labels such as: "dental items" for all the toothbrushes and dental floss; "razors" for plastic razors and extra blades, male & female style; "sewing kit" for threads needles, extra buttons; "travel size items" for the unopened little bottles of shampoo and creams you get free at hotels (great for trips or to give to house guests when they visit); and "shoe shining kit" for all the stuff Brian uses to shine his shoes.
Bathroom Pantry Shopping List
If you use the above idea of a bathroom pantry, you may consider keeping a second shopping list inside the pantry. You can tape a blank list inside the door and nail a stringed pencil to the inside of the cupboard. Use the list to record bathroom items that need replenishing. That way when someone takes the last roll of toilet paper they can write it down immediately without moving from the spot. (How many times have we or the kids "forgot" while walking from the bathroom to the kitchen fridge where our regular shopping list is hung? It may take awhile to train everyone in the family to use (either) shopping list but once they d learn, it will make your life a lot easier and teach them family responsibility.
Water Glasses on the Sink
Hot summer days call for plenty of water drinking. To minimize kids from dirtying every glass in the cupboard for a drink of water, assign them one water-drinking glass. You can color code it, buy a special one with a character on it or use plastic cups and write their name on it with a permanent marker. Have a small tray (or use a plastic plate as a tray) where the cups are kept by the water cooler or fridge. Tell your children that when they get a drink of water to use their special cup and return it to the tray. At the end of the day you (or your child) can wash each cup so it is fresh and ready for the next day.
Sand Pails for Toys Bins
I am a big fan of baskets and plastic containers! We live in a small rental and there's not a lot of room for Bella's toys, so order is a must. We have one area designated for her play things. I went to the store to buy 5 small containers for various toys and baby puzzles. I wanted colored ones to brighten up her area but they were $5-$7 each at Target so I bought large toy sand buckets (in the beach/water aisle) instead for $1 - $2 each. They are the perfect size and Bella can take them off the shelf and carry them by the handle. They add a cute touch for a fraction of the price!
I am also a big fan of labels on containers. To label Bella's toy bins/pails I wrote the name of the toy (ie. "blocks", "Pooh Bear" toys", "puzzles") on an index card with colorful markers and stickers. I then carefully covered the card with packing tape letting the tape run about an inch over the card on all four sides. (It'll look like a one- sided lamination.) I trimmed the frayed edges of the tape and stuck the card to the bin making sure it goes on smoothly. It adds a cute touch and as Bella gets older she can read the toy labels herself. A friend who runs a pre-school did the same thing, but instead of writing the name of the toy, she took a photo of it and taped the photo to the bin. It is a great "visual" for the kids to know where to put what!
Handy Hanging Pockets
Consider buying a back seat organizers (that hooks to the back of the front seat) for your car. I picked one up at target for $10 and it is worth every penny! I store items such as diapers, a blanket, packet of baby wipes, extra binkie, toys, tissues, water bottle etc. Now that Bella is older I've replaced baby rattles and bottles with books and boxes of raisons. Not only does it keep the car neater but I have a "spare" of the item I forgot to bring along.
More tips to come…be sure to share yours! Especially you veteran moms!!