After an incredibly fun-filled summer, where we said “yes” to all the fun, getting back into a bit of a rhythm, where we have systems that make our household run smoothly, was very calming to my mama-soul.
They may be so simple, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely effective. And sometimes it just takes hearing about a simple idea once to tidy up your whole world!
I say all of this while fully believing in all the sentiments that one day we will miss the mess that our littles leave behind, and that the dishes will always wait for you so make the memories now, and I very much like taking in all the fun over doing the laundry. But, at the same time, having some order makes me feel calm, and being calm is contagious, allowing my kids to feel that calm, and allowing me to be a more present, highly engaged mama. Bonus, these systems involve the kids, so they too are learning how to calm the chaos in their lives.
Keep in mind, also, that everything has a stage in time. When I had a newborn and a toddler, some of these things were essential, and some of these things just couldn’t happen. Over time, and in different stages, some of these things became easier, and then, as more kids hopefully come into the picture or life circumstances change, these systems will change with them. So, I always love to say, take what works for you, and leave the rest!
Our Family Systems [Especially Solo Parenting]:
Laundry Bin in the Main Living Space
My sister-in-law set this up for me after I had my second kid, because we lived in a house where the laundry was upstairs, but most of our living time was on the main level. That means, diaper changes and kid-clothes changes were often happening on the main level. Kids were coming in from the backyard and needing to strip their muddy clothes off. And of course, endless kitchen towels. Having a little laundry bin in this space meant all these items ended up in it, and not scattered everywhere all over the floor or piled by the stairs. Then at night, when we’d head up for bed, the bin went upstairs and got organized, and it was taken back down to the main level every morning to get filled up again! Even though I don’t have a newborn anymore, the laundry bin system is just too good to give up!
“Delay Start” Laundry
Okay, if you have this setting on your laundry machine, it is a game changer! At night before bed, I toss a load in and set it to “delay start” – meaning it will start at the time I set, which is ideally planned so that a load is finished being washed by the time we wake up. It’s pretty incredible to wake up to a load freshly washed that’s ready to go into the dryer or be hung, and load number two is ready to be washed…you feel ahead of the game! Plus, no musty smell from wet clothes sitting too long in the washer overnight. This system has finally made me feel ‘caught up’ on laundry, if that’s even possible. I know some people love a specific laundry day, and before kids I did too, but with all the laundry that kids create, doing a bit daily keeps everyone clothed, keeps things running smoothly, and laundry (and putting it away) seems way less daunting. Let me add, the kids are always doing laundry with me – yes, it takes longer, but it also means that at 3-years-old my daughter is able to solidly help me load, transfer, fold, hang, and put laundry away, and at some point, in the not so distant future, she’ll be able to do this herself!
I’ve talked about front-loading my days since the dawn of time, and I can’t ever stop talking about it. Some people like to back-load their days, but with kids I find the mornings are likely to be more consistent than the evenings. This was also my tune before kids, because something is always bound to ‘come up’ later in the day. Mornings are predictable-ish. This post will tell you more about front-loading our days, but depending what stage of life you’re at, and if you have kids – what age they’re at, your top front-loading priorities may change. For us right now, it’s laundry, food prep, getting ready, and spending quality time together. These things (almost) always get done!
Prepped dinners change our lives. They don’t need to be fully prepped, but at least partially prepped. When my kids need to eat, they need to eat, and I get it, I get hangry too! Plus, kids highest needs often seem to be when you’re trying to make dinner. That seems to be the time I have a kid on my hip, and/or a baby on my boob, or name the thing. Plus, I’m often booked to work at the exact time I would be making dinner, or we are running in the door from an activity (you all get me!). Coming home to a slow cooker that you prepped earlier in the day, or popping a bar pan in the oven that has everything on it, or tossing some leftovers in the air fryer (or oven) to reheat, helps us calm the chaos, and be well-fed! Along those lines, when I was prepping for baby number 2, I loaded up my freezer with nutrient-dense meals and snacks, and honestly, this should just be a life hack for always, so I’m going to do it again this year not for postpartum, but just for parenting. Whether you prep on the weekend, somewhere during the week, or do as much as you can once a month, any food prep will pay off! And if you make some healthy trays, like a veggie tray, you’re more likely to grab the healthy option, because it’s easily accessible! I’ve said it before, prep, prep, prep!
Night Time Tidy Up
I can’t say it enough, phases of life…! This hasn’t always been the case, or not entirely well, but, right now, with my daughter being 3.5-years-old, her being able to successfully help with night time tidy up, (or whatever fun name you want to call it), has helped us head into bedtime with a sense of calm. Yes, it’s all going to get pulled out again tomorrow, and no, it doesn’t have to be perfectly tidy, but a reset (and the routine of this reset) is good for everyone!! This night time tidy up is usually the main space where toys are scattered from the time we were making dinner, eating dinner, and working, as the other areas are hopefully tidy from what we will talk about next, which is…
Do It Now
This is easier now that I don’t have a baby nursing every five seconds, so if you’re in that beautiful stage, I see you!! But doing the cleaning/doing the thing right away, rather than letting it sit, pile up, and it inevitably requiring more work, is so key. I know, it sounds so simple, but simple isn’t always easy. Cleaning up after each meal, opening the mail as soon as you get it, putting an activity away before you start the next one (this one has finally clicked for my 3.5-year-old, so if it’s a work in progress, that’s okay!) – these are the do it now things. Although, if you want to keep a creation space or craft space where things are meant to keep out, that calms the chaos too!
Bedtime – Get Ready Together
Here’s a hack that may not be up everyone’s alley, but works wonders for us, especially solo parenting as much as I do. Kids often don’t love that bedtime means being apart from you, separating, being alone, right? Well, what if it doesn’t mean that? What if you do bedtime together? My daughter (almost) never gets upset when I say it’s time to head up for bed, because we go up together, and get ready together. Yup, you heard me. We all have a bath or wash our faces, we all get our jammies on, and we all floss and brush our teeth. I understand this isn’t possible for everyone and maybe not all the time, but if I’m not going out or having a meeting again, I don’t mind being “ready for bed” hours earlier than I actually need to go to bed (or brushing my teeth an extra time). It’s not a fight, because we are all doing it, and we are all doing it together. Then books, songs, cuddles, all together. My kids can fall asleep, and I may roll away to go do more laundry, or work, or hang out with my husband, but they feel safe, secure, and the chaos is calmed!!
I hope some of these simple things that work for us, help calm the chaos in your life!