Just before school started back this last fall, I checked out a life-changing book from the library. "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode", by Crystal Paine includes nine simple strategies to stress less, sleep more, and restore your passion for life. As I was staring a new existence in the face (for the first time ever, both of my kids would be in school full time), I had high hopes that I could benefit from this book.
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For nine years I had been a stay-at-home mom who struggled with balancing my many roles. Due to frustration and overwhelm, I would frequently give up on any goals that were based on my own desires (fitness, business, etc), and instead focus on my roles that affected others...specifically my family and friends. This was great for some time, but never fail, I would always end up feeling empty. After time, this began to take it's tole on even those roles that I was giving preference to. My own chaotic life, and lack of routine began to spread to those around me. My kids were not showing the responsibility that I felt they should be, and I often found myself getting upset with them. How could they not care about how how messy the house was? Why didn't they know that it's not okay to eat a snack and leave the garbage on the Bonus Room floor? How is it that I would ask them to do something, only to later realize that they had totally ignored my request? Why was every single morning a battle to get two kids ready for school and out the door on time without a fight? I'll tell you why. My little ones were lacking structure and routine. They needed me to set an example, lay down some boundaries, give them some tools to help them succeed, and be present to follow up and ensure they were taking care of business.
As I began "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode", I was eager to make positive change in my own life. But what I soon realized is that I needed to focus on my kids first. Because no matter how hard I tried to get myself organized, it wasn't going to matter if I was neglecting my kiddos and their needs. This is something I realized while we had our house on the market. I was turning into a mad woman trying to keep the house "show ready"; all the while, my little mess makers were making more work for me. That's why I decided to apply some of what I learned in the book to my family first, and myself second. What has happened has been AMAZING! My girls are becoming much more responsible, they are thinking for themselves (and if they happen to have troubles, they know where they can go for the answers), and our mornings are nothing like they used to be!
So what's my trick?
I created checklists that include their tasks (things we require of them) and split them into three categories...Morning, After School, and Before Bed. The rule is that everything on the list must be checked off before they can move on to more fun things. It is a way to earn their play/screen time. And it is working beautifully. Mornings that used to consist of me reminding them to do the most simple of tasks, and constantly nagging them to get off screens until they are ready to go, are now so much more smooth. And to be honest, even when they have completed their morning list, they rarely turn on any devices now. Our morning battles are gone, and our days start off so much happier with these lists in place. Where they once woke up and stumbled around, getting ready in no particular order, only to be rushing around at the last minute, we are now enjoying preparing for the day together.
But wait, there's more!
Do you ever catch yourself feeling overwhelmed with keeping the house clean? I'm not talking picked up, I mean clean...like wiping baseboards and washing windows clean? Well, I was. So part of the new list project was to delegate some of the cleaning duties. Each day, each girl has "chore" listed in the After School section of her list. At the bottom of the list are the days of the week, and each day has a different chore to help with the house cleaning. This has helped me immensely! You'd be surprised what your little ones can do if you take the time to teach them how to do it right. I highly suggest buying some cleaning wipes and storing them in a place that your littles can get to. That way, when it's their day to wipe down the bathroom sink, all they have to do is grab a wipe or two, scrub-a-dub-dub, toss in the trash, and they are done!
After sharing this with some of my mom friends and hearing the success they too have had, I decided this would make a great blog post...because after all, an organized house makes for a pretty home!
To get started, sit down with a pen and paper (or your iPad for all of you techies out there), and make a list of all of the things your child needs to do for that portion of the day. Don't overlook the little things, like brush teeth, pick out socks and shoes and set by front door, etc. You've got to remember, we've had years to learn which things need to be done, and when. But, our kiddos are still learning the ropes. Plus, it makes them feel good to cross things off of their list :-)
Once you have the necessities down, brain storm some age appropriate chores that you could hand off. Think about your home specifically and of the things you find yourself doing (or needing to do) often. For instance, we have a HUGE dog that slobbers A LOT. He also likes to shake his head, slinging said slobber all over the walls. One of my daughter's chores is to go around and wipe up that dog slobber. Gross? Yes, but it would be even grosser if we didn't have a child that cleaned it up weekly. The next part is optional, but I feel like it's important to add. I have an "extra chores for money" category. In our house, we expect that everyone living here helps take care of things, so our kiddos don't get paid for their daily chores. We do however, offer extra chores that they can do to earn money, with the caveat that their daily chore must be done first.
Here's an example of one of our lists:
See, functional doesn't have to equal ugly! But I'll be 100% honest with you. Ours didn't start out this pretty. To get started, I simply printed the girls' lists on regular printer paper and stuck them in sheet protectors so that they could use a dry erase marker to cross off their tasks. That way they can erase and start fresh the next day. This is a great way to get started.
However, I soon found that there wasn't enough bulk or stiffness, so when the girls went to erase their lists, the plastic sleeves would shift, the paper would scrunch, and it was a mess. That's where the clipboards came into play (plus it's super cute to see the girls walking around the house with their clipboards, checking things off of their lists). My next step towards beefing things up was to replace the printer paper with card stock...why didn't I think of this in the first place? After living with it like that for a while, I decided to really give them a polished look and borrowed a friend's Scotch Thermal Laminator. Using this thing was a breeze, and I now want one for myself!
So now I have a question for you...Was getting your family/home more organized a New Year's Resolution that sounded good when the bubbly was flowing and the ball was about to drop, but has since lost its luster? If so, I suggest you give this a try. It doesn't take long to get started, and I even made you a FREE printable (see below) so that you can fill in the blanks for your own family. Let your little ones(s) color in the arrow as you sit with them and explain to them how their new list(s) will work. Just plug your name and email address into the box below the examle, print, and you are on your way to a more stress free life...
Things Just Got a Whole Lot Easier!
Download & Print Your Own For FREE!
You can see what kinds of things are on my girls' lists in the pics above, but one question I always get is, "What kind of chores do you give your kids?" So many moms out there are afraid to hand over the cleaning in fear that their kids can't do it, or won't do as good of job as they would have done themselves. I believe our kids can achieve more than we give them credit for. I also believe it is our job to teach them to work hard and take pride in what they do. So if someone does a subpar job, we go back and I show them how to do it correctly. And if they have tried their hardest and it's still not perfect, I let it go, because I am grateful for the fact that it's one chore I didn't have to do. So, if you are a mom who hands out chores, please share a some examples with our fellow mamas in the comments below.