“Controlled Chaos”… I don’t know who coined this phrase, but it fits my family perfectly because one of the challenges I face is keeping the house from free-falling into full frontal chaos on a daily basis.
My eldest is in college, my first daughter is in her junior year in high school- in all the clubs and activities she can possibly volunteer for. My other daughter is only a couple of years behind her with after school activities a couple of days a week. Three of my sons are still in elementary school, and my youngest son stays home with me still. Top it all off with my husband’s schedule as well as my own, and there are very few days without some sort of activity scheduled. Those of us old enough for a cell phone have our calendars synched, but our activities at a glance helps keep us on top of things.
In the kitchen we now have a wall space that (because of its humble beginnings as a small dry-erase board) we call “The Board“. The Board now consists of a monthly calendar, a weekly calendar, and a dry-erase/ cork board.
The Monthly Calendar
is a common wall calendar that we pick up from church once a year. I take the time once a month or so and fill in the activities I know are coming up in the future. This lets us see at a glance when projects are due, parties are scheduled, and school holidays to look forward to. Anything that is happening more than a week out, I put on this calendar.
The Weekly Calendar
is a long dry-erase board. The particular one I use now has the days of the week written on it already. Every Monday I fill in our weekly calendar (although our magnets are more fun to use for the days). Recurring events that happen weekly, I list under the days of the week with an index card cut to size (Trash pickup on Tuesday; Choir practice on Wednesday; etc.). This saves me from having to write down the same events each week, or running out of room to write additional activities we need to remember.
The other Dry-erase/ Cork Board
holds things that would otherwise clutter and get lost on a table somewhere. Birthday party invitations, permission slips, project instructions, etc. get thumb-tacked to the cork side. There is also a print-out of disciplinary actions to be taken according to offenses for our “That Child” (you know the one; the one that’s in every family). On the dry-erase side, we have a list of items to pick up from HEB (I love my grocery store). Here, the kids can write down when they are out of cereal, snacks, and shampoo. SIDENOTE… I’d like to take the time to introduce the reason for one of my “Junk-food Rules“: I got tired of the kids asking for snakes and siril (apparently that’s Kinder-spell for snacks and cereal), so to encourage correct spelling I tell them that if it’s not spelled correctly, I’m not buying it. Naturally, this only applies to junk food… I’ll buy them all the “apols” they ask for.
Sometimes I will write a phrase or idea that catches my fancy on this board: “Never give up”, or “Don’t be afraid to fix your mistakes”, or even longer thoughts. ‘Course, these often go ignored and unnoticed, but I like to think that my motivation efforts are sinking in covertly.
Our Weekly List of Chores
is located under the dry-erase/ cork board. It is an hour or two worth of work once or twice a year to update, but totally worth the effort. Every child of chore-doing age has a responsibility each day of the week (exempting Sundays). Chore time is a little smoother when they can look at their own list in their own time (meaning, after snack and homework completion). It’s written down, so I no longer have to wonder which chore I told which child to do.
I remember when Number 6 turned five years old: Immediately after singing Happy Birthday, Number 3 said, “Yay, now you can add him to the chore list!” Apparently, there was some hidden resentment that Number 6’s only job was to “Look cute and stay out of the way” (which is totally Number 7’s job these days).
The upside is that “many hands make light work”. Now, many chores (like trash cans and bathrooms) are no longer my department. The downside is that chores don’t always get done to my satisfaction, so a good deal of supervising is needed. Those of you who don’t believe in slave labor (mom, we’ve talked about this; it’s called self-reliability), rest assured that tasks are given according to ability and affinity.
For example, I’ve found that Number 2 is quite careless when it comes to dishes, while Number 3 is refreshingly fastidious. I wash and dry a dozen loads of laundry each week. Number 2 now folds (instead of dishes), and each child (with the exception of my husband and smallest child) put away their own piles of clothing. The school-aged kids have a clothes hanger; one of those hanging open drawers that are sold in the closet organization section of department stores. I have the kids put in everything they need for the week into their clothes hanger so that we don’t have to go mining through drawers first thing in the morning.
The most important benefit for me is that this list reduces a substantial amount of stress. I don’t get overly frustrated because the kids’ bathroom is a mess. Instead I can take a deep breath and say, “The bathroom is a mess, but it is on the list to be cleaned in two days”. This sort of task management frees me from feeling like it is my job to clean everything all of the time. I know when something will get done, and I can better focus on tasks that the kids can’t do.
has made it easier to communicate the family schedule with my husband and older kids. Our smart phones have the ability to synch calendars and set alarms. My Apple Watch puts my next event on the screen face, so I always know what’s next! Along with my schedule, I have a dozen alarms that range from “Get up” and “Time to Go” to “Inspection” and “Bedtime”. My phone manages all of my alarms (calendar, preset, and spontaneous).
I’ve learned that my habit to do just one more thing often makes me forgetful and/or late. To counter this tendency, I also set several timers (spontaneous alarms) throughout the day. Cooking/ baking? I set an alarm. Picking up a kid at an odd time today? I set an alarm. It’s 7:00 am, and I want to call the pediatrician as soon as the office opens at 8:30? I set an alarm.
Controlling the Chaos
(being organized), being prepared, and saying a prayer is the best I can do to face each day. Maybe most importantly, I accept that I can’t control everything.