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We are a large family and are very busy. We have a range of after-school activities and sports on the weekends and I am struggling to find a way to manage everything. What are your best tips for family organisation? What is the best way to keep on top of tasks such as washing and cleaning and how do you get your kids to pitch in?
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I love the "divide and conquer" method! It really works, especially in larger families, as I grew up in. Everyone knew what was expected of them, and tasks were assigned according to age and capabilities. I remember a time when it was my turn to do the laundry, everyone's laundry, and I was lazy and didn't do it. My brother didn't let me live it down for a week that he had to wear dirty underwear one day! A big chart, in a common area, where everyone can see it and no one can claim "I didn't know it was my turn." is a great way to assign out chores.
I also agree with the multi-tasking. We spend so much of our time waiting on appointments, others, and things to get done, that we actually have a lot more time than we think we do. The walking trick is one I do, because trying to find time in my daily routine for exercise, without having to rise before the sun, is challenging. So, I park as far away as possible in a parking lot, I'll walk around a parking lot, or in the mall, if my kids are shopping for something specific, or while waiting on an appt, or a dinner table, I'll also walk around until it's my time.
With this type of being efficient with your time, I would also wonder if there are any things you, or your kids, are doing which you could cut out of your schedules? Does everyone feel the activities they are participating in are enriching their individual lives, or just keeping them busy?
I would also recommend a really great app - PICNIIC. It's basically a wonder-app. You can use the family calendar, which every family member has access to. There's a to-do list area, so you can assign tasks, like "remember to bring your science project to school today," and dole out chores. There's also a shopping list area, so when the last two pieces of bread are eaten, your kids can add it to the list, instead of yelling to you to buy more!
Finally, cut yourself some slack. With a large family, there's a TON to do, and you may never feel accomplished in a day. But that's okay. I'm currently reading "I Didn't Do the Thing Today," by Madeleine Dore, and it is an eye-opening perspective on productivity and how our culture has changed it dramatically from a healthy process. If you can find time in your busy-ness to pick up a copy, I highly recommend it!
I remember having so much to do as a working mom that sometimes I felt like I could not breathe. It can be rough on you, especially if you are the one who is keeping all of the balls in the air for the family. Hopefully, your husband can pull part of the load. Even better, do you have extended family around to help?
The best advice that I can give is to "divide and conquer". Have a master calendar and assign everyone jobs such as laundry or clean-up after meals each week. If you can carpool or have relatives help with the running of the kids, that is a huge help. Knowing what to expect is much easier on your family than stressing out at the last minute and snapping at them to do chores, etc.
Also, hire help where possible. I had a once-a-month cleaning lady for the heavy cleaning, and the kids helped with the day-to-day chores like vacuuming and dusting. They were assigned to clean their own bathrooms also.
One last tip is to take advantage of any opportunities to multi-task. Do you have any downtime at work to write out thank-you notes or Christmas cards? I would bring "work" to all of my children's sports and dance practices and get many little items crossed off my list while I waited. In addition, I utilized this time away from home to take my daily walk. I used my driving time to call relatives and catch up with phone communication.
It is not easy, but I must say that my children turned out to be competent and independent young women who are strong and resident, so maybe I did something right along the way when raising them. Good luck!