Saturday, January 07, 2012


When I was younger I was babysitting at someones house and on her fridge was a weekly menu. It included breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I remember not thinking very highly of this menu. I thought it was proof that she was so fixed and scheduled. I thought, "I'll never schedule my life or my children like that." Oh silly girl.

My family knows, and especially Mike, that I forget things ALL the time. I seriously have a horrible memory. I lose things all the time too. But, knowing this about myself I have worked really, really hard to put systems in place to help me remember things and help me be more organized. I have felt for a long time that I needed to be more organized. I would love for my house to be a well-oiled machine.

With that said, I still want my house to have spontaneity and freedom. I don't want to be so tied to my systems that I can't just adjust things and do something else with the boys. One thing I've noticed for sure is that when I have little babies in my house I am much more stiff. I have a hard time going with the flow and rolling with the punches. Because my kids are such terrible sleepers who hate their car seats and don't transfer well from the car to the house, I generally am much more controlling of nap times and schedules. Sometimes I feel like I'm a crazy control freak when I have a new baby.

But, that isn't the case in our home right now so I think we are more free with our time and our schedules. As I try to make our house run more smoothly I've found a few things:

1. I am a minimalist. I don't like involved systems. They bug me.
2. Going along with the first, it doesn't matter how cool or organized a system is, if it doesn't work for your family it isn't a good system. I have tried multiple things only to find in a few weeks that it's just not working for us and then I have to find a better system for us. But, as with any habit, it takes a while some times to make something stick. It's just that if it never sticks then it's not working.

Here are a few of the things we do in our home to help with organizing my thoughts, time, and life in general.

1. We have a board upstairs by the craft room with a list of things the boys need to do (feed dog, brush teeth, clean room, etc.). They are supposed to look at it before bed and make sure they've done everything on the list. This worked well before Laila died but then life turned upside down and we didn't use it for awhile. We are trying to get back into it. I also have some magnets with pictures on them that I laminated and I use them to put which activities we do for the day (there is one for lunch, park, library, TV time, nap time). These worked better when the boys were younger. I think I'll use them again with Eli because he is young enough to like looking and seeing what things are planned for the day.

I also have a little card for me that I write the crafts I want to do or the chores I want to accomplish during the day, etc.

Then under the board you can see a mailbox. I painted it white because eventually I will paint the wall a different color. I put little notes or treats for the boys in the mailbox and they love looking in to see if I left something. I think it goes well with their room especially since they have a missionary room.
2. We try to have a family theme with goals. We chose the Armour of God but again, since Laila died we haven't done a lot with it. We are ready to get serious again about our theme. Each month we will tape a piece of armor on our guys.
3. I used to have a grocery list and plan for two weeks but I found I liked to change my mind too much so now we just do a week. It's gets annoying to go shopping every sing week but this way I stick to it.
4. I don't have a mud room (a dream) so this is the best we have. The boys have a cork board that I put their spelling words, homework, notes from teachers, etc. on. I also have one with a calendar on it and notes for me to remember during the week. I recently posted a paper for me to record my weight, calories, and exercise on each week on my cork board. The plan is to have Mike frame them with some of the trim we have left over from the pantry to make it look a little better. Also, these hooks are awesome for the boy's backpacks and jackets.
3. The boys also have hooks in their rooms for their towels (I've posted pictures of these before). Each hook has their picture above their hook so they know which towel is theirs. I found that they had a hard time hanging their towels on their towel rack in the bathroom. This works much better.

4. I have an excel document that lists the majority of the foods we each. They are broken into groups of Italian, Mexican, Asian, Traditional, European, Soups, Sandwiches, Breakfast, and Side Dishes. I don't have everything listed that we eat but the majority. We like to try new foods quite frequently so some of the new foods aren't listed yet. I counted about 126 items on my list. It's great to just pull out the list and say, "Hmm. I want Italian today." Then I look at my list of Italian foods, choose one, and then find the recipe in my cookbook. It's easy this way because otherwise I think, "What should we eat?" and this way I know exactly what we like and eat.

5. This one isn't too organized yet but I also have a list of learning activity ideas for Eli. I am hoping to get serious about actually planning them before the day of.

6. The other system we used for awhile that we stopped when we moved to Colorado is the smiley face system. It worked so well for the boys and was needed at the time. I'm trying to decide if it is still the best system for them or not. I liked that the system made them responsible for their actions. But lately I am trying to be more concerned about the effort they put into something rather than the outcome, if that makes sense. I'm not sure if the smiley system works as well for that. Something to think about.

7. To help us understand what should go in our families food storage, we maintain a list that we use to annotate our usage rates of various food items. Each time we use a can of chicken broth, for example, we put a hash mark in the chicken broth row. So far, we have a little over 3 months' worth of data. We can extrapolate our annual usage from that and get an idea of how much we should have for our food storage. We'll keep it up for another three months and see how our annual usage changes.

These are some of our ways of making life more smooth in our house. As you can see, a lot of them were in place before Laila's death and we stopped doing them. We are only just beginning to get back into them again. I am always looking for new ways to be organized so if you have ideas, please pass them on. Like I said though, I don't like overly involved things. They have to be easy and workable.


JC Choate said...

oh man! those systems sound awesome, I too am slowly begining to systemize our home. Meal planning has always been my weakness- I could eat the same thing every night....

blondeviolin said...

My first thought is, "man, you need an iPod touch or something." There are several apps that help me with things like that: LoseIt; Home Routines; Chore Pad; grocery store app that records or usage, price per unit of certain items, meal options (forgot the name of that one); iPlan to plan our homeschool curric; calendar that syncs with Dan's to keep things together (though we also have a dry erase one on the fridge); and more. These handy things streamline a lot of my systems.

Love the boys hooks! And I'm wishing I had more wall space to hang towel hooks. And their Armor of God posters!

Mostly I would love to have a family closet...

Mike said...

Chersten, those apps sound very helpful actually. I do have a kindle--I wonder if I could find similar apps for that. I have a grocery store app (kind of) but I find I don't like it as much as my excel sheet because the one on my sheet are only the ones I KNOW we like and eat and my grocery store app one just lets me choose menu stuff. Anyway, I'll look into some apps. Good suggestion.

Jed and Kera said...

I really like the idea you have with recipes you make. Before Dalton, I would keep track of our menu in a spreadsheet and I would look through it to get ideas for the next weeks' menu. I also REALLY like tracking what you are using. Do you do it with snack foods too? Like containers of yogurt? Or is it just the non perishable foods?

Two things we do...well, I haven't done it for the last couple months because I haven't cooked or cleaned.
First- I'm like you, I can't do two weeks' worth of food. What I have seen works for us it that we will go through recipes and such and we'll write down a couple dozen things we want to try or favorite recipes that sound good. Then I just pick the next week or so from that list. It makes me not have to go through the recipes and Pinterest boards as often.

The other thing I love is that I have found that I am not like my sister-in-law,, she is a "thursday is house cleaning day and tuesday and friday is laundry day" I can't do that, but I found this neat printout that has daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly things on it.
I like it because I laminated it and keep a dry erase marker. The daily things are stuff we do any way like: make beds, wipe down counter tops, etc. there are only like 4 or 5 daily. Then for weekly it has the normal things like clean bathrooms, and laundry. There are maybe like 6 of them. and it continues like that. I like that it isn't set. I like that I've made myself accountable, but most of all when I have a moment where I think how terrible I am and how I haven't done anything all day I can remember all the things I did with dalton and then look at my sheet and see the things I have marked off for the daily/week/month/etc.

Marcy said...

I've tried to be more organized about menus, but the thing that works for me right now is just a single piece of paper typed up with the foods our family likes, with the ingredients needed for each meal in parenthesis--it's small font. They are categorized by meat: beef, chicken, meatless, seafood, and even one that is something like "parents love and kids need to try more," etc. So I just need that paper to see what I feel like making, then the ingredients are right there so I don't have to look up a recipe (or remember all the ingredients!) in order to go shopping.

For your friend above who doesn't have space for towel hooks in her kids' rooms, she can hang them on the back of the door! Someone showed me that trick and I love it.

We had ideas of marking on a list each can that we used out of our food storage, but I don't want to have to mark something when I'm in the middle of making a meal! I'm too lazy. So we just do a start inventory (count all that we have in our food room--it doesn't take that long) and then in two or three or six months we count again and find out how much we went through in that amount of time. If we used 10 cans of cream of mushroom in 6 months, a year's supply for us will be about 20 cans.

I love your mailbox, and I'm glad you shared your ideas and made me think of the systems we use too.

chelsey said...

I like your ideas of categorizing your meals. I need to do that asap! I also need to implement a new job chart kind of thing. We always seem to go through periods of time when our systems work well, then it all falls apart. Maybe I'm just not consistent enough, but it's also hard to get back into a routine if something has thrown it off.

You should send me a list of all those meals you make! I always feel like I'm stuck in a rut and forget to branch out. Of course, with all the crazy diets our family has, it's nearly impossible to find meals that work for all of us!

Pitcher Family said...

i think maybe you do like systems!! You have lots of great things going on in your home!! I love it!

Zach and Nikki said...

Wow- sometimes it amazes me how much we have in common! I feel the same way about my systems- they can't be too complicated. I loved some of your ideas - especially the ones for school-aged kids since I'll be there next year.
I'd been resisting setting a schedule for our family for sometime thinking that if I was too organized, we just wouldn't do it. Then, I reminded myself that the schedule was exactly the way I did it in the classroom and it worked wonderfully- so now I do it with my kids, and so far, I love it! And, even better, they respond well- when TV time is over, they don't complain- because it's on the schedule! Sometimes life just needs a bit more structure.
Thanks for sharing Adrianne- I love how seriously you take motherhood!

Amy E said...

Adrianne, you are awesome. I love the ideas you have here! I wish I could be a stay at home mom again and do more of this stuff...not that sahm's have tons of time, but it's amazing how much less time I have now that I'm working too. Very cool. Glad you're my you and think of you often, my dear.