Staying Organized With Small Children

Organization is an area I’ve always struggled with. I have A LOT of stuff – my husband thinks I’m a hoarder, although I think I’m pretty good about tossing stuff I don’t need anymore – so I always feel like my house is cluttered, no matter how “picked up” it may be. I feel like I spend 90% of my time cleaning and straightening up, but somehow things always feel a little out of order. It’s like I just can’t get organized enough.

Now that we’ve got two little guys running around the place, staying clean and organized has become a much bigger challenge. Especially now that Gavin is mobile – his speciality is taking items from one room and moving them to a drawer, cabinet, or hidden corner in another room. I found Grayson’s shoe that had been missing for a week in Gavin’s blanket drawer yesterday, so needless to say, there’s only so much that can be done. All this to say – mamas, I understand the struggle. So today I’m sharing my favorite ways to stay organized – or as close to organized as we can manage – with small kids.

Staying Organized With Small Children | Haven Gray {The Blog}

  • Establish Routines

The older Grayson gets, the more I implement this one family-wide. I’ve done this a bit for myself, obviously – we have a morning “routine” on preschool days or any other time we need to be up and out of the house quickly that we pretty much always stick with, and if we stray too far from this routine, things get a little chaotic.

I’ve also started working on an after school routine with Grayson – take off your shoes and take them to your shoe basket in your room, take out lunch from backpack and empty the container, hang your backpack on the hook in your room. It takes a lot of prodding and reminding, but I’m hoping the more “routine” it becomes, the better things will go.

We also do a nightly clean up of the living room (most nights). We have the boys gather allllll the toys that have been strung out from the kitchen to the back door and put them all in the basket. If there are things that obviously go in the playroom or in their bedrooms, then I make a pile and make it a game “I bet you can’t take five things to your bedroom all at once!” or “I bet I get the laundry folded before you can get all these toys to the playroom!”. Grayson is HIGHLY motivated by any type of competition, so he will do anything if he thinks he can win.

  • Everything Has a Place

Literally everything in our house has a place that it belongs (although some days I’m convinced I’m the only one who knows this). Now, I mentioned Gavin’s new favorite game of “take this thing and put it in the LAST place it should go”, so not much is actually in its place these days, but in theory this works. We have a million books, and they go one of three places: the bookshelf in either the playroom, Grayson’s room, or Gavin’s room. We have one small basket for toys in the living room. Aside from that, toys need to be in the playroom or in the toy box in either boys room. Even in the playroom I have a system for how I like things to be organized, but that happens typically about once a week when I go in and spend about half an hour putting everything back in its place, and the rest of the time it’s mass chaos in there.

  • Baskets Baskets Baskets! 

You probably noticed above that I mentioned a shoe basket and a toy basket – we have so many baskets in our house you guys. In the front room there’s a basket where I collect all things husband related – his mail, his random things that he leaves around the house, etc. In the kitchen, each boy has their own snack basket that I keep in the pantry stocked with their favorite snacks. In the living room we have the toy basket and a little basket-like container for the 500 remotes. In their bedrooms, shoe baskets, book baskets, toy baskets, etc. In my bedroom, I’ve got a basket for magazines and a random catch-all for my stuff like I have for the husband. In our bathroom, a basket for all the lotions and potions that we had to move up and out of Gavin’s reach. In our closet, I have a basket for clutches, our medicine is in two baskets, there’s a basket for my sandals – seriously, I could go on. And don’t EVEN get me started on the playroom.

This should give you an idea of just how highly I value a good basket. If all else fails, buy a basket and give that thing you can’t find a place for its very own place! And a major plus is that they’re a cute way to stay organized. Win-win!

  • Plan Ahead

I already went into more detail about this in my post 5 Things That Make My Days Less Stressful, but planning ahead is huge for staying on top of things when you’re responsible for not only yourself but little ones as well. One of the most important things I do (when I’m being a good organized responsible mommy) is get ready for the next day the night before. Plan outfits, pack lunch, stock the diaper bag (and the snack bags inside) – basically ensure that all we have to do is get up and get ourselves ready and we can head out the door.

Another huge thing for our family is our family calendar. I bought this big dry erase calendar at Target, and the husband hung it on the inside of our pantry door. Every month I fill out my personal planner and then put all of the important activities on this calendar where he and I can both see it. This helps SO MUCH when it comes to he or I planning date nights, meeting up with our friends, his work dinners, weekend activities – before we plan anything, we know we can see our entire schedule here at a glance so we don’t double-book ourselves.

  • Let It Go

This may be the most important thing on the list, and the one I have the hardest time with. When you’ve done all you can do and things are still a hot mess around your house, it’s time to let it go. Just for awhile – maybe just until bedtime or until the next day. But sometimes I will do all I can to keep the house picked up and organized, literally all day long, and still by the time Daddy walks in the door it looks like a bomb went off. All you mamas know that by dinner time you are usually DONE, so the last thing I want to do is clean up another mess. Like I mentioned above, we usually have them pick up the main areas before bed, but some nights that is just a dent in the chaos. So sometimes I really just have to let it go and say I’ll tackle it in the morning. As long as I know the basic organization is taken care of – hence everything having a place and all my many baskets – I know the actual cleaning up won’t be that big of a deal once I’ve gotten a fresh start the next day.

If you’re someone who thrives on staying organized and in control (I can maybe relate), having children can be a super frustrating challenge sometimes – I mean, why do they LOVE to cause so much destruction? Can’t they see how much nicer life would be if everything were just neat and tidy all the time?!? But, we know that the odds of them coming around to our way of thinking are not likely to happen anytime before their 18th birthday, so we can only do so much. Take care of the basic organization around your house, and let the rest go. I promise this is the healthiest approach for maintaining your sanity.

5 Things That Make My Days Less Stressful

Getting out the door every day can be a challenge regardless of your circumstances. If I know there is somewhere I have to be in the morning, my preparation begins the night before. If I don’t plan ahead it’s almost guaranteed that I will end up rushing, frazzled, and yelling at my kids to HURRY. I’ve learned that there are five essential things I need to do in order to make my days as stress-free as possible.

5 Things That Make My Days Less Stressful

  1. Plan Our Outfits

This is maybe my most essential step. Not only do I like to look put together every day, but I like my boys to look cute, too. So if I don’t plan all of our outfits the night before I end up frantically trying to put something together for all three of us and it gets a little out of hand. One thing that has really helped with this is closet dividers. For Grayson’s closet I bought dividers that could be written on, and I labeled them with the days that I know we will be out and about every week. I check the weather on my phone app and plan his entire week in advance. Now that Gavin is moving into actual outfits rather than onesies and leggings every day, I need to get a set of these for his closet as well. I plan my outfits the night before, because my mood changes too frequently to plan too far out.

2. Plan Our Food

My boys like routine when it comes to food, so breakfast is basically the same every single morning. But they are also BIG snackers, so if we are going to be out running around I know I need to have plenty of snacks on hand. They each have their own snack bag that I keep in the diaper bag, and I try to keep them stocked with their favorite healthy snacks. Since Grayson is in preschool three days a week, I typically pack his lunch the night before so we can grab and go in the morning. One aspect of this that I’m working on is actual meal planning for our evening meals – some weeks I do great, others I skip it altogether. I’m a work in progress, people, it’s totally fine!

3. Pack the Essentials

What this means is different depending on the day. On Tuesdays Grayson has preschool and Gavin and I have Bible study, so I make sure Grayson has his lunch and backpack ready to go, my purse is organized and I have my Bible and whatever else I need, and the diaper bag has plenty of diapers, wipes, snacks, extra clothes, etc. On the mornings that I go write at the local Starbucks, the night before I will make sure my laptop bag has my computer, notebook, pens, headphones, and whatever else I need. On the weekends when I know we’ll be away from home all day it’s a bit more extensive. I mainly just try to be prepared for whatever I know is coming up the next day.

4. Pick Up In the Evenings

If I wake up to a messy house I feel like I’m starting my day off on the wrong foot. The evenings are always a bit chaotic with the whole dinner and bedtime routine, so sometimes it’s tempting to skip this, but I always regret it if I do. While I may not get the house sparkling before I go to bed, I at least clean up the dinner mess, put away whatever toys happen to be lying around, throw away any random trash people have left strewn around the house, throw clothes in the hamper, and so on. I don’t actually “clean” in the evenings, more of a quick clean up so I can start the next day right.

5. Allow Plenty of Time

I am so not a morning person, so my natural tendency is to sleep in as late as possible. With kids, that’s not usually an option, but I still like to make sure we will be up with plenty of time to get ready and out the door without losing our minds. During the week I rarely set my alarm, because it would be an absolute miracle if they slept late enough that we couldn’t make it to preschool by 9 AM. But if it’s a weekend or we have something important, I make sure to get up at least an hour and a half before we need to be leaving the driveway. I can get ready myself in about thirty minutes, but that is without children hanging off of me, stopping to hand out snacks or break up rowdy boys, and people interrupting me constantly. Add in the fact that I have two other humans to get ready and you can see why I need the extra time.

While I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to doing every single one of these every day, it’s been proven to me over and over how much smoother life runs when I make an effort to get it all done. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get when it comes to de-stressing my life. What about you – are there any tips or tricks you’d like to share that help with the stress level in your day-to-day routine? Fill us in!