Colleen did a great post recently entitled “The Care and Feeding of A Big Family”. I loved the look inside Colleen’s home and how she makes everything work as a family of nine. Now my family isn’t as big as hers but I thought I would share how my big family makes things work. If you’re not sure what to write about this week, why not share how you care for your family, no matter the size? (With GIFS please!!) I’m so inspired by posts like these that share the nitty-gritty how-tos of family life, and I often get new ideas to streamline what I’m doing in my home. Colleen shared nine areas, but since this is Friday, I’m going to break it down in, what else, SEVEN QUICK TAKES.
1. Keeping everyone fed.
I have gone through various meal planning systems through the years. Currently, I have all our favorite meals compiled in a three-week, Monday through Friday, menu, plus an accompanying grocery list for each week. My shopping day is Friday. Usually right after lunch I pull out the master menu and fill out the menu posted on our fridge with that weeks meals. If last week we ate week two’s meals, this week I fill in week three’s. I have two extra meals where, if I’m feeling creative, I’ll search on my Pinterest board for something new to try, or I’ll just make a note on my shopping list to pick up one or two more dinners (usually I’ll see what meats are on sale). Or I might schedule one evening a delivery night or leftover night. Then I grab the shopping list off the fridge (where everyone in the family is encouraged to write things we need, or items they want, as they run out) plus the week three shopping list. I cross out anything on the pre-prepared list that I know we have and within twenty minutes tops, I’m out the door on my way to Aldi’s. I shop once a week at Aldi’s and then usually once a week, typically Mondays, at Walmart, to buy those things I can’t get at Aldi’s. Some times I’ll have to run out for something I forgot (or say I forgot just so I can get out of the house for a bit alone) but I try to keep it to two trips total in a week. Planning plus keeping a running list on the fridge, keeps me from making unnecessary trips which, living out in the country (at least for Jersey) waste a lot of time that I don’t have. I tend to use Amazon for items I can’t reliably buy locally (certain medical items), stuff I don’t feel like walking around a store and looking for (i.e. very specific craft/clothing items ), or anything I can’t buy at Walmart or Aldi’s (still in love with Spelt flour!).
I cook most everything from scratch, and everyone eats (or doesn’t eat) what is served. Teddy will sometimes get a different option due to dietary restrictions but I make one meal and that’s that.
2. Keeping everyone in clean clothes.
My older three kids all do their own laundry. They’re not on any schedule and I don’t remind them so usually, once they’re out of clothes, or a favorite item smells funky, they will take the initiative and wash their laundry. If I’m working on the boys laundry, I will sometimes move loads around for them, but that’s about it. I don’t nag them about putting their clothes away or picking up dirty laundry off their floors unless I see them loafing around talking about being bored (or we’re having overnight guests).
I launder the boys clothes a couple of times a week plus, Tony and I’s laundry, and any linens I collect on Saturdays. Teaching my older kids to do their own laundry was a GAME CHANGER. I would guess we all have smaller than average wardrobes as well which probably makes it easier to keep on top of laundry. My kids can clean all their clothes in two loads tops (colors and whites separated).
3. Keeping our house from becoming a dung heap.
Most of us are home all day (including my husband who works remotely about three days a week). None of us are in the habit of putting things away promptly, or cleaning things up as soon as we’re finished. As a result, open spaces fill up quickly with stuff. I abhor clutter, but I hate being the only one to pick up. However, everyone is usually good about picking up around the house when I ask, and everything has a place so everyone knows where everything goes. When cleaning for a big party, everyone chips in without complaint, really! I think eventually, we all just had to learn to accept a certain level of chaos in our home. I mean, we live here 24/7, pretty much all on top of each other. We have lots of things we’d rather do than spend time keeping our home immaculate and so, it’s a bit messy at times. Also, I don’t make the kids clean their rooms. The only requirement is that I can walk through their rooms safely at night to get downstairs.
In hindsight, this is one area I wish I would’ve worked on more when the kids were younger, but it’s been a struggle to find a balance. I grew up not needing to pick up or clean regularly and Tony grew up having someone always pick up after him and keep the house tidy. I never knew how much to push the kids, how much to help, and how to make putting things away right away a habit rather than something done when asked.
4. Teaching our kids responsibility.
The older three have a set of chores they do each day, with seasonal variation. Through out the week as I need tasks done, I just ask, usually trying to make sure I have three things I need done at any given time. They do not receive an allowance for these things. For larger jobs, we do offer some payment (which honestly we usually forget to pay.) Having a set time their chores needed to be completed by in order to get screen time seemed to make chores a habit for the kids far better than any other method….and I’ve tried quite a few.
5. Providing activities and socialization for our (poor homeschooled) kids.
When our kids were little, they did very few activities, and usually only if they asked to try something (swim lessons were the exception). Now that our teens have activities they’re passionate about, we’re making the effort to allow them to compete at a higher level. When they graduate, the younger kids will be at the age to really decide where their passions lie, and we’ll make time for their interests then. We found 13/14 to be the age when our kids found strong interests and self motivation to stick with something when it got challenging.
Our screen time policy hasn’t changed much since I wrote this. The older kids do use their tablets more now for listening to music, reading and sending email but none have social media accounts.
How is homeschooling going with two in school? What does a typical day look like any more? I believe those questions will require their own post in the coming weeks. (Updated: Here it is!)
6. Making room for stuff.
Big families have lots of stuff, even if you regularly try to weed out unwanted crap. We all have our own interests and the supplies and equipment that goes with them. Clothes for all seasons, and hand me downs to store. Enough seating for everyone to work, or come together and relax. Plus, we have tons of school material. Lastly, medical supplies!!
So how do we make room for what’s important in our 1,900 sqft house? Here’s a couple of things that occurred to me. It’s not an exhaustive list, but what popped in my head first.
- constant purging from everyone
- limiting items to a dedicated space: if they outgrow the space, you have too many
- a lot of paperwork gets stored online
- lots of wall mounted shelves
- no collections: we don’t take up space with large groupings of similar items that will just gather dust. I had collections growing up and I got rid of them all. If my kids showed an interest in something, I never let people bombard them with tons of say snow globes, music boxes, collector Barbie dolls, etc. Right now we have a slight problem with completed Lego sets but the kids themselves have stopped asking for, and buying, new sets since they know we have no space for additional bricks or display.
- rearrange rooms, and where items are stored, as needs change: I really try to make do with the furniture we have and not buy new storage stuff since in another six months, I might totally rearrange everything and no longer need the new item.
- biggest bedroom to the kids and their stuff, not to Tony and I
- don’t keep packaging
I’ve learned to make peace with all the medical supplies. They are stored all over the house, where ever we have room and I’ve tried to keep the location of each type of supply consistent over the last few years so if I’m not around Tony, one of the kids, or a nurse, can easily find something. Even Fulton and Teddy know where most items are, even if they’ve never seen the exact spot.
7. Special needs
Many people wonder how I manage all the care and appointments for Fulton and Teddy amidst everything else. Certainly, having them in school means I’m getting more time at home to homeschool, pick up, run errands, etc. Fulton’s nurses are a God send. I feel like my life has margins now. Medical appointments usually get scheduled so far in advance, we can work our weeks around them without much thought. The only time the needs of the boys becomes all consuming is when one is sick, hospitalized, or we are facing an insurance problem. The later requires so much back and forth on the phone with so many people it usually become a full time job. But so much of raising Fulton and Teddy is simply habit and routine now. It doesn’t feel like the amount of work most people seem to assume it is, at least not any more. I probably would’ve said otherwise last year at this time. In this regard, I realize that outside help, in our case nursing, makes managing our home so much easier. Your family might not need nursing, but I always recommend moms consider outside help for balancing everything.
How do you feed and care for your family? Write it down then link it up below! Or don’t and just share a regular Quick Takes; that’s fine too! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!