Efficiency is one of my weird obsessions. I’m not always perfect about it, but efficiency and ease of use are something I think of daily. In general, anything that you do often can be broken down into an efficient “system”. Being a mom means handling the lives of everyone else and the family as a whole. The expectation that mothers not only nurture 24/7 but also manage a modern household, often as well as working outside of the home is outdated and can end right now. MOMS ARE TIRED FOR A REASON. IT’S A BIG GODDAMN JOB.
I believe strongly that mom’s do need a break, but that is not something everyone can afford. Time is fleeting for all of us. An easy way to take control of time and to literally create more of it, is to build efficient systems into your life’s routine. Simple habits like making school lunches the night before become key parts to being effective with your time and using it in the best possible way. Here are some habits that keep my home running smoothly thus allowing for more time to blaze up.
Habits of a Well-Run Home
1. A communication hub
Find one area in the home that everybody has regular access to and set up a communication hub there. It doesn’t have to be fancy, large, or gorgeous. It should communicate basic information to the rest of the family. Mine is essentially just a calendar hanging off of the refrigerator. There is a pocket on it where I can even store loose paper. Things to consider keeping in the communication hub:
- The month and weeks schedule (the family calendar)
- Signed papers for school
- Pizza place coupons
- Box tops for fundraising
- Ongoing shopping list
- Chore chart
- Emergency phone numbers
- Kids artwork
Another excellent resource to keep in the communication center is a household binder. Browse Pinterest for ideas, but it’s really not complicated. Binders are an underused organizational tool that can store tons of paper in an organized way, all while taking practically zero space. Plus it’s portable, and excellent for emergencies.
Here are some things in my household binder:
- The school districts yearly calendar in the front cover sleeve
- Copies or originals of birth certificates, passports, and social security numbers
- Divorce documents, parenting plan, custody papers, marriage certificate
- Vet history, breeder information,
- Home insurance documents, important receipts, past tax documents
- Vaccination records, prescriptions and medication doses
- Safe deposit box key
2. Plan the weeks meals in advance
Feeding children can be a lot of work. Early on in my adult life I learned to plan my meals a week in advance. You don’t have to go all out, like purchasing meal planning subscriptions, or never eating out, or never being spontaneous. But if you really want to avoid multiple trips to the store, last-minute meals out, and forgetting to defrost the roast, it’s important to have a schedule. Plan one week at a time. Some people will shop for two weeks, this doesn’t work for me because I have four kids who never stop snacking. No matter how much food I put in the house during week one, it’ll be gone by week 2. I prefer to take one trip every week. The first trip of the month is a big one where I stock up on everything, including non-grocery items. The next week’s trip is a supplemental one to get fresh produce and pick up things I may have forgotten or not planned for.
Every week (preferably on the same day) give your kitchen a good look-over, and then make a meal plan for the following week that uses what you have on hand. Once the meal plan is in place you can write out your grocery list. Which brings us to;
3. Have a list in the kitchen for when stuff runs out
Such a simple solution that will save trips to the store, buying duplicates and thinking you have something when in fact all you have is an empty box that was not discarded. Keep a simple sheet of paper somewhere in the kitchen and
encourage force everyone to scribble out what they used the last of.
4. Store “like” items together
My favorite, the Kindergarten Classroom Organization philosophy. A family household should try to store items in category groups. Our brains really respond to this, kids totally understand it, and anyone who has read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, knows that it’s just a good practice to maintain. Some possible stations to set up:
- Homework station- pencils, sharpener, paper, ruler, pen, light, and quiet.
- Arts and crafts station- drop-cloths, paint trays, recyclables, construction paper, art supplies, kid scissors and glue.
- Downstairs hair brushing station- detangling spray, detangling brush, lots of hair ties, clips and bobby pins.
- Morning Station- coffee maker, coffee, grinder sugar, cups, breakfast breads.
- Outdoor toys station- the dumping area for those bug encrusted things.
- Baking station- sprinkles, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, decorations, candles, cupcake liners.
- Lunch packing station- a basket in the fridge and pantry. Put up sign if necessary “FOR MOM’S HANDS ONLY”.
- Charging station- especially if family members need their devices for school and work. Having my kids laptops and devices charged daily are my responsibility.
- Library book station, a “none of this stuff is ours” station, a well-stocked laundry station, a STONER STATION! The possibilities are endless.
5. Shared responsibility
One of my favorite things about being married to David, is that he doesn’t expect me to cook on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or sometimes even Monday. Because he knows those days are often my “off duty mom” days, he doesn’t like me to have to cook. He picked up early on that handling all the dinner preparing responsibility stressed me out. So he made it clear I was not expected to cook a single meal those days, so I can write, write, write.
Now, I know I am very lucky to have help with a task that challenges me, but I do believe that your partner should share at least some of the household responsibilities. Maybe it’s not cooking, maybe their cooking is so crappy that you don’t want their help. Either way, every parent has one chore that they strongly dislike doing, at least more than the other. I highly urge you to figure out what you hate doing, and to try to defer that crap to someone else asap. It’s not fair that one person needs to be in charge of a household. You have to enlist help in every way that you can. That means giving your partner some responsibilities and teaching your children to clean up after themselves. I’m particularly bad at doing that by the way. I tend to pick up everything for my kids. I do recognize it’s time to start enforcing more responsibility for them.
6. Peaceful mornings
Everyone benefits from having peaceful mornings. A morning environment of quiet and peace sets the tone for the day, specifically for those first critical hours that happen before noon. Those hours are perfect for getting everyone’s most important tasks done and in our classrooms both math and language arts happen before noon.
Make having a peaceful morning a PRIORITY and a RULE for the family. Being late, not following orders, throwing last-minute fits and acting in general like spoiled cats is disrespectful to my home and the other members of my family. TEACH THIS to your children. Bad behavior like that affects the other children and makes your mornings hell. As much as you possibly can, promote the family home as a sanctuary for all we love.
If you need a morning makeover, check out this post.
7. Dinner together
Kids need to have dinner as a family. This basic interaction has such important ramifications for the human spirit. Train the family to connect sustenance with family. Our family nourishes us, as does the food. Nourishment comes in the form of food for our bodies and companionship for our souls. You don’t have to have amazing conversations. You can excuse the children after their insulting three bites. Have your phone nearby, let the bookworm read, I don’t care. But get everyone at the table for dinner, as much as you possibly can. The real reason I love this habit is because it’s daily forced interaction, and because it’s been implemented since the beginning, it will be no shocker to future non-interacting teenagers that I expect their asses in their dinner chair every night. Boom.
8. A regular tech blackout
It’s about their sleep, which is possibly the most important function for the human to be healthy and succeed. Using our devices around bedtime is harmful for sleep and I truly believe it can make kids nasty and rude. At a certain point during the bedtime routine, have putting the tech to bed for the night a part of the ritual. This is a nice time to check their history, look for updates and manage storage, things you should be doing anyway as a modern-day parent. You are setting a great example of positive, responsible tech use, something that is becoming hugely important in our world.
9. A bedtime routine
In my opinion a bedtime routine is mandatory for children. They need routine. More than anything else they need love, and stability. A routine shows them that stability, and builds a sense of trust in the world. Kids are remarkable. What their bodies and brains are doing in any given moment is fascinating and a miracle to me. From a completely hairless and helpless infant to the preteen whose brain is constantly developing, to teenaged years when they are predisposed to staying up late and sleeping as much as possible. I know the importance sleep has for them, so I guard it ferociously now that we have it figured out.
A bedtime routine is also great for adults. For us, the nightly routine helps with insomnia, stress, depression and motivation. You can train your brain to “power down” and be ready for sleep simply by creating a bedtime routine just for that purpose. Stick to it for a several nights until your body begins to show signs of adjusting. Here is mine, the same every night:
- Monitor children’s bedtime routine and then put them to bed. For me this includes reading time with both individually, laying down with Elizabeth until she is snoring, and then briefly staying with Victoria in the dark, talking about stuff, and then letting her fall asleep on her own.
- hang out in the kitchen with hubby, smoking the peace pipe and making lunches for the next day. We often listen to a podcast together during this time.
- Shower and shave (shaving your body in the evening when you are retaining less water is a little easier on the skin.)
- More peace pipe smoking. Sometimes watching a show with hubs. During this time I always look over the next days schedule and make mental notes.
- Small snack and taking pills
- Tooth brushing and flossing
- Read (I read on an iPad, thus breaking my tech blackout rule. For me the tradeoff is worth it, especially since the newest ios version has a f.lux type feature.)
I used to suffer from what I thought was normal, female insomnia. You know, the fact that we as an entire gender can’t stop worrying and thinking.<– old Wanda Sykes routine. Have to watch an ad first. I saw this on Comedy Central as a kid and never forgot it!) Ever since implementing cannabis and a happy bedtime routine into my life, I sleep like a baby every night.
Remember stoners, this life is ours alone. Don’t squander it, don’t waste it, and don’t let it slip by without noticing. Hope you find some of these tips helpful!
xxxooo The Stoner Mom