Finding order – with a houseful of kids

Yes, I realize that five kids between 18 months and 9 years of age is not a houseful to some, but it is to most.  And I most certainly have felt a big pull to make some strides in the area of organization and planning our days to work better.  When we moved this spring I thought I had this great chance to implement 52 grand ideas on ‘how-we-can-do-things-better’.  Turned out we actually had this great chance to clean out, give away and somehow survive moving.  That was about it.  And it was plenty.

I emailed a few veteran mama friends towards the end of May.  We were (barely) crawling to the finish line and may or may not have finished our grammar work before calling it ‘summer’.  My email went something like this:

I have a lot of small people at my house.  I love them.  They are messy and loud and imperfect (darn it!).  I am feeling pretty overwhelmed.  I want to be able to manage my home better, spend more time doing fun stuff with my kids, train them to help more efficiently and effectively and to PUT THINGS AWAY AFTER GETTING THEM OUT.

So those may be the main bullet points but in reality my honest email was much longer and was a plea for some direction, inspiration and encouragement.  This stage with young ones is just plain hard.  No way around it only one way, through.  I trudged forward and packed our years school materials away for summer and took a deep breath.  There was so much I loved and I am ever so thankful to get to have them with me instead of sending them off every morning.

There were several approaches to getting organized but some basic principles, that I’d seen pay great dividends even when I merely dabbled in them, continued to surface as I searched for ideas and help.  Themes like:

  • get up before your kids and get ready for your day before it gets away from you
  • assign chores to your children, stick with the same ones so they get in a groove and do them well – to learn a good work ethic, everyone needs to learn to help out
  • expect EXCELLENCE – show them what a good job looks like and challenge them to greatness
  • children thrive on structure and routine, it makes them feel safe
  • mom’s need to model discipline and self-control (and sitting on the couch/computer/facebook on a smart phone/etc need serious boundaries)
  • one can schedule and still cultivate free play, creativity and other lovely things (I did not know this, really!)

Early June I wrote a friend (who I knew was struggling in the same ways) and suggested we read and brainstorm how we could plan better and make our life at home with our kids run more smoothly.  She said a quick yes.  We read and made lists and bounced ideas off each other and our husbands and made more lists.  Our goal was to, by summer’s end, have a workable schedule for our entire days during the (home)schooling year.  We would meet up late August and spend a few hours (celebrating her birthday) and hashing out all the details to form our many lists and thoughts into a master family schedule.

Today was the big day.  We woke with the sun and I drove a long ways while she took a ferry across the water to get to our meeting place.  After a hearty breakfast we broke out the gelly roll pens, the mechanical pencils, the plethora of lists, big erasers and a lot of determination.  We spent hours working and planning (and talking).  I think I drank 4 cups of coffee and 6 glasses of ice water and 2 mugs of tea.

We interrupted each other a few dozen times and erased what we’d written more times than that.  Though this part seemed hard, it was easy compared to the work ahead.  We have patterns that need changing, habits that need breaking and it won’t be a piece of cake for sure.  In a few weeks, I’ll be sure to post again and update on how the implementation all went down.  I expect it to be more than rocky.  But we will persevere and adjust when needed.  For now, we’re soaking in these summer days and spending every extra minute at the fair and in the sun!


Mary Frances King

Good for you Karissa! I thought I would pass along the blog of my best friends sister who has 9 children, home-schools them all, and is one of the most godly organized women I know. I feel like I’m always gleaning some tid-bit for the future or present day and thought you might find some encouragement from her too. Hope your adjustments go smoothly and that you see much fruit from it! Here’s the link-


Thanks Mary Frances, I used to read that blog – there are some good ideas for sure.

Hope you are enjoying your precious boys, have enjoyed crossing paths this summer with various members of your fam!

Sarah Nap

I am so looking forward to hearing how it is going. We are in the same stage of life and I am trying to nail down how this year is going to happen. Finding the best way for us to add more consistent chores and routine is going to be essential to this years success. It all started with compiling this years schedule of activities, pulling together ideas for streamlining dinner, and reinstituting meal time chores the last few days. I am always do interested and inspired to hear how others manage the “chaos:)”. Keep us posted.


Hi Sarah! Yes, “consistent chores” is like an oxymoron around here but it is critical to a smoothly run household. On my planning day (and over the weeks prior) I listed every single chore that needed doing, how often and who was capable of doing it. Then I assigned them all out. But HOW to get them done is the last piece. I’ve been holding out on buying the chorganizer material (which I’ve read great reviews of) because a friend of my has developed her own chore system and I’m attending the launch party for it this weekend, if it looks like it will work for us, I’m going to go for it and give it a shot. I will totally update along the way!