Chaos Coordination: Tips for Managing the Family Hub

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organizeHead Domestic Engineer. Executive Household Coordination Expert. Magician. Take your pick. No matter the title, mothers are scrambling to meet the demands of their unofficial jobs. But the start of school marks new beginnings, and if you’re like me, it feels like a perfect time for organizational resolutions—New Year’s 2.0.

So, where to begin? Managing the family hub is a formidable feat. My advice as Director of Chaos Management is this: Keep it simple. Any effort to streamline efficiency and maximize effectiveness cannot be more complicated than the tasks at hand. No one can gracefully juggle a hundred tasks at once, but over time, we can learn to keep a few balls in the air at a time without dropping them all.

In a family of ten, things can get dicey, and without intentional organization, the train easily derails. To avoid a few train wrecks of your own, consider one of these strategies to keep on track.

Plan to plan.

No matter where you fall on the organizational spectrum, shift a little closer to list-making, calendar-keeping, and organizational nerd. Don’t rely on your internal management software to keep tabs on it all. After a sorrowful and sappy break-up with my paper calendar system, I am in a committed relationship with our color-coded family calendar. It’s on my phone and shareable with anyone (and everyone) who has a device. I don’t over-communicate with incessant reminders, and it holds the big kids responsible. Establish a non-negotiable time to add and update the calendar daily.

My system starts with scanning email. I even include daily to-do lists in my calendar so I don’t forget to make phone calls, set appointments, or locate a good chicken salad recipe. Then, I rinse and repeat with paper piles and social media reminders. Plan to plan every day. It can be accomplished with a cup of coffee and about three reheats with a little practice.

Add an hour.

Please don’t hate on this quite yet. Adding just one hour (or 30 minutes) on the front end of your day makes all the difference. End-of-day is sans boundaries. But believe me, when I say, NO ONE bothers me at 5:30 AM. I am up, dressed, and morning ritual-ready before the sound of the first pitter-patter. The day starts under my terms, and by the time kids are ready for me, the day’s business is well on its way.

Meet as a family.

We usually designate Sunday to gather the flock and hash out logistics. It helps avoid last-minute disasters if we have time to figure out when we’re short-staffed, need a carpool, require meals on the run, or have big projects due. My husband and I share our weeks, too, especially when it involves travel or important meetings that may create added stress. Begin with the end in mind.

Meal plan…ish.

I don’t have the time and energy to make and freeze a bunch of food every weekend. But, I try to have five dinners in mind that meet the week’s demands. And when I do make a meal like homemade soup or lasagna, I make a double batch. I can get two meals with far less than double the effort. In summer, I summon my inner farm girl by freezing fruit and veggies that are in season. I put up enough peaches, blueberries, sweetcorn, and green beans each year to supply months of grab-and-go side dishes. We also buy a side of beef at a time; I can pull together just about anything with a pound of ground beef. Shop and Divide. To keep lunchbox goodies from disappearing by Monday, I keep a shelf in my pantry that is off-limits except for packing lunch. Special ingredients I need for dinners have a special spot too. That way, no one polishes off the chocolate chips I need for Thursday’s dessert.

Keep the machine running.

The washing machine, that is. I don’t have the luxury of a designated laundry day. With about four loads a day, I am mindful to keep the machine going throughout the day and put in a load before I head to bed. It keeps us in clean underwear and makes Mount Laundry manageable.

Check the mail.

I can’t deal with a stack of growing clutter on the counter. Physical clutter equals mental clutter. I check the mail every day and recycle it. Bam! No piles of stress staring at me.

Purge on Fridays.

There is nothing worse than discovering a leaking three-day-old curdled yogurt. As tired as I am on a Friday afternoon, I make an effort to completely empty book bags, lunchboxes, and gym bags. I also deal with the onslaught of newsletters. That way, I avoid Monday morning surprises.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by over-scheduling.

Routines with expectations and rewards are keys to hub management. But as the Chief Family Officer, I try not to freak out when it doesn’t work. Don’t abandon a full cart at Kroger just to make it home for 2 PM nap time. Think of your day in terms of what needs to be accomplished with suggestions or rough estimates for timing. Carpool, carpool, carpool. Avoid duplicating transportation efforts—buddy up with fellow team moms or schoolmates to work smarter, not harder. Share the burden, and don’t be shy to ask for help when you need it.

There you have it, Dynamom. Whether your family hub runs on spreadsheets or a wing and a prayer, keep your systems sustainable. XXOO … K.I.S.S… Keep it Simple, Sister!

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