If you have been a stepparent for longer than six months, by now you realize that when you have all of your children together at the same time things can get dirty, unorganized and chaotic in about 2 nanoseconds. Over the past 15 years I have developed some tricks that have helped cut out a lot of it. If you have read my previous blogs, you already know how big and diverse my family is. Not only did I get the man when I said “I do”, I also received his four kiddos. Now that we have two more children together, having a clutter free, organized home is almost unheard of. Here are a couple of things I have learned over the years that have helped immensely. And no, you do not need to be a stepparent to utilize these. Anyone with more than one child can benefit from these small tidbits.
Although it was never mandated that I had to do my stepchildren’s laundry when they were over for visitation, I felt that it was part of my ‘motherly duties’. I wanted my stepchildren to return to their mothers in as good of a condition, if not better, as when we received them. So I always tried to make sure that their laundry was done before they went home. Unfortunately, on one occasion, one of my stepsons had taken home a piece of his brothers clothing. One would have thought that the world was ending! The mother of the child that went home without his clothes called my husband up and cussed him out! Instead of her saying, ‘thanks for trying to help out and keep the laundry up, but unfortunately the clothes were mixed up’ she called him every name but his given one. She was irate that her son’s brother was going to have his pair of pants for two weeks. I vowed then, that I never wanted to have to go through that again. I thought of ways to help myself stay a bit more organized; I bought net bags that were made for delicate clothes. Thankfully each one of my stepchildren had their own favorite color. This helped out in more ways than one over the years! I used their favorites to my advantage. I tied a 2” piece of different colored yarn to each net bag. Even at three years of age the kids knew which bag was theirs because it had their favorite color on it! They were instructed that once they took off their clothes they needed to put them in their own laundry bag. This helped me out a lot! No longer did I have to count on my memory or a 3 year olds memory on which pair of socks they owned! I could just throw them easily into the washing machine and dryer. Once they came out, I would fold each one separately and place them into their bag before I opened the next one. Problem solved!
When the kids were very young they would take baths together. Notoriously one washcloth or towel would be left in the bathroom, either in the tub or on the floor. I noticed this bad habit early on, and decided I had to nip that one quick! I didn’t like the fact that they were all pointing fingers at each other and I couldn’t prove who was right or wrong. I bought each child their favorite character towel with matching washcloth. That was some of the best money I have ever spent! Not only were the kids more eager to take baths, because they were able to use their favorite character, my bathroom was less cluttered too! More importantly, no longer could they blame each other for leaving a towel on the floor. I knew if the Scooby Do towel was on the floor that my oldest stepson was the one to fix it. Even though the kids are older, I have replaced the towels with more ‘pretty’ and ‘handsome’ designs, keeping with the individuality theme.
Unfortunately, I have never had a big bathroom. Finding a spot to hang 6-8 towels with accompanying washcloths was very hard. I tried the hooks over the doors, but those didn’t allow the towels to dry out. They would put the washcloth either under it or on top and instead of the towels drying out, they would just end up musty. My mom reminded me about how she uses a towel rack to dry her delicates on; she thought it would help me out in my situation. She was right! (Like most moms are! ) I bought a collapsible towel rack that has about 10 racks on it. Having more racks gives me space so each towel can be opened to dry out with the washcloth next to it, not on top of it. Also, unlike the hooks that hang on the bathroom door and everyone can see your clutter hanging there, this fits easily into the bathtub, so the shower curtain can be pulled and no one can see the mess!
All of my children were/are involved in some sort of activity. While sports are the major thing, there has been music and art as well. Trying to keep track of all of it used to be a headache! I bought two things that I feel every mother of more than one child needs. A three-ring binder, with dividers, and a dry erase calendar. I use the three-ring binders to keep important papers, sport schedules, doctor apt reminders, etc. in one easy-to-find place. Each divider is color coordinated, so I use each child’s favorite color to help find things quicker. Before I place the papers in the binder, I place the events on our dry erase calendar. This Calendar is like our family’s life line. I keep it on the front of the fridge so it is very visible. I buy fine tip dry erase markers from the local office supply store. I love Wal-Mart, that’s where I bought the calendar years ago, but they only carry the medium tip markers. Those take up too much space, the fine tip allows you to put more on each day. Once again, I capitalize on the fact that each child has their own favorite color . I do not put the child’s name next to the time, everyone knows that if it’s written in your favorite color, that means it pertains to them. For example, tonight my daughter has basketball practice at 430. Instead of writing “4:30 Kiara-basketball at school” I just use her color and write “430 BB”. This really does help when you have 5 different events happening in one day, which happens to us frequently! I use the same approach when it comes to writing down where a sport event is. I just use the appropriate color and write down time and place. If it’s an event that has a lot of details to it, when the day gets closer, I turn to my binder to find out the intricate details. This has helped us out a lot. My husband can glance at the calendar, on the way out the door, and know that if there are two different colors on that particular day, then two of his kids have events somewhere. It helps my kids out too because they know the schedule, generally speaking, a month in advance. I feel it is showing them the importance of organization. It also shows them that I am not simply saying they can’t do something because I am tired. They can look at the calendar and see that I am busy! Even Caleb, my six-year-old, can look at the calendar and know if Mommy had a hectic day. On the flip side, by me being open with my availability, my kids have learned when to ask for a play date or sleepover. They know if my schedule is open their chances are a lot bigger! I know my children will only be little for a short time, so I try to do as much as I can with them. If that means they see I have one day that has nothing on it, which barely, rarely, hardly ever happens, and they want to have a sleep over I’m going to say yes. I’d rather they be with me than away from me…usually…LOL.
Christina Elliott married Marcus Elliott Sr, back in 1998, accepting the role of stepmom to his four children. One could say that only being 21 she had taken on a lot more that she knew; they would be right:) However, that still didn’t stop her from wanting her ‘own’ children, so a few years into the marriage she had a girl and a boy. During her spare time, she went to college and became a RN, all while trusting Jesus to help her through it all. The challenges have been MANY. The stress has been OVERWHELMING. Yet, her PRIDE in her family has been bigger than all of that. Join Christina as she shows you just how many hats she wears. Follow Christina on Twitter: @boomastepma.