With summertime, comes less of a need for order in the home because life is more relaxed and not so scheduled. I love summer because there is nowhere to be and there is no rushing around to beat the clock. We all know that a laid back approach to life is good and refreshing for a family. The cycle of life teaches us however that the short time given to us for relaxing is to prepare us for the demanding seasons ahead.
As school is fast approaching, so is the need for structure and systems that work for you and your busy family. Home needs to be a place where we make it possible for ourselves, our spouse, and our children to make it successfully out the door. And by successful I mean, good attitudes, car keys in hand, and the right gear needed for the day… all before 8am. The world is going to fire its own challenges and obstacles our way the second we step foot outside. Let’s try and make the experience of preparing for the day, within the home, a peaceful one. This will require a little work, but it will go a long way for you and your family.
First evaluate the needs for your family. No matter what age children, or how many children you have, some sense of structure is good for any family. Since my children were babies, I lacked in the structure department. Set bedtimes? Whenever we got home. Scheduled feedings? They will let me know when they are hungry. Play dates? We weren’t invited because we couldn’t commit. I guess I always knew there would be a time that schedules would be demanding and there would be a huge need for structure, but I wanted to delay that until it was absolutely necessary. This summer is the first time it hit me. I can now say, we need structure and we need goals. And as only this professional procrastinator can do, I am putting on my game face and I am ready for the challenge… kind of.
Now just because Mama is ready doesn’t mean the kids are. It is going to require patience on my part to not cave in to the moans and groans that come out of my children’s mouths because they don’t like the idea of schedules. Now that my kids are older and they all communicate with me, I can see beyond the whining and realize their little minds and hearts need purpose. They just don’t know it yet. So whether it is one on one reading time, picking up their rooms, or putting their backpacks and lunch boxes in the correct spot when they get home- in the beginning make it fun and rewarding so they long to do it. Eventually you can stop rewarding them and it will become habit, just like potty training.
Your job as the maker of your home is to designate specific areas and assign a purpose to each space. This will help your children become little helpers so you aren’t doing it all by yourself. You can create these spaces in your home to be aesthetically pleasing instead of an eyesore. For instance, if you are tired of lost homework, backpacks, and shoes, come up with an area where your kids know where to put everything the second they walk into the door. All you need is a blank wall in the hallway or a mudroom and you are ready to create this catch-all nook. Hooks are great for jackets, bags and lunchboxes. Labels are a cute way to designate what goes where. You can simply print out cute labels with fun fonts and place it in a small frame and then hang it on the wall. Another fun idea is to buy a small frame and paint it a fun color; after the paint, remove the frame backing and the glass, then paint a small section of your wall with chalkboard paint and place the frame over it. Now the space is cute and functional. The last item you need is baskets. Shallow baskets are good so your child can place his homework and any important papers you need to see from school. This will be a teamwork effort between you and your child. Larger baskets are necessary for shoes, hats and gloves.
This same idea you can use in other areas of your home as well. We all know closets, playrooms, and the pantry are a recipe for disaster once the children touch it. Labeled baskets and containers help clear the clutter. Create the same type of system you did for their school stuff in these other spaces so your children take responsibility and do their share in the home.
The hardest part in all of this is the last step, implementation. As the school year goes on and things get a little more hectic we grow lax in our expectations and we stop doing the very thing that is most important when it gets busy. Sadly, I do really well at organized systems for about two weeks and then I guess subconsciously I get bored with the concept and move on. It’s only until I am going through a mental breakdown halfway into the year that I realize I should have kept the structure going. Don’t do this. Learn from my mistakes and keep implementing the systems even when you get tired because it will pay off!
At first, you will feel like the mean guy who is barking orders at people, however once these rules turn into family habits, you won’t know what to do with all your spare time. Ok, maybe it won’t be that dramatic but I guarantee you will have a sense of peace in your household that comes when a family is focusing on each other and loving well rather than scrambling, yelling, and avoiding being late every day. Before school starts this year, think ahead. Challenge yourself to create inspiring spaces so your family will thrive. The reward is gaining more time as a family and less time dealing with the mess so you can enjoy all things that are truly home.
written for the Wacoan Magazine