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Redefining Home Management

Monthly Archives: June 2013

Family Command Center

It seems amazing that I have yet another very important function in our laundry/mudroom to share!  I guess I never realized how long this series would be, but I hope you are finding a little inspiration!

 

The last area in the mudroom that I’m going to share with you is our command center wall.

 

 

This is where we stash most of the stuff that is constantly coming in and out of the house with us, landing on the kitchen counter and causing constant clutter!  This wall is right inside the door into the house from the garage – the door we almost always use as a family.

 

Some of you may remember seeing photos of this wall inthis post about how we control all the papers our kids bring home from school, church…  I won’t go through that system again in detail, but here are the basics…

 

 

We have two sets of these wall files – the Brocade Wall File from The Container Store.  The lowest set (where Addi & Carter can reach them) are for their school papers.  They place their homework in their folders and papers we want to save are put behind the folders in the wall file bin.  They are easy to access as soon as they get home from school, and they are very visible every morning when they leave – to make sure they don’t leave their homework at home!

 

 

The second set of wall files is for incoming mail that we haven’t gone through yet and papers for Jase.  Jase doesn’t need to be able to reach his file yet, but I imagine I will move things around when Carter gets taller and Jase enters grade school.  The mail file is for the items we haven’t opened yet.  Sometimes we will throw mail in the file because we don’t have time to look through it, and sometimes Jason or I will take out what we need and then leave items for the other one.  I love that boundary – surprise right?!?!?  This means that we have to deal with our mail fairly often, but not every day.  Until we sort everything it doesn’t pile up on our counter – which can be disastrous as you all know!

 

When the mail comes in the door, we do usually throw the obvious trash away immediately and we stash new catalogs and magazines in this basket in the bathroom – for you know, a little light reading.  🙂

 

 

We also hang our keys on this wall.  I found these adorable bird hooks at The Container Store.  I originally thought they were too expensive, but then realized they are a pack of three – not bad and I Love Them!

 

 

The bottom side of the bird’s neck has a strong magnet that holds keys.  Jason and I both put our keys here when we walk in the door, and there is a set of extra van keys.  It is so nice to know where your keys are, and where your spouse’s are.  If we trade cars on say Girl’s Night Out and he is asleep when I get home, I just put his keys on a bird hook and he knows right where to find them in the morning for work – although he might leave before I get up and we might not even see each other.  This is good for our marriage!  😉

 

I also love the bird beaks!  The beak has a little slit in it for holding envelopes.  When a bill or letter needs to be taken to the mailbox you can just slip it in the birds mouth, and it is super visible when you head out the door.  Grab & Go – Love It!!

 

Next is our family calendar.  Our “master calendar” is my planner that I carry with me everywhere.  Yes, I use an old school paper & pen planner.  My brother gave me a very nice leather one for my high school graduation and I have used it ever since.  Not that I graduated that long ago or anything, but I’ve used it for a few years now.  😉  However, I am the only one that has access to my planner, so it is helpful to have the family calendar on the wall too.

 

 

When I originally hung this calendar it was because my husband never has any idea what our family schedule is, and I thought it would be helpful for him to have access to it on a regular basis.  He has a work calendar at work, but doesn’t keep anything for the rest of his life.  We kinda have this, he calls me and I tell him where to be kind of relationship.  It works fine most of the time, but not always.

 

So, I added this handy little calendar right by the door where he enters and exits every day. I only include information that is relevant to the family as a whole; evening and weekend events, things during the day for the kids’ schools that Jason plans to attend, or my appointments that he needs to be home to watch the kids for.  Super handy right?!  Um, no!  He still has to ask me for our family schedule – yep, not effective in its original intent.  However, I find it really helpful to have a quick spot to glance at what our family life looks like.  I actually love it, but not for the reasons I thought I would – which I’m totally ok with.

 

The board itself is a super cheap, framed, dry erase calendar that I believe I got at Target.  I couldn’t find one with a white frame – which I find very odd!  So, I simply spray painted the frame white to tie in with our brocade wall files.

 

 

Below the calendar is a magnetic strip, also from The Container Store.  This strip is handy for postcards and invitations of upcoming events.  Sometimes I need to save more details than the time and date information on the calendar above.  I also have a little magnetic pen holder from the same brocade line as our wall files.  It sticks right to the magnetic strip, and holds a small pad of sticky notes, two dry erase pens and an ink pen.  I can quickly add to our calendar, or leave a quick note on the wall – something I need to take with me the next day, an errand I need to run, a phone number or address I need for the following day…

 

You will commonly hear professional organizers warn against allowing paper piles to accumulate on horizontal surfaces, because the piles just spread wider and taller until they are completely overwhelming and unmanageable.  This wall has been awesome in cutting back on our paper clutter that could otherwise accumulate on our kitchen island just beyond the mudroom walls.  We do have another paper sorting and filing system in our office that I will cover in a post someday, but this command center wall is the first line of defense in controlling our paper clutter!

Laundry Day

After all of this talk about my laundry room, I feel like it is only fitting that I end the series with a little description of how I go about doing laundry for my family of five. I have found over the last few years that there are a lot of different methods for handling all the laundry out there, and sharing our ideas can be really helpful!

 

One night last fall, I gathered with a couple of friends for girl’s night.  We have made a habit of regular Girl’s Night Out, (which I highly recommend!) but this particular night a friend’s husband was gone so we went to her house.  As we were talking she moved her basket of clean socks to fold onto the floor and commented on how much she hates folding socks.  She had mentioned this to me before, and I always thought it a bit odd.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy any part of doing laundry but I’ve never thought folding socks was worse than any other part of the whole process.

 

As we sat and chit-chatted we all realized we should just help her fold that basket of socks, so it was off her “to-do” list.  Literally a half-hour later the four of us were still folding socks!!!  I realized why this friend despised folding her family’s socks.  Her three children are similar in age and all of those darn socks looked the same.  We were literally laughing out loud by the end, at how hard it was for four moms to find a matching pair of socks!

 

Now, this friend is one of the most intelligent women I know, this was not a matter of intellect.  She simply hadn’t ever set out to buy different colored socks for each kid.  We decided that night that she needed to throw all of those white socks away and go buy socks with different colored toes for each child.  She is also very wise with money, so I’m not sure that she threw away those perfectly good white socks, but I started to realize how the every day tasks of motherhood are approached so differently by us all.  Some of us have figured out socks, others know how to turn any kind of meat and two cans of anything into a delicious crock-pot meal.  This is why I love a good blog, the ability to share what we’ve each figured out, so we can lighten each others’ load!

 

So with that long story for an introduction, here is how I approach laundry day in an attempt to maximize it’s efficiency so I can get on with the fun things in life!

 

I start by separating all of the kids clothes into piles in the hall upstairs – fancy I know!  I just take each of their hampers in the hall and throw clothes back and forth into their piles.  I can easily talk a child into helping me with this part, since it is one time I am actually requesting that they throw something from one end of the room to the other!

 

 

Their laundry gets divided into five basic piles.  (I have to add that my loads are often much larger than each of these! and sheets and towels are not pictured here.)  The piles are…

 

1.  Pajamas

2.  White / very light colors

3. Light to medium weight dark fabric (usually shirts & dresses)

4. Heavy weight dark fabrics  (usually pants & sweatshirts)

5.  Linens

 

I sort into these piles for a couple of reasons.  To start, I need at least four loads of laundry to make everything fit in the washing machine!  The next couple of reasons are probably things your mother taught you, but I’ll share anyway.

 

1.  I sort by color to avoid fading and color transfer.

2.  I sort by fabric type to keep heavy items like jeans and things with zippers from snagging, tearing or damaging thinner and more delicate fabrics. I really think this keeps the kids’ clothes looking much nicer, much longer.

3.  I sort by fabric weight to avoid shrinkage.  It isn’t really the heat of the dryer that causes shrinkage it is the absence of moisture.  So, when a lightweight t-shirt is dry, but the dryer is still going to finish drying a damp, heavy sweatshirt – the lighter t-shirt shrinks.

 

Now for the BIG reason why I sort clothes like I do – it makes putting clothes away so much easier and faster!  Since our laundry room is downstairs I have to haul laundry up & down to wash and put it away.  I also find it hard sometimes to put clothes away because when I am home and have time, kids are asleep in their rooms.  So, a while back I started piling all of the kid’s laundry in the basket as I wash it and then making them help me put it away.  Now I would love to say that I started having them help to teach them responsibility and help them understand the concepts of caring for our home & being a part of a family.  Really, I just don’t want to put their laundry away!

 

As I fold each load of laundry I sort items by child and place them in a stack.  Since my heavy weight/dark load is basically pants and a a few sweatshirts it is easy to sort by kid as I fold.  I then lay each kid’s pile on the bottom of the laundry basket, without stacking piles of clothes that belong to two different kids on top of each other.

 

 

As I wash p.j.’s I do the same thing, sorting into one pile for each kid as I fold.  I then stack p.j.’s on top of each child’s pile of pants.

 

 

Most of the lightweight/dark load items are things that we hang in their closets.  So, I lay shirts & dresses flat in one pile per kid to take upstairs.  I make a folded pile of any additional pants, etc. in the load as well.  (i.e. my daughter’s leggings are usually in the light fabric load)

 

 

Last, items that need to be put on hangers are laid out flat on top of all the folded piles.

 

 

Once all the loads are done, I make my kids help me put their piles away.  I take the basket back to the hallway outside their rooms.  Each child is handed their clothes to hang and they lay them on their bed.  Then they come back and get their stack of p.j.’s and put them away  They return for their stack of pants and put them away….  In a few minutes  the laundry basket is empty!  The kids then finish up with their hanging clothes.

 

I go to my littlest man’s room to hang his shirts while he puts away undies, pants and p.j.’s.  He sometimes needs a little help with pants, but otherwise he can handle the folded stuff now that he is 3!  My daughter can do everything except skirts (the hangers are hard for her). My oldest can do it all solo!

 

This may seem like a crazy simple post to some of you.  But, I have had conversations about laundry with many moms over the years.  It can be so overwhelming to fold and sort and put away all of the laundry our families create on a weekly basis.  I really think sorting and ordering clothes before you wash them and as you fold them makes the process so much faster, and way less overwhelming.  You are breaking the sort process into two simple steps, when you have to handle each individual item anyway.

 

For example, if I washed all kinds of dark clothes in one load, I could be sorting p.j.’s, pants, dresses and shirts for 3 different kids while folding one load of laundry.  That is 12 different piles, not counting socks & undies!  The way I sort I usually only have 3 piles per load – much better.

 

This process also helps with the expectation that my young kids put their own laundry away.  It is simple for them to get a stack of p.j.’s to put in their p.j. drawer, followed by pants for that drawer, and unfolded items to hang….  They can’t complain they aren’t sure where stuff goes – I’ve already made it pretty clear!

 

Other random thoughts…

1.  I have talked to many moms that just make each child’s clothes a separate load.  This is also a great way to limit the sorting issues.  The only reason I don’t do this is because I like to sort by color & fabric weight too.

2.  If you have two or more kids that are the same gender and similar in age consider purchasing socks & undies that make laundry day easier.  i.e.  Buy socks that have patterns or toe colors, and don’t buy the same socks in different sizes.  Avoid plain white socks, as my story humorously advised!

 

I’m sure you all have lots of ways you simplify laundry day as well.  Please, share what makes laundry easier for you too.  I’d love to do a follow up of this post with all of your great tips!  I know you have them!!!