When we had our 4th child, things got real. Not that they weren't real before, but adding another person + the combination of my oldest starting first grade made for a very demanding life. I now had "big" kids and little kids and a baby!
I had to get to 2 different schools during the day (preschool and big kid school). I had to wake up in the night with a newborn and set my alarm clock early to get everybody up for school. And don't even get me started on feeding all these people. The demands seemed merciless, especially those early newborn days. And honestly, it is still pretty challenging as we enter the toddler phase and the increasing homework load!
One day I took a step back and said what (WHAT on earth???!) can I do lighten my situation? I likened it to a business meeting, the kind where you would call your team in and discuss ways to make the company run smoother. What can we cut? What can we do better? How can we be more efficient? What can I streamline?
The list below is what I came up with...not in one sitting, but over the course of 6 months or so. This is the list I would give my younger, totally overwhelmed self. This is a similar list I gave to a friend and fellow mom of 4 not too long ago when she said "Help! Do you have any ideas? I'm drowning."
1 - hire some help
If you can afford to hire any sort of help - do it. We found a wonderful cleaning lady to come every other week. My husband said, "Let's view this expense like a utility." Re-framing it like that really helped me get over the expense. It's necessary for making our home run more smoothly.
Hired help could also be in the form of babysitting or yard work or even allowing yourself to get take out a couple nights a week without guilt.
2 - paper plates
Paper plates = less dishes to wash. I mostly use paper plates for dinner if the dishwasher is already full.
3 - auto draft your bills
If you are the family bookkeeper, you can save yourself so much time by putting your bills on auto draft. Most all utility companies and mortgage companies provide this option.This is a precious hour or two I can use for other purposes each month.
4 - Amazon subscribe and save
Dog food and diapers. Toilet paper. The things that you do not want to ever be without...sign up for a subscription through Amazon. You will never be desperate, loading all your kids up at 5pm to go buy diapers. What a nightmare!
I especially like this for lager items because they take up so much room in the grocery cart.
5 - shoe station
Corral all your kids' shoes and put them in one spot. This way, the shoes are easy to find and it's easy for your kids to put them away.
6 - uniform basket (or church clothes or swim stuff basket)
Similar to the shoe station, keeping school uniforms or church clothes in one basket makes it so much easier to get everyone dressed! This will save you from running to all 4 corners of the house frantically searching for your son's brown belt and your daughter's navy blue leggings. It's all in one spot.
In the summer, I keep all our swim suits in one basket together, not in individual drawers and rooms.
7 - prepackaged snacks
A granola bar never hurt anyone. Embrace prepackaged snacks, especially if you have to pack school lunches - a few prepackaged items can give you so much peace. We also found that letting our kids raid the snack cabinet on the occasional Saturday morning gives the adults a little extra time to sleep.
8 - if you have a baby, teach them to love their pack n' play
Teach your baby to spend a little time in the pack n' play each day. This is so helpful. Sometimes you need to unload the dishwasher quickly and efficiently without your 1 year old getting involved.
Just this morning, I put Caroline in her pack n' play with a puzzle while I did my make up and put some laundry away. She's 19 months old, a very active, never sitting still 19 months!
9 - quit something
There's a saying that I love "Why do today what you can throw out altogether?" Is there something you can quit, at least for a season while you're stressed, while you have 4 babies under the age of 6?
If there is something in particular that you dread and it totally frazzles you and it doesn't seem worth it - quit!
4 year old t-ball
Wednesday night church
It's not mandatory!
You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
One thing I quit doing was taking meals to new mom friends. Sorry new mom friends. I love you. Right now, it about kills me to take a meal to somebody. So I quit and I can take this up again when I don't have a toddler literally under my feet 24/7.
10 - Rest
Two nights ago, Stephen and I stayed up until midnight thoroughly enjoying ourselves, watching our new show. The next day - unproductive and monster - are the two words that best described myself. I felt terrible. I had a headache. I over ate. I yelled. I was horrible, all because I did not get enough sleep.
Sleep is vital. Everything is better when you are rested. Aggressively developing good sleep habits is worth the effort! And sure, the occasional late night indulgence of TV happens. But it's not the norm.
Good sleep = better performance in parenting, in adulting, in everything!
How do you streamline?
I'm always looking for new ideas?