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
school volunteering

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?


  1. Oh how I love this post! We too re-hired cleaning help to come every other week after a year-long hiatus for budgetary purposes that about killed me. I'm never more cheerful than every other Tuesday when my helpers come!!! Outfits are set out for myself and both girls after naptime each day for the next day. My 3-year old lays her outfit our herself, fireman style on the floor, and I've given up caring about matching. Coffee is programmed the night before. We quit our church's little spirit choir bc it involved waking two babies from their naps and driving 20 minutes each way during the witching hour during the time I should be cooking dinner. I also quit a monthly ladies' bunko group which I enjoyed but the once a year I had to host involved tons of prep work and woken screaming babies during the event (which involves a cowbell) and the socialization benefits were totally outweighed by the inconveniences.My newest help is ordering our groceries online and picking them up at our grocery store! They even load them into the car for me! It's a $10 shopping fee but I'm still finding I spend about what I do while shopping in-store because it forces me to stick to my list and eliminates impulse shopping. Pizza Fridays are also my saving grace, and the vegetable is the tomato sauce! No side dishes!! These are my favorite posts, thank you!

  2. Yep! I totally relate to this, too. With almost 6 kids in the house, I can't make meals for other people, either, right now. We can't do Wednesday night church. Oh, my. It was so, so hard to do that every week. And the lady that helps me deep clean doesn't know that I cry every time she comes. I'm so happy to have help. Chick-fil-A is every Wednesday at lunch during orchestra. I just cannot make all of the meals and have everyone out of the house by 8:00. Just cannot.

  3. Thank you, thank you for this post Sarah Barry!! Just tonight, after bringing friends a meal and coming home to a wreck of a house and kitchen and needing to feed my own family, I though that this is not the season of my life where I need to be doing this. I do not do a lot of extras or play dates or activities right now. We mainly stay at home and that is what I can manage. Sometime I feel like my kids are "missing out" but I know they just want to dig in the dirt and play in the yard and that suits my own personality so much more too. I have got to drag out our pack and play that Forrest naps in to the den more...dishes, laundry folding, It takes 20 times longer with his help as you know. Our boys eat on paper plates for all three meals right now and it's such a huge help! I have been running a load of laundry before bed and just moving it in the morning and folding it before lunch if possible. Trying to be done with the clothes earlier in the day has helped me too.

  4. On Monday afternoons on my way home from school I pick-up a $4.99 rotisserie chicken from Earth Fare. When I get home I roast two big pans of veggies and potatoes (white and sweet) and that's dinner, plus veggies to eat with other meals throughout the week. We always have some leftover chicken which I can use in another meal later in the week... enchiladas, soup, or to go in school lunches. Joining a produce co-op has been a simplifier for me. For $20 a week someone else selects my produce for the week (less decisions for me!), I get fresh, local, organic eggs, and usually a baked good that works well for Saturday morning breakfast. I plan my meals around the produce and supplement additional fruit from the grocery store as needed for the kids' snacks. My kids are older (7-14) so I can provide meals for other families, but I have a standard menu -- grilled pork tenderloin, potato casserole, and a veggie or salad. I do not do anything outside of being a wife and mom on week nights and week day afternoons. I. just. can't.

  5. This is my life right now. My oldest is 6 in kindergarten, I have a 3 yr old and active 19 month old and Sawyer is 8 weeks old. You nailed it and thanks for affirming some of things we are trying to work out! Enjoy your blog!

  6. Goodness yes! So many good ideas. We quit Wednesday night church 2 years ago when Alice was born. I do still feed new moms, but it's usually something very simple. I had a pizza delivered to a new mom just last week. Haha. I've had to learn it's okay to say no, and that this is only a season. It's very freeing!

  7. I have been pondering and pondering this post! I am very efficient, it is true, but I think my efficiency can be to get everything done instead of saying NO and scaling back my expectations. So that's why I've been thinking so hard.
    But let's see. . .
    I teach my kids piano AT HOME. Ben will play soccer this spring, but that's it. No other outside activities besides playdates.
    I teach my kids how to be real helps and contributors to the family via cleaning, some cooking, and folding their own laundry etc. Their cleaning means the house can be a bit grimy in places, but I did not have to clean it and I don't.
    Aaaaaand now my kids are home from school! I need to go.

  8. My kids are older (15, 12 and 9) so I'm past the throes of toddlerhood and baby stage. That said, our biggest thing is not doing organized sports. That is such a time and weekend suck! (Granted, my kids aren't interested in doing them, so it's not hard, but plenty of friends think sports are not optional, especially for little kids). We have dinner together every night, our kids have quiet evenings, go to bed at 8:30 (15-year old has to wake up at 5:30) and they can do chores on Saturday mornings. No driving everywhere, standing on the sidelines, and hours-long practices. My kids go to a weekly church group and piano lessons (=daily practice) and seasonal plays, but those practices are right after school (so they can walk home on their own), with a week or so of lots of practices. That's what works for us right now.

  9. I love these posts! I do cook for others from time to time-but it's something I really enjoy. And I always, always double the recipe and leave my family's portion in the oven warming whilst we deliver. Christian put me on the Earth Fare $5 chicken. They typically put asparagus on sale on Mondays, too, or kale. So I will purchase one or both of those veggies, chicken, and a $.99 baguette and that's our dinner Monday nights. We have made a habit of purchasing two of their $6 "take and bake" pizzas on Friday nights and I buy a family size Caesar salad kit at the store during the week and that's our Friday night meal. I will look at the calendar and count the evenings I know we will be home and hit up our little farmers market for that many different types of veggies. I buy meat at Costco about once a month, so for the rest of each week I pair and meat and veggies for dinner-no recipes, just whatever I am in the mood for...grilled, roasted, etc. I also purchased a rice cooker earlier this school year and it is bomb.com. I can program it up to 12 hours in advance, making dinner on evenings we spend playing sports so much easier! (I'll typically cook something in the crockpot on those nights, too.) Love reading all these ideas!!


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