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Organization Series: Part 4

Organization Series: Part 4

Kids are chaos.  There’s no way around that.  Add in the fact that they come with a ton of stuff and tantrums, it’s easy to lose your way and find yourself feeling stressed out and exhausted.  That’s why organization with kids is key to survival.  So enjoy our Organization Series: Part 4!  I hope this series has helped to bring you peace.

And don’t forget to check out parts one, two and three!

Organization Series: Part 4

Hi everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the series on organization and have been learning some helpful tips for you and your family. For the last part of the series, I want to share with you how I stay organized for my son (and now soon to be two boys!).

Someone once said that your life really begins when you have kids. Mine are truly my biggest joy. To me, watching life happen through their eyes is seriously one of the best experiences I’ve had.

However, it goes without saying they are also chaotic!

Life becomes much, much busier with them and it is so easy to fall off track with keeping the house clean, with laundry, and/or self care.

Having a Plan

With my love for organizing, I remember early in my pregnancy reading different posts about how to organize for a baby for inspiration on Pinterest because I wanted to keep some sort of rhythm and routine to my life. Luckily, I was able to get some great tips not only from different blogs and books, but from the families I was working for at the time.

Photo by Cait Heinz

I was a Nanny while in graduate school working for three different families. They were each honestly so different in their ways, but I learned so much from each one of them. Some of their tips I still use today with Junior and will carry on with Oliver! (It truly takes a village!)

Planning on how I was going to organize for Junior and by gathering some tips for creating habits and staying ahead in the beginning has been so beneficial in helping to reduce the chaos, and that having a child did not have to completely change my way of life.

One of my biggest tips throughout this series has been everything has a spot. This is especially true when it comes to kids! They require SO. MUCH. STUFF.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed, to lose things, or to feel cluttered.  Therefore, in this part of the series I want to share with you how we keep Junior organized from his necessities, to laundry, to his playroom, to his routines.

Organizing the Necessities

One of the main ways I have kept essentials, especially the daily ones, together is by using a diaper caddy. I love this thing and have used it from the beginning and even still today.

I stock it with diapers/pull-ups, lotion, Butt Paste, hand sanitizer, folly bulb, and his hairbrush. I keep it in spots that I am with him the most and stock it regularly.

In the early months this was in our room and as he got older we moved it to his room on his dresser. This is one of the things I stock every Sunday when doing my weekly prep.

I store all the big boxes of (now) pull-ups and wipes in his closet. I pull from there and stock his caddy, separating his nighttime pull-ups and his daytime ones so we know exactly where they are and don’t get them confused. This way, during the week we have a quick place to grab from while trying to get ready in the morning or after bath.

You can also put a pack of wipes in here. However, we are fans of the wipe warmer. (I’m not a big gadget girl – but we have loved ours from the beginning!).

We keep it next to the caddy and also restock it every Sunday. The same goes for his diaper bag, which is another essential.

Diaper Bag
Make your diaper bag work for you

Before or after every outing, we go through his diaper bag, clean it out, and make sure all the necessities are there.

You can use zip lock baggies, but recently I have found some mesh zip liners that I keep in the diaper bag for each type of necessity such as diapers, wipes, extra change of clothes, snacks, etc. They are color coded as well so I can easily get to what I’m looking for!

Anything that he brings into the car, I also try to remember to get out each time we get home to keep the clutter from piling up in my car (especially food container clutter!).

Clothing Organization

Lastly, I love the dresser organizer canvas bins from Amazon. I use these in his drawers to keep all his socks in, his hygiene supplies, and other miscellaneous items.

Speaking of socks, I have a pro tip! I learned this from my Mother in Law and I swear I’ve maybe only lost five socks since Junior has been born, and this is only because they don’t make it to the hamper!

But, wash all the kid’s socks in mesh laundry bags that zip. You will never lose a little sock while doing laundry. Also, you won’t have to worry about them getting clogged in your washer and causing some serious (expensive) damage.

You can see how I use them here. (There is usually more laundry, but I was washing clothes to get ready for a trip!)

One habit that has just become routine is that I keep a laundry schedule and I wash all of Junior’s laundry separately. It’s just what works for us!

I wash his clothes every two weeks, usually on the weekend. For some reason, I have always been really good about his laundry, just terrible with mine! (Maybe because kid’s clothes are SO cute?!)

I wash, dry, fold, and put away all his laundry in the same day in the same spot. Again, everything has a spot. His shirts get hung up, his pants and shorts have their own spots in the dresser, his jammies have a separate place in the closet and the dresser, his socks get folded and put into his bins, etc.

I usually never have trouble getting him ready because everything is always in its place and stocked. Every shirt comes off a hanger and the hanger gets moved to the front. This is another one of my habits. No more searching for kid’s hangers!

Organize Your Linens

Those canvas organizers I mentioned? I also keep a few under his bathroom sink for bath towels and washcloths. After each load of laundry, they get folded and put into their spot so I am never without and they don’t get confused with ours.

I also made a habit of collecting all washcloths and bath towels (bath towels hang on the back of the door and I use two wash cloths a week – color coded, one for the face and one for the body) that were used for the week and replace them with new ones on Sundays.

Clean bed sheets and blankets get put into their own spot in the hall closet next to his bedroom. Do what’s functional for you! These aren’t fancy methods, but again, things I have just made a habit out of doing so that I always know where anything is when I need it.

Hygiene Day

One tip that I remember reading early on and have incorporated into our bedtime routine is having a “hygiene” day. This usually is on Sundays for us to get him ready for the week.

What this means is that after his bath, we take time to cut and clean his nails, clean out his ears, do a really good teeth brushing and floss, etc.

Most things we incorporate into our daily routine, but those things that do not need to be done daily can be done on this day. Having a set day gets me into the habit of doing it so that it doesn’t go undone.

Organizing the Bathroom
Junior’s Bathroom Caddy

For what we do utilize daily after bath time, I keep another caddy that sits on top of his sink that includes his toothbrush, toothpaste, probiotics, vitamins, and floss. I also like that I can keep an eye on these since we use them so much to know when I need to buy more.

Many of these things I order from Amazon! Like his probiotics, I’ll go to my app and add them to my cart and they are on my front door step within two days! Easy peasy! (If you don’t have Amazon Prime, do it now — Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial).

Speaking of hygiene day, you’ll notice I do not keep any medication within reach of him. This is obviously important because it’s a safety hazard. What I’ve done instead is bought clear tubs and used my label maker to categorize each tub – cold/cough, stomach, Junior’s medicine, etc. and put them high up in the closet in our bathroom.

We know where they are, they are categorized based on need, and most importantly, they are out of reach from the kiddos.

Have a Routine

I mentioned Junior’s bedtime routine and I want to take a moment to share that having routines in place and a rhythm to your home is not only beneficial for you, but children thrive off routines too.

For Junior, we essentially have the same routine every morning and every evening, and he has the same routine at school each day. And, as he gets older we adapt his routines based on his developmental needs.

Like us, routines are important for children because they help to develop a sense of stability and order.

When things are predictable and happening in the same order, they’re less likely to have emotional meltdowns and tantrums (children also sense stress so if your routines are running smoothly, there is less stress for you and for them).

I personally also believe routines and being consistent with your child’s routine is important because it also helps them to develop self-discipline. Have fun with your routines! Print them on colored paper with pictures and tape it to your child’s door, include your child in the decision making process when coming up with your routines (this gives your child some control too!), etc.

Because of my profession, I could go on and on about healthy development for children, but one thing I want to reiterate is consistency, routines, and an organized environment are just as beneficial for our children as they are for us.

Food Prepping and Organization

Next, I mentioned that I am a big fan of meal planning and food prepping.

Although we use Blue Apron for most of our dinners, I still like to meal plan for our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and for what Junior will eat for dinner throughout the week.

Junior is a really good eater, but for the Blue Apron meals, we selected only the two-person option so I make Junior’s meals separately. This is also something I just really enjoy doing!

When I’m meal planning, I’ll decide on two to three different dinners for him for the week and make them on Sunday’s when I’m doing all of my food prepping for the week ahead.  We also keep his own snack bucket in the pantry that is within his reach and restock his on Sundays for him too!

He is a big fan of zucchini meatballs and pastas. These are things I can make ahead and freeze or put into Tupperware and into the fridge.

Side note: I also have designated bins in my freezer that are just for his food that I freeze! This makes it easy to get to and I don’t get it confused with what else we keep in our freezer.

That way on those busy weeknights, all I have to do is pair his meal with some yogurt, fruit, and/or a vegetable and he’s done!

I should also add that his school feeds him breakfast and lunch, so we get really lucky there!

Meal planning and food prep Sundays has been a system that has been working since he was a baby when I would puree his food in large batches on Sundays!

Space in the Kitchen

Speaking of kids in the kitchen, one thing I never realized before having children is the amount of space their stuff takes up in the kitchen and how difficult it can be to store it all!

Munchkin Drying Rack

Over time, I learned to designate one cabinet that is specifically for Junior. This includes all his bottles (now sippy cups), plates, bowls, snack cups, etc.

Pro tip – designate one style of cup for your “night-night” cup. If your child is anything like mine, Junior loves milk at bedtime. Having a set style that is only for his nighttime milk helps to keep his bedtime routine running smoothly!

All of his silverware and medicine syringes also have their own spot in our silverware drawer.

I also am a huge fan of our Munchkin dishwasher baskets and drying rack. Even though Junior is almost three, I still use these!

I have three Munchkin dishwasher baskets that stay on our top rack in the dishwasher. All of his sippy cups need to come apart to be washed so we place all those little pieces in these baskets.

I don’t think we have ever lost a part, meaning we haven’t really had to replace his cups! (Same for bottle pieces too for the little ones!) Yay for saving money there!

This is more of a hygiene tip, but once his sippy cups are done being washed we place them on his drying rack (that sits right under his cabinet) to dry for at least 24 hours.

Although our dishwasher “dries” the dishes, some still come out wet. It is important to me to make sure all the parts are 100% dry before putting them back together.

Wetness is the number one cause for mold, and with these parts being so intricate they easily build up mold. Therefore, by having a designated spot (other than in our sink or all over the counter) for them to dry and simply putting them back together and placing them back in our cabinet really helps us to keep his kitchen essentials clean and orderly.

The Montessori Method

The room in our house that I am probably most passionate about is Junior’s playroom!

Since before Junior was in the womb, I have always been interested in Montessori at home. I love using the Montessori philosophy at home because it emphasizes how to prepare an environment in which children can learn and explore within their own limits, and in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them.

As quoted by a fellow Montessori mom, “Montessori is about raising children to be independent, considerate, and active participants within society. What better place to start than at home?

Applying the Montessori theory at home encourages parents to include children in their own day to day care and in a family life that truly allows children to realize their own full potential and to engage meaningful within the world we live in.”

Pretty powerful. Learning does not necessarily mean academic learning. School and home can be interconnected, but our emphasis is more on learning in a way that encourages where he is at in his overall development, that encourages his independence, curiosity and interests, and that encourages practical life skills (cleaning, cooking, sewing, sensory, etc.).

Although academics are obviously important, we personally chose to let him focus on his academics at school and don’t necessarily push them at home unless he initiates interest. (Though, Montessori believes that learning these skills actually sets the foundation for being successful in the academics!).

I am also a huge believer in “following the child.” Dr. Maria Montessori states, “Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in.

The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly to “learn”; they are drawn to it by the needs to their inner life, which must be recognized and developed by its means.”

The Playroom
The Playroom

In setting up his “playroom”, I feel we are giving Junior his own space to do just this and thus why it is so important to me.

We have given him a prepared environment that is orderly (most of the time!), that is constantly changing and growing with him, that is set up with meaning and purpose, and that gives him the freedom to choose his own activities.

For example, his puzzles are placed on top of his bookshelf (still reachable), taken a part, and the pieces are on a separate tray. This encourages his curiosity to go over and put the puzzle together as well as his problem solving skills. (He truly is a puzzle master!)

Other things we have included in his playroom include using specific bins for those random toys, balls, and blocks and utilizing bookshelves for all his books and placing them all at his level so that he always has access to them.

He has a play kitchen with play dishes and food. (He loves to cut up the fruit which encourages his fine motor skills!).

At a young age he developed an interest in the kitchen so we thought we could encourage that interest and his imagination (and some of his practical life skills!) by getting him a play kitchen center.

Now that he is older, he is starting to participate more in our actual kitchen so I also have given him some of his own real life kitchen tools that he can use when cooking alongside with us.

Also in his playroom, he has his own broom and vacuum cleaner and loves to help clean, and thus has also developed an interest in doing chores. His favorite chore is feeding the cats each morning and picking up their bowls and putting them in the sink!

Puzzle Practice

He has a weaning table that he loves to do arts and crafts at and sometimes bring his activities over to. (My favorite is watching him come up with his own activities like when he matches his toy animals to animals in his books. So creative! Be still my heart!)

Montessori encourages that children learn best through play, which is why it is essential that Junior have his own space to do so.

Children have incredible interest in manipulating materials and tools with their hands, and by giving them a place and time to explore they are teaching themselves more than us as adults can imagine.

This isn’t just a space where the “toys” are stored, but it’s a purposefully prepared environment.

Junior is suddenly becoming such an independent little guy who loves to dress himself, to put on/take off his shoes, to prep and cook some of his own food, who has table manners, who knows how to get his own snacks, etc., and I believe that using some of the Montessori theory at home has truly allowed him to become confident in his independence.

Though, sometimes it can be frustrating when Junior decides to insert his independence (Like when he wants to get himself dressed from head to toe in the morning and we have to be out the door for school and work!), I am slowly learning in the power of trusting him and guiding without inferring more than necessary.

Toy Rotation

Over the years children accumulate so many toys it is unreal! In order to reduce the chaos, we have implemented a toy rotation system.

What this means is that I use large, clear plastic bins to pack away what Junior has outgrown or what no longer interests or challenges him.

I also pack away toys just so that he will only have a certain amount to concentrate on at a time. I base the frequencies of rotations on what he is no longer playing with or that no longer challenges him.

Sometimes, I’ll pack away toys and bring them back out and he suddenly has interest in them again! (He always gets excited and says “new toys!”)

At Christmas and birthdays, I also do not put out all the new stuff at once. He gets those gradually with the rotations. I personally believe that presenting a less amount of toys to him not only helps us to keep his play area cleaner, but it allows for a lot more independent play.

By having less items to choose from, Junior is less overwhelmed, which is beneficial in that it helps to encourage creativity, to develop his imagination, and he actually becomes more engaged in playing because he only has so many items to focus on, not just going from one toy to another without actually interacting with it.

As the parent, having a toy rotation is beneficial for me because I truly feel like there is less to clean up around the house at the end of the day. (It also really helps that we have a designated area for all his toys so I’m really only focusing on one room.).

We are still finding our balance in Montessori and utilizing a toy rotation, but I am so glad we began implementing these methods in our home. Again, these methods are what have worked for our family! I encourage you to look into your own (if you haven’t!) and apply them, or even adapt your own version of some of the Montessori theory or toy rotation.

KonMari Method

KonMari, another method, is more of a mindset for me. It goes along with the idea that everything has a spot and you put it back into its spot once you are done.

It also emphasizes minimalism. I wish I could be a minimalist, but I know that is something that is not possible for me!

Therefore, I try to compromise by staying organized and utilizing all the different methods that I have throughout our house, and essentially, our lives.

Because ours is still a work in progress, I am sharing this one with permission from a fellow mom!

I encourage you to look into their theory and/or follow KonMari for Kids on Facebook. They are always sharing pro-tips for cleaning and organizing!

One thing I have learned from KonMari for Kids is how to store that precious artwork they bring home from school and how to store all those pictures you are taking of your kiddos!

We are very fortunate that Junior attends a curriculum-based daycare and preschool that still finds importance in arts and crafts.

Junior is constantly coming home with the cutest little handprint animals or paper plate windmills that I can never throw away! I hang as many as I can in his playroom pinned to a wooden “Masterpiece” block I made, but it gets crowded.

Therefore, I learned from KonMari for Kids to take pictures of all the artwork then to go online (like Shutterfly or Walgreens) and upload the photos into a collage!

You then can frame the collage and hang that in the playroom, or whatever designated space you want! It is really the simplest and coolest idea. You can then keep everything with hand and footprints and then toss everything else (or whatever you like!).

Organizing Photos

For photographs, I know I am constantly taking pictures of Junior and I’m sure I’ll be doing the same for Oliver!

My phone is always running out of storage so I have to upload them to my computer pretty often and it can be easy to lose track of what was taken when.

Therefore, when Junior was a baby I started uploading the pictures into albums on my computer and labeling the albums like “Newborn to 6 Months.”

This really helped me to keep track of all those adorable photos and to not feel overwhelmed when trying to find a specific picture because they are all categorized by age.

I then back up all the photos onto an external hard drive in case my computer ever crashes.

My next project is to create “family year-books” and to have all the photos uploaded into beautiful linen photo books created by Artifact Uprising! This is also a work in progress, but I can’t wait until I can finish them.

Lastly, back to when I’m planning for my month, one of my favorite things to do is to browse Pinterest for different craft ideas or activities to do with Junior and make it a priority to spend that quality time doing those with him (He has his own board!).

I also look for different events in the area that are going on that month to take him to. (Thank you Hampton Roads Moms!).

I’ll write these all down in the planner to protect that time. It’s amazing how fast our weekends book up so it’s important to me that I make sure this quality times as a family also takes precedence.

Self Care

We as mothers have so many responsibilities and our plates easily become full, and if you’re like me, self-care was the first thing to go as a mom.

Enjoying an ice cream date

One of the best quotes I have ever heard was that “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

What this means to me is how are you going to best take care of those who are important to you if you can’t give them your best self?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to put on a full face of make-up everyday, but it means making sure you are eating well, getting rest, and exercising regularly (something I am struggling with!), staying peaceful and calm and using your routines to do so.

Whatever it is that you do to be your best self, make sure you are also making that a priority. Even write them down on your “to-do” lists so you know it will get done, or like me, write a list and put it on your mirror so it’s the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see before you go to bed.

This little reminder helps me to know I am important too, and in order to keep things running smoothly for my family, for my life, I must take care of myself too.

In Closing

 I REALLY hope you have enjoyed reading this series about how my family and I stayed organized. Organization is literally a way of life for me and brings me so much joy so it’s hard to narrow down just a few ideas!

I am also so passionate about staying organized and being intentional with my time because I know if I’m not, I am not the best wife, mom, or coworker I can be.

It is a mindset that I have and use to create habits, and those habits turn into routines. Remember there is no one-way, find what works best for your family!

If you have any questions, please ask or if you want to offer any tips I would love to hear them! I really enjoyed being a guest writer (and really, writing my first piece ever!) for Hampton Roads Moms!

I know we are all just a community of mothers looking for support and I’m especially proud that two of my very best friends came up with this particular support group that we could call a community!

My Very Best,

Ashley

Some of my favorite organization blogs and their links:

Emily Ley Blog

A Bowl Full of Lemons

Clean Mama Blog

The Kavanaugh Report

Some of my favorite parenting books and their links on Amazon:

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley

The Absorbent Mind by Dr. Maria Montessori

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

Did you enjoy our Organization Series: Part 4?  How do you and your family stay organized?  Tell us in the comments!

Meet Ashley Rickert

Ashley and her husband, John, have a toddler together, John Jr., and a little boy on the way, Oliver! Both are originally from Texas, but brought to Hampton Roads by the U.S. Navy, where John serves. Besides being a mom, Ashley is also an Elementary School Counselor and loves to cook, clean, organize, craft, spend time with her toddler, family, and friends, Cancun, reading, running, yoga, and wine! This was her first contributor post and she was so excited to have it be for Hampton Roads Moms! Ashley’s advice to other moms in the community is to know they are not alone with the million responsibilities that we carry as moms, and encourages them to be intentional with their time in order to find joy in the journey, and to have a little grace when they are not able to do it all.

Other Articles by Ashley:

Organization Series: Part 1

Organization Series: Part 2

Organization Series: Part 3

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