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7 Tips For Staying Sane This School Year

We are a week into the school year now and so far it’s going well! I’m determined to have an excellent year and I’ve implemented several routines and habits that are helping with that goal.

1. Pack lunches right after school. Packing school lunches is the most dreaded of tasks for me. I’d rather do laundry. Seriously. This year I’ve started packing lunches right after school. The kids come in, put their lunch boxes on the counter, and hang their book bags up. I unpack lunch boxes while the kids choose their non-perishable items for lunch the next day. Those things go straight into their lunch boxes on the counter. I make sandwiches, salads, or whatever other main dish they choose and add all the perishable items to my bucket in the fridge. All 4 water bottles are filled and in the fridge along with Tyler’s Gatorade and the little kids capri sun drinks. Lunch packing is done in about 15 minutes and I don’t have to nag or yell later at night.

2. Use alarm clocks. I bought 4 new alarm clocks for this year. Tyler has one that lets me set 3 different times on it because it takes 3 alarms to get him up. The other 3 have very simple alarm clocks that are easy to set and easy to use. They all get up by themselves, get dressed, and come downstairs on their own. It’s so much better than me having to drag kids out of bed. 

3. Lay out clothes for the whole week. The hanging shelves organizer I bought for Mason and Zoey are working out so nicely! Every Sunday we pick out uniforms for the whole week and add them to the shelves. There’s no fighting, arguing, or whining about clothes in the mornings. There aren’t 14 outfit changes every morning. 

4. Deal with papers immediately. This is a big one for me and I’ve had to just make it a habit. Every afternoon the kids empty their folders and put papers on the counter for me. Anything that needs to be signed is done immediately and put back in the right folder. Dates that need to be put on the calendar are done so right away and the paper tossed out. Stuff that needs to be kept is filed in the right place. Life is so much easier without 14 piles of papers on the counter and a mad-rush scramble to find a paper in the morning.

5. Keep a donation basket in the laundry room. Instead of washing, drying, and putting away clothes each week that don’t fit my kids and get tried on and thrown on the floor, I keep a donation basket in the laundry room. Items that need to go to Goodwill get tossed in it and uniform pieces that need to be sold get put in a separate basket in the linen closet. It helps the closets stay organized and I can see what the kids need each season.

6. Clean up before bed. At a minimum I try to clean the kitchen and start the dishwasher before bed. If I have enough time I make sure the dining room and family room are cleaned or at least picked up. Nothing starts the day off on a worse foot than coming down to a dirty kitchen with a sink full of dishes. Taking the 20 minutes at night starts my day off great!

7. Simplify the mornings. I get everything ready the night before. Book bags are packed, iPads and computers are charged, shoes and jackets are laid out, lunches are done, sports gear is packed and ready. If the kids are taking hot lunch I make sure to set out their thermoses and the kettle at night. The goal is for them to literally be able to put on clothes, brush teeth and hair, eat breakfast, and grab their bags on the way out the door. 

I run mornings with military precision around here. Shoving 4 angry and overwhelmed kids out the door at 6:45am does not set a great tone for the day and I’m determined not to do it. I’ve found that a little extra effort at night makes all the difference in the morning!

6 Mom Hacks for Back to School Organization

This is our first Back to School season in our new house! We are one week away from our kids starting school again and the next 6 days are going to be a whirlwind of preparations. I have high hopes for this being the year I stay organized all year long. This new house is a lot more conducive to being organized in many ways so half the battle is already won for me!

1- I have an actual laundry room upstairs instead of a small laundry closet. I have 3 laundry baskets for the kids dirty clothes- one for whites/lights, one for darks/colors, and one for uniforms. The kids just toss their dirty stuff in the correct basket and it magically gets cleaned, folded and put away for them. 

2- I have a really big pantry instead of 2 small ones. All the lunch making stuff has a home, all the snacks are separated into containers for the kids to pack their own lunches. I can see immediately what needs to be replaced.

3- I have a whole hallway closet dedicated to kids school stuff. We have 2 coat closets and I took the smaller one right off the kitchen and turned it into the kids school closet. Bookbags have hooks, jackets have hooks, shoes have a rack. It’s amazing and life changing.

4- I have an office. I smiled while I typed that. I have a real dedicated space for my office. All the files, my laptop, the printer…it all has a home!

5- The kids all have huge closets! Maia and Zoey both have walk in closets and Mason’s closet is really long. It makes it so much easier to keep organized! 

So all those things have already given me a leg up on last year! I also have implemented other systems to make everything run smoothly this year. 

1- Calendars & Planners- I have 3. I know, it sounds like overkill but I promise you there is a method to my madness. I have a large wall calendar that is color coded for every appointment and reminder. I have a large planner that stays on my desk in the office because that’s where I am when I make most of our appointments. I also have a smaller planner that stays in my bag so I can easily schedule follow up appointments while we’re out. I used to have a calendar app on my phone until it crashed and I lost every appointment. That will never happen again. 

2- Lunch Planning- My kids would love to buy hot lunch every day. I would love to have them buy hot lunch every day. But at $26 per week per kid, that’s not happening. So I’m committed to packing lunches 5 days a week times 4 kids. I’ve created a system to make it easier. I have organized all the supplies- thermoses, ziplock bags, plastic forks and spoons, etc and created an entire lunch area in our pantry. All of the kids favorite snacks are organized. Things I buy in bulk such as Goldfish, Animal Crackers, Cheez-its, etc have their own plastic containers so the kids can pour them into ziplocks. Things I buy pre-packaged such as Pirates Booty, Cookies, Fruit Snacks, etc have their own tubs on the shelves. The kids can easily pack their own lunches and make my life easier!

3- Closet Organization- Now that the kids have bigger closets I upped my organization game. I bought Mason and Zoey the hanging organizers with 5 shelves. They’ll pick out their week’s worth of uniforms on Sunday’s, add them to the organizer, and I don’t have to fight with kids all week about uniforms! 

4- Dinner Planning- I’m back on the meal planning train. I did good this summer with cooking at home and not eating out but I didn’t really meal plan. I just bought a bunch of ingredients and made dinner with whatever worked together. Ha! Easy for the summer but not sustainable long term during the school year. So I’ve already made my meal plan for the first 2 weeks of August. I’m doing 2 weeks of planning at a time because it works better for the school year when last minute meetings and things pop up. I have added a bunch of new recipes to my list to choose from and I can’t wait to share them. 

5- Paperwork Organization- Paperwork for 4 kids is a nightmare. I hung my beloved magazine rack on the wall under my calendar for school papers that need attention. I have my white hanging file basket in the office for papers that I need to keep for reference but don’t require immediate action. And then I have my big file baskets where I transfer papers that need to be kept after each semester- things like report cards, test scores, etc. I’ve gotten into the good habit of adding things to my calendar immediately and then throwing the paper out rather than letting a month’s worth of paper pile up on the counter. 

6- Bathroom Organization- This year for the first time Tyler has his own bathroom, which is a blessing because he’s the slowest and the messiest. So the 3 others will share the hall bath upstairs. Zoey and Mason both shower at night and Maia showers in the mornings. To cut down on the amount of bottles in the tub I bought each of them shower buckets. They keep their soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc in the bucket with their own washcloth. I store the buckets under the sink next to their individual dental care baskets. When they shower they take the bucket into the tub with them. It’s working great so far!

So those are my Back to School organization hacks for this year! T minus 6 days until chaos ensues in my house!

The Plum Paper Planner

I’m a planner addict. Actually I’m an organization addict and that carries over to my intense love of planners. For years I’ve used The Happy Planner and been really, well…happy. Then I saw someone post about the Plum Paper Planner and I was intrigued. I spent a month going back and forth before deciding to order one. What finally tipped me over the scale into ordering one was all the options for customizing my planner. With 4 kids in 3 different school systems this year I need to be able to stay organized. This planner allows me to do that. 


There are so many options for customization. You choose your cover. You choose your style. You choose what month to start and how many months you want. You choose the name or word on the cover. You can add all kinds of different sections. You can choose the custom labels for up to 7 sections in the weekly layout. It’s amazing and exactly what I wanted. I went with the ME Family Planner because it fit what I needed the best. 


Each month starts with this monthly highlights page. It has space to write 3 goals for the month, birthdays, events, things to remember, and space for notes. 


This is the other side of the monthly highlights page. I use this page to write out the meals we’re going to eat for the month. It makes it easier to plan the weekly meal plan when I can see all the dinners on one page. 


The monthly calendar spread is great. The boxes are big enough to fit everything for everybody. I started color coding my planner this year and I’m really loving the PaperMate Flair pens. They’re amazing and they don’t smear or bleed through to the other side. 


What really sold me on this planner was the weekly layout sections. Amazing. I customized all 7 boxes according to what I need to keep track of- one box for each kid, dinner, home, and an etc box for everything else. This has made life so much easier. I keep a general record of appointments on the main calendar page and then the in depth information goes in the weekly section. 


I can see every single thing I need to do and where I need to be for the week in one glance. I also use the kids’ sections as reminders for things. This week I made a note in Ty’s section for him to bring the money for his spirit wear. I also noted that Maia needs a calculator by Friday. It’s taken away the fifty billion scraps of paper laying everywhere. I even added a big notes tabbed section at the back of my binder for when I need to jot something down.

I’m extremely happy with my Plum Paper Planner and I will definitely be ordering another one when this one runs out. It’s the perfect size to fit in my bag and the cover protector means it doesn’t get ripped or wrinkled. 

I was not compensated for this post at all. I bought the planner on my own and was not asked to provide a review. I just love it that much!


Tips To Tame The Laundry Monster


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I don’t know about y’all but the hardest thing for me to stay on top of is laundry. I struggled for years with laundry piled up to the point that it became an all day affair just to make a dent in it. I’m totally guilty of buying my kids new socks or underwear just to avoid the laundry for another day. But all that has had to change this year. Two of my kids wear uniforms every day to school. And uniforms are expensive. So I can’t just buy more to avoid the laundry. I dedicated the summer to developing a laundry system in my household that works without being overwhelming. 

1. Designate a laundry collection area. One of my issues was too many laundry baskets in too many areas and we ended up with piles of laundry everywhere. I used to have a small basket in every kid’s closet. I took those out, bought 2 larger laundry baskets, and created a laundry station in the upstairs hallway linen closet. We have a light wash basket and a dark wash basket. Tyler has a basket in his room. Matt and I have our own separate laundry baskets. It’s working much better. I can easily see when the baskets are full and I can throw in a load before it becomes a mountain.

2. Give your kids some responsibility for laundry. All the kids are responsible for putting their dirty clothes into the proper basket. They know how to sort lights and darks. They know if something has a stain on it that needs to be treated that they are responsible for putting it on top of the washer instead of in the basket. 

3. Do it start to finish. I was the worst for starting a load in the washer and then forgetting about it. So it sat there, sometimes for days, and I had to spend time getting the icky smell out of all the clothes. Now I start the washer, transfer to the dryer or hang to dry right away, fold it when it’s done, and it gets put away immediately. Bonus- it means I don’t have to iron or steam the wrinkles out of clothes anymore. I used to make the kids put their own clothes away but now with school going back in I’m going to get all the laundry done while they’re at school. 

4. Clear out the closets regularly. Instead of waiting for the end of the season to clean out closets I’m doing it every month. Then it’s not such a big task to complete. It takes me less than 10 minutes to do all 3 little kids closets when I do it regularly. I’ve started keeping a better eye on the stuff they don’t wear and weeding it out. I’ve also limited the amount of clothing they have, especially since the 2 older kids are in uniforms for school. They don’t need 20 shirts when they wear uniforms 5 days a week. 

5. Separate the outgrown or destroyed items in the laundry room. Doing smaller loads more often lets me weed out stuff in the laundry room before I spend time putting it away. Socks with holes, underwear with torn elastic, shirts with stains, and stuff they’ve outgrown gets weeded out immediately. I keep donate bags in the closet and I toss things in them regularly. It’s so much easier and then I’m not searching for a matching sock without holes when it’s 7am.

6. Plan school clothes out on Sunday night. It’s easy with the older kids- uniforms! But with the 2 little kids, I’m going to have them choose the whole week’s worth of clothes on Sunday night. It saves time in the mornings and makes everything run smoothly. My kids are not morning people so anything I can do at night to help make the mornings easier is a bonus.

I’m really excited to actually be on top of laundry for once. I instantly feel more organized when there aren’t piles of dirty clothes waiting to be washed, or piles of clean clothes waiting to be folded! 

**Have you told me how you deal with allergies so you can enjoy all the fun Fall activities on this post yet? Your comment will enter you for a chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card!


Back To School Planning For A Large Family

There’s just something about the back to school season that gets me every year. Even more so than the start of a new calendar year. I’m big on setting goals and starting fresh each school year. I always have lots of great ideas and plans for how to make life easier during the school year. Unfortunately the enthusiasm for reaching those goals usually peters out somewhere around the second week of school. Ha! But this year will be different. No, really it will be different. Shut up. 

But in all seriousness, it has to be different. We are embarking on a whole new life with regards to school this year. We have 2 kids in 2 different charter schools that are 30+ minutes away from our house. And then the 2 littles are in our local elementary school for this year. So it’s 3 different school schedules and more importantly, 3 different school calendars. None of their Spring Breaks line up. None of their teacher workdays line up. Basically the only days off that line up are federal holidays. My stress level is very high just thinking about it. So what all that means for our family is that the organization needs to be at level 10 this year. No exceptions. I made a to-do list and then promptly had a mini panic attack at what need to be accomplished in the next couple of weeks. So I’ve broken it down into main categories to help me focus.

1. Clothing. 

     Tyler- He has 99% of his uniform pieces- he needs a couple of long sleeve button downs and hoodies. He has new boxers, new socks, new shoes. 

     Maia- She needs her entire school uniform. She has new undies, bras, socks, and shoes.

     Mason & Zoey- They are DONE!

2. School Necessities.

     Tyler- I bought his book bag and igloo lunch bag already. He wants a Yeti water bottle. He won’t get a school supply list until the first day. 

     Maia- She has her book bag, lunch bag, and water bottle. We won’t get a school supply list until the first day.

     Mason- He has his book bag, lunch bag, and water bottle. I got his school supply list today and already have half of the supplies.

     Zoey- She has her book bag and lunch bag. She needs a water bottle. I don’t have a school supply list yet.

3. Organization.

     1. Front entry closet. AKA- the very depths of hell. This closet is a disaster. I opened it this morning and 3 basketballs, a hockey stick, a baseball bat, 2 skateboards, 3 helmets, and a set of football shoulder pads fell out on the floor. I need to take every single thing out and start over. I need to clean out the old shoes, get baskets for each kid to hold gloves, hats, etc, make an area to hang the library bag. Basically it just needs a total overhaul.

     2. Second pantry. I love my second pantry. A lot. But it’s going to have to do double duty this year. I need to create a space for a family command center in there. I know exactly what I want, now I just need to make it happen.

     3. Linen closet. I’ve started this project, now I need to finish it up. I’m making a laundry center in the linen closet for the 3 kids upstairs. Currently I have small laundry baskets in their bedroom closets but it’s not working. I can never tell when I have a full load to wash. So I’m centralizing the laundry into 2 baskets inside the linen closet- dark wash and light wash. Now to just get the kids on board.

     4. Kitchen cabinets & pantry. Because the kids take their lunches almost every day I am working on making it easy for them to pack their own lunches. The drawers in the pantry are getting an overhaul as are the shelves. I purchased some really great inserts for their lunch bags that I want to make space for in the pantry. The kitchen cabinets need a little mini purge too. 

     5. Garage. Specifically- the garage stairs. I cannot take the clutter anymore. I’ve already switched out a short shelving unit for the tall one in the second pantry. I’ve started organizing the shelves already but I need to finish. We needed space for the hot tub supplies, pet supplies, frequently used tools, outside shoes, etc. 

     6. Meal planning. I’ve been working hard on this. I bought a great new app to organize our favorite family dinners. I’m working on a new monthly menu meal plan and the coordinating weekly grocery lists to go with it. My goal is to already know exactly what we are eating every week and what groceries I need to order to make that meal plan happen. 

Basically it’s all about making my life easier this year. I’m not kidding at all when I tell you that the schedule is going to kill me. Tyler is playing football, Maia wants to play volleyball, Mason has his eye on flag football, and Zoey has her heart set on gymnastics. That’s just the Fall season. I’m going to be spending most of my life in the car so the house has to function like a well-oiled machine in order for me not to check myself into the nuthouse.