I’ve always been a homebody. Partly because I really like to stay home, and partly because I find leaving the house a challenge. I’m disorganized to the extreme but leaving the house with two babies, and then two little kids and one baby, then two big kids, one little kid and a baby was almost impossible. We were always late. I could NEVER find my keys. We just stopped using the library because it was cheaper to go to Barnes and Nobel than pay late fees for books that went missing for months. In recent years (with two teens a big kid and a little kid), I have gotten a little bit of sleep and I’ve been able to work on my Leaving-the-House skills. Here’s what’s been working for me.
Have a place for everything, and actually put it there.
A long time ago, some evil little troll put a magic spell on my keys. They either become invisible or they just disappear. I’m not sure which, I just know I could never find them. Every time I had to leave the house, I’d break down in tears over my lost keys. We didn’t go out much.
Then I thought of something brilliant and amazing! I put a hook in the wall and I put my keys on the hook when I came in the door. The hook was in a very visible place, up high so no kids could reach it, and I could see it all the time and reassure myself that my keys were handy. Hooks don’t have to be pretty or expensive (though you can buy some really nice wood plaques with key hooks), right now we use pushpins, stuck in the wall right beside the coffee maker.
I have one purse. All my stuff is in my purse and it goes on a hook on the wall. My older girls have several bags each. And they’ve inherited my evil troll curse. Their wallets used to go missing regularly. Now we have a wallet holder. Right by the coffee maker, under the keys. When they come home, they just stick their wallets in the holder and then they can always find them. And if anyone finds a cell phone laying around, they put them in the wallet holder. Take that, Troll.
Whoa. Library fines are expensive. Our library has a limit of 15 books out per card. There are 6 of us. So, you know, that’s a lot of books. It’s not that we don’t want to bring our books back on time. We usually bring MOST of the books back on time. It’s just that one or two books go missing. And then we panic because we’re on the way out the door and can’t find Clifford is a Star.
I now have a Library Box right by the back door. We take out a book, read it, and then put it back in the box. Sometimes, the 4 year old and I will bring the whole box into the living room, read a bunch of books and then put the whole thing back. We use the same box for the materials we get from the Resource Center. This solution would need to be tweaked a little if you have toddlers. When the 4 year old was an 18 month old, I used a back pack with a zipper that was hard to open. Not as pretty as a box, but much prettier than an 18 month old throwing books all over the kitchen.
Mom’s important stuff
I usually have a bunch of things, like permission forms for clubs and camps, that I need to deal with. I honestly can’t describe the panic these things used to cause me. They were always lost, or ripped or wet or something. The day they were due, there was panic, maybe some yelling. So I bought myself a table (one of those $40 white plastic tables, if you’re fancy you can get an actual table, or use one you already own). And I put a basket on the table. And I keep all the forms in there. If I used coupons, (I’m not yet that organized) I might keep those in the basket too.
Prepare the night before
Pack the bags
I remember seeing this in a “tips for moms” article a few years ago. Keep your diaper bag packed. We’re (finally) out of diaper bags, but we still have a park bag. I keep a towel, change of clothes, snacks and sunblock in it. And I keep it in my closet so no one uses the towel or eats the snacks. I also have a swim bag with our swim suits and towels. When I want go to the park or pool, I just need to grab a pre-packed bag. The challenge here, for me, is making sure the bag gets repacked after we’ve been out.
Make a checklist
I make checklists. I even made one for my girls. I make a list of the steps needed to leave the house in a sane fashion. Then I put it up where I can see it. If you do this, don’t be embarrassed about it. You might have one friend who sees it and mocks you behind your back, but when she does, all your other friends will call you for copies.
Plan for emergencies
Okay, I know, sometimes I think of things as emergencies when really, they happen every single time I leave the house. I’m sure you have your own set of emergencies, here are my big 2.
Jodi’s Big Emergency 1:
The 4 year old and I are out alone and I need to run into the store and get milk. Or we’re in the library parking lot and story time starts in 5 minutes. The 4 year old has no shoes on.
In 17.5 years of parenting, I still can’t make sure a kid is wearing shoes. (To be perfectly honest, there may have been one or two times that we’ve pulled into a parking lot and I realize that I don’t have shoes on either.) After yet another “perfectly planned” morning was derailed by missing shoes, the 4 year old and I brainstormed this problem and she came up with the solution of leaving a pair of shoes in the car. Brilliant. If she’s forgotten her shoes, she puts the emergency shoes on to go into the store, and then as soon as we get back to the car, she takes them off and leaves them on the floor.
Jodi’s Big Emergency 2:
We’re out, either running errands or at the park, and I’ve forgotten that children need to eat. Everyone wants to go to McDonalds.
To solve this one, I’ve started packing snacks in my park bag. In addition, I have a whole crate of deliberately unhealthy single serve treats like Cheetos and chips in my trunk. Everybody wins; I control the portion size, the kids get to eat, I save some $$, and everybody is happy with the junk food so nobody bothers me about McDonalds. Then we have a healthy real meal when we get home.
Do you have any tips?
Parenting is a journey of self-improvement. I’m still working on my leaving the house skills, and on organizing house work and laundry and meals and school work. And I’d love to be able to use coupons some day. If you’re one of those naturally organized people, or you have some great organization tips you’ve learned along the way, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
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