a house of order: my binder

{Update:  see this post for the binder's organizer papers I use to keep me productive and accountable for my days and weeks.} For the past few weeks now I've been trying to reorganize how we roll as a family.  Who cleans up the table after every meal, when should I use organized activities during the day to maintain peace in the house, what time should I be getting up, going to bed, when should I start dinner so the evening runs smoother, and many, many other questions.

I had started making some changes in our days and was excited with the greater ease and predictability I found the children responding to.  Then I began reading a book Bobby had gotten for me that I've been anxious to read: Steady Days: A Journey Towards Intentional, Professional Motherhood.

The book is quite simple in it's delivery but gave me just enough confidence and ideas to strive for more order, for the sake of continuity for our young family.

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Changes that have made all the difference:

  1. A set "reading time" where the big girls sit with a pile of books quietly while I make lunch.  This is their wind-down time and the girls look forward to the books I place in front of them.  (This used to be when they watched a cartoon.)
  2. Be diligent in keeping my home in order, not to stress me out, but because I am happier and can do more for myself and my children when I feel peaceful about the state of my home.  This simply means clean up immediately after meals, messes, structured activities with the kids, grocery shopping, clothes come out of the dryer, etc.  Start the day with order.
  3. Establish the ideal schedule, like dinner time and bed time, and plan out exactly what must take place to accomplish that.  For us, that means starting dinner late afternoon, cleaning up while I make dinner, and being prepared for Johanna's usual bout of shouting with a "quiet bag" with books reserved just for bedtime, so her roommate can actually sleep.
  4. Give everyone in the family responsibilities based on their age and maturity.  It keeps everyone accountable and teaches children that their part in keeping the family run smoothly is just as important as Bobby being responsible for our daily family prayer.
  5. Have a planning meeting with the older children once a week.  This is when we discuss that week's activities and each child can request a few activities they want to do, make, or go to.  We either fit it into the week or if it is a larger activity or trip, pencil it into the month.
  6. Keep a binder with the day's unchanged activities from week to week, and spaces to write in new activities.  Keep calendars of the months approaching, important phone numbers, lists of things you want to do with your children, list of ongoing tasks, grocery lists, and such. I got the binder idea from the Steady Days book.  I'm actually turning my pink notebook over to this new format because it will be easier to find things I need since the binder will be organized into sections.
  7. Establish set special times, like "room time" as the book suggests.  This can be used at the same time everyday or when needed, where children spend a certain amount of time in their bedroom or in a different location doing a particular activity only done then.  For example, we put a used little desk in the big girl's room.  I am putting folders together for each of them of things to color, activities to do, and blank paper for them to use at their special desk during their special "room time". This is their other down time in the day when they can experience doing some individual things while I put laundry away or rest.  Both parties benefit from the order.

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{I used a template program called Pages to create a cover page to my new "life in a binder" approach to organization and order.  I just dragged a photo of the girls and added text.}

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It simply states the binder's purpose:

"The brief, passing moments of life with four children under 5.  A house of order, a house of peace, a house of laughter: my daily attempt of the full and fulfilling life."

I can't tell you how much the feeling of our home has changed. I feel it, Bobby feels it, the children are becoming more responsible, more well rounded with the variety in their days, and there is peace and consistency in our home, something I feel is crucial for young children and their parents.

the sleepy time gal