As a family, we are heavily dependent on our systems. I am not organized by nature and can barely find my own glasses when I wake up in the morning, so without good systems in place, this busy household of 9 people would fall apart very quickly. An organized pantry means I can see in a second if we are almost out of peanut butter. If the swim towel bin in the laundry room is empty I know that towels must be washed and dried before morning practice. The children can get their own snacks organized because the snack bin is stocked with pretzels and snap-lock containers.
So, system in place, we have maintained function for 4 weeks with a brand new baby and constant summer activity. That said, I am also seeing that entropy — the natural tendency of all things to breakdown — applies to the family as well as the forest. Our clean systems have gradually rotted, and chaos is close at hand.
When the kids put away the groceries, each jar of peanut butter winds up on a different shelf. The towels may or may not make it out of the car and into the washer when we all return, exhausted, from a late night swim meet. The papers and prescriptions that I have been piling on my kitchen desk are lost in a sea of 64 cent stamps, single knitting needles and dry erase markers.
And I, too, am falling apart. When getting out the door is stressful, I tend to yell. When getting a meal on the table is difficult, I tend to yell. When I can’t find my glasses? I get dizzy, then yell.
Possibly the best part of having a 7th child (other than the child himself, of course, who is wonderful), is the opportunity to make use of what you have learned and try to get it (closer to) right this time around. Often in life we don’t have this chance, and it is also one of the things I love about putting together the third set of Ikea shelves — you finally know how to do it, without even reading the instructions.
So, as I feel my tone of voice getting ornery and my neck getting tight, I know what I have to do, clean house.
This morning I took about an hour to begin to put our systems back into place. I purged and straightened my desk and the pantry. These were just two small areas, and there are several other places in our house that could use an hour, or more, but this fine beginning will bear fruit this week as I am a little bit calmer. I can’t give a whole day to this (though if it rains this week, I will put on movies and go on a cleaning rampage!). However, I think I can carve out 15 minutes each morning to hit some of the other areas, the stack of books on top of my printer (how, why?), the bin of maternity clothes that is doubling as a hamper in my closet, the growing pile of mismatched socks in the laundry room, I know that we will be better for it.
Even if you are not in survival mode, we are now half way through the summer, and you may find that with all the time spent out of doors, your systems and routines need tweaking, or that you have neglected hot spots which are adding stress to your life. Please join me in spending just a little bit of time cleaning house this week, and come back to the comments to let me know what you did. I could use the companionship and the inspiration. With a little bit of attention now, we can cruise through August and really enjoy ourselves and then be refreshed and excited when back to school time rolls around!