Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Large Family Organization...color coding

Today in my series on "large family organization", I decided to re-post something that I wrote a while back about organizing the large family.   I use color coding in many areas of life and it just seems to make things easier and bring a little more peace into the home.


I have always been an organizer.  Even as a child, I enjoyed organizing...I know!  
My mom recognized this talent (or possibly curse...haha) and allowed me to organize around the house.  Now that I am a mom, I understand that she was giving up having things organized "her way".  She used to say "A place for everything, and everything in it's place".  But, she let me decide the "place" for many things in our home.

As a classroom teacher, I kept my classroom and supplies organized and enjoyed working in an environment where everything was in it's place.  Each year I had a student or two who enjoyed organizing and could delegate some of the organizing.

Now, that I am home with my six children...and homeschooling, it is a whole new ballgame!  Before...I could organize and then enjoy how peaceful things looked.  Now, I organized...say...the changing table, and return five minutes later to find every diaper, soaker, liner, and wipe strewn about the room.  So, I have had to adjust...and learn a few things over the last decade.  
The first thing that I learned is to let things go!  That has actually been the hardest (by far!) and yet the most important lesson of all.  It's alright if "everything isn't in it's place" (and my mom quite agrees! haha).  It is more important to spend time with my children...educating them, enjoying them, and working to win their little hearts than to have that perfectly organized home.
The second thing that I have learned is to allow things to be put away and organized in a way different than how I would do it.  The kids learn a great deal from trial and error and sometimes they come up with more efficient ideas than me!  It isn't always as neat and tidy as I like, but they will get there with time.  I focus on praising them for their efforts and know that maturity will bring about better results...I can already see it in my older ones!
The third thing that I have learned is how to efficiently organize and require the kids to be responsible to clean up behind themselves...and recently we have adding "going the extra mile" by serving someone else.
(*I will explain more on this later.)

As the kids have grown old enough to do things for themselves, it is amazing how many towels, dishes, and toys seem to jump out all by themselves.  I remember a Family Circus cartoon with a translucent figure labeled "Not me" making the messes and noises as each child was saying "not me".  Here are a few of the cartoons if you didn't grow up enjoying these fabulous cartoons.

Bil Keane passed away a few months ago, but his artwork will forever be a part of American culture.  These cartoons were my earliest introduction to the large family (at least I thought it was a large family back then...haha!).  I love the Bil Keane quote in the NY Times article linked above.  “Everything that’s happened in the strip has happened to me,” he once said. “That’s why I have all this white hair.”   
 I love it!  I think most of them have happened to me as well:)

 Well, "Not me" had taken up residence in our home:)  

So, here is what we have done over the years to help things run more efficiently and be more organized (and cut down on squabbling too!).  We are color coded.  I started color coding when I had two toddlers who would fight over sippy cups.  I couldn't expect them to recognize their name (or even look for it at one and two) but with color coding and a little reinforcement, they knew what was theirs.

Now, we have color coded so much more. They all know their colors...even little Sethy.  As a matter of fact, Seth doesn't know the correct name for colors.  He calls colors by the name of the kid who has that color.  So, if you hold up something green and ask him what color it is, he will say "Brennan"...haha!

We color coded the water cups that sit on the counter next to the refrigerator for quick and easy access.  This cuts down on the number of dishes we have to wash each day.  At the end of the day, there are only five kids cups to wash.  Here is a picture of the kid's water cups.  I bet you can guess who has the pink cup:)

We have color coded the dishes.  This is SO helpful.  I can set the table and each child will sit by their color.  I can separate particular kids who do better apart and individualize their plates according to what I know each likes.  By this I mean leaving cheese off or putting pepper on...not cooking a different food for each:)  I can also tell right away, who didn't clear their dishes from the table.  
Take that..."Not me"!

*Recently, we have added in serving another family member in addition to cleaning up behind ourselves.  This means that as they clean up their own things, they also clean up one or more things that belong to someone else.  In our home there are little ones who can't clean up all of their own things so, we are all learning to serve each other...learning:)

A friend of mine told me one day how she had found this really cute shower curtain with a world map on it and lots of colors and how she had bought each child a different color towel to match the curtain.  
Ah ha.  I love it!  
So, I found a shower curtain...possibly the exact same one (yes, I do copycat what I see and like) with a map and amazingly enough it had all of our colors on it.  So, each child now has a towel in their own color.  Now, "Not me" can't leave bathroom towels or washcloths lying around. 

(The lighting is bad here and Abby's towel looks red but it is actually a hot pink.)

Now, being a homeschool mom, I decided to color code our school things as well.  It is amazing.  No more squabbling over who stole whose pencil.  It is obvious whose pencil it is and we don't need a judge and jury to get the verdict.  Here is a picture of the three older kids' school supplies.  I wasn't able to find a few items in pink for Abby so we filled in with purple for the time being.  The boys won't touch her pink/purple things with a ten foot pole!  Haha.

We have also color coded our daily schedule.  You can see more about this on a previous post by clicking here.  It is so much easier for the kids to check independently.

So, that is how we rid our house of "Not me" some areas anyway:)  So much more organized and peaceful without him!

What things have you done to shew "Not me" out the door?


  1. Allison I am really impressed! I am not very organized at all. I got managers of their homes last year and it transformed my life. I got so much done on the schedule, When Jonathan was born our schedule went out the window. I know I need to get started again. I think I will work on planning and organizing over the summer to make a fresh start in the fall. I LOVE the color coding idea!!!! My 10 year old dish man was just complaining that the amount of cups he has to wash is crazy. Truth be told I have not washed dishes in years but I know Jesse would be so thankful for this :) I will so be using these ideas, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  2. Great ideas! I included a link to your post on my blog today!! :)

    1. Fantastic blog, Heidi! I love being organized and it has it's challenges for the large family. But the rewards are so worth the work. Thanks for sharing these ideas:)