Sharing 8 things we do consistently that help our home feel more peaceful even with full schedules and a family of 6. These are simple strategies that can be adapted to your own life and family!
Earlier this year I was asked to speak at the Get Organized HQ Virtual Summit. It was my second time sharing at the event and I talked all about the power of hidden organization which is one of my favourite topics to share (it’s also one of the tips in this post!). But we also had a challenge as speakers for a YouTube collaboration, all about life hacks for a stress free home. So today I’m going to share 8 ‘life hacks’ for a stress free home.
I want to be honest before I get to these though… the challenge title talks about ‘stress free homes’ and I can’t say that we’re there yet. We have an incredibly full schedule with four kids in school and activities and friends. But these really do help us manage that schedule and enjoy time in our home as well. I hope they will help you to feel the same!
I blog a lot about home decor, but we also live here with all of our games and crafts and books and snacks so in addition to having a house that looks beautiful, it’s so important to me that we also have a home that feels really, really good to live in.
I’m not a super tidy person by nature, so I need my home to work well for me to make it easy for me to keep things where they need to be (or get them back their quickly). All of these tips are Neurodivergent friendly, so they are easy to implement and you can take a while to start, fall off, and start again… they’ll still be helpful for you when you choose to practice them!
I have always been obsessed with maximizing how well something can work for me… whether it’s a house or a system or a routine. I feel like I’m always tweaking, but these things I have stuck with for a long time because they truly do help me.
Alright, let’s dig in!
If you’re anything like me, clutter causes stress. Scientifically, clutter causes stress. So we want to try and minimize it as much as we can. The first two tips deal with getting some things out of our home
Have a dedicated space for things to give back
The first tip is to have a ‘give backs’ spot near your entry if possible. A location in your home where all the things that you need to give back or get out of your house go.
We find we end up with things from others all the time.
A kiddo will come home wearing another kid’s shirt because they got paint on theirs. Somebody will drop off a dinner or a dessert or leave a plate after we host a party. Those dishes need to get back to another family. We had a flood in our basement, and I borrowed I think 17 fans and while most of those got given back quickly, there was two or so that I needed to hold on to until I saw those families.
As I’m remembering to give these things back, we have a spot in our entryway closet dedicated to ‘give backs’.
This is something that we started doing in our last house where we used one of our entryway drawers. That one was always full of casserole dishes and soothers (or single socks!) that friends with babies had left behind. I found myself beating myself up in those newborn days, always forgetting to actually give back those things then forgetting where I’d put them to be out of reach from the babies.
Having a spot for give backs helped break the cycle of tucking those things away so the house looked tidy, forgetting about them, getting frustrated with myself for forgetting, putting them on the counter so I don’t forget, feeling stressed about the clutter… plus, it takes one more thing you need t oremember out of that running list inside your head!
For us it’s in our entryway closet, but it could be somewhere that you will think to check as people are rushing out the door. This has become my habit as I’m saying goodbye to friends or family, I just open the closet and take a quick look to see if there’s anything that’s their’s.
What if they left more than just one thing?
If we had somebody staying with us and now we have a bag full of their toddler socks and toys and all these other things, I’ll just take a reusable grocery bag and stick it on a hanger and hang it in that same closet just to free up that shelf for other things that we might have.
But if you’re finding that that’s getting too full, then it is time to text some people and ask when they can you come pick them up or if you’re in their neighbourhood you can drop them off. I call this a trigger. When that dedicated space is full, that triggers me to deal with it.
Less stuff, sitting out like a to-do list of reminders… less stress!
Dedicate a spot for donations
The other thing that can pile up that we want a system for getting OUT of the house is donations.
If you are on a big kick of minimizing, I know you might need a bigger spot for now, but even if you’re just in maintenance season there’s things that you’ll find you no longer need or are ready to part with.
Having a space where you can put those things you’re ready to part with, that is removed from your main living space, will help make sure that they actually get donated. That they don’t end up back in circulation because someone wants to be helpful and think they just need to be put away. Or because a kid sees their old Paw Patrol tee they used to love and decides it still fits good enough so back in the hamper it goes. This will help your hard work of decluttering actually benefit your home.
In our last house (when I first realized that clutter causes me so much stress) I went and I decluttered like a wild woman. We just had so many things we could let go of. I had a giant box that I put behind our sofa and I would fill it. And then when it was full, I would move it out into garbage bags and I would put the box back there. It helped me in in that overwhelming season of babies to declutter without it interrupting or taking up space in our everyday living space.
Today I have a basket at the bottom of my own closet and as I’m trying on things each day, if I decide I’m ready to let a piece go , it goes there. When I’m folding laundry for my family and I see that shirt that definitely shows the belly button now, I can put that in there as I put it all away.
When that basket fills up, that’s my trigger to bag those donations up and take them to the thrift store or sell or hand down, whatever your system is.
For bigger stuff that I’d like to give away, like kitchen items or toys, I do have a bin in the garage as well. And when that fills up, it just goes in the back of the van and we stop at the thrift store on the way home from school.
Having a Designated place for that stuff that you are decluttering and a system or a trigger for you to actually get those things out of your home is so helpful. This could also be a calendar reminder where you empty those bins every few months or whatever works best to help you to maintain a space that feels really good.
For us- I tend to go on little minimizing kicks if a closet feels too full, a lot ends up in the basket that day. But other months are busy so only one or two things end up in there. The full basket as a trigger instead of a calendar reminder works well for me.
Commit to a simple laundry system
I have to be honest with you. I used to dread laundry. Really dread it. I’m an Enneagram seven. If you know what that is, we like spontaneity and to be able to say yes to fun things. The thought of committing my afternoon… or full day to laundry?! Brutal. I would avoid it and it would pile up and it would take me all day to get through.
Somewhere along the way (I’ve been a parent for 10 years now), I was told that routines are meant to free you up so you can say yes to more fun things NOT to fence you in. So you can be flexible without a consequence in your daily life. Routines and rhythms and systems can help you get those day to day things in without much thought so if you do say yes to a day trip or girls night… you don’t have no clean bottles or lunch containers for the diaper bag or you’re not pushing weeks worth of laundry another day.
This was a really big mindset shift for me because I’d always looked at routines and structure as a negative, I wanted to be able to be flexible and have fun.
The two big things that most of us find we’re constantly maintaining? Dishes and Laundry. We always eat, we always wear clothes.
For me, I have committed to a daily laundry system. I thought it was overkill when I started it, really. I thought I’d have time to wash the curtains and throw blankets and other things by friday each week but with one or two days a week where we say yes to something fun and skip the system… I don’t get to those as often as I’d like.
Again, I have four kids and we have an above ground pool in the summer so the amount of towels… They all do sports so we have a never ending stream of stinky soccer socks and gear going through this house. And even though I got alright at washing it all, the PILES of clean laundry to put away were overwhelming.
So my system now is to wake up and without thinking about it much, I throw a load in the wash. Then I enjoy my coffee and morning times with the kids and then I swap it. At some point in the day, I’ll try fold and put a basket away. Often for me that’s after school while the kids take their time to decompress or while kids bath in the evenings.
Just having one load going each day feels so much more manageable than piles. Of course, sometimes I’ll get behind sometimes and it will be like, two loads in a day… but two loads in a day compared to eight loads in a day, which is where I used to be, feels so much better.
Want to try it? Maybe try throwing a little note on your coffee maker to throw the laundry in. So every morning, when you go to do that first thing, you’re reminded and can to do that while the coffee’s brewing. That’s one of my fave places to put reminders. I do the same with these affirmations.
Try daily responsibilities for Kids
Just like I have my morning routine of laundry, as our kids have gotten older (the twins are 10 now!), I’ve asked them to have a morning responsibility as well. Mine is that laundry and helping them all get ready in the mornings. The youngest has feeding the dog, the other three rotate between unloading the dishwasher each morning, loading it with all those breakfast dishes and anything left over from the night before and wiping the table and counters from breakfast and lunch packing.
So they’ll empty the dishwasher and they’ll load it back up for us, so that it’s ready and empty to put stuff in for the day as we’re done breakfast, as we’re done lunch. And that has been hugely helpful for us to feel like we’re set up to have a great day. In our house, we just call it our morning responsibilities.
Other than the morning responsibilities, for dishes I will unload the dishwasher when my lunch is warming up (I work from home, I know this wont work for everyone). Then we can load it up with lunch containers from school and after school snack dishes and dinner dishes. After dinner the kids help clear their dishes into the dishwasher and it goes on again so it’ll be ready in the morning.
Keep things where you use them
I know, I share this in every single organization video and post I make but it’s because it really has helped us so much.Yes this is more of a tip not a hack, but it’s still important to me to have it in here.
In the houses that we’ve had, we’ve had small or non-existent linen closets. When I first learned this tip, in the Design Mom book years ago, one of the examples that she gave was to keep bedroom sheets in the bedroom closet on the top shelf, especially for kids instead of the linen closet. Because you have extra sheets, because they wet the bed… then you don’t need to go to the linen closet or the laundry room, like it’s just right there in the middle of the night.
Also, what do we use that top shelf for anyways? I keep off season clothes up there and extra sheets. That frees up a whole shelf in our tiny linen closet so we can keep the towels we need there.
But speaking of towels… I keep face cloths in the bathroom vanity drawer where we wash our face. And we keep pool towels in the basement so kids can easily grab them as they run outside. It frees up space in our linen closet so it’s no longer overwhelming and… falling out at us!
This is also true for cleaning supplies. I wrote a whole post on where we keep our cleaning supplies but for the most part, I don’t keep many cleaning supplies under the sink. I keep dish soap and like counter spray and that sort of thing under there… but general household cleaners I keep in a cleaning cupboard.
And anything bathroom cleaner I keep just right outside the bathroom in a little closet or downstairs in the basket under the bathroom vanity. I keep things where I use them instead of in one central spot where I would have to remember to go get it to bring it over here to use it. And it has made it a lot easier to quickly just do a clean up while little kids are bathing or when I it needs it.
Other examples? We keep our kids art supplies in a kitchen cupboard closest to the dining room table because they do all of their art at the dining room table. Instead of… In their bedrooms or in my craft room where they have to get it and bring it up to the dining room table and then it never gets put away.
If you keep things where they’re used, they’re so much more likely to get put away because they’re right there. It’s easy.
Junk Drawers are OK in this house (with a Purpose)
Speaking of making it easy, my next tip is to allow yourself junk drawers. But junk drawers with a purpose and with a routine for cleaning them out. So let me explain. I have one specifically that I absolutely love.
For me, I think of this as having a ‘catch all’. Somewhere that you can put things that you don’t need to deal with right now so it doesn’t end up in doom baskets or piles all over waiting for you to look at again.
So whether you call it a junk drawer or basket or shelf… if you can kind of categorize those things that get shoved in doom piles and give them specific spots to go, you’ll not only know where to find them, but much like the donations bin, when they fill up, you can be triggered to deal with them.
So one of the drawers that we have in our living room console is for missing puzzle pieces, game pieces, random cards, anything kids stuff that needs to go back in boxes.
Because here’s the thing, my kids are pretty awesome BUT if I say, here’s this Monopoly piece, go put it with Monopoly… I will probably find it on the floor by the Monopoly bin. Because they got overwhelmed with the stack of boxes and then they accidentally knocked over a puzzle and everyone else was having fun playing beads upstairs so they left it.
We ended up with so many missing puzzle pieces when the kids were little. They would get slid under the rug or sofa and then when we found them, we were not in a place to put them away right now, in the middle of bedtime routine say. So then they’d get tucked on the counter, and then a while later, they might get, like, spilled on, and then they end up in the garbage.
So now, if we find a missing piece, it goes in this drawer. And then, occasionally, as I’m doing a tidy, I’ll see the drawer’s getting full. I’ll take all of the stuff down to the games cupboard in the basement, and I’ll put everything away all at once, and it’s done. And if we’re playing a game and a piece is missing? It’s almost always there.
This has been awesome for us as some days are so rushed we can’t deal with everything start to finish. This could work for other things, too…
If you’re finding kids art that comes in and ends up all over the countertops, a drawer or a basket where kids know it goes can help you manage that… as long as you have a system to empty it. When it gets full, you deal with it. You can see what we do with our kids artwork right here!
Embrace Hidden Organization
What is hidden organization? And what are we hiding? Okay so we know that visual clutter can be stressful, especially for women.
So if that is the case for you… but you need some of these organization systems that are hanging out on your fridge and on your counter and all over your walls… and you feel frustrated that they’re always left out, this is for you.
Hidden organization is all that practical organization you need but where you don’t see it from where you’re relaxing or spending your days, but still within reach, readily available to you so they will be used and not forgotten about.
For us, that also means the cleaning cupboard by the dining room has all the responsibilities and routine charts for the kids on the inside of the door. We just leave it open in the morning as kids are in there so they can see where they’re at and what they might have forgotten.
For us, that means using hooks on the inside of the doors.
For us, that means using drawers instead of open shelving (except for beautiful stuff). Having closed storage in the living room instead of an open bookshelf. These things have been so helpful for me to feel at peace and calm in my house.
Consider going digital
Years ago I read about Abby going paperless. I’m not there, I don’t feel that need. But I have always held on to my paper planner with white knuckles. This past year and a half though? We went digital. As our family has gotten older, our schedule has gotten fuller and there are so many more things to have on there.
So we have a shared family calendar that is digital. I still use a paper planner for a lot of things, I put the big things on the paper calendar so the kids can see what’s going on, I tend to meal plan on a paper calendar and like to start my content planning and vacation planning on paper… but for the nitty gritty can that fit in our schedule / I don’t want to forget that? I mean… I love paper calendars so much I still make myself these modern hand lettered calendars each year.
I have a digital Google calendar now that my husband and I share. We both have access to it from our phones. When I update it, it updates for him. And depending on that has been a game changer. So the way that we do it is we have a color for each of our family members and then a color for our whole family all together.
So if I know that kid one has soccer Wednesday night 6:30 till 7:30 for the next three months, I put it in there as a recurring event ending at the end of those months. That saves me like 4 minutes writing soccer each week on the calendar right there. Then when my husband is deciding what night works best to meet up with friends, he’s going to choose one that’s free or he’ll make sure he doesn’t double book on school concert night. Booking all those doctor’s appointments starts to get a lot easier when we’re able to see exactly at a glance what we’ve got going on.
In busy seasons, I also put in meal reminders (put chicken in the slow cooker) and who’s helping with kids (grandma’s with the kids). Or when I have a zoom meeting or something like that, I’ll put that in there just so that my husband knows my work day is not as flexible so if he’s booking something (he schedules a lot of the kids appointments for us), he knows when I can drive or not. It seems like such a silly thing, but I was so resistant to a digital calendar and it’s benefited us so much.
Because of the digital calendar, Home time feel that much more peaceful because I’m not thinking, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna forget something. I’m also not spending all my time updating a paper calendar and reminding (over and over) my husband to check it. We try to do a once a week quick look at the upcoming calendar together to make sure our other time together is quality not task oriented.
Alright, those are my systems or hacks or whatever we want to call them! I don’t even know what is considered a hack anymore. Those are my tips and I hope that you have found them as helpful as I find them for our home and our life.
And if you have any questions at all, as always you can pop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!
Here’s some more organizing and home tips you might like:
Prefer this in video form? Here you go!
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