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21 April 2008

Simple Family Life - Part Four

A lot of people say to me, “You must be so organised!” And it’s true, I am quite organised. I have lists, menus, folders, files, a diary and a place for (almost) everything. At least once a week I spend time updating my diary and to-do list, writing a weekly menu, checking the pantry and fridge for items I need to buy and otherwise getting organised. And every day I check my to-do list and diary so that I can keep up. Otherwise, all tasks are pushed to the end of the week and beyond, and eventually I’m snowed under and confused. This is when we resort to take-away, buying things at the corner shop or supermarket and generally wasting our time and money.

Recently I’ve let a few routines go by – I swapped housework for a social day last week and therefore my entrance and dining room floors are less clean than I prefer. I’m a little behind in some of my magazine columns because I’ve been blogging (the columns are written months before publication, and it never seems pressing until I see the word ‘deadline’ in my diary!) So this week I’m tackling a lot of tasks I postponed last week and the week before.

I’m nowhere near as talented at or patient with homemaking as Rhonda. I’d love to be, but with six children, homeschooling, the farm, a home-based business and my freelance work – I just can’t do it. And I’m not giving any of those other things up! The things I’m particular about are:

* a clean bathroom, especially the vanity (sink) and toilet once a day
* a clean kitchen including the fridge and pantry, wiped benches and clean dishes all day, every day
* empty bins as required, rubbish sorted, scraps to animals once a day
* clean clothes, no build-up of laundry as I have enough loads to do without a backlog, every day
* enough food for us all, and no wastage of that food, checked daily at lunch time
* clear floors so no one trips over or breaks anything, every morning and evening
* menu plans and shopping lists, weekly
* bills paid on time, noted and filed as they arrive
* reduced clutter, at least at each change-of-season
* do something in the garden each day – harvest, water, plant, feed, weed or planning

My downfalls are:

* major cleaning like ceilings and walls, even a complete vacuum and mop is sometimes a challenge
* folding and hanging clean clothes in wardrobes (I am responsible for myself, my husband and the younger two children only)
* wiping over cupboard-fronts, whitegoods, light switches, doors etc
* windows, washing curtains
* tidying the linen cupboard (who messes it up anyway?)
* tidying and cleaning the shed – only when I can’t stand the mess do I tackle this one

Knowing where my weaknesses lie is important. These are the things I schedule into my diary or to-do list or I’d never get to them. I prefer play to work, and life’s too short when the children are young to let some cobwebs stand in the way of a picnic at the creek!

My recommendation for anyone wanting to live more simply is to get organised and stay there. You’ll save time and money, tread more gently on the planet and still have time for play…

Here are a few of my favourite tools for an organised life:
* Organizing JunkieMenu Plan Monday and other tools for bloggers – I find that joining in keeps me accountable

* Simple Savings – using the tips and especially the forum is fantastic for keeping me in the right mindset but challenged as well as for obtaining new ideas.

* Blogging – keeping lists of what’s in my garden and orchard, writing seasonal notes and monthly updates also keeps me accountable and is fantastic to look back upon.

* Lists – find a method to suit and use it. I currently use one of those 1-cent 64 page exercise books which can be found at the start of a school year (we keep a small supply for various uses, not just homeschool!) I divide each page into six, which is the right size for about 6-7 tasks/reminders a day. What I don’t do is transferred to another day.

* Menu Plans – we all must eat, and it’s getting more expensive each week. Menu Planning has saved my sanity and our budget. There are numerous online tools to help you, or just wing it using your usual fare fitted into your usual weekly schedule, with at least one back-up option in mind (a frozen or ‘quick’ meal to avoid the take-away trap!) Part Two of this series explains more about how I handle food for eight-plus people.

* Folders are my friend! I keep some paperwork I regularly refer to in those spiral-bound A4 refill books – one for recipes, one for the farm, one for general papers – lists, forms, catalogues and so on. No loose papers! I also keep larger 3-ring binder folders for financial matters – one for our home budgeting and bills, and one for my business paperwork.

* A place for everything. I try to think of the house as having ‘zones’. So the children’s stuff stays in their space, entertainment in the living area (games, TV, DVDs, music), anything to do with food in the kitchen, cleaning in the laundry, personal care in the bathroom, and we have a room for anything to do with homeschool, though it does tend to spread out to other rooms and bookcases of course. Home education is a lifestyle! I never go anywhere in the house empty-handed and teach the children to do the same. If something has strayed from its zone, we take it home on our way around the house during the day. This eliminates the need for too many big clean-ups, so is a good tool for us!

* Simply staying a step ahead – extra food in the cupboard, extra meals in the freezer, clothes washed before the hamper overflows, outings planned, money budgeted and everyone informed of what to expect, when (by way of a family calendar in the kitchen) – this preparation is my advantage.

I hope some of these ideas help. Maybe you have an organisation tool, website or idea to share in the Comment section of this post?

* Fourth in a series of five guest posts by Belinda Moore. Here are part one, part two and part three of this series.


  1. What a great post. I'm keeping the blog up on its' own tab so I can come back and read all the others in this series.

    Recently I asked my friend, Sally Clarkson, how she does it all (she hasn't responded to that, yet). I only homeschooled my (much) younger child and I was crazy busy.

    Once again... great post. Many ideas to come back to and ponder and probably make a part of my daily life.

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean!

    I used to be wonderfully organized and in some ways I still am but lately I've been so distracted. Now there are simply small areas of the house which have become collection bins for junk mail (which needs to be shredded as soon as we buy a new shredder since I killed our last shredder by attempting to shred paper bags to use as bedding for the chickens). I also have a rather messy desk. I was never a messy desk sort of gal and find my new bad habit very frustrating.

    After reading your post, I've decided to make Mondays Desk Days and fix this work space right up. The husband will be so pleased!

    Blessings to you and many thanks for your kindness and generosity!

  3. Thanks for a great post! Menu planning has really made a difference for us. We try to plan 2 weeks at a time, cutting down on our grocery shopping trips. We hardly ever eat out now that we have a list to rely on, and that's really helped our budget and our health!

  4. Another great post Bel, many things to ponder, thank you. I really admire home schoolers; what a wonderful way of raising children but I know it must be such hard work! Thanks for sharing that beautiful photo of the family.

  5. Hi Bel! I agree totally - organisation is the key. Lists, blogging and folders all help a lot.

    Love the family photo and the view of the river. It's a perfect place for you all.

  6. I enjoyed your post Bel.

    Re organisation sites - I used to be a Flylady subscriber, and still like some of the ideas but couldn't handle all of the emails that always seemed to be selling something!

    I also like Cindy's Porch ( - especially her 'Not Me Fives' -

  7. Belinda, another enjoyable post. I'm coming to the inevitable conclusion that while being organised IS hard....the alternative is harder, and therefore it's worth striving to achieve it. Lisa

  8. I want to nominate you as my personal Wonder Woman! If you can get things done than anyone can! Good on you.

    I'm a fellow organizing junkie in my own mind. I would organise the world if I could!


  9. Thank you so much for these posts, Bel. I'm relatively new to the blog world but am still amazed at how much I can learn from normal people half way across the world.
    Your housework "downfalls" made me laugh - mine are the same. If the house is hygienic and everyone fed and clean at the end of the day, I feel I've done well at the moment!
    I'm away to bookmark your own blog/page now as I reckon I can learn a lot from you.
    Karen (Scotland)

  10. Hello and thanks for the lovely comments! I'm so excited because I cleaned my house today. Clear surfaces everywhere, no dust, less cobwebs (they're hard to see in the exposed beams!) and the floors are clean and fresh! I cleaned the pot belly heater and put fresh candles in the dishes that run alongside it. Very pretty. :)

    Lacy, Monday is a great day to tidy your desk! Mine is going to move from around the corner to visible from the front door, so my version of tidy might need looking at soon too!

    I'm glad you liked the pics Rosie and Rhonda. The one of us on the stairs was taken at our old house, about 3 hours south of here. The river is our creek which borders our current home.

    Kez, I forgot about flylady. Like you, I found it overwhelming (but a good source of ideas). Thanks for the great links you shared!

    Lisa, thank you. xx

    Karen and Megan, great to hear of others doing similar things and feeling happy with the results!

    Thanks again, all, lovely to read these comments. Only ONE more post to go for this series.

  11. Thanks Bel! I'm going to keep this poen and read it again. I'm finding that three kids is challenging my organisation and time management skills, but I know that this season of life (having littlies) will one day pass.

    BTW: when I look at your family photo, six kids doesn't seem that many ;)

  12. Hi Bel :) It's a joy to read your posts here - so fun and full of good ideas.

    I use the Motivated Moms planner - purchased one last year and tweaked it so I could keep using it each year. That keeps the house going - all I have to do is "do the list!" LOL

    Love to you, Q

  13. Thanks for another inspirational post- im in the process of getting things really organised- i have four kids and its a challenge keeping them organised. We also have a wooden bowl by the door for our phones etc and a keyhook for keys. Im still working on the menu planning though....

  14. Hi Liz, you're right, it is a season - having all little ones is hard (I remember!) But it's also a very important time to implement all the routines and tools you can manage so it's second nature soon enough, and the children learn by your example.

    Quinne, thank you! Do you have a link to Motivated Moms to share? Sounds interesting!

    Danielle, I actually find the menu planning one of the most fun parts of staying organised. Maybe just focus on the organisational tools you enjoy? Did you see the link? There are hundreds of menu plans a week linked there every Monday (US time) and seeing others plans is a huge inspiration to me.

    Brenda, I forgot to ask, is that Sally Clarkson from They really seem to have it together!

    Thanks again everyone for your encouragement and kind words. In my early mothering years and first years homeschooling I read everything I could get my hands on about how other families 'did it'. Running a family was overwhelming for me at times in those early years. I have gleaned lots of tips from those who journeyed before me and tailored them to our own family and home. I share these snippets of our lives with you in the hope that you can be encouraged and therefore have more time and energy for the joy that a young family brings.



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