We love our home, but man - some things about it have really stumped us. Why is there no logical place for a TV in the family room? Why is the dining room so impossibly small? And the most vexing question of all: Where does that fridge ultimately need to land?
For FOUR YEARS, Dan and I have walked around in circles on the first floor, trying to determine the best possible use of the space. Finally, we lost our minds. We needed a fresh set of eyes on it. We needed a plan.
Enter Johanna Patterson, one of my sister Betsy's dear friends, pictured here with her beautiful family of five.
Johanna is a fantastic interior stylist and blogger. Her online magazine 5th and James is filled with relatable, approachable tips: Home styling with a side of life. You will be blown away by her personal fixer upper, featured HERE. The lady has vision.
Johanna - who helps people create beautiful spaces through her freelance styling business- worked up a new layout and flow for our home, and WHEW! It feels so good to have a plan. She also gave us a beautiful mood/inspo board, which completely nailed my favorite colors, textiles and finishes.
Now that school is back in session, a lot of us are in need of another kind of plan. One for family life organization. Oh no worries, Johanna's got that too! Here's a guest post from this savvy, stylish momma.
In Johanna's words...
In my mind, when my husband and I decided to have children, I had visions of peace and harmony and skipping through life hand in hand. I thought immediately about all of the memories we’d make together as “a family." I imagined snuggling them as infants, swinging them at the park as toddlers and being their most trusted confidant as they neared adulthood. But I never considered the logistics it would take to actually get there. I never pictured myself yelling from the back door, “PLEASE. put. on. your. shoes.”
Now: I am no parenting expert. I’m sure there are plenty of people who could weigh in on advice for what we all should do so that we don’t have to tell our darling children more than once to put on their shoes. I’m not that person. My children are 8, 6 and 4. They are the loves on my life. I adore every single part of them. But when they play house, they play “we’re late." My bad.
To combat this type of insanity (make no mistake, telling a tiny human 78 times to put protection on their feet before stepping out into the frigid snow is nothing less than pure insanity), I started doing a few small things every day to help us all stay sane. As I alluded, in our house the things that trip us up the most are getting dressed and out the door. And the key to it all: organization. I know, nothing ground breaking, but none the less the magic ingredient to a Nice Mommy. And, because I like things to look pretty, and function easily, for me the key was to organize in style. And you can too. I promise.
Like many people, I keep our life organized in my phone. I love the google calendar that allows us to share and update our activities on the go. If I schedule an appointment that is divergent from our regular weekly schedule, such as a doctor’s appointment, I always select an alert to go off on my phone so that I can be reminded mid Costco run that I have a half hour to get out of there and into the waiting room.
But what I think is the key to keeping our schedule organized is breaking it down week by week at home, in real ink, the old fashioned way. We have come a long way in attractive planning systems. My favorite is this one from Pottery Barn. It allows you to view your whole month at a glance. You can color code different family members activities and keep important paperwork close by with the coordinating letter bins and pin-boards or whatever your space allows.
Another idea is to just have an old fashioned planner. I have a planner always out on my counter. Every Sunday night, I flip to the next week ahead and fill in all of our activities from my master calendar on my phone. It not only serves as a reminder for me of what is coming up, but very often there is something that I need to do to prepare for an activity, and I then write that on the adjacent to-do list page. This way, as I head into the week, I feel organized and on top of things. Even when I have a hectic week and a packed to-do list.
I like to keep a running weekly to-do list and nothing satisfies me more than crossing things off that list. At the end of the week if items remain on that to-do list, I move it to the top of the list for the next week. This system makes me feel organized headed into each week, and doesn’t stress me out too badly over the things coming up in the following weeks. They aren’t bulky or a big jumbled mess on the refrigerator; they keep your life organized and your home polished.
2. Plan Outfits Ahead of Time
I have two girls in my mix who are particular about what they wear right down to the coordinating accessories. In my experience, that isn’t something we can just throw together at the last minute. For us, the key to happiness here is setting out outfits the night before. That way it gives us plenty of time to set out the shoes and the tights and the hair accessories and all the fun that comes with getting a little girl dressed. (I do this for my son, as well. It just isn’t as involved.)
An organized closet is the ticket to making this process painless. Invest in a closet organization system or have a local carpenter make one custom for you. Before you do so, think about the way you’ll use the closet. Gage for the amount of hanging clothes you have, the things that you want to be tucked away in drawers, and the things you’ll need shelf space for. We have an historic home, and even in our small closets, we were able to carve out space for organization. When you can see everything you have, you are more inclined to wear it and the easier it is for little hands to reach, the more inclined our kids are to put their stuff away on their own. Can I get an AMEN?!
3. Double Up Downstairs
One day I was at my friend's house sitting in her kitchen when she opened a drawer at her island and pulled out a hairbrush. Eureka! Pure brilliance. She has four children; this was not her first rodeo.
In our house, we now keep toothpaste and a toothbrush for each child tucked away in the powder room drawer as well as a brush, rubber bands and detangling spray. After my kids get dressed each morning they come downstairs to eat breakfast. After breakfast we brush teeth and hair right there downstairs, grab our backpacks and go. Everything gets tucked away nicely in the drawer, and the next guest to use our powder room is none the wiser.
4. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
I completely missed the memo on how much stuff we would accrue as a family. Backpacks, bags, shoes, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, boots, umbrellas, unicorns…. you know the drill. I needed a place for it all right when we came in the door to avoid the Hansel and Gretel style trail of personal items dropped throughout the house. For us, this came in the form of built in cubbies. Everyone has their own space, and there is a place for everything. Double hooks for backpacks and bags and coats; space for shoes, baskets for sunglasses, hats and mittens. Basically, everything you need to get out the door. If you don’t have a spot for cubbies, there are really stylish wall systems now such as this one that make organizing a breeze. Or, even a set of hooks and baskets at child height in a front hall closet helps. The goal is really just to avoid the most annoying maternal question of all, 14 seconds before you’re supposed to be in the car, “Mom, where is my ______.”
5. A Dump Basket
Even the most organized of us all will still find their kids carrying around things (and leaving them around the house) and ask themselves, “where DOES that go?” Fidget spinners, mashems, lego creations, stuffed animals. For these such items, I keep a basket on the stairs. When I come across an abandoned toy, it goes in the basket. At the end of the day, the kids are responsible for emptying the basket and putting its contents away. It usually takes them about five minutes, and it allows them to decide where that particular invaluable piece of plastic will live. Often times people will pop in my house and say, “I can’t believe three kids live here. Where is all of their stuff?” My secret is: it’s in the basket. It’s out of my sight, and off my couch and they are in charge. I’m all about the win/win.
Beautiful function is the key to this mama's happiness. It leaves time to have fun together and enjoy the millions of little things my kids do that I don’t want to miss. It frees up headspace otherwise occupied with anxiety about what lies ahead, and it’s nice to look at, too. Kids do not have to equal clutter. You just have to organize in style.