There's a saying that a messy home is a sign of an interesting life, but running a household when you’ve got young children involves much more than just keeping the floors clean.
We all want a clean bathroom, clean sheets, bills paid on time, not to mention making sure we've got the swimming lessons booked in and the birthday parties in the calendar … there’s a lot of stuff to stay on top of!
And yet, Jody Allen from Stay At Home Mum argues, it is possible to be mistress of your domain without becoming obsessed with the minutia of daily home life – even if you’re a busy working mum. And lucky for us, she’s happy to share her top tips with those of us who are less gifted in the organisational arts.
Create a morning routine for the whole family
“We’ve got into a fairly strict routine, which is the only way that it works when both parents work and the kids go to school,” explains Jody. “So we leap out of bed in the morning and the kids empty the dishwasher - they know they have to do that first thing. The washing goes on. I do school lunches on a Sunday so they're all frozen and ready to go; I just pop them out of the freezer, and throw some fruit and yogurt in.”
Despite all these time-saving measures, Jody does admit that there are still plenty of mornings when they struggle to get out of the house on time!
Keep all the important information in one spot
When it comes to keeping track of vital information – bills, appointments, social engagements and the like - find a system that works, and then stick to it!
“I'm terrible at keeping a calendar on my phone,” says Jody, “but like most people, I have a stainless steel fridge. I have a whiteboard marker and everything goes on that fridge, so my fridge looks like a blackboard. But every day, everything I've got on is on the fridge. And I put on the fridge because apparently we open and shut it 50 times a day. And it's right where we see it.”
Keep on top of the washing
While it may sound like a simple no-brainer, the fact that to do this actually involves many, many steps – put the washing on, hang the washing out, bring the washing in, sort and fold the washing, put the washing away – it’s no wonder that so many of us are sitting amongst the piles of laundry each night when we collapse on the sofa after dinner. The laundry cycle is relentless!
“I'm into a routine that works like clockwork. I get up in the morning, and hang the washing out. Then chuck another one on – I have a 10 kilo machine and highly recommended you buy the biggest machine you can find - and then every afternoon, or just before I go to bed, I fold and do 10 minutes of ironing or get my husband to do it.” Jody says. “I am a little bit anal when it comes to my washing, but it just has to be done every single day or that pile goes up. I also have different washing baskets for different things and they're all in my walk-in robe so nobody can see them.” Tidy work indeed.
Listen to Jody in The Juggle series:
Invest in storage solutions that work
Even the most chaotic of us can be distracted by fantasies of being super-organised if only we had the perfect storage solution. Probably something pretty and colour-coordinated. A simple storage system that will whip the entire house into shape – and keep it that way without any real effort at all. We can dream, right?!
“I have a bucket for my fitted sheets. I don't fold them, I roll them in a tight ball and put them in a ziploc container. I keep absolutely heaps of stuff, all my photos, everything in those Ziploc containers; they're brilliant. I put them in the shed in case the house burns down,” Jody shares.
“I try to keep everything together in the area of the house you use it … So my ironing board is in my walk-in robe where I keep all my washing. By contrast, my Christmas decorations are all together in one spot where I know I'm not going to run into them all the time.”
Do your paperwork regularly and often
No one likes family paperwork – and it is very easy to fall into the trap of putting it off till later. But you know what? Those bills won’t pay themselves! So biting the bullet and sitting down to tackle the paperwork on a regular basis will take some of the pain out of the process. And this is never more true than when you’re living on a tight budget.
“I keep all my bills on a big clip claw and it goes on to the fridge. I highlight the due date and the one that's due the closest is always on top. So I’m always looking at it. And again, I put it on the calendar, Jody sensibly explains. “Try and organise your bank account too. I pay a little bit of electricity every time I get paid. Paying the rates this way is really good because I used to get really frightened with that bill every time. So now I know that 30 bucks a week goes to rates every single week and I don't have to think about it.”
“I also firmly believe in having an emergency account. I normally keep about $5000 in mine; it's a buffer if someone knocks their teeth out or the car breaks down or some unexpected bill arrives, you're not you're not left worrying. I hate worrying about money - it's my biggest worry!”
Jody Allen is the author of The $50 Weekly Shop: Weekday Dinners
5 ways to master the single mother juggle
Start by giving yourself a break, says Beanstalk founder Lucy Good.
3 ways to avoid becoming an emotionally drained parent zombie
So that everyone's cup is full.
Technology: a double-edged sword for modern parents
How to juggle technology as part of family life.
Breakfast to bath time: Juggling everyday life with a baby and toddler
Simple and practical steps for juggling everyday life with little children.
How to cut your weekly shopping bill to $50
Bring it down to just $50 a week!
13 resourceful hacks for organising toys
Because kids spread them EVERYWHERE.
Mum’s hilarious guide to housework is the best
"Do a smell check for urine in the bathroom" and other handy tips.
Introducing Georgina Dent: a voice in media for Australian women
She's a women's advocate, mum and journalist, PLUS the host of our pocast Your Family, Your Money.