Archive for December, 2011

The Giant Family Re-Org Project

Sharon December 5th, 2011

Well, I sent to book to my editor late on Saturday night, which gave me yesterday to decompress a little before Eric and the boys returned from visiting Grandma (it is generally felt to be wise for everyone to spend the last few days before a book is done somewhere else so I can work non-stop and they don’t have to put up with me getting neurotic).  Today we embark on the next big project – reorganizing the house for 7-10 children.

As you may or may not remember, we had ten kids for about 24 hours in November, when we took a short lived placement of five (several of the kids were allergic to cats, everyone moved to a cat-free home) shortly before M. who had been with us for a month, left to live with his Aunt.  The next week was Thanksgiving and one of our biannual trips to my family near Boston, and then I plunged headlong into the book, so it is safe to say that nothing has been cleaned or organized more than the bare minimum for some weeks.

Taking such a large sibling group, even for a short time, was eye-opening.  Due to legal requirements about shared space (kids over 7 can’t share rooms with opposite gender siblings) and different possible numbers of kids, it is hard to know exactly how many rooms we’ll need or how we’ll want to arrange them.  We have an official “kids room” but may need more space than that.  Medical needs of children might also shape how we arrange things, as might just plain getting-along issues.  We have a six bedroom house, so there are a lot of options, but not only do we need to be able to make adjustments fairly quickly, but we also need to have more flexibility, and ideally, want it done before the next time we go to ten kids ;-) .

This is actually a good time for us – hectic for most of the rest of the nation, Chanukah is a minor holiday, celebrated mostly in quiet ways at our place.  Eric’s semester ends soon and the exams and other grading chaos will ensue, but all the more reason for the rest of us keep busy, and by the 20th or so, he’ll be able to help.

So the next few weeks will spent doing the following big home projects:

1. Cleaning out and reorganizing the laundry room into a “family closet” kind of like this. I actually did this years ago, and I thought I’d invented the idea – I moved all the kids clothes, and then ours onto open wire shelving in the laundry room, so that I didn’t have to constantly haul laundry around or deal with the kids throwing everything out of their dressers.  It has been one of my favorite things – but making space for 2-6 more kids will require some revisions and restructuring.  For example, the dryer which we haven’t used in 6 years, is still sitting there taking up space because in order to get it out, I have to take everything out and move the washer.  I am finally going to do this.  Meanwhile, all the kids’ out of season clothes have been kept in bins below the open shelves – those are moving out and into upstairs closets.

2.  Our food storage has taken over one of our spare bedrooms.  Remember, we’ve got six bedrooms, of which, until this year, only two were occupied by sleeping people.  So we turned one of the smaller bedrooms into a pantry space.  The problem is that we may need that room back – it is a logical candidate to be a kids’ bedroom – or a housemate’s bedroom.  So most of the food storage is going into either the spare kitchenette in Eric’s grandparents apartment, or up to  curtained off segment of our room. Of course, that means I have to clean out both those spaces first.  Someone in a previous post expressed fear that we’d be sleeping in a pantry – no worries, our room is so huge you could play raquetball in it, so there’s  plenty of room to isolate food storage.

3. The games closet.  We are board game fans and we have a ton of them – they take up an entire enormous closet, and frankly, are a huge mess – every time my kids take out one game they mess them up, and things spill, etc…  I am going to try a new system, in which all the pieces are kepts in cabinets, the boxes are disposed of, and the boards are labelled and stacked in a bin – at a minimum this should allow the mess about 1/3 as much space, even if it doesn’t keep them tidy.  I’ll keep the boxes for a while, just in case I regret my decision.

4. A reorganization of the boys’ room.  Over the years a room that was mostly designed for little kids to play in has become more the room of bigger kids who spend their time writing, cartooning, drawing and rampaging, rather than playing with toys per se.  Time to move things around and make the room into the big-kid space it actually is.

5. The garage.  Let’s just stop there and leave that.  Also, before it gets really cold, we need to get the garage set up for the winter.  Mac the Marshmallow, who hates to sleep in the house and refuses to do so can be persuaded on the worst nights to take refuge in the garage, so it needs dog space, and to be cleaned out.

There are a bunch of smaller projects as well, so that’s what I’ll be doing in the dark of the year.  Oh, and winterizing the barn, breeding the does, butchering chickens, getting the calves butchered, cooking and throwing a couple of parties during Chanukah – but after the book, that seems easy.

What about you?  What are your projects?


Best Frugality Tips?

Sharon December 1st, 2011

I’m going to be buried under my book for the next few days as the Adapting-In-Place book finally goes to my editor, but I did want to respond to this email, or rather, get my readers to respond. Gwen writes:

I just lost my job, and after a lot of late nights and panicked budget making, we think we can get along on just my husband’s income, but it will be very tough and there will be no money at all for extras of any kind. We’ve always used our discretionary income to support things we care about – in the last few years this was local farmers and craftspeople, and making ethical choices when we shopped. Now I feel like I don’t have the luxury anymore – I know a lot of things that I can do to save money will be environmentally sound as well – turning down the heat, cutting back on the lights, buying more used items, but I hate to go back to choosing the supermarket for food and Toys R’Us for gifts because they are cheaper, but they often are. Do you have any suggestions for frugal sustainable shopping?”

This is a great and timely question, and I do have answers, but unfortunately, I’m head down in the last bit of my book and don’t have time to respond right now. Thus, I pass it on to you, my readers. How do you balance the need to save money with making good and ethical consumer choices that support things that are important to you? What do you suggest to Gwen?

Thanks everyone!