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?


15 Responses to “The Giant Family Re-Org Project”

  1. Pat says:

    I need to rotate and organize my pantry, which right now has sprouting potatoes, bags of rabbit feed, and a random bunch of canned food in there. An inventory would be nice too.

    Then I have a bunch of stuff that needs to be put up on Freecycle and made to go away.

    And I haven’t gotten out the Christmas decorations yet. :)

  2. Nicole says:

    It sounds like that short term placement was just what you needed to get warmed up. If my household suddently went up by 4 youngster I doubt I would manage as gracefully as you!

    I need to put up some wire protection around the young fruit trees in case we have a bad winter (as I have plenty of wild rabbits.) I’d also like to do my first dormant oil spray but several trees are holding on to their leave despite several hard freezes so I may just hold off until February or March. Aphids are my only pest anyway. (So far.)

    I had planned to make tiny utility room the next project as it desperately needs cabinets and a new floor, but since my household may be going up by one in the foreseeable future, my next project make be designing and building a garden shed to free up the other slot in my 2-car garage.

    And I have a bunch of old jackets and coats that are never worn that need to go off to Goodwill while the weather is cold and they are needed.

  3. [email protected] says:

    Ugh! You sure have your plate full. Actually, it’s some consolation since mine is incredibly full too right now, at a time when I’m usually unwinding from the gardening year. The problem is that the mild fall weather just stretched the year on and on and on. The garden is finally put to bed for the winter, and only some finishing touches need to be done on our hoop house project. But now everything that’s been waiting for outdoor work to finish needs to be done. Nothing major and name-able, like your projects, just tons and tons and tons of fiddly stuff. Trying to figure out why the hens aren’t laying, despite the abundant extra lighting they’re getting. Cleaning stuff that’s been ignored far too long. I’ve got a pile of ziploc bags that can all be washed and re-used. De-cluttering, running the recycling to the recycling center, thinning the bookshelves. We’re trying to get lots of doctor’s appointments in too, since we’ll be losing our health insurance early next year. And since that will also entail a loss of income, I need to restart a price comparison book for all the toiletries and grocery items we regularly buy. I feel like I’ve been running flat-out since late September and could really use a break just about now.

    Congratulations on finishing your book. I look forward to seeing it in print.

  4. Claire says:

    Congratulations on your book from me too! I’ll be ordering it as soon as it’s out.

    As soon as the garden soil freezes, probably the next week or two, I’ll be raking leaves with the DH and mulching the veggie gardens with them. Also will put some directly into compost piles. Then it’s on to the last lawn-mowing of the year. Once that’s done, I’ll be starting winter pruning and other clean-up issues in the whole yard.

    Inside, I need to finish this year’s garden records and plan next year’s veggie garden. And do my winter holiday cards and letters. That should be enough to get through December … than on to other needed work.

  5. Matriarchy says:

    I’ve spent the past 2-3 years dehoarding my mother’s house. We moved in a few years ago, to care for her. It was a horrendous idea, to try to clear a hoarder’s house while we lived in in with her, but there didn’t seem to be a choice. It is now approaching normalcy, and she has declined into a more passive form of dementia.

    In an ideal world, I would live here, find housemates as my girls grow up and move out, and “adapt in place,” but this is not an ideal world, and we will have to sell the house when Mom goes into a dementia care unit on Medicaid. I expect to do that within a year, so I am organizing us in anticipation. It’s not fun to have put so much energy into something with so little pay-off. I am 50 this year, so it is hard to not feel like time is fleeting and I am bankrupting my future by not working at something that pays - but who else will do this necessary work?

    Lots to do to get ready to sell the house. Garage full of things to sell in order to keep paying bills. I continuously ebay/craigslist the things we dis-impacted from mom’s “collecting.” We also have two storage units from the house we used to have, to sort and condense by selling and donating. We’ve already gotten rid of literally tons of debris, sold donated a ton of clothing and household stuff - another big load going to a thrift shop tomorrow.

    My older daughter left for college, and she boxed up the rest of her life for the move I have been turning her old room into a library/workroom - I want to sew this winter. I am leaving a daybed for her to sleep on when she is home on breaks. She plans to get an apartment with her boyfriend next year, so she will not live with us in this house again. Nonetheless, my partner thinks I have rushed her out of our lives, but we need the space. Long-term, we think both of our children will need out support in the future, as the economy degrades. I hope to find expandable space to live, when we move.

    One big project this winter is the room of my 15-yo daughter. It is so messy that she sleeps in other people’s room and cannot find clothing. It is unclear whether her messiness is a hoarding/organizational problem, or if she just doesn’t care and is just an especially unkempt teen. Her room was the first that de-hoarded and repainted, but she has it smelling dank and moldy, so I am imposing order. I am sure fur will fly.

    I also hope to repaint the common areas and attempt to spruce up the shabby kitchen. It sort of doesn’t matter what the house looks like - medicaid will simply take the proceeds of a fair market sale, no matter what it brings. There isn’t incentive to spend scare resources to fix it up, except that it is depressing to be surrounding by the shabbiness.

  6. Thrift Store Mama says:

    What an inspiring post.

    My next project is sorting/organizing my closet. The rest of the house is under continual de-cluttering/purging, but it’s easy to neglect our closet and room since it’s away from the living part of the house. I also need to cull through my kids socks and pajamas ASAP. They are threatening to take over their room.

  7. MEA says:

    Congrats on the book’s being turned in!

    I made a pathetic attempt to organize the sheets, and got them from a heap blocking the closet in my and dd the younger’s room into boxes blocking etc.

    I want very much to get our room sorted, but more interesting things, i.e. sewing knitting and planning a homework help center at church keep cropping up. Thankfully, the world will not end this weekend.

  8. jj says:

    Compared to you, I’m doing almost nothing!

    Of course, I go to work, and that takes up an awful lot of time, but there are things we need to do on the homestead, too. We desperately need to butcher our roosters before they cut each other to ribbons fighting…but it turns out I’m pregnant, and entirely too queasy to face wet feathers and guts. I don’t know how we’ll tackle that one.

    We’ve also got a couple of rooms torn apart for painting, and I need to go through all the ‘stuff’ and decide what we really need to keep, and what can be donated, or at least packed for storage. The onions and squash must be relocated, too (we’re painting the room they were being stored in), but the basement is too damp, and the rest of the house is too warm. The goats’ hooves need trimming, as soon as the weather warms up enough for me to go out to the barn for a couple of hours in the only ‘barn coat’ that still fits - the spring/fall jacket, of course, not the heavy winter one…

  9. kathy says:

    We did the board game thing when we still had lots of little kid games. I just stacked the boards (labled on the outside) and put all of the pieces in freezer boxes. Would you like some? I just inherited about 400 from an elderly neighbor who moved to Forida. They aren’t heavy and I could send them for for very little. The hardest part of reorganizing for me is admitting that I don’t need so much stuff. I sent all of my sewing stuff across the street to the sewing center at the Community House. It was a wrench but the only time I sew is with a group. My big project is now pictures. I have thousands in assorted boxes. They have to be weeded out and put in albums. I have actually hired a firend to help right after the holidays. This is one place where technology works for me. Now that we have a digital camera I have no “orphan” pictures. Delete is easy. Throwing out a picture, even one that is out of focus or of someone I don’t know is hard.

  10. Robin says:

    Years ago when you first wrote about the family closet you inspired me and we have used that method ever since. At first we set aside a bedroom and called it the dressing room. Now that we live in a yurt we have an outbuilding that is the bathroom/laundry/closet. Works great.

    I also did the board games to bags project, though we found there are some games that really do need their boxes, either for organization or simple aesthetics.

    My winter projects are planning for the farmer’s market booth I want to begin in Spring 2012 and going through stored boxes one at a time. We crammed 5 people into 700 square feet three years ago and I still haven’t really gotten serious about organizing all the stuff that came with us. I am resentful of the time used up by managing all that stuff, and am determined to sort it all out and stop devoting my precious time and patience to moving objects from one place to the other. A place for everything and everything in its place will bring a much less grumpy mama!

  11. Apple Jack Creek says:

    It must be that time of year, I’ve been organizing too. I think around here it has to do with the thought of being stuck INDOORS all winter in a less-than-well-organized space, and it makes a person a bit nutty. Plus, we tend to dig out all the Christmas decorations and move stuff around so there is a spot for the tree, and you kinda get on a roll and just tidy everything.

    I spent the last couple of days moving the kid’s craft table from the north living room (we have an odd house - it’s two houses joined by a hallway, and we live in it like it’s all one big space but it only has one kitchen, in the south wing, though the north wing has one roughed in and that’s where the craft table used to be). It’s now in the basement, where things can be spread out a little more and put on shelves and there is some hope that the projects will be worked on and not just … scattered about messily. It also means it’s not right in my face all the time - the basement is a place where kid-messes are expected and encouraged, though intermittent cleanups are also expected and encouraged.

    The north living room/kitchen space is now more living room, with an office area at the kitchen end: file boxes, printers, desk. Convenient enough to easily get to (meaning things have a hope of actually *being* filed) but not really in the way. The fish tank that is in the basement is going to come upstairs and live at the end of the desk, forming a bit of a ‘room barrier’ and making it so we enjoy the fish more. I also intend to scoop their water out to nourish plants and seedlings now that it’s more convenient. :)

    I did a bit of work in the big ‘tools and storage stuff’ room, but it got overwhelming. Eventually there’s going to be a cold room in there, and then we can have proper shelving for the other stuff but … yeah, the project is on hold for awhile, in the queue with other things. Puttering about in there does at least give me time to think about how it might be done, I guess.

    There’s more to do, of course, but at least the ‘public spaces’ are somewhat improved for winter, which is a good thing.

  12. AJ says:

    Congrats on getting your manuscript in! I’m also in the middle of organizing spaces in our home. One space on my list is my son’s room. He lives with his dad right now, and his room has several rubbermaid type container’s that hold the previous season’s clothing, and also the holiday containers which all need to be put away now.

    I have several knitting and sewing projects that I want to jump on and get finished. They are for holiday gifts.

    I am hoping to find some reclaimed wood to build storage/seating in my kitchen. We really lack storage in our kitchen and it affects clean-up, meal planning and space usage.

    This is a very old house and the windows/doors and there seems to be a lack of ability for our house to maintain the heat in our house. Our living room and dining room have more windows per wall space that other walls in our house, so I’m planning to sew window blankets to velcro to the window sills.

    We are still working hard on maintaining food and water storage.


  13. News Directory says:

    Thank you for this blog, it was just what I was looking for. There is so much information here, so I thank you so much for enlightening my mind.

  14. Thrivalista says:

    Re game storage: if you toss the boxes, photocopy the directions and keep them in a binder.
    We actually made a scoring cut across our game boards, so we could fold them in quarters rather than halves. That and cutting down the boxes allows us to keep them in the boxes, but with it all taking up much less room. Then again, I’m compulsive about putting the game away.

  15. Stephanie says:

    I retired this past September and I’m now, finally, getting the house decluttered and reorganized. My job was so draining there was never enough time or energy for this in my few spare hours, not to mention the nine months when I was sent traveling to Indianapolis from my home in the Philadelphia area.

    Good grief! What a lot of stuff I managed to cram into a two-bedroom house! My stuff has its own stuff! My rags even have their own rags! I’m making Purple Heart very happy and they are a huge help to me, as they swing by my neighborhood every Tuesday to pick up bags of used clothing, small appliances, books, et cetera. They are the only charity in this area that will pick up small items.

    There are three things I’ve learned since I retired in September:

    1) There will never be enough time to do everything I want to do here on earth. (When I get frustrated, I try to remember the main point of Ecclesiastes - vanity, all is vanity.)

    2) The amount of free time a person has will be inversely proportional to the amount of stuff that person owns, including money.

    3) It is uber-important to take a Sabbath, even for those who are not believers. Prepare meals ahead, get really necessary chores out of the way, and just relax and enjoy whatever you enjoy doing for an entire day. Take a nap, read, whatever, but no work or utilitarian shopping is allowed.
    I’m even considering taking a vacation to nowhere, just going to a hotel for a week and doing whatever I please whenever I please. It seems difficult for me to forget all the stuff on my Do List when it’s all right there in front of me.

    I will also be planning the garden soon. Last summer was the first I’d gardened in decades, and did I ever get in over my head! Blueberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, bush cherries, ferns, blackberries, lettuce in pots (we have lots of bunnies here), parsley, lavender, oregano, purple basil, three kinds of peppers, zucchini, Patty Pan squash (those things are monsters!), spearmint, a grapevine, cranberries, iris, blue bells, and snow crocuses. And tulips that are going to spend the winter in the shed because I ran out of steam before I ran out of bulbs. And then there are more coming in March, although not nearly as much.

    Thanks for your blog post on sleep, by the way. I too, tend to burn the candle on both ends…uh, you’ve probably already figured that out.

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