Organising the home for a smoother school run

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AUDIO

Listen to Australia's domestic goddess Shannon Lush chat with James O'Loghlin on creating an organised household.

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Views expressed in interviews may not be the views of the NSW Department of Education.

At a glance

  • Make sure you have everything ready for the next school day the night before.
  • Set up a whiteboard checklist to ensure you don't forget anything in the morning.
  • Label drawers to make it easier to find things.
  • Encourage your children to put their things away after they have finished using them.
  • Store items in the room that you use them; it makes it much easier to find them later.
  • Organise your washing by giving everybody a hamper for their room. As soon as your hamper is half full, take it to the laundry. Have a set of hampers in the laundry for sorting. If one of the hampers in the laundry is full, put it into the washing machine and turn it on.
  • Share the use of the household desk and computer by scheduling times for each person to use them.
Transcript

James O'Loghlin
Welcome to School A to Z website. Hello, this is James O'Loghlin.

Today we're going to talk about organisation. You've had those mornings, haven't you, where everything runs late, where you can't find something, you've had those evenings as well. How much can improving the organisation of your house actually make your lives and your school kids' lives simpler and better?

Shannon Lush joins us, hello Shannon.

Shannon Lush
Hello.

James
Now just before we work out the how, tell us why you think it is important to get some organisational things right in your household; how does it make things better?

Shannon
There's less stress involved when you're ordered, when you know where everything is, you can find it in an instant. If you're running behind time for some reason, it's a breeze. If it's not ordered, you've got to do too much other thinking and that slows you down and makes you stressed. With kids, you always make sure that they get their things ready for school the night before, not in the morning. In the morning it should only be for having breakfast, giving mum and dad a cuddle, getting themselves into their clothes and out the door. It should not be for doing homework, it shouldn't be for trying to find their school clothes or their shoes or their socks. All of those things should be done the night before. The end of the night is sort of open ended, all right so you may end up going to bed 20 minutes late because you've done it, but you don't have that other stress of, "If I don't find it I'm going to be late for school". 

James
So you'd say things like making lunch, packing bags, getting library books organised, always do them before bed, yep?

Shannon
Yes, most definitely.

James
OK. And are there ways to avoid, I mean that is one way to avoid isn't it the gradual increase in stress as we get closer and closer to the time when everyone has to leave and that could be you know with working parents it could be a lot earlier than school time or it could be school time. Any other tips for the morning, just to keep that stress out of it apart from doing things the night before?

Shannon
We have a white board and it has check boxes. If you wake up and you're a bit seedy and you're not thinking straight, the check board just helps you go, all right that's what I've got to do and in that order. And you know that All right once you've done it, "I'm ready and I can go". Lots of kids, particularly as they're hitting puberty get really dreary in the morning and it helps, it really does.

James
OK, let's look at the other part of the day, when not only have we got all the other things we're supposed to be doing before bed, now we've got packing bags and getting organised for the morning as well. Any tips for what some people refer to as the ‘witching hour' – dinner, bath and bed?

Shannon
I like that time because I get time to spend with family. We sort of tend to do things together. We clean the house together. We have the household Olympics and we race each other for 15 minutes every day, and it will be another room every day. Including the kids rooms, we all do them together. It's not just, "Go and clean your room", because that's horrendous for kids. If you have order with everything like that and you do everything together it doesn't get stressful. It feels fun. That's much better.

James
Give us some more examples. Explain the kids Olympics and give us a couple more examples of how those innovative ways of being organised.

Shannon
Well, in the household Olympics for instance if we're cleaning the lounge room, each person has a chore in the lounge room, one person may be picking up clutter in the clutter bucket, one person will be wiping down surfaces, one person will be doing the vacuuming. Each person has a job that's basically even in weight and then you've got to race each other to see who can get their job done first. And no matter what the chore, you always have a treat at the end. It doesn't matter whether it's just a kiss and a cuddle or a cup of tea or a Milo for kids – whatever it is has to make you feel good. And if you have kids that really hate the vacuum cleaner particularly with young kids that don't like the noise, if you get a set of Textas and some felt pens and things and you turn your vacuum cleaner into a rocket; any child will like to play with it. They'll zoom all over the floor.

James
Fantastic. All right let's talk about stuff. It seems to be when you've got kids that it's far easier to get stuff into your house than out – every birthday, every Christmas, there's a whole lot of new stuff, plus other stuff that just gets in without anyone wanting it or seeming to bring it in. Your advice for dealing with more and more stuff in the same finite area?

Shannon
I like everything ordered. I like stuff, I am a hoarder, a massive hoarder, but it has to be organised. It's OK to be a hoarder so long as you're an ordered hoarder. I have everything with labels, everything has stackable boxes and storage systems. In the kids' rooms, they have to make all their own labels for every drawer. As soon as the child is old enough to stick the toast in the video recorder they're old enough to put their clothes away. Because they're at that posting age. And if they start young it's easy. You just put labels on their drawers and it becomes a game. So they know where to put everything. If their room gets horrendously untidy, give them a hula hoop, it's the best thing that you can give any child.

James
A hula hoop?

Shannon
Yeah. You chuck a hula hoop over the messiest part of the room; they only clean what's inside the hula hoop. Every day you move the hula hoop. By the end of the week, their room is clean, but they saw how they got there. So it's easier for them to keep things tidy and organised.

James
I think you might be the cleverest person in the world.

Now, you said you were a hoarder, so not so much advice about culling, about getting rid of stuff?

Shannon
Other people like to cull, I prefer to use until it's all gone. I don't like waste and I don't like to trash. I prefer not to throw things out unless I absolutely have to or there is no more use for it. If it is something I really don't want to keep, then I will find somebody who wants it. But I don't just chuck.

James
I bet you never lose stuff either, but a lot of people do. We lose school books, we lose library books, we lose hats, we lose scissors, we lose pencils, we lose that one special toy that must be found. Advice?

Shannon
I always, I have a belief that if you use something in an area then there must be storage for that item in that area. Most people do things like, for instance if you use your dining room table as an office, you know, so you bring the laptop out and the homework goes out on the table, then before dinner everybody's got to pick all their stuff up, go back to all their separate rooms and put them away. But if that's where you're going to use all those things, then there should be a storage unit near where it's done so it can be put away and used right there. It means you don't lose things because you always know the last place you used it.

James
Right. Wow. Maybe I am just saying this because we had a very traumatic incident with a toy this morning, toys tend to wander all over the house with kids; does that system work for toys?

Shannon
Oh yes it does. Because they get used to the fact that they play with it in a particular area, so they know where to go to. Teaching kids to retrace their steps is easier if they're used to those steps being similar, you tend to follow the same tracks. And it's easier to find your things.

James
Many people have said life would be a wonderful thing were it not for washing, drying, folding, ironing clothes. When there's four or five people in the house, there's baskets of dirty clothes accumulating every day. What should happen?

Shannon
No, no.

James
Just give them one set of clothes. Let them wear them for a week, then wash them on Sundays.

Shannon
Everybody has a hamper in their room. As soon as your hamper is half full, not full, you take it to the laundry, and in the laundry you'll have a set of hampers. One for each colour, so you'll have one for the whites, one for the darks, one for the red things, and at least one for the blues and one for the delicates. When you take your half a hamper in, you sort it into the hampers so you empty it into the right spots right then and there. And everybody's old enough to do that as soon as they can lift their hamper. If one of the hampers in the laundry is full, you put it into the washing machine and you turn it on. And any child who is old enough to reach the buttons, is old enough to do the washing. It's easy. There's only three places clothes should be, in one of the hampers, on your back or in your wardrobe. In order.

James
Very good. OK, when kids move into high school, suddenly the house seems to shrink, doesn't it? Everybody needs a separate quiet space for their homework, sometimes their homework is more stressful and demanding, how can you all find that space in the same sized house?

Shannon
You need to use time as well as space. If you have several people who have to do homework, and that includes mum and dad, then you order the time when people have to use the same space by time. So for instance, if you come home from work at 5.30, but your teenage kid comes home from school at 3.30, then he's got a two hour block where he can use the dining table if that's where it is. He should use that time there and nothing else. Then he can do his other things while you're using the table when you get home. Mums have a tendency to do it after dinner. So you break it up into time as well as space. If you do have space for it, fine it's easy. But most houses don't have a space for everybody.

James
But you've given tips on how to be innovative and look at the same things in a different way, perhaps you can apply that same thinking to the space you have.

Shannon
You can. It works different for every household. It's very difficult to generalise on something like that. When I go into a home, like for instance when I was doing my show, there was a home that had six kids and they were all school age and most of them high school and what we ended up doing was making spaces on their verandah, making spaces in their bedrooms, under stairs, all sorts of places that were office spaces because they were all trying to use mum and dad's bedroom where the computer was. So we changed the office space to under the stairs so everyone had computer access, and mum and dad still had a bedroom to themselves. And we still had to organise it by time because they all had very different schedules.

James
Shannon, that was fantastic. You have potentially changed my life. If I put it all into practice. Thank you.

Shannon
No worries.

James
Thanks for listening. For more information check out the School A to Z website at www.schoolatoz.com.au

 


 

Shannon Lush
Shannon Lush

Shannon Lush is a fine arts restorer. She is a wife, mum and upholds a family tradition of sharing and collecting handy hints. This blended with an interest in organic chemistry led her to produce the best-selling books Spotless, Speed Cleaning and How to be Comfy. She writes for magazines and newspapers, and is regularly heard on ABC Local Radio.

 

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