I don't know how you do it, is something that parents of many kids — say, three or more — often hear.
The truth is, sometimes they don't know either, but they're doing it, and they have picked up some tricks and tactics along the way. Here's what some do to save time, energy and sanity in their very full houses. (Or at least time and energy. As my friend Laura, a mum of four, tells me, "There is no sanity to be saved.")
Your kids don't have a favourite colour? They do now. To cut down on confusion, fighting and washing (oh, so much washing), colour-code everything from dishes to toothbrushes, and assign a colour to each member of your tribe. Here's a neat DIY from Design Mum: Sew on a loop of ribbon to your bath towels so you can hang them on wall hooks, which are superior to towel racks when it comes to slippage and space-efficiency.
Make Your Kitchen Kid-Accessible
Children can do a lot on their own, as long as they can reach and access things. Once they all pass the toddler-tornado stage, stock kitchen items at their level — plates, cups and utensils can be placed in a low cabinet, and healthy snacks and small pitchers of milk can be stored on lower levels in the fridge. For cereal and granola, you might even want to purchase one of these dry food dispensers that you'd find at a hotel breakfast buffet. It isn't a completely mess-free solution, but it's less terrifying than watching a four-year-old pour a giant box of Coco Pops.
Use Commercial-Grade Gear
In an online parent group, one mum wrote that she installs jumbo Kimberly-Clark toilet paper dispensers in her bathrooms, like the ones you see in public toilets. Wholesale cartons of giant toilet paper rolls are much cheaper than packs of rolls at the grocery store, and you only have to change them out a fraction as often. When I read the idea, I was astonished. This mother has clearly reached a level of DGAF that we all can aspire to.
Strategic Systems Are Key
When you have many kids, you need to create a sense of order to save yourself from drowning. This applies to the morning rush, bedtime routines and laundry — especially laundry. Parents have devised a multitude of different systems that work for their big families — the "shelf and basket system", using "laundry tubs" for sorting, and creating an extremely detailed weekly laundry schedule. Laundry is a monumental task, and you need a plan.
Have a Communal Sock Drawer
If you have kids who aren't very far apart in foot size, buy a bunch of the same exact socks and keep them in one drawer, so anyone can grab a pair and go at any time. No more sock stress. Really.
Schedule All Their Annual Medical Exams for the Same Day
Here's a pro-tip from blogger Kristen Howerton, a mum of four: "Ignore the annual birthday exam and just take them once a year all at the same time. Or maybe every other year if no one seems like they are gonna die." This would work with eye exams and dental checkups, too.
Every Kid Goes to Bed at the Same Time
A few mums of many told me putting all the kids to bed at the same time helps greatly. If you have older kids who can't fall asleep at, say, 8PM, they can read quietly in their rooms. With multiple kids, grownup decompression time is paramount.
Let Go of Any Idea of Perfection
Things will be crazy, and wonderful, and back to crazy. Embrace the chaos.