Home organisation tips from a FIFO wife and mother
I wish I had a magic wand to wave and declare that there is an easy way to cope with as a FIFO wife and mother.
But there’s no wand.
It’s just bloody hard work.
I’ll write this from a functional perspective, but of course there is the other side too. And that’s how BOTH of the FIFO parents deal with it emotionally too. The kids too, of course.
For now, this is purely for the nuts and bolts of how I cope when it’s just me 24/7, with 5 young kids and working from home.
(Just writing that makes me feel like sleeping for a week straight).
My life as a FIFO wife and mother
I’ve been a FIFO wife and mother for almost 12months now, 1/1 (one week on, one week off). Which actually works out as 6 days a fortnight he is actually home, when you take out the travel days.
AND I never yell. BAHAHAHA kidding. Of course I do (I try not to, of course but: human). Ask my neighbours.
BUT if there is anything I’ve learnt over this 12mths, it’s that my obsession with being organised has saved my ass when it comes to staying on top of the housework.
(yes kids, mummy could be flipping out waaaaay more than she already does).
So this is how I roll when I’m on my own, just getting sh*t done.
Ok, straight to the boring stuff. Keep your cleaning stuff handy.
We have two bathrooms, and I leave a set of cleaning supplies in each bathroom. Which means if I’ve managed to be uninterrupted in the bathroom for 35seconds (extrememly rare), I might just be able to quickly give the basin a scrub, or even just a wipe over depending on my time/energy/bothered factor. It also means that if I’m in the shower and I get a wave of ï can’t cope with not seeing through the shower screen scum anymore“, I can grab the stuff and just get it done without a second thought.
For me, knocking it over without actually having to factor it in to my day makes the whole thing feel less daunting. Does that make sense?
It’s also nearly impossible for me to clean our whole house in one go. We have 6 bedrooms, an office and 3 living areas so I just about die if I try do it all on top of everything else.
So I break it up. If the kitchen needs mopping (like, every second minute), I’ll do the kitchen and maybe the hallway or the playroom. If I’m doing the family room, I’ll quickly do the lounge or near the front door.
Keeping it real and achievable means that I don’t have this constant worry of “I need to mop the entire house today”. And then freaking out when it doesn’t get done.
Keep everything in its place.
You can probably imagine how many toys we have. Now double that number, triple it again and then try and find something teeny tiny when it’s needed at 7pm and you’re completely shattered with no more to give for the day.
Cue entry to hell and an acopic mum.
It’s reeaaaaalllly easy to just pick everything up and dump it in toyboxes. Unfortunately, it’s a quick fix.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do it lol.
But every couple of days, I’ll grab a basket of toys or random stuff and put them back in their homes.
This helps me in two ways:
One – the kids can find things on their own, and know where stuff goes when they actually tidy up when asked.
Two – I can find things quickly, at the last minute. And it keeps the house tidy.
Because ANYTHING you can do that relieves the pressure during the busy moments is a win.
This pretty much goes for everything, not just toys. Yep, I do a quicky “shove and shut” version of tidying up, but I grab the chance to get back on top of it before it gets out of control.
My calendar is my life. Seriously. Next year I’m getting a bigger one, with a giant pen on a string next to it and one of those library ladders that slide around so I can reach every bit of the calendar. Kidding. Although….
Our calendar holds the clue to everything that is happening/has to happen in our lives. I highlight the days that Dad is home, so that when I’m organising things I know when he’s around.
I write bill due dates on it, parties, sports training etc. The kids have full view of this, so a lot of it is abbreviated if I don’t want them to know what it is.
But having it around so the older kids can see it means that they can see what’s happening and when.
It also means they can add to it (I’m pretty cautious about this though, as we often get “take kids to disneyland” written on it randomly – I mean ffs, if we’re going anywhere it’ll be on a honeymoon finally and without the kids lol).
I HATE surprises – it gives me shocking anxiety when something gets thrown in at the last minute. Having some level of predictability makes me feel in control and calm.
And for the things that I need to be in two places at once, it means that I can try to arrange someone to help me out if I need it well in advance.
For things that don’t really change week to week, I have a board in the kitchen. So library days, sports days, homework days etc are all written on there. It’s almost impossible to keep up with what needs to happen for 5 other people. Inevitably I’ll forget show and tell UNLESS IT’S WRITTEN DOWN.
Prior preparation prevents poor performance – or a mum from losing her s*it.
Heat and eat.
My kids eat like they haven’t seen food for years, when in reality it’s been a good half an hour.
We spend a RIDICULOUS amount of money on snacks and dinners if we’re not smart. Plus I stress out when it’s 4pm and I’ve got 5 hungry kids with no plans for dinner.
If you haven’t noticed already, I stress out A LOT.
I don’t mind baking and cooking (hate the clean up, which is pretty normal right?). So I do everything in double or triple batches. Making a spag bol? Make 2kg of it and freeze half.
I’ll do quadruple pikelet batter and as I flip and pour, I’ll update the calendar, research how to get to places we are going to, make appointments and check our banking etc.
Yes, we have a deep freezer and yes, it’s usually full of bread, meals and baking. It doesn’t have to be a giant cook-off day. Just doubling recipes lightens the load down the track.
While I LOATHE the amount of effort and planning have a cook off entails, it pays off when I don’t have to help with 4 lots of homework, footy training and tired preschoolers as well as cook dinner from scratch.
Heat and eat, baby. Heat and eat.
Share the load.
I’m not talking about outsourcing (although I’d love to hire a cleaner, a nanny, a chef, a chauffeur…). My biggest thing is sharing the planning with my husband.
While it might end up being me that does most of it, he can help with the planning too. We work out together what’s going to be the easiest way for us to get somewhere, or when is the best day to do stuff.
In all honesty, this is just more about him staying connected with whats happening at home, as well as me downloading all the stuff in my head before I get too overwhelmed.
We do meal planning together so that before he leaves again, we stock up on whatever we need that won’t expire. I’ll buy presents, cards, stamps etc while he is home, just so when he is away there’s no last minute dash to the shops.
Because there’s no such thing as a “quick dash” with 5 kids.
Sharing the planning just feels like we have a plan of attack.
Wash and wear.
Washing for 6 people – oh my lordy. How can such tiny clothes take up so much space and TIME?????
I do a load each night of that day’s clothes, and hang it on the airer under the fans inside. Which frees up the machine and clothes line the next day for sheets, towels and all the extra stuff. It also means that “favourite socks” or “comfy undies” are ready to go again the next day – potentially avoiding meltdowns of epic proportions in the morning.
And yes- our dining table is generally covered in washing. I’m still working on a system to keep on top of the folding.
I accept the days that just turn to crap. And I protect myself. I say no to going places if I think the kids need a sleep, or I’ll change the time we go somewhere if it means it takes the pressure off. It’s not always possible, but if you can do it, then do it.
No matter how organised you are, some things just don’t go your way.
Like the time me and 4 of the kids had shocking gastro all at once. That was such a fun night (said no one ever) that ended up with me spending some time in emergency…
No amount of planning gets you ready for those kids of shenanigans.
If a melt down or epic disaster happens, just know you’re not alone.
Single parents, FIFO husbands and wives, and shift working families – it’s a tough gig.
A little bit of vino never goes astray at the end of a crappy day, either 😉
And if this helps at least one other FIFO mama, then I’m a happy woman.