Contributed by Michelle Hassler
Spring serves as a symbol for rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation. When could be a better time to organize your home? Before your calendar becomes flooded with summer activities and outings, dedicate some time toward meaningful organization. In a multigenerational household, a diverse amount of needs must be met each day. Organization will help to encourage independence, avoid confusion and promote a harmonious living space.
Out with the Old
After opening your home to family members in need of support or care, it goes without saying that space is scarce and yet oh-so valuable. Before attempting to organize your home, work together as a family to reclaim as much space as possible. Dedicating an entire weekend to a mass family cleanout will not only jump start your organizational journey, but will hopefully encourage some multigenerational bonding. Together, sort through all closets, pantries, and medicine cabinets. Throw out expired food, damaged clothing, and unused or unfixable belongings that cannot be given away. Separate items into various bins or boxes to donate to a local organization. If you are looking for some additional family bonding time and perhaps some quick cash, you can organize a yard sale for unwanted belongings. Once you have cleared out expired items and unused dust collectors, it is time to take advantage of your newly reclaimed space.
Divide and Conquer
In a multigenerational home, there are tons of things to keep track of – from medications to bills to misplaced reading glasses. One way to keep important items accessible and easily monitor inventory is to designate separate storage areas. For example, instead of sharing a family medicine cabinet, consider creating personal cabinet space for each member of the household. Keep each individual’s vitamins, medications, special dietary items, or even favorite foods in their own cabinet. Children obviously should not have access to their own medications; however, grouping their necessities together will avoid confusion and make it easier to keep inventory of daily essentials. Also, keeping a personal “stash” or designated shelf in the fridge will be helpful if a family member can only tolerate certain foods or drinks due to health issues or medical treatments. Consider creating a running shopping list for the household and keeping it in a common area. That way, everyone (if they are able) can take responsibility for their own needs and add personal items to the list.
Multigenerational households compile a vast amount of paperwork. Create a separate folder or even a separate desk drawer for each person or area for which you are responsible. As you organize your home, be sure to designate an area for vital medical information so it is readily available in case of emergencies. Also, if there are monthly bills that are paid on a regular basis, consider creating a payment schedule so you can take care of things throughout the month and are not trying to do everything at one time which can be overwhelming. For example, maybe you pay your personal bills are the beginning month, pay your parents’ bills mid-month, and handle tuition payments or medical bills at the end of the month. If one person feels overwhelmed by handling all of the finances, divide tasks among family members or work hand in hand with a spouse for moral support.
Stick to a Schedule
When it comes to the bathroom, some things cannot be scheduled. However, the bathroom time that consists of showering and preparing for the day can be tricky when people outnumber bathrooms. To avoid conflict, create a schedule for the household. Depending on your family’s preference, this can be a tangible chart that is taped to the bathroom door or simply an understanding of the time frame when each person is using a particular bathroom. If necessary, you might want to schedule laundry time as well. Obviously, things happen and you may not be able to stick to it. However, if your teen or elderly parent knows their laundry days are Monday and Thursday, it will help to encourage productivity and self-reliance. Also, if you happen to be the sole household launderer, sticking to a schedule will help you to stay organized. Color coding laundry baskets could prove helpful to avoid confusion as well.
Label When Able
Particularly if you are caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or simple forgetfulness, it would be beneficial to label as much as possible to make them feel comfortable. You can simply tape a notecard to kitchen cabinets or personalize little wooden signs or magnets to match your décor. Chalkboard stickers can easily be stuck on cabinets, drawers, or containers to signify their contents. Labeling can even help to promote reading if you have a young child in the house. Having notes and friendly reminders displayed in a common hub like the kitchen will help to keep everyone on track. A dry erase board is great for keeping a family calendar. Again, if you are looking to go above and beyond, color coding is a great way to go when it comes to organizing your home and schedule.
Obviously, a multigenerational home requires flexibility. Things are not always going to go as planned. However, having a few systems of organization in place will help to meet everyone’s needs in your diverse home.