My System

For three days, I’ve been trying to empty and sort two laundry baskets filled with miscellaneous items of clothing.  These baskets truly defy me.  My system for most problems is to try to break them down, to simplify.  It’s like math!  My garden?  It’s divided into individual framed beds so I can tend them one at a time.  Laundry?  The three older boys each handle their own.  Jonny and I combine our laundry with Silas and Job’s.  In theory, the girls are supposed to handle their own, though typically their dirty clothes end up mixed with ours or in corners, under furniture, in the yard, you name it.  They sometimes do manage to fold and put their clean laundry away, but it takes some prodding, and often assistance.  Dirty kitchen towels and rags are collected in a wire basket to be washed on their own.  The same goes for bath towels.

The problem with these two particular baskets of laundry is that they fall outside my system.  They are the product of the cleaning out of vehicles, the gathering of dirty items left on the front porch, or dropped in a hurry inside the front door on a muddy day.  My guess is that there are a lot of items buried in those baskets that belong to the girls, and I’m afraid that the bag of “one socks” might have been tossed in as well.  The task is daunting.  And before I can even begin, I realize that the girls’ closet must be reorganized.   I can’t put anything away there with it in its current condition.  As I begin, I notice that I need to purge some clothing.   But first, I’ll need to clean out the trunk of the car.  I have this bad habit of putting bags of clothing to donate back there and not actually dropping them off for months.  Because of the amount of other things that are hauled in and out of that trunk, my bags end up shredded, items to be donated are strewn about and mixed with items meant to be kept.  The clothing gets brought back in to be sorted, washed, and re-bagged again.  It’s a terrible thing.  I need to do better.

Today, I have one child sick with a stomach virus.  It will truly be a miracle if that number doesn’t rise in the coming days, but I do believe in miracles.  I also have one toddler who doesn’t want to nap.  Did I tell you that he can climb out of his crib now?  I’ve never been a master at the sleep thing with small children and don’t have the luxury of a child-proofed room for the baby so this is tricky, and ultimately, very inconvenient.

We’ve officially entered the season of mud, and the shoes by the door along with muddy dog tracks across the floor are evidence of this.  Jonny and the boys are building a small barn.  They hope to get it under roof tonight, as the forecast is calling for 4 to 8 inches of snow in the next twenty-four hours.

At this point, I’m simply hoping that Job will take a nap.  The trunk of the car is tidied, and items to be donated are neatly bagged and ready (again.)  The girls’ closet is organized (again.)  Those baskets of random laundry will probably have to sit another day.  I’ll try not to let them taunt me.

The truth of the matter is that life mostly falls outside of my system.  I don’t get to have everything broken down into easy little pieces, and it’s best to learn to deal with what I’m handed.


  1. I love reading your blog. I do the same thing with the clothes to donate, leaving them in my car. I have the best intentions, then I end up piling groceries on top of them every few days. This winter I have had two bags riding around because between the below zero temps & wind, juggling the nap times, work, etc. I’ve been to lazy to drop them off! Silly. I guess it will be a spring project now, as I have more to add to the donate pile.

  2. And yet you manage to capture all these beautiful moments and keep a blog of it all! You’re doing an excellent job. Your blog posts are often my guilty pleasure reading while soaking in the tub after a long day.

  3. I love the doll in the baby carrier photo–so very sweet, out on an adventure together. xx

    (I am quite keen to know how you problem-solve the ‘baby climbing out of the crib at naptime’ conundrum. I watch a 2yo 1-2 days/week (along with my own children) & she is a climber. She can climb out of anything and everything. I keep her for over 10+ hours at a stretch so a nap is a necessity and I cannot devote 2 hours to rocking/holding her in a chair.)

  4. Ah laundry! Our first child is due in a month, so we will be adding cloth diapers to the laundry mix soon! I organize my laundry much like you do. But I hate when something falls outside my “system” like rags used to clean a dog mess. I still need to wash those . . . I can also relate to the donated clothes issue. We only have one car currently, and it has a back, but not a trunk, which helps. My old car got broken into a couple years ago and outside of stealing some of my favorite CDs, they really just cleaned my car out for me. My trunk had been full of bags of clothes I intended to donate for a couple months. So that part wasn’t so bad. I hope they got some use out of them! 🙂

  5. I looked outside today to see my boys sliding down our muddy bank on their boots and bottoms–kind of like otters. They were so proud of themselves and having a great time (and getting along!) What to do?–I just laughed and took pictures.

  6. Ha! Love this. My life is so different from yours (I work full time, have only 2 kids who go to public school, etc)…yet everything here is so easy to relate to. (My current aspiration in Massachusetts is to someday wear shoes not meant for snow.) I love how you appreciate life without sugar-coating it, and how you talk about your own life in a way that does not judge others’ choices. Thank you.

    And, really? I hope that the toddler sleeps for you, at least once in a while. Because I completely get it.

  7. Dee Bryant says:

    you are describing my house minus the toddler, baby and goats.

  8. Yup. Nodding head in agreement.

  9. Oh Ginny…I love to look into your daily life. You always make me smile and look back wistfully at the time when my three children were young. Our lives weren’t as charming as your family’s seems to be. I was a single mom and remember being mostly on auto-pilot and survival mode. My kiddos would have loved goats and chickens! Just want to share that it’s life that messes with our operating system. Even the best laid plans fall by the wayside because life seeps in. My life often feels chaotic because I feel disorganized. Many years ago a dark cloud hung over my head in the form of baskets full of holiday decorations, outgrown clothing, and the aftermath of divorce in my basement. My peace of mind came in the form of a leaky washing machine that went undetected for way too long. While looking for something, I happened upon the soggy, beginning-to-mildew mess. It all had to be trashed and wa la! Problem solved. I’ve learned it’s okay to let go of some of life’s nagging to-dos.

  10. Your blog is like stepping back in time… unfurls all those memories of when my children, now ages 17, 20 and 22, were young. For me, it was the eternal basket of diapers. There always seemed to be cloth diapers in various stages-some hanging on the line to dry, some in the washer waiting their turn on the line, and then some in the pail waiting to be washed. Such fond memories….sometimes, I long for those days again. Cherish them.

  11. What lucky goats. Seriously, nice little building. I wish, so wish my husband would build us one. He is a woodworker, and prob could, but our focus is just elsewhere. I hear ya on the messes. 16 inches of snow last night and this morn, flooding and mud to come. Spring is nigh.

  12. Wow Ginny! This post truly inspired me to action. I need to find a way to deal with the messes one at a time, without being daunted by the chain of tasks like the one you described: laundry, closet, car trunk, etc. So true how life doesn’t really respect our systems. 🙂

  13. I use a plastic storage tote with lid (like the Rubbermaid types) and keep extra grocery bags inside. The donation clothes are laundered and placed in the bin (dryer sheets added to the bin keep them smelling good)
    When the bin is full, it’s delivered!
    Looking forward to seeing the finished project of the barn!

  14. Gwendolyn says:

    Your post made me smile today…on many levels. I love that you’re building a barn…and working on your porch!…and those chewed colored pencils were so sweet. I even posted the other day that after we were done painting our bathroom, we would be going on to the other two. As my husband and I were driving into work, he indicated that actually our bedroom needed repainting as well, and then we decided we might as well go through the house (our bedroom is in our upper floor with a large landing where we put our dressers) because the landing and stairway needed done since they get the most use with us being empty nesters…before the other bathrooms get done. It certainly is a cycle! Ginny I love the pictures of the coming and going of your place. Hopefully you’ll get the barn done and be able to enjoy staying inside and looking out at that cute building in the snow.

  15. Ginny, you need a system! Chuck all the dirty laundry in together: when ONE basket is full, take it to the laundry room; tip it all out, sort into separate piles according to colour/filth/fragility then load the biggest pile into the machine. Keep going until no pile is big enough to make up a load, chucking all the clean n dry stuff in a big heap back in the basket to be taken back to the bedrooms. There is often a significant pause at this point in our house, at least on ours, anyway, then finally, dedicate an hour with a capable child or two, to sorting the clean stuff according to its owner ( again I admit there is nearly always some lag between this sorting stage – which can be quite a nice, chatty activity to share – and getting said folded towers put into drawers) this is the point also, where decisions are made regarding outworn items which are bagged and stored. Then you need to put a post-it note on the dash of your car to remind you to go straight to the charity box, before they get trashed!

    Don’t get me wrong – laundry is, and always will be, the bane of my life with kids, but the trick has got to be (as you are fully aware!!) to find a system that works for you, is not in any way complicated, and though a bore and a completely unthanked chore, is a breeze compared to our great grandmas and anyone who lives off-grid…. as we are planning to in a month or so -eek!) My hubs says they just have too many clothes, but any less and my life would be nothing but laundry!!!!

    Love reading your blog, all the best to you from France, Chloe x

  16. I shouldn’t take comfort in other’s frustrations, but I’m relieved to know I’m not the only person on the planet who might start out making bread, which obviously then means you have to clean out all your old magazines, which naturally leads to disassembling the dryer to get all the lint out. A 15 minute project can morph into a full day of spring cleaning lickety-split!

  17. We are so looking forward to our mud season!
    Those kinds of baskets defy me too. Sometimes, we’ll load the “car stuff” into a tote bag, and it will sit in the garage for a shameful amount of time.

  18. Carol in Pa says:

    I used to have a friend who would say, “In 20 years it won’t matter.” So just say that to the two laundry baskets! But still, the every day drudge can be very overwhelming and discouraging at times. Keep up the good fight, Ginny! And thanks for the pictures!

  19. Your posts always uplift, but this one had me laughing out loud because the huge bags of give a way items scream at me every time I walk into the laundry room. I am getting them out of that room today! The laundry room should be a welcoming space and mine is the opposite. Prayers for your family’s health going up…

  20. I love this post! Talk of miracles! I think it’s a miracle that you finished what you did with that list of tasks & layers of complexity added to it. I’m always amazed at household/ motherhood tasks that are interconnected and often send you on a completely different path then you meant to be. Which is why many of us get to the kitchen and think, “why did I come in here?” We think we’re going mental when it’s really just a normal byproduct of motherhood. lol

  21. Ginny,

    Your first paragraph made me laugh out loud. Not five minutes before reading it, I made a list of things I need to do today, at the top of which was: find a home for all that stuff in those stupid laundry baskets. We also have three laundry baskets that are filled not just with clothing but with who-knows-what else. And we are a household of just two adults, so on a laundry basket per capita ratio you are waaaay more organized than us!

    Our house is three stories (four with the basement) and things seem to be perpetually in transit. The income tax forms need to go from the first floor to the second. The dog grooming equipment needs to go from the second floor to the basement. The library books need to go from the third floor to the first. The tiny electrical components that belong to who-knows-what need to go SOMEWHERE! And where does all this stuff end up? In the laundry baskets, of course.

    P.S. Just recently I washed a blouse meant for the donation box for at least the third time. It’s in a laundry basket somewhere.

  22. The odd piles of clothes, the donations in the trunk all shrewd about, the ‘nappless’ toddler, ha! Story of my life. I only have four children though, so mine probably isn’t as acceptable as yours 🙂 I do find, though, that without a nap she goes to sleep about an hour and half earlier than the rest of them which gives me a seemingly longer break.

  23. You do good work, Ginny!

  24. “life falls outside my system” – so very true. Prayers that no one else gets the stomach bug!

    • Katherine says:

      Yes! too funny-this quote goes in my book Ginny of quotes to join the “due to illness and reality….” Quote from recently. Instantly recognisable to mamas the world over! Keep em comin…. :-))

  25. My husband reminds me on the more…complicated days…. that I should make a list of all I got done instead of thinking about what I still have to do. It helps, some. 🙂 Your list sounds awesome for one day’s worth of work.

  26. Ah, closets. I opened my boys closet that I thought we just thouroughly cleaned and organized not long ago and it was choas. I closed the door and am pretending I did not see it…

  27. When my five children, and 2 foster children, were younger, I resorted to only having 10 complete outfits. I would give each child 10 hangers in their designated color. I would then take a pair of pants, or skirt, and combine it with a shirt, socks, and underwear and hang it on the hanger. Each child would have another hanger with one sweater or light jacket. This “system” is still in use. We have very little clothing and we don’t “lose” clothing anymore. When we do laundry, the children bring their hangers and hang their clothes the way they want them. 🙂 My older children do their own laundry and have found that this system is great and they are satisfied with less. This has eliminated a lot of misery, and me feeling like a failure. I actually look forward to laundry each week.

  28. ha! I have the same pile… usually not even in a basket.. just a pile on the back deck. And, as the pile sits and grows, it gets dirtier, and more daunting. oh well.
    But hey, the muddy season should help you out right? That can’t cause too much more laundry. Good luck.

  29. Love, love, love your blog!!…not sure I have commented much but do know you are an inspiration to me and I always look forward to reading your blog. I think its time to teach the boys on how to do their own laundry…oh and those goats…that little barn. Do you mind sharing more about how it is build? looks like a little loft area? My hubby needs to build one for us pretty pronto as I have the itch to bring home some goats and sheep…but we have no barn and no fencing? Were thinking of pallets for fencing or electrical …now off to do dishes and laundry…

  30. Yeah, we have BAGS and BAGS to donate in a closet that is not organized since we moved; I think we moved with some of those bags.

    I am going to light a thick beeswax candle (made by nuns!) by my icons for you and family today; that sickness can stay at bay, that the barn roof can get up, that in the middle of it all you can have peace and the knowledge of God’s love for you and your family. <3

  31. We do that with donation stuff cause the thrift stores are out of our typical path. So one day we realized the big yellow donation bins are everywhere. Gas stations, grocery stores and Walmart. We now use those. 🙂

  32. You are amazing. Love the ending…”life mostly falls outside my system…its best to learn to deal with what I’m handed.”
    OK now…must repeat that to myself.
    Your photos and words are gift.

  33. I so agree with your reader who commented that she loves to read your blog because it makes her feel like she is not the ‘only one’. Oh my. I certainly feel the same exact way. I woke up at 5 am remembering something I forgot to do yesterday!! It’s done now (6.40am) but is that in time? I guess we’ll see…..

    Love seeing your photos and hearing about your lovely family life.

    Prayers that sickness does not spread through your house and that Job will nap! Blessings to you and yours.

  34. EXACTLY the same thing with donation bags in back of SUV!!!!!!

  35. Kathy S. says:

    That’s why I love donating to organizations that pick the bags up at the door!Honestly, I think taming clothes with lots of kids is a daunting task.The seasons keep changing and and the kids keep growing!

  36. You always manage to make me laugh. Clothes on the floor inside and outside, so true of daily life with kids.
    Reminded me of brownie camps…. rules are the girls’ clothes had to stay in their camp bag at all times unless they were getting clean stuff out in the morning or putting dirty stuff away in the evening. By bedtime clothes galore on the floor…. we had 28 girls! Announcement to all: Clothes back in bag or no bedtime story. Wow, they worked so quickly and jumped back into bed. We did our usual ‘inspection’ walking around all the bunk beds….. well, we found just one black sock! I held it up and asked if anyone could identify it. What happened next we so funny… the girls all started singing the song “Black Socks”. Please, if you haven’t heard it, please look it up on internet video. You’ll love it.
    Great job for eventually clearing out the trunk again. We also have the same problem with donating stuff and it takes us ages to get to the charity shop.

  37. Glad to read your blog. It makes me feel like I’m not the only one. We do what we can do. There is no perfection. Your little barn looks like a slightly smaller version of our barn that eventually grew several additions. We are down to one goat now. Goats are wonderful. Good luck with them.

  38. The barn is looking beautiful. The location with the trees around it makes it already seem sort of whimsical.

  39. This post is one of the many reasons I LOVE your blog. I feel less alone..:)

  40. You just described MY trunk! 😉 The sleet/rain/snow has just arrived in Annapolis… hoping Jonny and the Boys had a successful day finishing your barn!

  41. I do the same thing with donation bags.
    It all sounds good to me. Mess? Yes! But you knew exactly what to do, and have tackled it. That’s always good. Life is good.
    I don’t have my glasses on, and mistakenly read, “At this point, I’m simply hoping that Jonny will take a nap.”
    HA! I bet he is.

  42. “The truth of the matter is that life mostly falls outside of my system.” Oh, Ginny. Best words I’ve read all YEAR! (Well, those and Alicia Paulson’s, from a few weeks back: “Love and squalor. The usual.”) I was just thinking, last night, that the problem with most days, is that life is always getting in my way.

    But really, would I have it any other way?

    (Too often, embarrassingly, the answer is yes. But a good rebuttal to my monkey brain, all the same!)

    Congratulations on the tidy trunk and neat closet. Huge feats, if you ask me. Now, onto my own rogue laundry baskets…


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