Shipshape relief for families in the real world.

As a parent, your brain probably swims with an endless list of chores and responsibilities this very second. It's madness! How will you get it all done? Deep cleansing breath. That's better. Now consider the following shortcuts from a mom who understands frazzled.


1. Discover ditching dinner-time drama.

"OMG, I hate homemade lasagne!"

"Who wants fish tacos!?!"

Stop asking the family what they want for dinner. Decide what you'll serve and cease to make separate dishes for each family member. If they hate the dish, offer cereal and yogurt as the alternative. It's not evil. It's called "mommy is nicer when she's not totally insane."


2. Witness the wonder of wardrobe wee-cycling.

Doing laundry is fulfilling. Not. Who says the kids' clothes must be washed after wearing something once? Do Kevin's jeans emit a funky smell? Is Nicole's sweater bloodstained? Was Blake's concert tee dragged through the muddy swamp? If not, insist they wear the stuff again (and, okay, again!) to minimize dirty laundry. This is a very Tommy Lee rockstar way to live, by the way.


3. Change how you change 'em.

Don't buy just one package of wipes or diapers at a time. Stock the changing table/station with diapers, cream and essentials, but do have supplies in other places too. This will save time by preventing a trip running upstairs or out to the van for the diaper bag.


4. 'Off the chain' outfit options (that's urban-speak for awwwwwesome!).

There's nothin' quite like ultimate fighting with your kids over the "perfect outfit" in the morning, is there? Put an end to time-wasteful hissy fit mornings where they cannot decide what garments FEEL right to slip into. Without guilt (it's your mental health at stake, for cryin' out loud) use Sunday nights to pick out a week's worth of clothes. Buy a nifty cubby type thing to hold the outfits if it reinforces the smart habit. Then USE the thing.


5. Crush on carpools.

Gas is expensive. Carpooling is great for the environment and your mental health. Your time is valuable. Get used to sharing the responsibility with other parents (as a bonus, you'll get to know your kids' cool buds and teammates better!).


6. Beyond birthday brooding.

Keep your eyes peeled for smart non-expensive unisex birthday gifts when you're out shopping. Snatch up the bargains. You'll save yourself from angst-filled last minute scenarios before the bash because you'll already have something ready to wrap.


7. Feel free to fake it.

It's okay to buy the cookies for the bake sale, party, or fundraiser if you don't have time to bake. Kids have loved Oreos for years and years for a reason, and "from scratch" has never meant "because I love you more."


8. Pinch precious pennies properly.

Don't lose your mind driving from store to store seeking the best price on small ticket items. Use coupons when you can, but the cost of gas and your time may not make all that running around worth it in the end.


9. Cleverly cook a couple.

Begin thinking in twos when you cook a meal. Roast extra chicken for the next night's casserole. Make enough Swedish meatballs so you can toss some in with tomorrow evening's spaghetti. Double the recipe. Cut your manic mommy stress in half.


10. Calendars, cork, and chaos control.

You know that super-annoyingly organized friend of yours who reminds you of Martha? The one with the genius dry-erase board near her back door with every family activity sketched out for the next three months? Just a thought but maybe she's on to something. Go ahead and invest in something similar or a good old-school corkboard. Encourage your kids to jump on the "look we actually have a schedule" bandwagon.


Breathe in the sweet oxygen of a life that may not be perfect, but feels way less disorganized.


Michele Ranard is a mom who loves the idea of organized chaos. She is a professional counselor/tutor and freelance writer with a blog @ micheleranard.blogspot.com.