Operation: Save Mom’s Sanity


Seven kids is a lot. No matter what kind of person you are, 7 kids is a lot. Being as I went from 4 kids to 7 kids so quickly, and also went from one age range of kids to a very different age range of kids, I am in a constant state of trying to configure the best set of circumstances to keep the chaos manageable and my sanity in tact. Operation: Save Mom’s Sanity is actually an ongoing mission. I will admit-I have not yet figured it all out! I know I know-you are shocked. If you can’t tell that is dripping with sarcasm. I’ll probably get it all figured out the day the last kid moves out. But I guess that is motherhood. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying!

My most recent attempt was born from walking in to the big girls’ bathroom for the umpteenth time to find trash overflowing out of the trashcan onto the floor, a lidless bottle of toothpaste with its contents spilling on to the counter, and dirty laundry littering the floor. Despite many previous attempts to teach them to manage it without my constant hovering, here we were again. I closed the door to the bathroom, walked past the mess that was growing in the living room (again, despite attempts to manage it), and sat down at the desk.

I spent every spare minute there that day-searching online and creating. I had an idea in mind, but I needed help getting there. Spending too much time thinking things out isn’t really a luxury I have around here. Lists came into being and grew and multiplied. The next day I sat down again with my focus on the younger age range and more lists were created. Then came all the push pins and posting of all the lists through the house! I made a post on Instagram and Facebook showing my latest attempt to save some sanity and many of you requested a closer look. Again, I can’t take full credit here, but maybe I can save you some search time!

I found it unexpectedly difficult to find customize-able lists. The only set I found turned out to be simple and perfect. Eleven Magnolia Lane is where I found them. Now, I did have to download Dropbox and jump a few hoops I hadn’t previously learned about to get to them, but they were truly free and easy to work with. I changed a lot. By the time I was done, I had basically used the skeleton and made my own lists, but every home is different and if you have kids like mine that need VERY. SPECIFIC. INSTRUCTION. it helps for lists to be very clear.

I made small handheld checklists for the type of cleaning that would be considered a “chore” and4 laminated them so they could be used like checklists with dry erase markers and then erased and used over and over. I then used the skeleton to make larger lists that could be posted for things that are just considered expectations. I hung a laminated list in the oldest girls’ room and in the twins’ room that would serve to remind them what is expected of them in the morning and what is expected of them when they get home from school. For now, there are no consequences, but they know that the answer to all their requests will be “no” if their list is not complete. There is no playing outside, coloring, playing with toys, or recreational reading until the lists are completed. They aren’t long lists-just reasonable maintenance. I also hung a list in the big girls’ bathroom. The first half reminds them how the bathroom should be kept and the second list reminds the oldest two what is expected for their shower time. Now, you may be thinking that is a little overkill, but keep in mind we have nine people and a dishwasher and a washing machine all using one hot water heater. Plus, water isn’t free. 45 minute+ showers just can’t be the norm. Sorry girls.

I couldn’t leave the youngest three out of the merriment so I had to come up with something for them too. At their age, fun quite literally has to be a part of it or they could care less so sticker charts seemed the way to go. While searching around for one I liked, it became clear that there was in fact, not one I liked. I did find a fellow mom blogger though that had the same problem so she just created her own by making a table in Microsoft Word and adding images through the “search images online” tool. This was too enjoyable so not only did I make mine with tasks that I cared about, but I picked little animated kids that looked like them! *Insert laughing emoji here because it is just needed* 8Due to these also being laminated, I can take the stickers off each week and start again! (That laminator was worth every penny!) So far, the little kids are loving this and are showing more initiative than the big kids! (Obligatory mom disclaimer: I hadn’t finished Faith’s stickers for the day at the time this picture was taken!)

Do I think this newest idea of mine is perfect? No.

Do I think it is foolproof? No.

Do I think my sanity will forever be in tact now? Heck no.

But it’s another step closer to beautiful chaos rather than just straight up chaos! That’s enough for me.

*Update-I wrote this on a Sunday but Monday morning came before I posted. David and I woke up at 6:50am to find the 4 elementary aged kids up, dressed, brushed, and with beds made! We wandered from room to room aimlessly and in disbelief not really knowing what to do with ourselves. I will not fool myself into thinking this will happen every morning, but by golly there is a spring in my step this morning! This bunch of kids really know how to drive their momma crazy, but man if they don’t make me so proud too!

Ashley Karaffa

Ashley is mother to a blended family of 10 and appreciating the beautiful chaos of it all. She enjoys creating systems - because how can you survive a family with 8 kids without systems - and spending time celebrating her family.


  1. Blended Hope on April 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Way to go!! Lists and charts have never worked long term for me so I just continue to hover and nag on a weekly basis. Sanity is always an issue with a big family haha!
    Someday I’love have my sanity…at least that’s what I tell myself!

    • Ashley Karaffa on August 3, 2018 at 1:20 am

      I tell myself that too. A little delusion keeps us all going!

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