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Challenge: Get Happy!

How Baskets Have Saved (Some of) My Sanity

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This is an article I previously published for the TODAY Show Parenting Team, but it ties in perfectly with this month’s challenge. Enjoy!

Baskets have saved my sanity many times. Although I am aware that they are simply small containers for all my “stuff,” I am convinced my stress level goes down when this “stuff” has a home. When my stress level goes down, I can breathe. When I can breathe, I am happy. And as the saying goes, when mama is happy, everyone is happy.

Below, you will find some of the tricks that have made life as mom a little bit easier for me.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

How many times have you come home from a birthday party, fast food restaurant, or carnival to have a pile of little plastic toys that break after one use? To us, these toys are a nuisance, but to the kids, they are treasures—at least for a day.

After one day of playing with the treasures, it is time to put them in a special place. Get a basket and place it high in a closet. This is your “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” basket. After the kids go to sleep, put the treasures there. Usually, the kids will forget about them and a week later the basket can be emptied. If they remember the treasure the next day, take it out of the basket and let them play with it again.

This whole process does two things: it helps clear out your house, and it saves you from dealing with a humongous meltdown when your child sees you throwing away his special treasure.

My Second Home

I have always dreamed of a second home, but I finally realized I have one—it is my car. If I were to add up the amount of time I spend in my car, it would probably be more than the amount of time I spend in my home, with my kids or with my husband.

Have you ever heard that you can tell a woman’s personality by looking in her purse? I think the same is true about our cars. When my car is a mess, my life seems to follow the same pattern. If my car is clean, my life is much more organized. Therefore, it would make sense to organize your car.

Get yourself a car basket. This should fit either in your front seat or on the floor. Fill it with small necessities: Band-aids©, Kleenex©, wipes, antibacterial gel, spare change, etc. During the day, while driving around, fill the basket with paperwork, purchases, and garbage. At the end of the day, instead of having a car filled with the day’s activities, you have it contained in one place. Take the basket inside, clean it out, and re-stock it for the next day.


I can’t tell you the number of times I have found one sock here, there, and everywhere. One day I looked down to see my daughter wearing two different socks. I asked if she was starting a trend and she replied, “No, I couldn’t find a pair that went together.”

Someday, we will come to find out that there really is a black hole sucking all of our socks into another world; but, until then, try to keep as many matching socks together as possible. Buy a basket and place it in your laundry room. Every time you do wash place the solo socks into it. When it fills up, pull them out, match the ones you can, and get rid of the rest. I know it seems simple, but if they don’t go somewhere, they will end up everywhere!

Grab and Go

Do your kids ever tell you they are starved right when you are walking out the door? In my house that seems to be an ongoing theme. This is when I created the “Grab and Go” basket.

Whether it is in your pantry, a cabinet, or on the way out the door, designate a basket for snacks on the go. These can be somewhat healthy, pre-packaged snacks that your kids can grab on their way to school, when they need a quick bite after playing, or to stick in their backpack for camp. If my kids are hungry and we are walking out the door, I tell them to grab a snack from the basket, and they are good to go.

Having a “Grab and Go” basket allows our children to be in control of what they are eating, reinforces the importance of healthy snacks, and is less stress for mom. When kids are running on low and need a little extra nutrition, a “Grab and Go” basket is a perfect solution to fill up their empty tanks.

The Homework Basket

When my two oldest kids were in early elementary school, they were very serious about doing their homework. After school they would sit down and begin right away. This was always when my youngest daughter decided it was time to talk as loud as she could and tell her brother and sister every detail from her day. While I thought her stories were darling, her older brother and sister did not.

This is when I decided to make a “Homework Basket” just for her. It was a special basket that only came out during homework time. In it, I put different things that she liked: puzzles, coloring books, and a white board with markers. I made sure to fill it with things that were age appropriate, so I knew she would be capable of doing them without any help from me.

Once the big kids were done with their homework, I put her “Homework Basket” away until the next day. This gave me more time to help my older children and gave my then four-year-old the feeling of being independent like her big brother and big sister.

Lost & Found

Our neighborhood is filled with children of all ages. Needless to say, there are many times that kids come over and leave behind everything from shoes to sippy cups. We have enough stuff of our own; we do not need the neighborhood stuff as well.

That is why I have a “Lost & Found.” Anything that is not ours goes into the basket. It sits in a cabinet under the sink, and when the basket fills up, it is time to empty it. I sort the items by family and then make deliveries. This way I keep everything contained until it is time to return.

The Donation Basket

I am a firm believer that less stuff equals less stress. This is why every home needs a “Donation Basket.” This should be big enough to fill with lots of items and be stored somewhere in your home.

Once a week or once a month, walk through your house and find five items to donate. Place them in your donation basket. Whenever your children grow out of their shoes, shorts, or shirts, place them in your “Donation Basket.” When you buy a new item, donate an old item. Once the “Donation Basket” is filled, take it to your local charity. You will keep your house cleaned out while helping others at the same time.

Go to the store and buy some baskets. You will be surprised how something as simple as a basket can make parenting just a little bit easier!

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