Color Coding the Chaos

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When you have six kids, especially when they are so close in age, there are so many things that are a source for fighting and bickering and parental dismay.  Take tennis shoes for example.

Shoe What’s the Problem Here?

A couple of years ago I stupidly bought three pair of green tennis shoes. I thought it would be cool if all three boys had matching shoes when we went out.  You know, people would see me with my boys a think “That dude’s got it together!” or “Look at that family, they’re styling!”  That’s not exactly how it worked out in real life.  It seems like every time we were getting ready to leave, only five (or less) shoes could be found.  Of course, each boy claimed that the missing shoe belonged to another.  This resulted in a fight pretty much every time and therefore, mom and dad would end up searching the house, backyard, pool (no, really), garage and car for the missing shoe.  So yeah,  I basically spent $60 for an extra opportunity for my boys to bicker and argue.  Genius!

Enter, the Color Coded Flip Flop

One day while walking through our local Walmart I discovered a big box in the middle of an aisle that contained hundreds of pairs of flip flops, in all sorts of colors.  I’m pretty sure the light bulb floating above my head was noticed by the other shoppers.  We dug around in that box until we found six pair of flip flops in six different colors.  Viola! Problem solved!  Six pair of shoes for only $5.88 plus tax!  It should be noted that flip flops count as shoes here in Southeast Texas, as they are worn year round by nearly everyone.

You’re Winning, Don’t Stop Now!

We determined that each kid had their favorite color, and by the mercy of God, they were all different.  Our boys became Green, Blue and Yellow.  Our girls became Pink, Purple and “I don’t care” (my 11 year old is so easy).  Soon, Carrie and I started brainstorming what else we could color code.  Tooth brushes were next.  No more fights over which girl owned Twilight Sparkle vs. who brushed with the Fluttershy tooth brush.   No more fights over who brushed with Ironman and who was Spiderman among the boys.

Drowning in Towels!

We have a pool.  The kids love it.  They swim two and sometimes even  three times a day.  The problem was they used a different towel every time they swam.  I found towels on the deck, on the trampoline, in the grass and even in the pool.  Though Carrie’s favorite two places to find a wet towel were on the couch and better yet, our bed.  They were always dirty, sometimes smelly and needed to be washed after just one use. 

This problem could be 20 or more towels strong in a day if my kids also happened to take a shower.  That was no good, so recently, we bought each child their own towel.  The idea was to cut down on this craziness, and teach them responsibility.  If they didn’t hang up their towel it wouldn’t dry.  If they left it in the grass, they would have a dirty towel.  If they put it in their hamper it would become moldy.  If they forgot to take their towel out to the back yard they would just have to drip dry.

We informed the kids about this new plan and it must have worked because the very first night, Louise used her towel as a floor mat for the back door and Haven left his on the dog kennel.

In the months since this was first implemented we have had some success.  We need to stick to our guns.  We will probably need to put all other towels away somewhere, otherwise they will just keep sneaking towels out of the pool box.

Cups are next

Some of you might ask, “Why do you need to color code drinking cups?” Well, I need to know who is wasting milk and juice.  It’s important to find out who is using their cup to grow a bacteria culture or crystals.  Science is great, but please don’t use our drinking cups!  I want to know who is playing in the pool or garden with their cup.  It’s good to know who to threaten when I find tipped over cups of cereal or pistachio shells in the living room.  I could go on.

We tried color coding plastic cups once before when the kids were younger.  It sort of worked with the exception of two things.  First, some of the kids lost their cup in the back yard.  How does that even happen?  Second, we only found five colors so two of them had to share a color.  When one cup was dirty and the other clean, both children claimed that the clean cup was theirs.  Go figure. Eventually we were down to a couple of the colored cups and gave up.  However, I believe we will be trying this again soon.   This time  I will also make sure that they rinse out their cups and maintain them after use.  Maybe we need a rack or some place conspicuous to keep them.  Also, like the towels I might need to hide all the other cups.

Going Too Far?

The latest item of contention in my house has been boys underwear.  This might be little too hard to color coordinate.  I thought perhaps one boy could wear briefs, one could wear boxer briefs, and finally the third could wear straight boxers.  The only problem is that 90% of the 20 or so pairs of underwear that we do have, are briefs.  Haven, my future ACLU attorney  will have a fit if we don’t have exactly the same number of underwear for each boy.  So what do I do, buy 34 more underwear?  Throw out all but seven of the underwear and buy 14 more so that everyone has seven?

Nah.  I think I’ll just get out the sharpie and put their names on them.  Now to figure out what to do when two of them fight over who gets to wear the Spongebob Squarepants undies.

How about you?

Have you made life easier by color coding the stuff in your world?  What worked and what didn’t?  We are all super interested in hearing your ideas. I’m sure that some of you have come up with genius color coding hacks to make life easier.  So, please leave a comment.  Until next time, you’ll find me in timeout with my color coded cup full of craft beer.

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5 years ago

I love this idea! I think giving kids ownership (taking care of their colors) promotes not only responsibility but joy in accomplishment.

Andy O
Andy O
5 years ago

Too funny, and so true! Similarly, we bought 4 identical University of Oregon hats (the perfect hats for the “O”uano family) that have been the cause of multiple arguments. If only we’d read this earlier…:-/

5 years ago

Geez, I feel right at home here! Nice to meet you guys! Six kids (China and USA), Indiana, married 23 years. I color code, too! Winter coats, you name it. It’s accountability! 🙂

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