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Duggar-style parenting tips for large families

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Raising a full house

When you only have two kids and you can't get away from the 100-pound laundry pile that stalks your every move, it's hard to imagine how large families like the Duggars cope. Get the inside scoop on how to stay on top of housework, laundry, meals, extracurricular activities and more.

Jenny Groothuis, mom of 15, is not afraid to admit that parenting a large family takes some special skills. “Parenting a large family requires a unique skill set, it’s true,” says Jenny. “But once you figure out what strategies work for your household, you can get a nice groove going no matter what size your family is.”

Feeding the masses

But for moms who have trouble just getting two or three kids up and fed in the morning, how do moms like Jenny manage 15? Jenny explains, “My kids help out with meal-planning, cooking and even cleaning up the kitchen. Especially now that I have older kids (my oldest are teenagers) they can really do a lot. We don’t plan elaborate meals and we don’t have a lot of side dishes. We eat a lot of beans, brown rice, fruit and veggies. Meat is like a condiment for us. We keep it simple and healthy and that works perfectly for our family.”

10-minute dinner recipes >>

Facing the laundry monster

With 17 people in the house, Jenny has to face between four and five loads of laundry every day. But she does have some strategies that make laundry easier. “Each room has its own laundry basket. When it gets full, it gets taken downstairs to get washed. The kids all put away their own clothes. Even the youngest ones are responsible, although they do get help from their older siblings. The great thing about having lots of kids is that the little ones learn a lot just by watching and modeling after the older children.”

Laundry confessions: Real moms share their tips for laundry >>

Say yes to less

One of the best ways to stay on top of things in a large family is not to go overboard on anything. Jenny says, “I try to keep clutter to a minimum and we don’t keep extras of things we don’t need. Each of my kids has a few pairs of pants, a couple pairs of shorts and a few shirts. When someone gets a hole in their jeans, that’s when we buy a new pair. Life is so much simpler when you don’t have extra clutter around.”

Keeping it clean

Angela De Hoyos has seven children spanning from 10 months to 10 years old. She says, “My favorite thing about having a large family is the friendships we have. We have fun together, we rely on each other and in reality, it forces me to be more organized. When I had fewer kids, I found I could spoil them a little more, let them get away with a little more, and let the house go a little more. Now that we have so many, I have to be more organized or we run out of dishes to eat on and clothes to wear.”

Over the years, Angela has developed some excellent tips for keeping her house running squeaky clean. “Housework was never my strong suit but I have a few tips that work well for our family. The kids help out a lot. We recently upgraded to a fairly advanced chore system that we adapted from Accountable Kids and I am thrilled with the outcome. It’s a rule in our house to always have an empty kitchen sink at night. (This tricks me into doing my dishes!) We make sure to spend a couple focused minutes in the morning and at night picking up the main clutter spots and I take full advantage of five-minute room rescues. It’s a relief to know that you don’t need to clean the whole thing at once, but that just five minutes can make a huge difference. It’s a simple way to get motivated to get started… and started is halfway done in my book!”

Less mess! 5 Steps to decluttering your home >>

Learning to say no

Both Jenny and Angela recommend setting clear boundaries and knowing when to say no. “No matter how big or small your family is, you have to learn your own limits,” Jenny says. “Parenting is a big job and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by just day-to-day life. Don’t agree to more than you want to do or accept more than you can handle. It’s OK to say no. People will respect you for knowing your own limits.”

The benefits of saying no >>

More on big families

The Duggar family and other big families
How to furnish and decorate for a big family
Large family life: Oh the dirt!

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