Today I stumbled across some posts by other moms of large families. They were all blogging about organization, and the urge to contribute my $.02 is overwhelming. So here goes!
People always assume that homeschooling moms of big families are super-organized, and generally, they're right. You kinda have to find ways of coping with the chaos. My experience is that you try something and it works pretty well for awhile, until something changes--your kids get a little older, the schedule changes--and you have to adjust. Each time you tweak or overhaul your systems, you get the chance to make some improvements. So you end up looking pretty organized...but it's always in a state of flux. Accepting that reality is half the battle!
Others had some great ideas about kitchen and mudroom organization. I thought I'd contribute something about the dreaded t-word--shhhhh--toys. (They'll rule the world if we aren't careful!) One of the best weapons in our fight to keep the toys at bay has been the attic. When we do a clean-and-purge, I give the kids the option to put toys-they-don't really-play-with-anymore-but-can't-bear-to-part-with into the attic. There they sit for a year or two until, for 90%, the sentimental attraction fades and we can donate it to the local charity resale shop. Or, we're keeping it in good condition for a younger sibling (we have been known to raid the attic at Christmas or birthday time) for whom it will be like a brand-new item!
One of the biggest toy storage issues I know of for families with boys is what to do with all the LEGOS. We've found that there are deep, long, underbed storage boxes (you can raise your bed a few inches, if necessary, on those cones made for the purpose) that will hold Lego "creations" nicely. The shallower ones hold the loose ones nicely, but the deeper ones are great for storing assembled models (we have both, since we didn't want to elevate two beds). Our boys also found that if they store models in Zip-loc bags, they keep the pieces together even if the model falls apart. Those underbed boxes are great for Playmobil and Barbies too. Another benefit of using the boxes is that there isn't room anymore for them to use the clean-by-shoving-everything-under-the-bed routine!
We also like the long underbed boxes for "weapons"--guns, swords, light sabers, etc. We used to store weapons in the dress-up box, but we discovered that a separate box for the armory cut way down on the number of dress-up items strewn around in pursuit of that special pistol way down in the bottom of the dress-up box.
For general toy clean-up, the best thing we've done is to institute "zones." Each kid over 4 is responsible for a room or stairway. Even if your pesky little brother is the one who dumped out all the Duplos, if it's in your zone, you pick it up. If it's your big brother's stuff, you call him to come get it, or you just dump it in his zone. We rotate zones periodically, but generally the "hardest" zone goes to the oldest and the smallest or "easiest" area goes to the youngest. The 3 yr old works with her big sister (in theory!).
I'll leave you with this encouraging word on why you should hang in there and teach your kids to work, even though for years it seems like more hassle than it's worth. It does pay off...and I KNOW that someday they will thank me. (Thank you, Mom & Dad!)