Here a few of my thoughts to add to the chorus of those helping out this lovely family with ideas for managing with "their hands full". Hat-tip to Jen of Conversion Diary.
1. Don't blink. Enjoy these little years as much as you are able, because they'll be over SO fast. Enjoy the process. Don't try to do everything. Being with your children is the most important thing you can do for them. Age quod agis.
2. Don't try to be efficient with your little people. Efficiency is for things, effectiveness for people. (with thanks to Stephen Covey*).
3. Keep it simple. Pack up unnecessary stuff out of your way. (Get a storage unit if that helps.) Focus your decor on things that can hang on the wall (and thus out of the way) rather than things on surfaces. Keep hair cuts simple. Store or donate clothes that are difficult to take care of.
4. Distinguish between ideal and necessary. I love the St. Francis quote here: "Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." For example, it's ideal to attend Mass as a family, but it's not necessary. A different season in your life may allow for more ideal scenarios.
5. Do what works. There are many practical things which are discussed over and over again among moms about which option is better - should I use cloth or disposable diapers? should I have my baby sleep in my room? should my toddler be potty-trained before the age of three? Do what works for you. None of these are important in the long-run, they're simply practical issues.
6. Take advantage of technology. Appliances (especially washing machine and dishwasher) are your friends, as are cordless phones. Online or automatic bill-paying programs can save you a lot of hassle.
7. Aim to do the little things with love. St. Therese is a great inspiration for this stage. I fell in love with the Morning Offering during the chaotic littles stage. It's SO comforting to know that frazzled messes and chaotic tiredness aren't pointless.
8. A little inspiring reading can go a long way. At that stage I really ate up stories of people overcoming difficulties.
9. A few practical ideas:
Socks are cute, but they can be a major pain. Don't buy socks in assorted colors. Let each child have their own color - or even share a color with a sibling.
Felt pens were another thing that drove me crazy when the kids were little. If you must have them, get the washable kind, but in the end I found crayons or colored pencils a lot nicer.
Consider a grocery-delivery service. One of our local stores offered this for a short time, though we had to pick up the groceries, we only had to drive up and they loaded in the groceries in the car for us. (It actually was dropped for lack of interest), but it was the exact six months that we most needed it and it was a WONDERFUL help!
Turn off the ringer on the phone for awhile if it's driving you crazy. Telephones and littles can be a stressful combination!
Remember that children are supposed to make messes. Don't let it get you down. Some day your house will be much cleaner and you'll miss the chaos, if not the mess. ;)
* "You [should] think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things… I see many parents, particularly mothers with small children, often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day. Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities." (Stephen Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)