Being organized doesn’t just mean having all your stuff put away and your shoes in a row. It’s a frame of mind, a lifestyle. For a lot of people, being organized is not second nature so they look for a cure for their messy minds, messy desks or messy houses. The danger in a cure that is not embraced as a lifestyle change is that it can be like the ultra-restrictive diet we take on right before swimsuit season: doomed to fail.
Instead, like a good marriage, being organized is something you have to work at. It takes effort to ensure that you are always on top of things and aren’t letting important work, decisions or tasks fall through the cracks.
Start as you mean to finish
The easiest way to start is to set up a system that works for you. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be overwhelmed by the process: you don’t want the steps you have to take to be organized to become so convoluted that it takes half of your day just to update your ‘system’. It has to make sense for you and your family.
- What are your priorities? Work? Family? BOTH?
- What do you want to focus on? If you know you tend to forget school and other activities, forms, etc., this could be your primary area of focus. If your email is the bane of your existence, start there.
- How can you make sure that you have the information you need, when you need it? And that others in your family do too?
Kicking the clutter to the curb, whether it’s on your computer, in your filing cabinet or on your kitchen table, is the first step. Once you’ve got a bit of a clean slate (the start) you can continue (as you mean to finish). See what I did there?
And be sure to first tackle the messy thing that you hate the most. Why? Because the sense of accomplishment dealing with that particular issue will carry through your other organizing tasks and it will all seem easier and more intuitive after that.
Centralize your organizing
Every home should have a central command: a place where all the information is. Phone numbers, schedules for everyone, to do lists, to buy lists, chore charts and so on. Whether that command centre is a blackboard in the kitchen, a colour coded planner on the wall or a digital system that everyone has access to on their tech, the central command needs to be the hub and it needs to be one that you are happy to use. If you aren’t, you won’t use it and neither will anyone else in the house.
- Kids noticed there’s no more milk? Put milk on the shopping list.
- Husband is home early? Check the meal plan, which is telling him to take out the frozen chilli and start thawing it.
The central command should also have a place for putting essential documentation and mail that needs to be addressed (bills, etc.) Somewhere that can’t be ignored. Mine? A hanging basket, right beside the coffee cups. I’ll never miss it.
Of all the things in a day that need to be organized, the meal plan is probably the single most important aspect as it dominates a large part of our mornings, days, and evenings. After all, those pesky kids DO demand to be fed several times a day. That will happen a lot more easily if you have a weekly plan, including shopping lists and recipes, than if you decide to wing it (also known as going to the drive-thru or ordering pizza).
The quickest way to get into the habit of being organized is to establish a routine and stick to it. A good example is the ‘after school’ routine. The kids all learn routines at school for getting things done, so there’s no doubt that they can learn one more.
- Shoes / boots / hats / mittens / coats off and put away.
- Knapsack emptied: lunchbox in the kitchen, paperwork and agenda for signing in the ‘in basket’.
- Snack acquired.
- Homework completed.
- Secret location of the iPad revealed when #4 is done.
That’s what works for me, right now and given the ages of kids that I am dealing with. That may not be what works for you, so this kind of routine takes a little thought and a lot of repeating, at first.
You can have morning routines and bedtime routines… really, any kind of routine that you need to keep a time of day that used to be ‘crazy’ well under control. None of it is carved in stone—you don’t want to become a slave to your routines. Think of them more as a guideline to which you can return when things go off the rails (and they WILL go off the rails. Example? The holiday season!)
However you get organized, make sure that, unlike the crash swimsuit diet, it’s a sustainable plan. Something you can carry on for the long haul and come back to whenever you need it.
Do you have any tips that help you keep you and your family organized without becoming overwhelmed by the ‘system’?