Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Organized Chaos

I like to kid myself every now and then and claim the "organized" part but mostly its just chaos. I think everyone aspires to have a certain level of organization to their lives but just don't really know how to start. I think this is where baby steps come into play. You can't go from train wreck to order over night. There are trial and error, supplies and drive that must come first. Also, a house without children would be nice but that's not happening any time soon. I'm trying ever so hard to train my kids to pick up after themselves. You can only expect so much from the toddler and preschool set but Raph...he just needs to do it. I have just started regularly making them pick up an entire room no matter who's stuff it is. The excuse of "I didn't make it" falls on deaf ears. You don't EAT until you pick up that room. Period. Today I watched Colin try to put a box of cereal, piece of trash, book, article of clothing or whatever else he might be holding in the wrong place. I just say, "Where does that go?" A little prompting helps him to learn that things have a place and if you take it out you put it back.

I can try this until I'm blue in the face but really it all starts with me. I run this house, so its my job to be the purveyor or order. I get bogged down in the minutia of life sometimes but I find that I must take a step back and look at the bigger picture...or sometimes the smaller picture.

Food: We eat everyday. My kids eat all day every day so this is something I need to stay on top of in order to survive. I've started making a real, honest effort to meal plan. I can't stand looking in the fridge at 5pm trying to piece together a meal. That doesn't work, kids beg for food and we end up making pasta or getting take out. Neither are stellar options on a regular basis. Now, on Sundays I go through recipes and plan a meal for each night. I think about outside activities that color the dinner hour. Does Raph has TaeKwonDo at 5:30 or are we free for the evening? Quick dinners on the nights we are busy and more involved dinners on free evenings. Simple right? Plus, if you know what you are going to make each night you know what food to buy for the week. I've also started a long term grocery list. When I finished off the couscous last night I added to my list. I don't need to go out and buy it tomorrow but I do need to replenish that staple in the next week or two. This is helpful if I'm trying to take advantage of a $10 off $50 night at the grocery store and I need a filler. They don't make couscous coupons and its not on sale often so you just buy it at full price without feeling queasy.

Mail: It comes almost every day and there is usually a large portion that goes in the recycle. Instead of a heaping pile of stuff on my counters I look through the mail when I bring it in and toss what I don't need, file what needs to be filing and put bills on my desk. Next free moment I pay the bills and file the papers. Done! I have a shelf in my office where I keep unread magazines. When I finish a magazine I put it in a bag for Colin's school. DONE! No floating around or lost papers.

Visual and Mental Clutter: My house is probably just like every other house in the country. There is always a certain amount of mess on any given day but some of it can be controlled or at least kept to a minimum. I read an article about happiness. The one thing I gleaned from that article was that people who make their beds are happier. They interviewed people a year later and those who started making their beds said that one small things made a huge difference. Who knew? I have lived my whole life a non-bed-maker. I've started making my bed. It feels good. I don't walk into my bedroom and see a mess of a bed. Its crisp and clean and that one small thing has made a big difference. Its the biggest thing in the room and its orderly. When you walk in a room and see something like an unmade bed or a pile of mail its mental clutter along with visual clutter. It nags at you, pleads with you...FIX ME! Then every time you walk into your bedroom or the kitchen its still looking at you, judging you...FIX ME! I'm still here!

Yeah so this was mess but once it was over my children, the table, chairs, floor around table, bathroom and toys were all quite clean!

Never empty handed: I read on the blog of my idol that you should never walk through a room empty handed. Seems simple right? If I would just pick up that shoe on my way down the hall to the bathroom and toss it in Heidi's room it would be put away. Took virtually no extra effort but I would know where her other brown shoe was (I wish this were the case b/c where is that other brown shoe!?). On the way back from the bathroom I could pick up that cup and a toy, depositing them in their homes as I went through the house. You don't have to carve out enough time to clean an entire room from top to bottom. A little bit here and there adds up and those shoes and cups quit judging you AND you know where they are when you need them.

30 seconds or less: This is not unlike the never an empty hand rule. I read this gem in a magazine once. If something takes 30 seconds or less do it now. That paper you need to file away that keeps looking at you? Just put it away. There are so many little things like this that grate on you, hang on you and nag you silently. I kept looking at a putty knife and Spackle in the kitchen for a week. All I had to do was put it in the garage. That's it. I kept seeing that knife and jar and kept thinking, "Ugh, that is STILL out here." Well, I put it away in about 20 seconds and its gone. Out of sight and nothing to think about again.

My new binder: I have a pdf file that has a sheet for each week of the year. Its got pretty much every imaginable household chore listed in a rotation. Each day she gives you a couple small things to do; change the hand towels in the bathroom, clean out your wallet, clean the middle shelf of your fridge, etc. Small things that always need to be done with some regularity. Cleaning the middle shelf in my fridge is much more manageable than cleaning out the whole damn thing. So, I have this list of things to do but they are loose papers that get shuffled around. I also have a list of long term projects...again, loose paper. My monthly calendars, midterm grocery lists, big ticket items we are planning for, recipes for this week's meals, etc etc etc. I went to the store today and I got a binder and dividers. I have things hole punched, in page protectors and organized by the day. Its all in one spot. One small binder on my desk instead of papers scattered around my kitchen and my office. If I need something its all right there. I even copied over our family calendar into this binder. If I ever need to make appointments I can just bring this binder with me to the doctor, or school or where ever else I might be going.

Everything is starting to have a home. I am a work in progress but things are getting better. Instead of fluttering around aimlessly I'm starting to do things with a purpose. I have more projects that take time but they are planned out and manageable. Manageability is the most important thing for me right now. When I feel like I'm barely treading water some days its good to know that I don't have to reorganize my entire kitchen in one day...especially when I have a little 2 foot wrecking crew that's faster than the Tasmanian Devil.

1 comment:

The Happy Mother said...

Wow- so the 30 second idea is such a revelation to me. I love it! It is so funny because I had the exact same problem with a putty knife and spackle last week and you're right- I shouldn't have let it bother me for so long. I spent more time internally complaining about its presence in the breakfast room than it actually took me to put it away!