When I picture myself, I envision a wake of chaos flailing behind me as I stumble and fumble from one daily task to the next, usually a decent ten minutes late–for everything. You know how in Peanuts Pig-Pen was always followed by a cloud of dirt? That’s me. Except my cloud involves stupidly popped tires, lots of screaming at the kids to “Hurry up!” and piles of laundry covering the couch and mocking me. Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to use my couch as a seat.
I do not have my crap together.
Let me reinforce this: I do not have my crap together.
That said, I am an Organizer. A solid, sold-out Organizer. Recovering in different degrees depending on our life stage.
You see, my intrinsic bent is to have everything wholly in order. My pre-kid years matched up with this love for tidiness like a match made in heaven. We had a sweet thing going and then…it turns out kids require time and attention. A lot of it, to be exact. Suddenly caring for those around me and maintaining a shred of sanity became more important that making up my Christmas gift list in July (I know. Really, trust me, I know). Some days, breathing was a challenge; making neat notes in my planner was a fanciful thing of lives past.
This is why I note that I’m a Recovering Organizer. Sure, my fingers will always itch for sharp pencil points and blank note paper to sort All The Things, but the School of Young Kids has taught me that organization is a luxury, not a necessity. When I have capacity for it, it’s game on. When life is too crazy, it is possible, though not ideal, to exist within my chaotic Pig-Pen-esque cloud. It’s a careful balance of when organization will help preserve my sanity and when the sheer act of it will stress me out.
So what’s a Mom of the Year to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don’t stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don’t cost you extra time (score! Who has extra time?), but ultimately will give you more time in your day.
The Ten Organizational Principles of the Mom of the Year:
- Write it down. My mind is a sieve. Out of all these organizational principles, this is the one I am most dedicated to. Why? Because it stresses me out more attempting to hold a thought in my mind versus putting it on paper. Once it’s on paper, I can let go of it.
- Don’t be afraid to go small with your notations. I’ve noticed the fuller my days get, the fuller my planner gets. Not just because there are more things to do, but because I write everything down versus trying to stash it in my over-full mind. In the midst of horridly stressful semester of college, I made daily notes to myself to refill my Britta water pitcher. True that the only water source was down a long hallway and I’d often forget to do it, but still…this was insane. Yet, it was what I needed to do at the time to maintain my mental health, so it worked. Today, I make notes like “pack lunch” in my planner. It’s a teeny tiny thing, but noting it helps organize my mornings and being able to cross something off always feels boss.
- Keep different lists. I have a daily, a weekly, and a “dream” list. The daily is stuff I must do to keep our lives functioning–preschool drop-off and feeding the dog. The weekly list is still pretty time pressing–filling out forms for school, meeting work deadlines, etc. The dream list? Ideally I’d hit one of these items–cleaning a closet, sorting my address book, etc.–per week, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to trip up our overall functioning as a family.
- Note it in bulk. There are many things that I do on a rinse and repeat cycle. If I know that every Tuesday I must write my shopping list and hit the grocery store? I go ahead and write it in my planner for the next few weeks at a time.
- Do it NOW. With the random tasks that crop up on a day-to-day basis, don’t bother saving them for later. For example, when I get an invite in the mail, I typically RSVP right away. Rather than add another paper to my pile, I go ahead and make the call as soon as I get the invite. This saves writing yourself a reminder and having to follow up on it later.
- Start with the most important. Many mornings I get up and would love to dig into a blog task, but feeding my kids and getting them off to school takes precedence. This is prioritizing. Yup, many times this means the day will end without the laundry being folded, but at least what’s most important has happened, so I can rest peacefully at night.
- Group the like. Have a zillion errands to run? Block a morning off and knock them out. If I have a bunch of social media shares I’ve promised, I make a list, then take an hour and get them done. Keeping like tasks together helps me keep my focus and get into a zone of efficiency.
- Take the shortcuts. I’ve shared this a zillion times, but I’m a HUGE fan of online shopping. It saves me loads of time and money. Similarly, simple things like doubling recipes and freezing half for another meal, snagging the kids’ underwear in the next size whenever you see it on sale, or whipping clothes fresh out of the dryer to avoid ironing can seriously cut time spent on household tasks.
- Save the social stuff. I know, I just got done telling you to cross stuff off as soon as it presents, but social connections are a scary vortex of time suck. The pressure to respond to all the texts, emails and social media interactions can be overwhelming. I’ve started making a list of social follow-ups I need to make and then tackling the list when I get a chance to sit down with it. This makes me feel less scattered and offers a my kids a much fairer shot at getting quality attention throughout the day versus having a mom who is constantly pulled away by the ping of her phone.
- Know the difference between pen and pencil. Be flexible and realize things will change. For the stuff that can’t change (calling a friend to wish them happy birthday, a meeting at school, etc.), go ahead and use the pen. If it’s something that won’t shatter the earth if it happens Thursday instead of Wednesday, note it in pencil–and then give yourself the grace to shift it around as need be. Kids will get sick, appointments will run over, or some days, you’ll just be too tired to get to the things on your list. That’s okay. Really.
Do as many of these as you can, as best as you can. If your kid craps through his 4th diaper of the day and you end up having to sleep beside the laundry machine in hopes of getting through the dirty mounds of duds? Forget the organization. Just survive. Always remember that organization is a plus, but we real moms get it–and we’ve been there. Whatever level of organized chaos you’re rocking, we’re cheering you on!