My husband and I have been talking about a kitchen remodel for years, and when the doors to our cabinets literally began to fall off, we knew it was time! We are still a ways from a final product, but I'm very happy with how the process has gone so far. I planned more for this project than any other home improvement project, and it's been worth it!
What I've learned so far:
Around the holidays, I always get the urge to purge! Life gets so busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas around my house with school programs, parties, shopping, decorating, family gatherings, etc. It seems extra difficult for me to stay on top of the regular tasks like laundry, dishes and clutter, so this is the time that having less stuff is really appealing. Whenever this feeling strikes me, I take advantage and get out some trash bags and cardboard boxes!
I like to do pre-holiday purging in the areas that I'm most likely to acquire new stuff. The prime location to begin, kids' rooms! It's ideal to involve your kids in this process, explaining that if they want to enjoy new toys or gifts, they have to make some room. I like to give the kids 5 options on every item in their room:
For me and my sons, it works best if I'm in the room with them, holding up each item, but if you have older kids, they may be able to do this process on their own. Since there are 5 options, we use 5 containers - a combination of trash bags, boxes and storage bins. To be very thorough, have your smallest child crawl under the bed or to the back of the closet to make sure you get everything! I have found that option 2, keep as a keepsake, has helped reduce the time it takes to make a decision. Kids are sure about the things they want to keep and get rid of, but there are some items in between. Rather than force them to decide one way or the other, we keep a box of keepsakes in the basement. Occasionally (but not as often as we should) we go through those keepsakes and purge further. I also throw in the option of giving away to someone we know because it's easier to get rid of a beloved toy if they know it's going to their younger cousin who will like it (and they may get to play with it at their house, too!)
Just like I make my kids go through this process, I like to do it myself on my clothes, coats, jewelry, and shoes. It works out well since this time of year usually aligns with when I do my clothing seasonal switch. I also like to go through things like CDs, movies, craft supplies, and kitchen gadgets. If you want to do some in-depth work on your kitchen, check out my video series, 7 Days to an Orderly Kitchen!
I have a hard time getting rid of things that prove my kids are growing up - like kids' movies and music, games for younger kids, coloring books, and even little spoons and cups. This is where giving to someone I know comes in handy for me. I can much more easily part with a Sonic the Hedgehog activity book, a plastic Spiderman plate and silverware set, or Veggie Tales DVDs when I know my nephews (and now niece!) or a friend's child will enjoy them.
In addition to purging, I love to use this time to get organized as well. The key is to be realistic about how you use your spaces and to store items near where they are typically used. Using the correct storage solutions is important. For example, you don't want to stack bins on top of one another that you want to access often. Instead, consider a shelf with bins, hanging closet shelves, a set of drawers, or stacking bins with front access. Make a list of what storage problems you have and then do a little organization browsing online or in person. Select one area to focus on first and either purchase or re-purpose some organizing supplies for that area to be complete. This will give you so much more satisfaction than getting one thing for each room. You can slowly add to your collection of organizing supplies as time goes on.
On my last day of Thanksgiving vacation, I'm planning a fun filled day of purging! So family and friends (you know who you are,) prepare yourself for being offered a bunch of stuff we no longer need! I remember receiving lots of hand-me-down clothes and toys from others who had older kids, and even if I didn't keep everything, I always appreciated free stuff and knowing that someone else thought enough of us to pass down things they used to love. Happy pre-holiday purging to all!
Last winter, my kids had a magical three days when my husband’s and my flu-like symptoms overlapped. It’s not that they wished us poor health, but they did enjoy our lack of enforcement of the no TV during the school week rule. We were too tired to care, so we all got too much screen time for those few days.
When are bodies are worn down, our regular routine usually goes out the window. It’s so easy to get behind while we are sick – dishes pile up all over the house, hampers overflow, tissues cover end tables and the floor next to trashcans, and stacks of mail begin to topple.
The best way to keep it together when we don’t feel good is to create systems to follow while we are healthy so that we can afford to take a few days off when we're sick without things falling apart. If you do these seven simple things on a regular basis, your house will be manageable, and when you get sick, you’ll have a little latitude to slack off.
"The best way to keep it together when we don't feel good is to create systems to follow while we are healthy so that we can afford to take a few days off when we're sick without things falling apart."
When you are under the weather, give yourself permission to take a few shortcuts to keep your house from becoming a disaster zone.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about my struggle with laundry (A Laundry Experiment: Part 1). You can go back and read it, but the basics are this: There was too much laundry and we never had the right things clean when we needed them or they were clean, but were buried in a giant pile of clean clothes on the couch, coined "laundry couch." I tried to figure out how to overcome my laundry woes, and vowed to try the following:
Though this experiment wasn't very scientific, I did have a hypothesis and have reached a conclusion (that are one in the same) - I HATE LAUNDRY!!!! I've failed pretty miserably at most of the points above, but I did learn from my experience. Since I have accepted the fact that laundry will never end, I have some new ideas to try as a result of my failures.
The daily sorting is the ONE part of my experiment that really worked. We don't do it at night, but rather the kids do it every morning. One kid empties and sorts the laundry from the first floor and the other kid takes care of the upstairs. We have a two sided laundry sorter for lights and dark as well as a hard plastic hamper where we put the "hots" (things that should be washed in hot water.) I really like this new habit. It keeps hampers in the bedrooms and bathrooms from overflowing and makes it visibly obvious when we need to do a load! We will definitely keep this one!
Washing on Demand
I have been doing laundry during the week much more than I did before, so I'll continue putting a load in the washer when I notice the sorter is full. The problem has been that I sometimes forget to move it to the dryer and then it gets stinky and has to be rewashed. The next point about the reminder is what I was really missing!
I originally thought I'd make some cute sign that I'd hang near the laundry room to let me know when there was laundry in the washer, but instead I thought I'd go the technology route and set a recurring reminder on my iPhone. Spoiler alert - - it didn't work. I quickly became immune to the reminder and just swiped left to dismiss it every day, twice a day.
Instead of this type of reminder, I'm going to try pairing, when you connect two activities or make one dependent on the completion of the other. I first heard about the strategy of pairing from author and podcaster, Gretchen Rubin. I'm thinking that I will pair TV with laundry. Before I will allow myself to watch TV, I'll have to check the status of the laundry and do the next step - starting a load, switching a load to the dryer and/or folding a load.
Use the Laundry Room
I was naive to think that folding laundry in my un-air conditioned laundry room would work in the summer - it was just too HOT! In addition, my laundry room is the landing zone for things that have to go to the basement. I keep clothes that are too small for my oldest son, but still too big for my youngest son in the basement, and with the way my 11-year-old has been growing, each week there have been new things to retire from his wardrobe. I almost constantly have a bag or just a pile of clothes on top of the dryer poised to go to the basement, which doesn't allow me any room to fold even if the temperature were comfortable.
Since I'm planning to use TV watching to remind me to do the next step in my laundry, I'm going to go back to folding while I watch. I used to do this after it got really piled up, but if I fold this each time I watch TV (which is most days) I should be able to avoid laundry couch!
I'm also going to use pairing to get items down to the basement. I have one solid nighttime routine, and that is tucking my kids into bed (I've told them this will continue until they go to college!) Since the only time I don't do this is when I'm not home or I am sick, I can count on this nearly every night. As the kids start brushing their teeth in preparation for going to their bedrooms, I'm going to take one load to the basement. If I do this nightly, the laundry room should stay manageable.
I did notice a couple of new problems while being more aware of my laundry process these past few months. One was that my youngest son has TOO MANY CLOTHES! This is not because we buy him stuff, but because he gets hand-me-downs from a few different sources. It makes it difficult for him to put his clothes away because his drawers are stuffed! Many times clean clothes end up on the floor and it's difficult to tell the difference between then and the dirty ones, so clean clothes are getting washed again! It's time to purge again!
The other problem is socks. I'm starting to have a hard time telling the difference between my older son's and my husband's socks, so we bought a different color and brand for each and solved that problem!. I also continually struggle with odd sock problems. I've tried having my kids put their socks in mesh bags and washing them in there, but that didn't work - they were as successful getting them in the mesh bag as they were at getting them in the hamper! I've decided that once a week, I'm going to take all the socks in my odd sock bin where I put socks without a match after each load of laundry and put them into "sock purgatory" a separate bin kept up high on my laundry room shelf. Once a month, I'm going to match any socks from my odd sock bin to my sock purgatory bin and any that are left will get thrown away.
Laundry will never be something I enjoy, but it's not going away, so I'm hoping these observations I've made will help me keep up with it better! Do you have any great laundry tips to share? I'd love to hear them - please comment below!
I like to be self-sufficient, and I enjoy learning new things or figuring out how to accomplish a new task. There are some types of tasks that I won't even attempt, but for most things, I'll at least do a little Googling or YouTube video watching and give it a go. Though this "I can do it" attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family! Over time, I've learned that there is real value in finding the right person for the job!
At work and at home, it's impossible for us to do it all, though I'm guilty of trying to do it anyway. I used have a hard time with the group project concept. I felt like it would just be easier to do it all myself. At least that way, I knew it would get done. Doing it myself meant that I knew the progress of the project and the barriers to getting it completed so I could figure out ways to overcome the barriers and meet the deadline. This mentality causes stress, burnout, and ultimately leads to lower quality work and delayed results. Why is it then, that it's so hard to relinquish a little control and trust others to help me?
"Though this 'I can do it' attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family!"
A great example of how finding the right person to do the job produced fantastic and quick results was when I wanted to create a logo for my blog. I had an idea in my head, but I thought it would be too difficult for me to articulate that to someone else, so I tried to do it myself. I tried and tried to bring my vision to life, but without the proper tools or expertise in graphic design, I just couldn't produce something I was happy with. I considered hiring someone, but I talked myself out of that by rationalizing that I was saving money by doing it myself and I could remain authentic to my own creative plans for my logo. Well, what happened is that I didn't launch my blog because I didn't have what I felt was the perfect logo, and I became more and more frustrated and wasted a LOT of time.
I finally got over myself and hired someone to design my logo. But, even then, I tried to maintain control over the process giving her very specific instructions about what I wanted, what colors I liked, etc. It wasn't until I gave the designer greater creative space that I got exactly what I had been dreaming of! I finally got down to the core of what I wanted to accomplish - a clean logo in soothing colors that showed you could be creative and have beauty while still being orderly. The graphic designer quickly created several mock ups for me. I chose the one I liked best, asked for a couple of tweaks, and tada -I had a beautiful logo that I love as if I created it myself. I think that I actually love it even more because I didn't create it!
I now am much more inclined to hire work done or ask for help and suggestions. The old saying, "time is money" is so true. I could spend ten times as long doing something that would be a lower quality than if I hired the right person for the job. I could use that time in a different way to produce real results. I'm a big believer in frugality, so of course I don't hire someone to do everything for me! I pick and choose what I can afford, what meets the biggest and most urgent need, and what I don't want to or don't have the capacity to learn how to do myself. There are some things that are just fun to dabble in and the difference in the end result of me doing it versus a professional wouldn't be that noticeable, but then there are all the other things where an expert is definitely the right choice.
This concept also applies to situations at home or work where we would should delegate a task to someone who is best equipped to do it. Best equipped can mean they are an expert or they have the capacity to become an expert or simply that they have time to do the task. When we delegate, though, we have to learn to accept the results may not be exactly as if we had done the task ourselves. I have my kids do certain chores at home, and maybe the cleaning isn't quite as thorough as I would have done it, but it's done and I was able to complete other tasks instead.
I also try to remember that it's all about choice. By choosing to do something myself (or learn how to do something on my own), I am also choosing not to spend that time on something else. To get and keep my life in order, I have to learn to choose to spend my time wisely so that there is time for the things I'm good at, time for the things I enjoy doing, time for the things I am required to do, and most importantly, time for the people I love.
In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to share some tips I've learned from my dad over the years. He's the guy who passed on a love of labeling things to me, and he has so many great ideas for keeping things organized!
On a serious note, I'm so blessed to be my father's daughter. He and my mom have been married for 42 years and my dad has been the best example of hard work, good morals, and generosity that I could have asked for. He was an involved parent attending countless piano recitals and school activities, driving our family on summer road trips, moving me in and out of my college dorm room, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, providing advice on car purchases, and helping with lots of repair projects! He's now a devoted Grandpa and setting the same examples for his grandchildren.
Top 10 organizing tips from my dad:
1. Label your board games
You know when you're playing a game that has questions on cards and someone starts suddenly knowing all of the answers and you realize someone put the cards back on the wrong end of the box last time you played. Well, my dad has a simple fix for that! Simply put a piece of masking tape on whichever end you designate the front. To make it even clearer, write "FRONT" on it.
2. Keep track of dates of purchase and maintenance on your owner's manuals
For large purchases, most of us keep the owner's manuals. My dad has always written the date of purchase and noted and maintenance and the date on the cover. You could also staple the receipt to the manual. Not only is it interesting to see how long things last (he had the manual from his record player from the 1970-something), but it's helpful when dealing with warranties, or knowing the timing of preventative maintenance.
3. Hang a tennis ball on a rope from your garage ceiling
My dad has a nice garage and he maximizes the space in front of where the cars park with built in cabinets and hooks on the walls. To keep my mom from pulling the vehicles in too far (and likely also to make sure the vehicles were in far enough not to get caught in the closing garage door), he long ago installed a hanging tennis ball. You pull the car up until the tennis ball just taps your windshield, so you know you are parked in the perfect spot.
4. Customize your belongings to fit your space
The bathroom I used growing up has an area that juts out just past the tub (which my dad did on purpose when he built the house, of course, for plumbing access.) The problem is the only rugs that would fit in the space were too small to really do any good. No problem, Dad to the rescue! He cut a notch in the rug so it fits perfectly against the wall and a side benefit is that it can't slip around either. This applies to so many things in my parents' house beside rugs. My dad coined the phase that my brother and I still jokingly use, "You know what a guy could do..." Whenever he said this, you knew he had a great idea!
"You know what a guy could do..."
5. Don't let sentiment cause clutter
My dad is somewhat of a minimalist. He doesn't care for a coffee table in the middle of the room or many knick knacks sitting around. My dad had a decent sized record collection, some of which he'd had since he was a teenager. They were stored in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors. Several years ago, he wanted to use the record cabinet for another storage purpose (in the garage on that wall in front of the vehicles - thank you hanging tennis ball for keeping it safe!) In order to use it for garage storage, he got rid of the records. I remember feeling sentimental about him getting rid of them and they weren't even mine. He didn't let sentiment cause any unnecessary clutter. I'm grateful that my husband and brother got several of the records for their own collections!
6. Research and analyze which is cheaper and better - fixing/refurbishing or buying new
This one may only apply if you have the ability to fix things yourself. If you know my dad, you know he can fix just about anything! There are times that most people would have just gotten a new (insert whatever is broken in your house) but my dad did the research to fix it. For instance, he put a brand new bottom in the bathtubs instead of replacing them. It was cheaper and less work in the long run than tearing out the old one and installing a new one. There are times though, were you've fixed as much as you can fix, and it's just time to buy new.
7. Label generously
My dad has been making labels as long as I can remember! His go to is masking tape and a sharpie. Putting labels on things helps to identify them (the reason spices of similar colors are labelled in my mom's spice cabinet) and helps us remember where things go (this is why I label my clear bins in my refrigerator - I certainly don't want my raw meat to ever go in the bin where my yogurt is supposed to go!) I have to admit, I did think my dad took it a little far when I saw that he had labelled the tape dispenser, "TAPE."
8. Take notes and keep things you want to reference later in a central location
My dad takes notes and records things he wants to remember later. Even if you have a good memory, you can't remember everything! Dad has his own system for reference in an Excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs, where I use Evernote to keep track of things I want to refer to later. Your system doesn't have to work for everyone - just for yourself!
9. Do things the right way the first time.
I say this to my kids often, "Do it right the first time." Often there's a shortcut or an easy way out, and if that can qualify as "the right way," by all means, take that path of least resistance. But too often, the easy way is not the right way, and then you end up having to redo the task or fix a mistake later on. Sometimes tasks take my dad longer than I would expect, but it's done right and it lasts! Several years ago, I had some issues with the caulk around my bathroom tub and my dad fixed it for us (yep, I'm lucky, I know!) It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but because he used the right materials, fixed his mistakes while the caulk was still wet, smoothed it with the correct tool, and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry - it looked great, served its correct purpose, and has lasted a long time.
10. Use your talents to help others
As I said earlier, my dad can fix just about anything and everybody knows it! This was demonstrated yesterday when my almost-4-year-old nephew picked up a toy that wouldn't work and bypassed everyone to go straight to my dad and say, "Grandpa this is broken, will you fix it?" Being good at something does usually mean you get asked to help people do that thing, and sometimes that can feel like a burden. Though I can't read his mind, it doesn't seem like he minds when he's asked to help with someone else's project. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to solve a puzzle while helping someone out. He's certainly helped me out more than I could ever thank or repay him for. I think because I saw my dad using what he was good at to help his family and others since I was a little girl, it seems natural to me to share my talents, too. I also think that we improve our skills, become faster and more productive at things when we do them more often - practice makes perfect, right? If we can improve our skills and become more efficient at them while helping someone out, it's a win-win!
My dad has taught me much more than these 10 things (some of them I've written about before) but these are some that I thought you might like to try out. I'm so fortunate to have a dad who has been present my entire life, and it was really fun to think of some of the things he's taught me. I challenge you to make a list of some specific things someone important in your life has taught you - and share it with them! Happy Father's Day, Dad - I love you!
It FINALLY feels like Spring in Indiana, which means it's time for me to embark on the monumental task of the "seasonal switch." This is when I put away the wintery clothes and get out the spring/summer clothes that are stored in totes in the basement. It doesn't sound hard in that single sentence, but it is SUCH a process! This year I decided to do things a little differently to try to make it more efficient and enjoyable.
I have two boys, so I save everything that's in decent shape from the older one for the younger boy. Since they are 4 years apart, that means I have tote after tote labelled by size. Currently I have totes for size 6, size 7, and two totes for size 8 (as the clothes get bigger it takes more room to store the same amount), an 8/10, a 10/12, a 12/14, a 16/18, one for my oldest boy's out of season clothes that still fit, one for my out of season items that fit, my too small tote, and my husband's out of season - oh and then there's one for boots (or sandals depending on the season), one for hats/ gloves, one for coats/jackets, and one for kids' shoes that my youngest hasn't grown into yet! That's a lot of totes! And it never fails that the one I want is on the bottom of the stack, so I have to do an intricate redesign of the towers of totes to get to it.
Yesterday was the day I decided to tackle this season's switch, and even though I think I've come up with a pretty good new system, there's no denying, it's still a lot of work! Here's the new way I'm doing things and how I am organizing the totes of clothes so that when, in a couple weeks I find some T-shirt or pair of sweats that somehow escaped the switch , it'll be a cinch to store it because I'll be able to identify which bin it should go in AND access it easily.
Step 1 - Sort the new season's clothes
Don't start with what's currently in your closet or drawers - if you do that you may end up sleeping in a tent for two weeks. That's what happened to my then-6-year-old last year when I switched his summer clothes to fall/winter clothes. I started by sorting through the clothes in his drawers, deciding what would be too small next year and what I could save. Then I didn't have anywhere to store the clothes for the next summer because the storage bins were full of the fall/winter clothes that I hadn't gotten out yet. So, I dumped the fall/winter clothes on the bed, filled the emptied bins with the summer clothes, and took them to the basement. When it was bedtime, I was OVER clothes sorting, and since his bed was a mound of long pants, sweaters and long johns, I tried to make it fun and let him sleep in a tent on his floor that night. Well, one night turned many nights, and I actually lost track of how long he'd been sleeping in a tent until one night he said, "Mom, when can I sleep in my bed again? I've been sleeping in this tent since the night we watched the nun movie!" He was talking about Sister Act, which we'd watched a full two weeks earlier!
So to avoid tent sleeping due to a clothes infested bed, start with the new season's clothes. I store our out of season duds in the basement, so I started with one family member (my youngest because I felt bad about the tent incident.) I brought up several bins that contained sizes he may fit in this summer (if only there was truly a universal sizing system so I didn't have to have him try on sizes 6 through 8!) I pulled everything out of each bin and put aside anything that was visibly too small or out of season (if I were better at planning I would have had my kids so they'd be the same sizes during the same seasons...) and made a giant pile of what I needed for him to try on. I did this only one bin at a time because, if you have boys you know that trying on clothes is something they can only endure for a very short amount of time. We tried everything on and decided if it fit and if he liked it enough not to whine about wearing it. We made three piles: it fits, it's too small or he won't wear it, and it's too big. When we were done with each bin, we put all the items that fit into the laundry room clothes sorter, the too small items into a bag for my nephew (so my sister-in-law can store those at HER house!), and the too big pile back into the tote it came from. We repeated with all of his bins (after some breaks in between each one.)
You can repeat this process for each member of the family:
Step 2 - Sort the previous season's clothes
While the new season's clothes are in the laundry, go through the clothes that are currently in your closet and drawers. Use the same general strategy as you did with the upcoming season's clothes with a couple of tweaks.
Step 3 - Store out of season clothes
This is the biggest thing I'm excited about! I am going to bite the bullet and do something I've been thinking about for several years...I'm buying shelves for my totes! (I know big step, right?) When totes are on shelves that means you don't have to play that game like the one you played as a kid where a square was filled with tiles and there's one blank space and you have to move tiles around to get them in a certain order. I've ordered the shelves and can hardly wait til they arrive (don't worry, I'll let you know on Facebook when they do!) Mine will go in my basement for the out of season clothes, but these could easily work in a garage or pole barn for anything you store in totes.
Step 4 - Put away new season's clothes
After you've washed all the new season's clothes, put them away in your closet or drawers. Use this as an opportunity to purchase new (or re-purpose other items as) closet and drawer accessories to keep you organized. Some of my favorites for the closet are the hangers that allow you to hang multiple items and then collapse to save closet rod space, belt hangers or a purse hanger which takes advantage of vertical space, a scarf hanger which take advantage of the depth of your closet without hogging closet rod space, a cami hanger which can handle multiple sleeveless tops in the space it takes to hang one hanger, fabric totes where you can store items like t-shirts, hats, athletic clothes, stacking bins for closet shelves, hanging shoe holders, or shoes shelves. In your drawers, use clear plastic shoe boxes or wire inboxes intended for a desk to divide large drawers, or criss-cross organizers for socks and underwear.
I hope these 4 steps will help your "seasonal switch" go much smoother this year. If you are lucky enough to have huge closets, you may not even need to go through this difficult process (I'm jealous!) but for most of us, we have to store at least part of our clothing in a different location when they are out of season. If you have multiple kids and are saving their clothes for a younger sibling - kudos to you for saving all that money! Take it from a mom who's done it the hard way for way too many years and try some of these tips.
During a recent "discussion" about what my son should wear to school, he told me that I didn't do laundry often enough. Before I realized that I felt like a failure as a mother, I kind of lost it! That day, I washed ALL the dirty clothes and had a giant pile of clean laundry waiting for him in the middle of the living room floor when he got home. I had him separate out what was his to demonstrate that he produced a LOT of dirty laundry! I explained that if you don't spill something on them, fall and get mud on your knees, or pee your pants, jeans really don't need washed all that often! I also suggested that a shirt can be reworn if it passes the armpit sniff test! I promised if we had less dirty laundry, I could keep up with it better.
For the next couple of weeks, it was working! Then I began to notice the same exact clothes being worn day after day. One morning at breakfast, I required both boys to change into something they hadn't worn the previous day, and I heard, "But you said to wear clothes more than once!!" I explained that didn't mean they could wear the same things multiple times IN A ROW. My oldest responded, "This is so confusing!!" I get it - laundry is confusing. We needed a new plan. My son and I brainstormed together to come up with some new ideas and he said, "Hey mom, you could write about this on your blog!" So here we are!
My little analytical mind started thinking through how we could start a laundry revolution, and of course, I turned to a spreadsheet and chart.... It takes about 30 minutes to wash and 60 minutes to dry in my machine, plus there's folding and putting away time, which I'll estimate at 15 minutes/load. If I did 6 loads sequentially, the least amount of time it would take me is just under 7 hours. In real life, I'm not usually standing there waiting for the washer or dryer to finish, so I need a better plan, so I don't have laundry couch all week and am not stuck at home all weekend.
We have hampers everywhere - one in each bathroom, each kid's bedroom, and one in the laundry room. On laundry day I have three other pop-up sorters. I'm not a crazy sorter, I just do lights, darks, and stuff that needs hot water (sheets, towels and stinky stuff). Mine and my son's idea was rather than keep dirty clothes in the hampers and dump it into a giant pile to sort once a week that instead we leave the laundry sorters out in the laundry room all week and sort as we go.
Lastly, I have made a pact with myself to continue doing what I started this weekend. I will not take clean laundry out of the laundry room unless it's folded or on hangers. My ultimate goal is as soon as I take laundry out of the dryer, to fold it or hang up on my over-the-door hook immediately. But even if it's not immediate, I vow not to empty another load from the dryer until the previous one has been put away. No more laundry couch for me!
I'm going to give this experiment about a month and then will give you an honest report of how it went. Laundry has been my nemesis for years, and I'm determined to beat it! Some of you may suggest having kids do their own laundry, but I've been hesitant to do this because I don't want to waste water with small loads of individuals' clothes that could be combined. I do get my kids involved by switching from washer to dryer and starting new loads in the washer. I'd love to hear any other ideas you have for keeping laundry under control so please leave a comment below.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how my journey to get my life in order began. There were two key things I learned initially that I've been trying to implement ever since:
Today, I want to elaborate on the first point. I had an AHA! moment when I talked to my coach about all I was dealing with. She repeated everything I had listed on my responsibility list and asked me if I would expect someone else to handle all of those things in the manner I had explained that I wanted them done. I immediately said, "No." When she said if that was true, then I couldn't expect that of myself, I felt kind of stupid. I mean, that made a lot of intellectual sense, and even though I wanted to insert a "but" and follow it some logical reasoning - I couldn't. She was right, just plain right.
Realizing, and then internalizing that lower self-expectation didn't mean I wasn't good at my job, good at being a mom or a wife or a friend or a homemaker or any of the other roles I was in - it was FREEING! I could be a "regular person" and didn't have to keep up the superwoman facade. I deserved the same respect and grace that I gave to others, and I was really the only one who could give that to myself. As easy as it is to complain about how others treat us or what they expect of us - as I've often told my kids, "you're in charge of you." I needed to realize that applied to me as well!
"Done is better than perfect."
So since then, I've been all about lower expectations. My new mantra has been, "Done is better than perfect." I've become aware of how many things that I used to think were important were things that no one else would notice if I did or didn't do. I've always loved productivity and organization, but now I had a new found passion for it because I wanted to accomplish the most I could without torturing myself! Here are a few ways I lowered expectations and added in a little extra productivity:
Keeping expectations for myself at bay is a constant struggle, but it's a struggle worth having. Feeling accomplished and satisfied with my less-than-perfect life is so worth it! Do you agree that lowering self-expectation is a good idea, a way to survive and thrive in this fast paced world we live in? Or do you disagree and feel that we should expect more of ourselves? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
If I have to hear my family say that I should do what Sarah did one more time, I swear...well, I might swear. Sarah is a good friend of mine and a wonderful person to emulate, and I honestly don’t have any ill feelings toward her whatsoever. She had a good idea, she told our family about it, and they thought it was a good idea, too. Great, right? Well, the annoying part is that if I would have had the idea in the first place, they wouldn’t have thought it was so great.
The idea, if you’re curious, was to split up the house cleaning chores among family members so we would all agree on who does what and make a chart of the chores. Sarah’s family and my family had the same cleaning lady who recently had to take some time off. Instead of trying to find another cleaner who would most certainly not meet the expectations set by Miss Sherri (as my kids call her), we decided to try it ourselves for a while.
We did split up the chores, and after I printed out a nice little chart, I presented it to my family angrily, “Here’s your chart -JUST LIKE SARAH'S!” It got me thinking, though...this could be a stroke of genius...what if Sarah and I colluded and had each other tell the other’s family our “ideas?” Would we both suddenly get what we want? Or is it possible that Sarah’s family wouldn’t hold me in such high esteem, and she’d still have trouble convincing her family? Or does Sarah have a magic ability as a wife and mother that I don’t possess, and her family already thinks her ideas are amazing even when they come straight from her mouth??
The best part of this whole thing is that, not long ago, I was listening to the “Happier With Gretchen Rubin” podcast episode where Liz and Gretchen talked about how to use envy to our benefit. The gist of it is that you should think about who you envy, really ponder why you envy them, and then figure out how to get some of that in your life. I didn’t have to think too long before it hit me like a lightening bolt - it was Sarah that I envied and specifically her time. I envied the time Sarah had from a semi-flexible work schedule, the time she spent doing activities with her kids, the way she spent her time doing things she enjoyed, and the way she didn’t seem rushed even though she was busy. It would be interesting to hear if Sarah feels the same about her time, but it was how it I perceived it, which, as we all know, made it my reality. I brainstormed and thought about ways I could have more time, spend my time better, be present in the things I’m doing. I came up with some hair-brained ideas, sifted through them, picked out a few that seemed doable and implemented them. I had to give myself permission to give up some things, throw away the worry of others’ perceptions, and become more self-disciplined in some areas. It’s been a few weeks, and I am amazed at how much happier I am!
So, in the end, I guess Sarah’s fantastic ideas are just one more thing I envy, but I made it work for me by teaching my 11 year old to clean toilets and my 6 year old to dust!
I’m a list maker and find almost nothing more satisfying than crossing things off a to-do list. So naturally when my kids were old enough to start doing jobs, I made them lists of their own. (Note the reason I call them jobs instead of chores is because I think the word job implies responsibility and a sense of importance where a chore just sounds like a drag!)
Unfortunately, the list idea didn’t go over too well with my kids and created a lot of whining. So one day, I decided to let them make the list. I asked what things they thought needed to be done around the house that they could help with. Surprisingly, they shouted out many tasks that I would have included, as well as some others that I hadn’t thought of. I happily wrote them all down. Then they started cautiously throwing out some fun things to see if I’d notice that ‘dance party’ and ‘watch a TV show’ weren’t actually jobs. I did notice, but I wrote them down anyway. When our list was complete, I explained my observation, “I see a list of fun things and jobs here! What if we split them up so we do a job and then a fun thing?” They LOVED that idea!
Instead of just making two lists, I got crazy and broke out the scissors. We cut up all the fun things and jobs and put them in two separate hats. I had the kids fold up each piece of paper so we couldn’t tell what it was. Then we’d take turns choosing jobs and fun things out of the hats until we were done. I did reserve the right to make them choose a different item if the job they pulled out of the bowl couldn’t or shouldn’t be done before a different job that hadn’t yet been selected or if the fun thing they chose involved the same sort of activity as the previous fun thing (like, say….screen time.)
We’ve been using this method for a couple of years now. We mix it up and sometimes we all do the job together and other times each person chooses their own job. We may do one job then one fun thing, or I might require two jobs to every one fun thing. And then sometimes I”ll just get wacky and make them do three fun things in a row! I did learn to put a time limit on fun activities (especially ones that involve video games!!) I lean toward 20 minutes, but do like to let the kids tell me how long they think they should have. We usually bargain a bit, and I often let the kids have the last say:
Me: “How long do you think you should play the WiiU?”
Kid: “An hour”
Me: “An hour is way too long, how about 15 minutes?”
Kid: “Half an hour”
Me: “20 minutes”
Kid: “25 minutes”
Me: “Sold - 25 minutes it is!”
When the kids pick the time limit, they are much more apt not to whine when it’s time to change activities. I set the timer and let them know if they do whine, we double the amount of jobs before the next fun activity.
In addition to Fun Things and Jobs that happens occasionally and for special events like parties (check out last week's post 10 Steps to an Organized Party), my kids also have Everyday Jobs that are based on their ages. They have to complete these before there is any screen time. Then there are Weekly and Every OTHER Week jobs that are done on the weekends. I'll talk about dividing household responsibilities in a later post.
So with all these jobs around our house, you will probably find it surprising that there are times I’ve asked my kids, “What do you want to do today?” and they’ve responded with “Fun things and jobs!” Parenting win!! Of course, this isn’t the usual response, but at least it makes jobs less of a chore!
Comment below with how you get your entire family to participate in the ‘jobs’ of your household?
It's party day, I have 30 people coming over, and I want to have my whole house sparkling. For some reason, I think it's a great idea to also do my entire week's worth of laundry because I'm feeling like a superstar hostess. A couple hours before the party, I realize that I forgot to clean the toilet, we need to set up all the tables, I'm a sweaty mess and still need to take a shower, AND I have a mountain of clean laundry all over my living room. I begin barking orders at my son and snapping at my husband to do what I think is important instead of whatever silly thing they thought they should be doing. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law arrive earlier than I expected, and as the minutes tick down to party time, I throw all my notions of appearing to have it all together out the window as I frantically reveal to my sister-in-law all the places in my bedroom where clean laundry can be stuffed out of sight! I finally jump in the shower and emerge from the bathroom with wet hair and no makeup as the rest of the guests arrive. True story - Labor Day party 2010(ish).
A very similar version of this story would happen almost every time we had friends and family over for the next several years. I love to host parties at our house, and we have several a year. I started getting tired of being a grouch (or even mean) during party prep, feeling unprepared, and rushing around at the last second. As the years have gone by things have improved, and at this summer's 10th Annual Labor Day party, my whole family was laying around resting a couple hours before guests were supposed to arrive. I started thinking about what was different this year so I could recreate the calm and prepared feeling I had! Here are the 10 steps I came up with for planning an organized party! We just got through Thanksgiving, and though I didn't host this year, we still did plenty of cooking and planning, and these steps did not fail me - it was a great and relaxing day!
1. Set realistic pre-party project goals and prioritize them!
The reason we started our Labor Day party tradition was because we had several large outdoor projects we wanted to get done and thought if we had a firm deadline like a party at our house, we'd be more likely to actually complete them. It worked, but it was a ton of work and very stressful! That year we rebuilt walls on an outbuilding, put on siding, installed an overhead door, painted some doors, stained our deck, built a fire pit, and did some landscaping. I'm tired even writing all of that!
In the years since, I've learned to set smaller, more realistic project goals and to determine up front which ones must get done and which ones would be nice to get done. Of the optional projects, it's important to prioritize them so you don't start them all and finish none! It's also necessary for my husband and I to discuss the priorities together because we don't typically agree on what should be done first (maybe we're unique, but I don't think so.) You want the projects that don't get done to be the ones you care about the least and/or the ones people won't even notice aren't complete.
2. Lower your standards.
You have to cut yourself some slack to stay sane (and not yell at everyone in your path.) There are some things that aren't going to get done, and honestly, no one is going to notice. In the past, I wanted to have potted flowers on the steps by the door. Since I'm terrible at keeping plants alive, if I have an event that I want flowers for, I have to buy them just a day or two ahead to make sure they live long enough. For my last party, I forgot to buy flowers ahead of time, so a couple hours before the party, I looked at the existing dead flowers in the pots, considered driving to the store to get fresh, living flowers, but then just decided to stick the pots with dead plants in the garage. No one would know that I had even intended to have potted flowers.
I've also had several parties where I didn't mop my floors (gasp!) Mopping is one of those jobs that no only do I hate, but it holds up progress for everything else because no one can walk on the floor while it dries. If anyone noticed my unmopped kitchen, they didn't mention it, and I don't think I lost any friends over it.
I gave up the idea that I had to make everything I serve. I'm now ok with buying prepared foods if it's quicker, easier and tastes just as good.
3. Start preparations early and keep running lists.
The first part of party prep is to pick a date and send out invitations. I think the sweet spot for sending invitations is about a month in advance. It's long enough to get on people's calendars and allow you time to get ready, but not so long that it gets lost in the someday syndrome (someday I'll plan that/do that/go there - - and then it never happens.)
Once the party is on the calendar, it's time to start a few lists. They don't have to be fancy, you can use good old paper or if you prefer an electronic version, my choices would be Google Sheets or Evernote. Depending on the type of party, your lists may vary, but I usually have the following:
4. Ask people to bring things
Just as I discussed in one of my very first posts, asking for help is one of the key ways to really live a life in order. I used to want to do everything myself to give the illusion that I was the proverbial "hostess with the mostest," but after a few of the clean-laundry-stuffing-into-the-closet incidents, I realized that doing it all myself, while still working full time, being a decent mom and wife, and maintaining my sanity, just wasn't possible. Now, I almost always ask guests to bring food, drinks, supplies, chairs, tables, or even come a little early to help with final preparations. I've never had someone say no or not come because I asked for their help, so I will keep it up!
5. Do as much the day before as possible.
The less you have to do on party day, the better! Having your lists made will help you to identify what can possibly be done ahead of time like cooking, cleaning, and set up. We used to get up really early on the day of a party and start cooking only to be exhausted by the time guests arrived. My husband, who does most of the cooking, decided one year to try smoking the pork the day ahead and then warm it in the oven the day of. We both had reservations about how it would taste, but it turned out just as good and as a bonus our house didn't smell like a BBQ pit!
I used to think that I couldn't clean ahead of time because it would just get dirty again, so I'd wait til the day of to dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, and mop. I'd often run out of time and either do the cleaning half way or not at all. It's better to do it ahead of time and risk a little dust settling rather than not do it at all (unless not doing it at all is good enough - - see lower your standards above!)
This gives us plenty of time, even if some guests are early, and it makes me feel in control of the day!
6. Get yourself (and your family) ready before you think you should.
As I would scurry around and yell at my family while getting the house ready, I would more often than not forget to get myself ready. I finally realized that I could handle some house details while people were still arriving, but it was really rude to be completely MIA because I was showering and getting dressed and ready. Now, I set an alarm at least 2 hours before the start of the party to stop everything and make sure the whole family is presentable. This gives us plenty of time, even if some guests are early, and it makes me feel in control of the day!
7. Have specific jobs for your kids.
My kids get really excited when we have a party, and they usually actually WANT to help. They have certain things they like to do more than others, but if I give them small, manageable jobs, they are much more likely not to whine and complain than if I say things like "clean your room." That is overwhelming and doesn't give them a specific task to accomplish. Encouraging the kids to help with getting ready for parties is how a little game we call "Fun Things and Jobs" was invented. I'll talk about this system detail in a future post!
8. Remember a later start gives you more time.
This one is pretty self explanatory. Consider having an evening party instead of an afternoon one or if you already had it planned for evening, start at 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. - voilà - a free hour!
9. Don't cook any meals on party day except for what you're serving at the party.
Don't add to your stress by trying to cook anything additional on the day of a party. Either plan for take out or very simple meals like cereal or cold meat sandwiches. McDonald's drive-through is always my favorite option on days like these - no prep and very easy cleanup!
10. Have at least one room that you can close off if needed.
No matter how much planning has taken place or how organized you are, life happens, and there are going to be things that may not get done (like laundry..) Choose a room in your house with a door that you can toss items into if needed and close the door - out of sight out of mind!
I hope these tips will help as you prepare for your upcoming Holiday parties. Keep in mind that what you and your guests will remember is the company and the conversation, not how clean or perfect your house looked! Share any other tips you have for an organized party in the comments.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!