Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Today I thought I'd blog about the top ten things I do that keep me organized.

1. When I fill my car up with gas, I clean out the car. There are almost always trashcans at the pump, so that's when I gather up trash and throw it out. People often comment about how neat I keep my car's interior-- and this is a big way that I can do that. It captures that idle time. Also staying on top of the kids to carry their stuff inside daily helps.

2. In the same vein, whenever I am somewhere and I have to wait-- at a restaurant, for a doctor's appt, etc.-- I use that time to clean out my purse.

3. I work to keep my emails down to 25 or less. This means that one of my regular "to do" items is "Weed out emails." It's best if I can stay on top of them daily, but if I fall behind and they stack up, then I just carve out time to work on them at some point during the week. When I do I sit down with my to-do list and my calendar and note any dates that need to be marked, and write down any action steps I need to take. Having my emails tamed keeps me from getting that overwhelmed feeling that can sneak up on you. It also means I am delete happy. Sometimes this has come back to bite me, but for the most part I don't regret deleting emails once I've dealt with them.

4. I also have another item on my to-do list that appears regularly: "Sort papers." This means I have a stack that I allow myself-- just one stack in the whole house. It sits on my dresser and when it starts getting too high, that means it's time to weed out stuff. I make 3 piles: throw away, file, or deal with. When I am weeding out papers it means I must deal with stuff THEN and not delay any longer. I also have several different files: files for writing or speaking stuff, divisions in my life management notebook, and files for each of my kids. I file stuff that I don't want to get rid of, but at least it's not in that pile anymore and it has a place to live. Someday I will give each of my kids their files-- stocked full of notes from teachers and particularly poignant examples of their childhood.

5. I keep a menu board on the side of my fridge. It has all of the meals that can be cooked with what we have in the house at that time on it. Every morning I glance at my options and decide what we'll be having that day. I will post more about my menu planning habits next Monday. I also keep a magnetic list beside the menu board where I (and the rest of my family, ideally) can write down stuff we run out of. I am training the kids to seize the moment and write that stuff down so we don't forget it until we need it the next time!

6. I keep one laundry basket for the whole house. (My oldest two do their own laundry so they don't fit into this scenario) When that basket gets full, that means it's time to do laundry. I have (for the most part-- it's a work in progress) trained the kids to put their laundry in that basket every night and every morning. Usually in the morning when the water for my tea is heating up, I go check the laundry basket and go ahead and get a load started or move a load from the dryer to the chair where I fold it. In this way the laundry rarely gets out of control. Dealing with a little bit every day is the way that works for us. Laundry is like raising kids-- you've got to find what works for you.

7. I keep a to-do notebook. Between this and my calendar, I can usually keep up with things that need to get done. If something makes it into my to-do notebook, there's a very good chance that it'll get done. I keep a list for each week, moving over the things that didn't get done to the following week. I am not allowed to cross it off unless I've done it or moved it over. Having my to-do list in a notebook keeps everything in one place, as I often have to look back to find phone numbers, ideas I've jotted down, etc. Using that notebook, I write my daily to do list on a small yellow legal pad. This system might sound rudimentary, but it works well for me. This is the notebook I use:

8. We have a chore chart for the kids and we have them help out around the house. The more I can get them to do the less I have to do. Many hands do make light work!

9. I use as many of the time-saving cleaning products on the market I can find: the Swiffer Wet Jet, Lysol or Clorox wipes, dust wipes, etc. These all help me clean quickly, or hand off stuff to my kids and let them go to it. They might be a little more expensive, but as I've said before, they're still cheaper than hiring help!

10. Reading blogs, magazines, or books that celebrate organization and home help me get and stay inspired. Sometimes just trying a new tip is enough to make the difference in how you view your home. Check out my sidebar for blogs that inspire me.

Do you have a time-saving organization tip to share? I'd love to hear it!
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Anonymous said...

Marybeth, What about the kid's school papers and projects??? That is where I struggle? And how about "keepsakes" of theirs like ticket stubs and play programs?? Any suggestions? Thanks. Erin

Marybeth said...

Erin, I save very few of my kids' papers. Very special stuff goes in a file I keep for each one of them. This makes it very easy to sort. Most of it-- to be honest-- goes in the trash. I asked myself this question, "How much do I really go back and look at the stuff from my childhood?" The answer was "Very rarely." So having a few things is nice-- but too much gets cumbersome for me now and will be cumbersome for them in the future. There are some things that beg to be saved and so that's what I hang onto. Hope this helps!

Allison Morrison said...

I do the gas station car cleaning and the purse cleaning too! But I must confess, I'm a little bit of a hoarder (I feel really good when I see TLC's Buried Alive because I'm not THAT bad). I need to do a major cleaning and get rid of some stuff! I'm out of work on maternity leave so it's the perfect time to do it, but I just can't seem to get motivated. Maybe my clutter is a comfort? I don't know.

Marybeth said...

Allison, being married to the anti-hoarder is a good cure for hoarder disorder!! My husband throws stuff away like crazy-- it's cured me of hanging on to stuff!

Jenny said...

I have a hanging file box for papers that used to collect on our kitchen counter. Bills, hubby's work papers, forms I need to fill out, etc. That has helped. I try to have a "Shiny Sink" (from in every room. The bed stays made and I try not to pile on clothes, etc. In the living room our piano and our coffee table stay cleared. Organization has always been a struggle for me. I write things down, but then I lose the notebook. :)

Sheila said...

MaryBeth, I do the calendar/notebook approach too. I also plan my menus and shopping. My big bad area is my craft supplies. I live in a trailer house with 2 children and have very limited space. I quilt and scrapbook and both take amazing amounts of space. Do you have any suggestions for products that will help organize lots of craft/sewing stuff in a small space?

Sarah said...

Thanks for this post. I am capable of getting organized, but it falls pretty low on the priority list with three kids five and under. Except that getting(and staying) organized might be the only way I survive having three kids five and under. Trying even just one or two of these things will probably help a lot. Great ideas.

Lisa V. said...

Thank you! Your list gave me some ideas to implement in my own life...and desperately need!