Monday, January 26, 2015

How A Mom of Six Stays Organized

Inspired by this post, I decided to share ways I've learned to stay on top of things. Most through trial and error. While I'm not organized on all fronts, this post managed to hit on some things I'm already doing, so I thought I'd share the actual tip from the post, then my thoughts about how it pertains to a busy mom of six trying to balance kids, home and writing:

Plan each day the night before: I definitely sit down with my to-do list from the day and go over what didn't get done that needs to be slated for the next day. I also look at my master to-do list (more on that below) and add items from it, based on what the day looks like. If I know I'm going to be out all day, for instance, I'm not going to add a big task to the list. But thinking through the day that's just happened and planning for the day to come is a nice way to both wrap up and anticipate.

Keep only one to-do list: I actually have two lists, so I guess I break this rule. One list is kept in a 5X7 spiral bound notebook (this is the one I actually use, pictured below), with one page devoted to each week. I also have pages to keep lists for special projects, She Reads, post ideas, monthly goals, etc. If something comes to mind that needs doing but it's not something that can be done that particular week I can add it to a week in the future. That way I don't forget about it, but I also don't add too much to my immediate plate.

The other list is a little yellow legal pad (I get mine at the dollar store-- a pack of 3 for $1, can't beat it). Each day I write down what I need to do that day, using the master list as a guide. When I do it, I cross it off... and boy does that feel good.

Spend at least 30 minutes per day going through emails: I definitely do this. I have a personal rule for myself that I have to respond to emails within 24 hours and I also try to never have more than 25 emails in my inbox, so that means I'm pretty vigilant on emails. I usually check emails first thing in the morning and then in the afternoons after the kids get home from school. While they're working on homework, I can respond to emails. I've found emails are a task I can do in stops and starts so I try to fit them into times when I expect interruptions.

Clear their desk of paper piles: I can't say I do this daily. Usually about once a week I sort through my paper pile. I have two spots in the house I let papers accumulate: on top of the microwave and on my dresser. When those piles start looking unwieldy, I know it's time to put "sort papers" on my to-do list.

Have a morning routine and evening ritual: With a busy family life, I can't say that-- much as I'd like to have a morning routine and evening ritual-- that's always possible. Our days and nights change constantly, which makes sticking to any one pattern pretty much impossible. As I said above, I do end my day (and begin it too) by looking over my to-do list. I'm hoping to write about my morning routine, as in what's working right now, soon.

Spend at least ten minutes a day tidying up: Just ten minutes? (Pause for laughter.) I have no idea how much time I spend tidying up... and I'm not sure I want to know. Suffice it to say I'm constantly tidying lest our stuff overtake us.

Put clothing in their laundry bin: We have one main laundry basket located in our laundry room. Ideally the kids put their clothes in that basket without being asked. (More laughter.) I use the laundry basket as a guide of when it's time to do laundry. Full basket = time to wash clothes. We also have a rule that, once they turn 13 they do their own laundry. This has worked well for us, and it means slowly but surely my workload is getting lighter.

Carve out time for lunch: This is something I've started doing with some intention and it is nice. Since I work at home, it's easy to just shove something in my mouth while standing over the kitchen sink and call that lunch. But with my healthier eating I have to give some thought and intention to what I'm eating. Which has caused me to give thought and intention to how I eat it. I actually treat myself to an actual lunch break, either eating at the kitchen table with a book or on the couch in front of a tv show I've DVR'ed. I've enjoyed this midday break and plan to keep doing it.

Never leave dishes in the sink: I rarely leave dishes in the sink unless the dishwasher is full and we have to wait for it to run through the cycle before there's room to put the dirty dishes in. I have this thing about my sink being not only empty, but also clean. My white sink must always be white, with no scratches. I'm not OCD about much, but my sink... don't mess with it. Clorox and Comet are my friends.

Open up their mail: I make sure the mail is brought in (usually by a child) and I sort it right then and there. My husband has a mail holder and I file any mail for him there, then open and deal with anything that has arrived for me.

I know organization can seem daunting, but just pick one thing from this list to begin with, and commit to do that one thing each day. (That's pretty much what I did, only I did it usually by accident, in the name of survival.) When that becomes a habit circle back and try one more thing.  If you're not already, you'll become what the post called "an organized person."

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Brenda said...

Thanks for the great tips. I really like the one about having only one to-do list. I have little slips of paper everywhere of things I have to do, and I think one list would be better.

Marybeth Whalen said...

Glad you found it helpful Brenda! I definitely recommend the one to do list idea and, if you're so inclined, give the spiral bound version I shared in the post a try. It helps me so much to have all my to do lists held together, as many times I need to look backwards or forwards, and this enables me to do so, keeping it all in one place. Huge plus!

Amy O'Quinn said...

This 'mom of six' needs to take lessons from you! I am TERRIBLE at dealing with mail and it tends to pile up and take over if I'm not careful. I am also awful with email organization! However, I am pretty good with the notebook/to-do list idea and taking time for lunch. So maybe there is hope for me after all! LOL Great post, and I loved your commentary and suggestions on each tip.

lucy denny said...

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