GTD for Homemakers: Establish Physical Containers

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31 Days to GTD for Homemakers & Homeschoolers

As we develop this 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers series, we will learn how to renegotiate what we are going to do on the fly, creating a reliable intuition about what is “right” at that moment, in the current circumstance. GTD is a blending the proactive uber-planner with reactive spontaneity: the perfect productivity approach for a mother.

Previous Post: The GTD Habit: Achieving Ubiquitous Capture

Now that you’ve at least begun to collect at least a majority of the open loops on your mind, you must first set up the proper containers and structures before you can begin to process and organize what you have captured.


Your inbox is where stuff or notes go before you can process them. Ideally, your inbox(es) are emptied at least once a day or every other day, but honestly, getting it done weekly is pretty good for me. This is a temporary holding spot, not a storage container. Your email inbox is one inbox; that is, it is not a storage spot. File, archive, or delete emails in your inbox if you’re done with them; don’t let them collect. You also need one or two physical inboxes for stuff like church bulletins with dates or info you need, your notes, bills to pay, etc. My inboxes include my email inbox, which I try to keep less than 10 emails in — only emails requiring action stay in the inbox; a magazine file in a “control central” cupboard in the kitchen to hold papers until they can be processed, and my purse is my on-the-go inbox to hold papers until they can be processed. I am still not good about cleaning out my purse, but at least that’s only two places notes to myself or other papers I need might be.


I learned this concept from many years ago when it was an active, useful site with a good forum. Really, a launchpad is a magnified outbox. It is some sort of container or shelf near where you leave the house that you keep stuff that needs to leave the house: a bag of stuff to take to Goodwill, a bag of books to return to the library, a bag of hand-me-downs to give to a friend, your purse, etc.

Allen mentions having an “in front of the door” trick – putting in front of the door anything you need to take with you the next day. Setting up a launchpad is a more tidy and potentially baby-proofed version of his trick that still works well even if you don’t leave the house every day.

Up until recently I had a cheap, short, three-shelf bookshelf in our mudroom next to the garage door that usually has my purse & everyday outing stuff, a picnic/park bag, a church bag, a Goodwill bag, and a library bag (pictured to the right). Now I have an upper shelf across from this that serves the same purpose. If I want to take something to the park or church or library, I can just put it directly into the bag that will be going there. It doesn’t always work, but it works more often than if I just tried to remember before leaving the house.

It already takes me over 30 minutes to leave the house on most occasions; the times I have had to gather stuff from all around the house to take along (Where is that library book? Oh! Right! A burp cloth. Oh! My nursing cover! Drat, where are my keys and sunglasses?!) it has taken nearly an hour from “Get your shoes on and get in the car” to turning the key in the ignition.

To-Read Stack

You also need some easy-to-grab place to store things you need to read. This is where you dump magazines, catalogs, your current book, printed out articles, and such. The thing you must remember is to keep it culled frequently. This isn’t your “I should read, but I probably won’t and don’t really want to” pile. This is your “I need to” or “I want to” read as soon as possible stack. If anything in it becomes “someday maybe I’ll read it,” it needs to go elsewhere.
It is also helpful to keep paper and a pencil and maybe post-its in the stack, too, so you can take any notes you might want to while reading.

Or, of course, this can be a Kindle, iPad, iPod Touch, or laptop. Instapaper is a great “to read later” app on any device (or, it also prints out digital content in a more manageable magazine/journal style).

Start your brain dump now with my free guide with prompts and instructions to get you decluttering your mind today!
GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.

2 Responses

  1. Meredith_in_Aus
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie

    I’m finally getting a chance to look at this series! I agree with you on the To-Read Stack: if it’s a someday/maybe kind of book, I have (finally) taught myself to take a photo of the cover in Evernote (“Books I Want to Read” note) and to put the book back on the shelf where it belongs. Leaving things out ‘so I’ll remember’ doesn’t work once the pile is so high you can’t see individual items in the pile!

    Thanks for a great series.

    Looking forward to some more baby updates,too.

    In Him


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