When you want to get organized where do you turn?
A quick browse on Pinterest or a flip through the magazine at the dentist office leads us to assume that the way to organize life is to use chalkboard labels on baskets, which line every shelf in every closet. Someone who has achieved this feat has earned the badge, “Organized!”
Of course, then there’s the spice jars to label and arrange alphabetically, even if you have twelve but only use 3. Keep the set complete, of course!
Someone who is organized clearly never has their couch cushions out of place. Someone who is organized has seasonal decorations neatly stored and ready to pull out at exactly the right moment.
Someone who is organized has a planner with pretty and colorful fonts.
So, how do we get organized? Wait.
Why do you want to get organized?
It’s easy to slip into organizing stuff, because that’s much easier than organizing life. Life is even less manageable than the never-ending stream of stuff.
We can picture an organized closet, but what’s an organized life look like?
What does it mean to be organized?
To be organized is to be prepared.
When your life is organized, you know what’s on your plate and you give your attention appropriately. You look ahead to what’s coming and prepare mentally as well as actually.
When you’ve organized your life, you know where the things you need are located and can get them when needed. That might mean labeled baskets, but it might also mean a simple magazine file near the door for mail or a spot for your purse to live. It means you know your appointments and commitments – not that you hold them all in your head and remember them at just the right moment, but that you have a place for them to live outside your head (like on a calendar) and you look at it often enough to know what’s needed next.
When your life is organized, the fact that the family wants to eat three times a day doesn’t take you by surprise and empty-handed.
These are the sorts of things we want, but how do we get there? Is it even possible? How can we organize life when we can’t even keep a closet organized?
Being organized is a skill you can learn
Some people are naturally organized and disciplined.
Some of us have to struggle to learn those skills.
Even if being organized does not come naturally to you, you don’t have to give up and accept life in chaos and disarray.
You do have to accept it as an ongoing, lifelong challenge rather than a once-and-done project you can cross off. Being organized is a lifestyle that ebbs and flows with ups and downs. It’s not an achievement you can score and then move on.
Being organized is a life skill – that means that it’s something that has to be practiced, deliberately and intentionally, for a lifetime.
How to actually organize your life as a mom
Being organized is being prepared, but we often confuse it with being in control.
That’s why organization frustrates you, dear mom-of-several-littles.
If there’s one thing that having a house full of children teaches us, it is that we are not in control.
So if we view getting organized as a way to get in control, we are bound to be frustrated and to fail.
Organization is simply shorthand for managing life’s resources to the best of our abilities. It isn’t a magic bullet that changes everything. It’s not a goal to be checked off once reached. It’s not a status to arrive at, after which we can do as we please.
Organization is on-going, just like laundry, dishes, and sweeping. It is a set of actions we must continually, consistently take. It’s a state-of-mind as well as a state-of-home. There is no end-point goal, but there are always baby steps and further developments to make.
So how does one get from a state of chaos to a state of organization? How can we actually organize life when it feels like a jumbled mess? By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time.
There is no sudden overhaul to make or popular bandwagon to join or new leaf to turn over.
There is learning to take the right next action – and then taking it – each hour of every day.
How to organize yourself
We might not control our homes or our lives, but we should be controlling ourselves.
If you want to organize your life, you need to start with your self, not your stuff. Being organized is a set of practices and mindsets.
Here are 5 things that organized women do regularly:
1. Brain Dumps
Your mind is for thinking about things, figuring things out, noticing things. It is not for holding onto things. Use an external brain to hold reminders and notes – and also use a pen and paper to empty your brain onto paper whenever you start to feel overwhelmed or confused.
When you start to put your thoughts onto paper instead of letting them swirl in your head, the situation feels more concrete and manageable. You see the moving parts, the concerns, the hopes, and you can then think about them clearly because there’s room in your mind.
Try it – it’s the first step to organizing your life, because you’re going to need a clear head!
The first prerequisite to being organized is to keep an accurate calendar and then to look at it. It’s simple, but often overlooked and neglected. You can use any calendar you want – so long as you do use it and look at it.
Choose one calendar as your master calendar, update it daily, look at it at least twice a day, and you will be on your way to being organized.
- Your calendar is your most important piece of organization
- How to use your calendar at Asian Efficiency
- Set up Consistent Calendars
3. Weekly Reviews
It’s hard to set aside the time to look over what you have going on in your life, but it’s the key that makes any planning actually effective.
During a weekly review, you look at your calendar, your lists, your goals, and see what preparations need to be made when. You see what’s coming, so you can be ready for it. It’s a time set aside to wrap your head around what’s going on in your life right now so you can plan and act accordingly.
- Why Moms Need a Weekly Review
- What is a weekly review? at Life Hacker
- Secret to Sanity: Allison’s Weekly Review
In conversations about productivity or organization, often the word “balance” is thrown around. It might be work/life balance or balancing housework with other responsibilities, but generally it’s an acknowledgement that we have many plates we’re spinning, and we’re always concerned we’re going to drop an important one.
Breaking out your responsibilities into vocations is one way to think about them objectively and clearly and see how you are handling each role in your life. Instead of using feelings of guilt or overwhelm to diagnose how you’re doing with balance, you can actually list things out and see.
As an added benefit, once your vocations are a part of the way you organize, it’s clear how to plan and organize in light of your roles and responsibilities, so you’re not caught unawares by a lack of balance.
5. A Short Daily To-Do List
There are always and will always be a million and one things to do in a day.
Some are routines that need to be done regularly, some are one-off little administrative tasks that pop up, and some are tasks associated with working out our priorities, whether that’s an upcoming event, a project, a child’s current needs, or something else going on in life right now.
Instead of sifting through all the possible to-do items on your list multiple times a day, create a short daily to-do list on an index card or post-it note that makes your priorities pop.
Choose the top three priorities for the day and write those out on your card. Of course those aren’t the only things you’ll do all day, but those are the things you want to focus on making happen – and if they get done, you will have had a good day.
Instead of giving yourself an overwhelming and impossible set of tasks for a day, narrow down what really matters and choose the most important things to put large and in-your-face on a short to-do list.
- Write a daily note.
- 3 MITs: How to choose your top tasks
- Purpose Your Day: Most Important Tasks at Zen Habits
How to organize your home & stuff
In a home with a family there is stuff to manage and organize, of course. We can’t ignore the closets; we simply shouldn’t begin there. Organizing stuff is like laundry – it’s never-ending. Sometimes you get caught up, but then there’s a camping trip or the flu and the hampers go from zero to mountainous overnight.
When there are multiple people in one household, growing, learning, changing, then the stuff will always be incoming, needing to be sifted and sorted.
We need to build in the regular patterns and well as the expectations that will help us handle real life at home.
1. Have a menu plan.
People need to eat. They need to eat at least three times a day! That shouldn’t surprise us, but too often it does. One of the first plans that needs to be made is a menu plan.
There are clever ways to streamline the process so it isn’t some sort of synergistic magic you are trying to work between the grocery ads, what’s in your pantry, the menu plan, and your activities for the week.
Limitations bring freedom. Here are a few ideas for simplifying your pantry routines:
- How to menu plan 6 weeks at a time
- The very best thing you can do for your grocery bill
- 3 easy steps to menu planning for busy moms
2. Give everything a home.
The real point of the containers and the labels is that everything in your home has a home.
Unless there is a place an item belongs, it will always be clutter, simply moved from here to there, but never being actually put away.
If decluttering or tidying is frustrating, it is probably because you’re moving things around instead of finding things homes.
It’s a process that can take a long time – months or even years – depending on your situation. Stick with it, because each step brings you closer to managing and stewarding your stuff instead of being stressed by your stuff.
Here are some ideas to help your decluttering and homing efforts:
- How to declutter your home
- Give everything a home.
- Decluttering Never Ends at A Slob Comes Clean
- Flylday’s How to Declutter
3. Tidy up daily.
There’s a difference between deep cleaning and tidying up. It’s best to know which mode you’re in so you can have proper expectations and focus while you work.
Tidying up needs to happen everyday, because life happens every day. Tidying up prepares the home and surfaces for another round of living. Putting things back in their home, wiping down work surfaces, and sweeping high-traffic areas fall under “tidying up.”
Deep cleaning is a less frequent mode. Deep cleaning involves cleaners, moving furniture, dusting light fixtures, and other tasks that do keep the dirt and grime down, but don’t really impact the day-to-day traffic like books on the couch, papers on the floor, and flour on the counters.
Build a daily tidying up into your routine, but let the deep cleaning tasks slide until a designated time.
- The frustrations of tidying up
- The Tidy-Up Blitz by Leila Lawler
- EHAP: afternoon tidying to the rescue
How to organize your attitude
Has a project like organizing your life ever turned you into a monster with your kids? You’re in the midst of something, they interrupt, and you snap?
What’s the real point of being organized?
Isn’t it to be a better wife, mother, and friend? Is that what we are while we’re in the midst of the organizing itself? If it’s not the way in which we’re pursuing the goal, it will likely not be the end we actually reach.
How you go about organizing matters. Your attitude matters. How you treat and speak to others, even in the midst of your pet projects, matters – it matters more than the pet project.
So don’t ignore your moods and your responses as you organize. Remember the point of it all and practice gratitude, graciousness, and gladness.
- Why we keep trying to get organized.
- 3 Keys to Organizing Your Attitude
- Organize life with realistic expectations.
Organizing your attitude is where any life organization project should begin. How do you organize your life? Start with your attitude about your life.
No amount of organization & time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character,not when it comes to this great calling bringing glory to God.