When I was pregnant with my first child I was very nervous. I really did not have much experience with babies and there was so much stuff to know. Fortunately I had my mom close to me and talked to her on a daily basis. We were talking about baby bottles and feeding. I was getting so confused on how to feed, when to feed, how much to feed, and everything else associated with feeding. It was then that I admitted I was scared. Scared of messing up which I feared would then hurt my baby.
My mom was so good. She reassured me over and over and said what I was feeling was normal and she went through it too. She told me that everything I would need to know would come to me naturally. However I did remember one piece of advice she did give me. She told me "the best thing you can do is get organized." Now I was already a fairly neat and organized person anyway. But I still took the advice and realized that in order to keep my life in order I was going to have to ramp up the organization skills.
And that's how my organizing obsession started.
I have been with children for 17 years and I am still honing my skills to this day. I am always trying to think of ways to better organize my home, my life, my day to day activities. After all, with 4 kids things can quickly get out of hand if you are not on top of them constantly.
One of the areas that I have found that has been the most difficult to keep organized is my personal and job schedule. I cannot let that get away from me because if I do, things quickly spiral out of control. I forget appointments and key activities, meals get missed, and I start to lose things.
Over the years I have used many types of calendars and lists to keep my whole life straight and have finally created one that has stuck with me over the past year.
It's really simple to use and I think it covers just about everything I need to do and remember over the next week. I usually fill it right as the weekend starts for the upcoming week. It takes a few minutes for me to bring up my work calendar and home calendar. Everything I need to remember and every place I need to be is right here to remind me.
I don't know about you but a ton of mail and paperwork always flows through my house. If I don't have a system set up to handle it all, I can quickly become buried. But I am not perfect and sometimes have found myself buried. It is then that I reinforce my current systems and clean out.
The key to being free of paper clutter is to address it as soon as it enters the door of your home. For me that would be in the form of mail, kids backpacks, and email. Yes, email is a new form of paper clutter without being physical paper.
Here are a few ways I have set myself up to be as proactive as possible with this issue.
Sort through the mail over the garbage can. Throw any junk mail away immediately. Shred if necessary. Open up all bills and put them in the bill pile. Throw the catalogs away (you can usually find them online). Magazines that you truly want to read go into the read pile. All other paperwork that you keep should be filed in an filing cabinet.
If there is not a place to put your particular piece of mail that you don't want to discard then find a place for it. The key to paper organization is finding a place to appropriately house your paper materials. The other key is knowing what you need to throw out.
I have four kids so I can quickly collect artwork, schoolwork, and other general paperwork from the school. I have set up a system to handle all of this paper that is fairly quick and simple.
I keep a folder for each child for artwork and schoolwork that I want to keep. This folder goes into the same filing cabinet as all of my other house papers. It's easy to keep it all in one spot. The easier the better. However the downside is that these folders can fill up quickly. To combat this, I purge these folders every so often. I have found that I tend to keep many of the papers that my child brings home from school but when I go back to look at these papers a certain time later I tend to discard more easily. The long term keepers are kept in a permanent airtight container that I keep in the attic for memory keeping.
1. Papers come home from school. Some is kept and some is discarded. 2. Kept papers are filed in the child's folder in the filing cabinet. 3. After a few months, the folder is reviewed. More papers are purged. 4. The kept papers get moved to a permanent container in the attic.
It's almost everyone's personal experience that email can quickly get out of control if you don't set up a system to handle it as it comes in.
This is why I really love email programs such as Microsoft Outlook. Outlook (and other similar programs) is great for many reasons. One of those is the ease with which one can create and save emails to various folders and subfolders. Create logical folders so that your emails can be stored and retrieved easily. As soon as you get an email that needs to be filed, file it!
I love Outlook because I can create a "rule". Rules are good because you can have an action taken on an email right before it hits your inbox. You can have that email filed, deleted, or something else automatically for you. This is good if you get repetitive emails.
Unsubscribe to lists you don't want to be on. This happens to me all of the time when I register for something and you give them your email address. Almost all of the time (unless you uncheck those default boxes) you will get placed on someone's email list for all kinds of ads and promotions. Most of them allow you to unsubscribe. Take the time to do this up front will help you on the back end.
Taking care of your paper clutter is about setting up systems that work and addressing the paper right away.
I have been bugging my teen boys for weeks (months) to clean out their room. It wasn't until I was at the end of my rope that I realized that they have absolutely no interest whatsoever in cleaning out their room. And when they started telling me that I needed to buy them more black socks because they no longer had any did I decide to take over their room. I couldn't imagine where all of their black socks had gone. I took matters into my own hands.
I went in their room with a mission to find the 20 pairs of black socks that I knew lurked in there. I also was going to find shorts that they told me they no longer have as well. After all, clothes don't just walk away.
My approach was fairly straightforward and would work in just about any bedroom. I worked on the closet first and then moved to the bed area and then the TV area. Closet was the biggest challenge because kids notoriously do not organize or purge their clothes. I am sure there are exceptions but at least this rule is alive in my house. I start by pulling all of the clothes out of the closet. We make a few piles: one to give away, one to keep, and one to pass down to their youngest brother. The boys were a part of the process and as I held up the item we decided which pile it goes into. The decisions have to be quick and kids usually know which of their clothes no longer fit or is no longer in style. We went through the belts, shoes, and baskets. Every keeper got hung back up on the rod in an organized fashion grouped by type (shirts, pants, tshirts, etc). To my kids' surprise the baskets which contained shorts and t-shirts were crammed with shorts that still had the tags on and ended up buried at the bottom. What we also found were several pairs of black socks. I struggled to contain myself so as not to relish in what I knew all along (that the socks and shorts didn't just walk away).
When the closet was finished I moved on to the drawers under their beds. This is where they keep their underwear, pjs, and socks (which they say they no longer have any of). What I found hidden beneath the underwear were more socks! We sorted through these drawers and paired up all the socks, folded up all the underwear and threw everything out that no longer fit or was wearable.
While I was at the bed area I decided to take a look under the bed. I figured that surely I would find treasure there and I was not disappointed. More socks!
We moved on to their end table that they somehow has become a total junk drawer. I emptied the whole thing out much to their horror. The whining tone didn't sway me. We were not going to do a partial purge. Everything was emptied out of that drawer onto the floor. We went through old papers, candy wrappers, and overall junk that just needed to be trashed. I did find a few surprises that came from that drawer..money and gift cards that totalled $75 in value.
Only essential items were put back into the end table drawer and on that happy note we were finished with the purge. Lost treasure totalled $75 + the cost of black socks and striped shorts. Overall the mission was a success.
I was flipping through my blog reader this morning. I love every blog in my reader and believe me, there are so many of them that it's a full time job just keeping up with them. So I found one blog post in particular here that made me think about the topic of thank you notes.
She touched on a subject that I feel is really an important art form that seems to have been lost in our culture. Why is it lost? Is it no longer important for kids and adults to write thank you notes letting the person who picked out the gift, paid for it, wrapped it up, and shipped it off to know that you appreciated their effort?
It's a subject that comes to the forefront whenever my kids get gifts. They whine and complain about having to write the notes. I don't let them use the gift until they write it. I always wonder if they will continue when they become adults and don't have me hanging over them nagging them to do it.
In generally discussing the subject with friends and co-workers I find out that many people don't get thank you notes from the person receiving their gift and frankly don't expect to. That's sad to me. It's common courtesy and we should be passing this courtesy on to our children. And let's lead by example by showing them how important it is to write those thank you notes.
So after yesterday's post I started googling some of my family's favorite dishes that they order when we eat out. I am on a mission to try to recreate some of those favorite dishes at home in order to stick to my 2010 goal of eating out less.
One of the recipes I googled was Subway's Southwest Sauce. My husband loves to eat lunch every Saturday at Subway and he gets a sub with this sauce on it. I started thinking that I could probably make that same sub at home. I found a recipe for the sauce online and I am going to try it this weekend. Let's see if he agrees. Subway Southwest Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 ounce Dijon mustard 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice 1 ounce chipotle chile in adobo, pureed 1/4 ounce fresh garlic, minced salt, to taste
1. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice, chipotle and garlic. 2. Add salt to taste. 3. Cover and chill before sandwich preparation, or before using as a salad dressing.
I am going to buy one of those squirter bottles from Target so if the sauce turns out good I can make a batch and keep it in a bottle for my husband to use every week.
One of my New Year's Resolutions is to work hard at eating out less. In fact if I had my way we would rarely eat out. I don't have anything against restaurants. It's just that while they are convenient they host a whole other set of problems that I have to deal with.
One of the main problems with eating out is that it is difficult to get the same quality of family style dinner that I enjoy at home. The noise level is usually loud and we don't engage in the same family atmosphere as home. The kids behavior seems to be worse in restaurants and they lose all sense of responsibility such as setting the table, clearing the table, doing the dishes. At a restaurant the hired help does all that for them and they don't have to life a finger.
The second thing I find irritating about restaurants is that it seems that so much food goes uneaten and the quality of food isn't the same as I can make at home. The restaurants try to offer a variety but I find it's usually the same ole same ole when it comes to kids.
The third thing is the expense. Regardless of the reports I constantly hear about soaring food prices, I remain steadfast in my opinion that it is cheaper to eat at home. If you don't believe me go to this blog and you will see proof for yourself.
So that is my goal for this year...to eat out less and stay in more.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE being organized and I LOVE helping others to be organized. I live in Florida with my beautiful husband and 4 kids. I enjoy blogging about my life and how I attempt to keep it all functioning. I try to have a sense of humor about it all and share my experiences with others.