As promised in my last entry, here are some of the strategies I'm using to improve my organizational skills. These are strategies that are showing some promise for me, because instead of butting my head against my organizational flaws and those of my equally nonsequential family members, I'm accepting our tendencies as reality and going from there. So what's working in my house may not work in yours.
- We pile things on flat surfaces. Therefore, there ought to be a recepticle on every flat surface where things tend to be piled. Baskets help control chaos, although they don't eliminate it. Eventually that basket will have to be emptied. But at least the papers and broken crayons don't slide all around and end up under the toaster oven, posing a fire hazard.
- If I can't see it, it doesn't exist. This is part of my problems with planners. I love planners. I would own about 47 if I could. However, I would probably write in none of them because I would put them down somewhere, they'd get buried, and I would forget about them. This is what happened to the last planner I owned. Instead, I use a wall calendar for writing down appointments, and my next project will be a bulletin board for appointment cards, little scraps of paper with important phone numbers written on them... that sort of thing. If it's staring me in the face, I won't forget about it.
- Plastic toys from McDonald's are part of an evil plot to drive mothers insane. I throw them away. Promptly.
- Paper is my enemy. Paper is also my biggest temptation. I love paper. I love notebooks and binders and stationery and pens and clipboards and journals and school supplies in general, especially glitter gel pens and new sketchbooks. I love magazines and newspapers and Post-it pads in an array of exciting new colors. I particularly love this paper from Levenger, which I received for Christmas last year. The problem is, I am really bad at keeping paper in its place, and (when I am writing) I tend to produce a lot of it. So, alas, I cannot be friends with paper. In fact, I must be pretty ruthless about the paper that comes into my house, considering that I and my kids are such prodigious paper producers ourselves. That means no newspaper subscriptions, no clipping coupons (because I can't keep them organized and they end up all over the house or I forget them and they expire, and it sucks too much energy out of me to justify the savings), magazine subscriptions only to magazines that I know we're actually going to read cover to cover, no printing out interesting homeschooling book lists or emails or blog entries... and a tight leash around this time of year, when all those school supplies are out there on display like an open box of chocolate.
- Scheduled chore times help, and my kids can help more than I think they can. A few years ago, back when I only had three kids, I began to realize that I could not take care of the house all by myself. (This was apparent, I imagine, to everyone but me, considering the state our house was in much of the time.) I started thinking that I ought to see how large families handled their affairs, and so I bought a copy of Managers of Their Homes. Now, I have never actually completed a schedule using the scheduling kit in the three years I have owned this book. But. The book did help me realize that my kids could do a lot more than they were doing at the time (at ages 4 and 6.5), and that if they worked while I worked, the family room could get picked up and vaccumed and look nice at least once a day. Recently I bought Managers of Their Chores, and while I have not put their ChorePack system into use yet, the book did convince me that I would not be voted Worst Mom of the Year if the kids had mealtime and before bed chores in addition to their other daily chores (which take about thirty minutes, unless they spend most of their time goofing off.) Assigning one child to clear the table while the other unloads the dishwasher and my husband loads has helped us all immensely, freeing up more time for the all important bedtime reading. Instituting a before-bed pick up of the family room and living room (now the "living and learning" room) has been a real lifesaver. (I'm planning to post a more extensive review of this book in the near future. Really.)
- I give myself a break when I need it. Living in disorder is no fun, but sometimes I need a cup of tea and a little time to pray before I can think about tackling the pile of stuff that has no business occupying the top of my dryer. And sometimes my kids need me to sit down on the carpet with them and look at a book or a drawing, or to function as a jungle gym, more than they need me to keep to a cleaning schedule. I have lots of little kids, who are very active and need very little sleep. I have boys (and a girl) who drag all kinds of dirt in the house from running around barefoot and playing construction in the flower beds. My house is never going to look like the ones on HGTV. But I'd rather have the dirt from lots of bare little feet. And sometimes it's good to stop and remind myself, so I remember who it is I am making this home for.