Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Organization and Home Management (part 1 of 2)

As a lot of readers know by now, I’m kind of a list-freak. I love to be organized and on top of my game. I love having a list in hand. I love checking stuff off the list. I’m a firstborn- the desire comes naturally. But whether you’re a firstborn or lastborn, and whether or not organization comes naturally, chances are high that organization and lists could help your day-to-day life run more smoothly. I’m sure some people really love a “fly by the seat of my pants” philosophy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. That said- some aspect of become more organized still might help you.

In recent months, I’ve moved towards organizing my life more thoroughly. My favorite thing about it is the fact that I’m getting so much more accomplished in so much less time. I love not having to think about what to make for dinner or what I should be getting done or what cleaning things need to happen (or forgetting about certain things to clean till…well….). Prior to recent months, I still always kept running lists of whatever….to-do lists, menu plans, and anything else. But after the morning sickness phase of this pregnancy, and finally getting back to menu planning after a few months of not, I organized everything much more thoroughly, and now have a notebook to contain all of my lists and keep everything in order. And I have to say, I’m in love with my system. The only down side is that a 1” ring binder is kind of big to haul around, and it now contains my whole life.

In my folder, I have several sections: grocery lists, food ideas, menu plans/weekly to-do lists, cleaning schedule, baby prep plans, canning/preserving notes/plans/ideas/check-lists, holidays/gifts and trip planning. I’ll outline more of what each of those sections contain below.

Some people have mentioned before that they love the idea of being more organized and having more of a “schedule” (as in, cleaning routine, meal plans), but that it isn’t possible with young children because you never know if you’ll be able to get anything done on a given day….whether that depends on simultaneous naps or happy babies or help or whatever rocks your boat. But personally, I think it’s especially helpful in living the unpredictable life of mothering littles. People who don’t plan anything and let everything rest on how the day goes often end up not getting anything done. And while that’s not totally a crime…it doesn’t seem ideal to this productivity-minded gal. If I know what to expect- what has to get made for dinner, what housework needs accomplished on a given day, what weekly projects I have- then I know, no matter what happens, that these things just have to get done. I know that if that means I have to tandem wear or eat a power snack (chocolate, of course!) or whatever, no matter how tired and unmotivated I am (there are exceptions to the rule….I’m not talking about extremes of illness and such), it’s my job to find a way to accomplish the items without neglecting my first job as a mom. Without the list, especially if I was tired, it’d be easy to let everything slide and just make it through the day on a day when Vivi’s extra crabby, for instance, requiring constant attention. Whereas, knowing what has to happen, I can get up the will to go at it, and decide to wear Vivi while accomplishing what needs to get done. Another large advantage on this side is the fact that you don’t have to think on long days. You don’t have to put the effort into figuring something out plus the effort of doing it. Just consult your lists, and go!

On the other hand, one challenge I have to deal with as an idealist who always jots down excessive to-do lists that would never be practical….is being real. Which sometimes means the extras on the to-do list don’t happen. And it might mean that after a whole night of being awake with sick littles, the menu will get changed to something simpler, or something I can get out of the freezer. It might mean there’ll be weeks when I just get the basics (meals and cleaning, for instance) done….but nothing extra. I have to remember that my to-do lists aren’t life-or-death. That they’re a tool to help me, not a weapon to stress me. And that when there’s a conflict of interests between my babies and my lists….my babies win, always, and that’s perfectly okay- even if I didn’t get much done.

Depending on your personality, you’ll probably struggle more with one side or the other, and knowing that can help you strike a balance that benefits everyone. If you’re unorganized or laid back enough that any small excuse is enough to toss the plan out the window, then you probably need to focus on the “this absolutely has to happen today” mindset, or paper-organization won’t help you. On the other hand, if you, like me, are an idealist and tend towards high productivity, you’ll have to work at remembering that it’s okay if everything doesn’t happen….or it’ll just become a stress factor in your life.

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dig into what exactly my folder looks like, and how I use it…


  1. Fun post...I'm really looking forward to the second part and seeing/hearing exactly how your binder is set up.

    Personally, I'm torn about whether or not to start a planner/binder for's something I've gone back and forth on for awhile. Aaron's work is such that it's not a set schedule...he could have an unexpected day off (like today) or he could work six days a week for a month. And that obviously ends up affecting my "schedule" since I like to be "available" if he's around and not be caught up in too much cleaning, etc. And I have the same tendency as you, to get so caught up in my lists, etc. that not having too many of them and learning to flow with things is a good thing for me right now. But anyway...who we (God-willing) add more littles to the family and there's more to organize, then I'll probably end up using one. :)

  2. Well....I'm sure a binder isn't quite for everybody.... ;-) I think you could pretty easily use a notebook and make it flexible enough to be around when Aaron is by switching your days around or whatever. Could also help keep you busy when he's extra busy to have extra project ideas and so forth laid out.

    And on the other could just be a trap- having to fight the urge to be productive and get something done because you're "supposed" to. ;-)

    Personally...I think it's helped me to learn better how to go with the flow- since I can use it to help me use free time as productively as possible, which ultimately frees up the busier days to let things slide. Not to say I haven't struggled, because I have....I've hit Fridays and felt like I didn't get "anything" done because only a couple things are checked off my to-do list, or because I didn't get all the cleaning done, or something else that's ridiculous b/c I gave my baby girl the loving she needs and had other stuff come up or whatever that got done instead.... ;-)

  3. From one fellow list-freak to another, I LOVE your ideas!! You are so well organized that it amazes me. I think it's really great to have basic lists even before marriage and children and then you can tweak them when you need to :)

  4. Samantha...I always enjoy hearing other people's ideas, too. :-D I'm not sure about the "so well organized" part, though... ;-) Easier done on paper than in real life! And yeah....I was a list freak long before getting married- I just didn't have all the stuff to be in control of and manage that I do now. Although, I did do my family's menu planning for a few years, before mom finally insisted on getting her kitchen back. ;-)