Why Be Organized?

Helping moms manage the homefront.

Does this sound familiar? You fumble around the house in the morning trying to find your keys or your daughter’s left shoe, only to realize you can’t find the right toy that goes in the stroller. Then there’s Tuesday’s schedule. What is supposed to happen at 3pm? You know it’s something; you’re just not sure what! And what about that birthday party? Was it this Thursday or next Thursday? Oh, and the shopping list— what type of printer ink? Or was it more pens?

Okay, you get the idea. There are few things more important than being able to find what you need when you need it. Are you concerned about the chaos, stress and anxiety in your home, not to mention the lack of a solid foundation for your kids? Read on for some tried and true tips for relieving some of this stress and reclaiming the peace and joy you and your family deserve.

THE HOME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Creating an effective home management system is the first step in getting everyone at home organized. Find a space to call your own. You’ll need a few filing drawers, at least. Your goal is to create an intuitive and logical filing system for easy retrieval (what would you think of if you were looking for this particular piece of paper?). The best way to achieve this is to have a filing system that goes from A-Z. Everything in between will fall into categories. Insurance, your main category, can have several sub-files, such as life, auto, health, home owners.

Use lots of file folders, as many as necessary. Don’t skimp here since they cost only about $5 for a box of 100. Be very specific on your categories and sub-files. Also, I suggest investing in a label maker. You can find a very basic one for under $50 at Staples. The more beautiful and neat your system is, the more likely you are to use it.

You’ll want to have a bulletin board on which to affix handy information such as invitations, theater tickets and important phone numbers. Remember to find something you think is attractive. You’re much more inclined to use the things you love. Toss out or give away any desk item you don’t love. To keep tabs on kids’ schedules, you can print out each timetable: soccer practice, swim meets, ballet class, etc. Slip each schedule into a clear plastic sleeve and attach them all with a metal ring. Then hang them on the bulletin board so you can easily flip through them.

Another handy tool for your home-management system is a mail sorter box. Don’t try to retrain yourself to do what you don’t normally do. Organize and put containers where you naturally place your mail and other items. Depending on the volume in your household, you may want to have two of these side by side. It should stand upright and have several compartments. One section for incoming catalogues/ magazines should have a home either in the bathroom and/or in an attractive container in the living area. Other sections can be used for “bills to be paid” or “correspondence.”

You always want to file, store or keep papers vertically. Avoid horizontal filing as much as possible, namely piles of paper. It’s impossible to see what is in the pile, which can create that chaotic feeling I mentioned earlier!

When your system is in place, remember to re-evaluate your categories and file names and adjust them as needed. Also, reserve about 15 minutes daily for filing and maintenance, and remember to assign a home for everything in your space.

KIDS MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

When organizing a child’s room, think in zones and assign only three to four zones in one room. Then, store items at their point of use. For example, create a reading/desk area, play area, clothing area and sleeping area. Keep all related items in each zone. The reading and desk area are for books, school supplies, awards and even files for children starting at about age 7. The play area can have clear drawers labeled with the contents and not over-stuffed.

The clothing area, whether it’s a closet or an armoire, needs all related items together to make dressing easier. Belts can be hung on hooks, and shoes should be on shelves that stack up on the floor. Use clear plastic drawers wherever possible for ease of use and easy recognition.

Let your child be involved in choosing what goes where, since the more involved he is in the process, the more likely he is to use it. When storing sentimental objects or your children’s artwork, remember it’s a matter of quantity. Use a treasure box or a memorabilia box for all your special keepsakes. Store them high up in a closet where it’s out of your way but accessible enough for you to retrieve when you feel like reminiscing.

PORTABILITY

This is a term I created to describe a system that helps you remain organized while on the road. This means anything from being out all day at work, on errands or during car pools. The first item you’ll want to have at your fingertips is a catch-all notebook preferably with tab sections. This can be spiral bound or a three-ring binder. The key here is the tabbed categories. For example, you could create one tab for each child and member of your household or one for each special project, such as a renovation, decorating ideas or plans for an upcoming trip.

The basic idea here is to provide a home for all the notes and papers we accumulate during the day. You can tape in information from a handwritten note. Categories are essential so that you can refer to and retrieve information in a categorical manner, which is much more efficient than flipping through pages of random notes. This special notebook I affectionately call the “halfway house” because it’s halfway between your ever important “bible,” whether that is your Filofax or your Palm Pilot, and your permanent files. It’s very important to date the notebook in the front, say July 2005 through October 2005, and to save these notebooks for approximately five years.

Finally, keeping a current to do list is essential to completing your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. These can easily be updated if you store them in your computer. Also, make a call list and a “things to buy” list. As you move through town, frequently refer to your lists. You’ll be breezing through life in an efficient way, and you’ll realize how wonderful it is to “B. Organized!”