If you’ve been around the past few weeks, you know I’ve been getting organized.
But this time it’s not just another okay-it’s-time-to-throw-some-sh*t-away freakout.
This also happened to me when I was teacher.
For the first few years I taught elementary school, my desk was a complete disaster. There were piles of paper everywhere, there were no organizational systems in place, nothing had a designated spot, and I wasted ridiculous amounts of time looking for things.
I can only imagine what parents thought when they walked in the room and saw my desk. And it couldn’t have created a peaceful atmosphere for the kids.
Plus, how could I expect students to keep their desks in order if mine was almost always out of control?
I don’t remember what pushed me over the edge, but one day I did a massive overhaul, designed a system that worked for me, and my desk was never messy again.
The biggest things that helped me keep my desk in order were 1) making sure everything had a designated spot, and 2) taking 5 minutes at the end of every day to put everything where it belonged.
It was surprisingly simple.
And yes, totally obvious.
Why it took me literal years to comprehend that a five minute investment at the end of every day saved me probably double that amount of completely wasted time looking for stuff, plus the extra big chunk of time I’d need when I finally decided to clean up the explosion on my desk, I’m not sure.
25 minutes a week of maintenance rather than 45 minutes a week of looking for misplaced things and another 30 – 60 minutes to do a major clean is basic math.
So this is where I am with my house now.
It started with my dining room, and it has been spreading.
By committing to eat all our meals in the dining room, I had to keep the room neat. Doing that meant I couldn’t use the table as a dumping grounds. So I’d have to keep on top of the laundry rather than dumping everything there.
Keeping the table clear all the time led to other improvements in the quality of our lives.
The kids are now sitting there to play Uno and Sorry! and other games.
This never happened before because the table was almost always covered in a mountain of crap!!!
Organization is literally improving the amount and quality of the time I spend with my kids and they spend with each other.
And not just when they are eating meals.
So for a while I was only able to maintain the dining room.
Then after that had become more of a habit, I focused on the laundry room.
Every morning when I get up, I throw a load in the washer, and then an hour or so later before I wake the older kids up, I throw it in the dryer. After all the kids get on the bus, I take care of the sorting and the folding (I only fold my stuff, sheets and towels, and some of the little guys’ stuff).
And then, the part that is really key… putting it away.
The folding but especially the putting way has always been my downfall.
Just as it was with my desk when I was a teacher, five to ten minutes spent on laundry every day saves me SO MUCH time in the end. Shocker, I know.
I’m no longer using an hour and a half (or more) of one day making my way through a mountain of laundry.
Plus, I’m not wasting time looking for socks or that one shirt a kid has to wear to school.
After I felt like I had a handle on the laundry, I moved onto my new office. It’s been about a week since I finished it, and it has stayed completely organized and neat and it continues to be my favorite place. Plus, this morning Number 6 needed a picture for a poster he had to bring into school, and for the first time in, um .. EVER, I knew exactly where it was.
I didn’t have to search through multiple piles of crap or dig through three or four boxes or containers to find a school picture.
Knowing exactly where the picture was and not wasting one second of my time was literally one of the most rewarding experiences I have had recently.
I don’t know what that says about the state of my life at this point, but whatever. It was a victory 🙂
Last night the kids had a middle school swim meet that ran longer than I thought it would, and I didn’t get home until about 9:00. I walked into the kitchen, and there were dirty dishes in the sink, and dinner dishes still on the dining room table, and food that needed to be put away and a bunch of feta cheese on the floor from where Number 3 failed to clean up a lot of what spilled when he dropped the container right before we were walking out the door to go to the pool.
The old Susie would have left everything where it was, except for the food that needed to go into the fridge.
9 pm on a Sunday night is not exactly when I want to be doing anything, and especially not cleaning. It was a long weekend full of swim meets and basketball games and birthday parties and being woken up in the middle of the night more than once because one kid had a bad dream and one kid had an accident and one kid was being woken up and annoyed by the cat and one kid was cold.
I was completely spent when I walked in the door, and all I wanted to do last night was put on my pajamas and mindlessly watch as much Grace and Frankie as I could before I passed out.
But I knew seeing the kitchen like that first thing in the morning would piss me off and stress me out. I am DONE adding unnecessary stress to my life. I have enough stress as it is.
And I knew that having breakfast dishes on top of dinner dishes from the night before to clean up when all the kids got off to school would take even longer to clean up the next day.
So I stayed in my clothes. And my bra, which was really bothering me.
The faster you clean this up, the faster you can take this f*&$ing bra off.
The uncomfortable bra at 9 pm on a Sunday night is surprisingly motivational.
Not having the messy kitchen hanging over my head as I unwound on the couch and woke up this morning was such a nice feeling.
SUCH A NICE FEELING.
I know what some of you are saying.
Why isn’t anyone else helping out? Why aren’t the kids doing any of this stuff?
They are. They are doing some. They help out. But I haven’t been consistent. And when things snowball out of control, it’s overwhelming for me. And if it’s overwhelming for me, I imagine it’s even worse for them. And I feel like it’s my job to get the systems set up so that they can then know what the systems are, know where everything belongs, and be able to fairly easily maintain them.
That’s what you do when you have a classroom full of students. They walk into an organized classroom on the first day of school and then you spend a couple weeks going over the procedures to maintain order and then you figure out who is going to do what job.
You don’t just throw a whole bunch of shit on top of every surface and in every corner of the room and and then sigh heavily and eventually lose your shit and scream like a lunatic about how NOBODY EVER HELPS YOU AND YOU ARE TIRED OF DOING EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE AND THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE AROUND HERE STARTING NOW.
The more progress I make and the more consistent I am, the easier it is for everyone to contribute and stay on top of things.
So we are all making progress.
And the kids definitely notice how much nicer it feels at home when things haven’t spiraled out of control, and they are much more willing and motivated to help maintain some order around here.
I haven’t gone Sleeping With The Enemy psycho on everyone to the point where I am straightening hand towels like a crazy person, but I am starting to hold people accountable in the areas that have already been addressed, and it is now becoming more of an automatic with the kids.
On Friday when Number 7 came in the house from the bus, she walked into the mudroom and said, “I’M GOING TO HANG MY STUFF UP WHERE IT GOES, MOM, BUT FIRST I JUST HAVE TO PEE REALLY BADLY,” and she made a beeline for the bathroom.
Then she came out and put everything in its designated place.
So the kids are developing new habits, and I feel comfortable holding them accountable because I am holding myself accountable, too.
This post is my way of saying that being organized is increasing the quality of my life in a multitude of ways and because of that, I’m going to keep working through the house, and because of that, you most likely won’t see new blog posts every day or even every other day for the next couple weeks.
Because I know the return on this investment of time and effort will be exponential.
The next area I’m moving to?
Our living/family/whateveryouwanttocallit room.
I have not come up with the ideal set up for this room. It’s a hodge podge of stuff, and it’s taken a serious beating.
So it’s going to take some thought and some creativity.
And it can’t cost any money.
But here are the before pictures.
This is one side:
Behind that couch it looks like this:
Here is the other side:
I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I’m excited to make this a place that works better for all of us.
Stay tuned, and in the meantime, maybe you can pick just one small area of your house — even if it’s just a drawer — that is adding chaos and stress to your life and figure out a away to make it add to the quality of your life rather than take away from it.
And if you are stuck (and brave), leave a picture in the comments, and maybe together we can help you figure something out!