A couple days ago I announced that I was done.
DONE with being disorganized and consequently perpetually stressed and annoyed and short-tempered with my family.
I was met with lots and lots of support upon this proclamation.
But there were a couple people concerned that I was putting too much pressure on myself or that I was striving for perfection or that I was going to be too focused on getting things in line rather than enjoying the holidays with my family.
But here is the thing.
When you have five kids between the ages of seven and thirteen at home, there is already enough chaos.
I don’t need to add unnecessarily to it. Because I know for a fact that there is a direct correlation between the level of disorganization in my home and my kids’ behavior.
I have observed this many, many times.
And yet, for some reason, I allow it to happen again and again and again.
Then I get super frustrated because I can’t find something or because there is no counter space to even make a sandwich on or because I want to make something for dinner but every single frying pan we own is dirty, and they are all buried at the bottom of the sink under a mountain of dishes.
I’d rather invest my time in making sure the environment for my family — and myself — is calm and organized rather than using my time to search for lost things or using more time than is necessary due to the mess to get something done, and still be surrounded by disorder.
I will never achieve perfection.
That’s not me.
But I did go through this as a teacher.
For the first couple years I taught, my desk was always a disaster.
There were piles and piles of papers and who knows what on its surface.
And every day I found myself searching for a paper I needed or something, and it was super infuriating because I was wasting so much time.
SO MUCH TIME.
And what really made me mad was that I had done it to myself.
It was all on me.
So one day I reached a breaking point, and I just decided I was done operating that way.
I cleaned my desk, came up with a system, and it was literally never messy again.
I was much more efficient, I was never mortified if a parent unexpectedly showed up in my classroom, I was setting a better example for my students, and I was calmer.
So that’s where I found myself two days ago.
There is no reason for the mess or the disorder or the stress.
All it takes is a different system.
It doesn’t take hours and hours of my time.
I’m already wasting hours of my time anyway!
Last year I committed to keeping the dining room neat.
All it took was a commitment and some discipline.
Just a few minutes a day, and that room has stayed uncluttered and peaceful and an enjoyable place to be.
Maintenance does not require a lot of time.
It simply requires discipline.
And you know how I feel.
Discipline equals freedom.
Being disciplined does not confine you.
It doesn’t stifle you.
It allows you to have the freedom to enjoy other areas of your life without being constantly plagued by stress and discomfort.
So I made some changes.
I have actually written about these before, but I have not committed to them.
Our afternoons are busy, and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are out of the door very shortly after the little guys get off the bus, and we don’t get home until about 9:30.
That’s pretty late for us, so everyone goes directly to bed.
By the time everyone is settled in, it’s about 10:00, and that’s way past my bedtime.
I am basically useless by then. If there is a mess in the kitchen, it’s staying there until the next day.
This means the kids need to be packed up to leave for the pool, dinner needs to be prepared, and we need to be ready to leave by 4 or 4:30 on those days and then we are gone for the afternoon and evening.
A big part of the problem — actually about 95% of the problem — is that I have not created any boundaries for myself.
I push everything to the very last possible minute, wait until 3:30 to get dinner ready, and get whatever I need out in the car, and the kids are coming home and wanting some attention but I’m scrambling and then telling them to HURRY UP AND EAT (which is no way to eat) and then we are rushing out the door and the kitchen is a shithole and the dining room table is full of dishes.
That’s what I come home to, and since I’m too tired to do anything after 10 pm, that’s what I wake up to.
So I have made it pretty much impossible for anyone to contribute on those days with this routine I’ve created.
Today all that changed.
Because last night I cleaned the damn kitchen.
All of it.
Everything went back in its designated place.
And I went to bed feeling awesome. Calm. There was no stress hanging over my head.
I cannot tell you the difference that made in my demeanor.
I think I even slept better.
Do you know how awesome it feels to walk into a room that looks like this first thing in the morning?
And another room that looks like this?
IT FEELS REALLY FREAKING AWESOME.
And so when the kids woke up this morning and came downstairs, I was not stressed at the sight of them because I hadn’t made breakfast yet and the kitchen was out of control.
I made breakfast. The kids all ate in the dining room.
AND THERE WAS NO ARGUING OR BICKERING OR ANYTHING.
They all sat and they ate and they talked and then…
WHEN THEY WERE FINISHED THEY ALL BROUGHT THEIR DISHES INTO THE KITCHEN.
It was a whole different world.
The kids could contribute now.
There is a new routine.
They were happy. I was happy.
And it was so easy to just put their dishes right into the dishwasher, wash the two pans I used immediately, and walk out of a neat kitchen.
Every day I work out.
I work out a lot right now because I have some marathon goals I’m trying to achieve.
I lift weights before the kids get up and sometimes hop on the elliptical, and then after the kids go to school, I go for a run.
But my morning runs have been getting later and later because the level of chaos in my house also directly affects my focus and my motivation.
I feel guilty if I go for a run when I haven’t cleaned up the kitchen and the dining room table is full of dishes, but the thought of cleaning up the kitchen is so overwhelming that I often end up doing neither and wasting time on the computer or something, and then it’s 10:00, I stil haven’t gone for a run, and the kitchen is still a disaster.
Not this morning.
This morning it took less than ten minutes to get everything cleaned up, and I was out the door before 8:30 and done with a four mile run by 9:15
By 9:30 I had already gotten over 15,000 steps in.
It was the best morning I have had in a long, long, looonnnnnnggggg time.
Today I stopped working at 2:00.
Even though I was nowhere near done with the work I needed to finish.
The kitchen was already clean because I committed this morning to cleaning it up before I started anything else.
I got dinner ready very quickly because it was already mostly planned and I wasn’t maneuvering around messes everywhere.
The stuff I needed to take to practice with me was already loaded in the car.
The kids came home, ate, cleaned up after themselves, and got out into the car.
And today when I left the house, for the first time…
the kitchen is totally clean.
I had to take a picture before I left because it was just so awesome.
ISN’T THAT SO AWESOME???
I am writing this from the pool while Number 3 and 4 are swimming.
And when we come home tonight, we will all walk into a neat and clean kitchen.
That is what we all deserve to be greeted by!
Tomorrow I move onto my office.
It currently looks like this:
It could be worse.
But is stresses me out and it’s not conducive to productivity.
So tomorrow that will look different.
Stay tuned for an update.
My biggest tips for those of you who asked?
- Set limits for yourself.
- Give yourself at least thirty minutes before the kids get home to get shit in order.
- Have a plan for dinner and have most of it prepped before the kids get home.
- Five minutes of discipline gives you a huge return on your investment.
- Clean as you go.
See you tomorrow with a super organized office!