Posted on June 30, 2015
I suppose I have been discussing organization here a lot lately. Since I have transitioned over the past month or so to being at home, a lot of that (non-job-hunt) time has been spent either sorting through all the tasks that haven’t been done in a year or getting ready to switch gears into a summer where I am not working and the family dynamic has changed.
Whether we like it or not, organization is the key to a happier life. I am not even being flippant when I say that! Wasting time trying to get things done when you don’t know where things are, where you should be going or what you should be doing is a complete life-killer.
Of course, when people think of organization they think of de-cluttering and cleaning out the closets. Certainly, organizing is definitely these things but I am speaking more of a holistic view of organization, a mentality that keeps all the cogs in your life wheel turning, so to speak. So while sifting through the junk drawer is important so is making sure all your ducks are lined up. In fact, our entire life over here in bungalowville would be near impossible if we didn’t stay on top of the big life stuff. In fact, if a chore or organizational is costing you more in time, money or stress than just ignoring it, it’s time to get a handle on it.
Discovering what an overall view of organization looks like to you involves a deep dive into the way your family functions. You need to determine what tasks cause the most chaos in your life and then find a way to mitigate that chaos. Oftentimes not being organized in one thing can snowball into a bunch of things in your life falling out of sync. For example, if we don’t plan meals properly it can lead to more eating out, which leads to food spoilage, less cash and (almost always) poor health. Because missing a meal just doesn’t mean missing a meal, it means various parts of my life are touched. By simply always making sure that I have at least one or two meals frozen by doubling up recipes for those nights where we are exhausted and need something quick. Toss in some fresh stuff from the crisper into a salad or veg side I can ensure we stay on track.
Conversely, I have a friend who has three kids, two jobs, a rental property and her husband works long hours. Given their time crunch and their dislike of cooking, they made a decision to buy as much pre-made food as possible. Pre-made entries can be heated and served with a pre-made salad, for example. Sure, most frugal folk would balk at the idea of doing this but for their family it ensures that they spend more time at the table talking and less time cooking and cleaning. With the availability of so many healthier frozen options at the stores these days, it can even be relatively healthy. That way my friend can ensure she spends more time around the dinner table with her family rather than use their sparse time in the kitchen. It keeps the family out of restaurants so they are saving money and eating healthier.
A few solutions
I am no personal organizer by any stretch of the imagination. I am still trying to get my kids to adhere to the “one in, one out” philosophy for art pieces and toys. It sounds mean but we are 4.5 people living in a 1200 square foot bungalow and we can’t possibly keep everything. Still, I try and run our lives like a finely tuned machine and so far these things have not led me astray. Keeping with the holistic approach I’ve added an “Alternative Universe” blurb at the bottom explaining what would happen if we didn’t do these things.
The family calendar: ok, to be fair I have two calendars, one typical paper calendar that has events for the year and one giant one-month dry-erase calendar that the entire family can see. Since only has a month at a time & it’s huge so we can see at a glance what the upcoming events are. We also have the rule that if it isn’t on the calendar, it’s not happening. So Mr. Tucker are really good about writing down our events so we don’t miss them due to scheduling or a lack of sitter.
Alternative universe: never knowing what we have going on, buying expensive gifts last-minute for parties because we forgot, arguing over who drives the kids where and when, double-booking ourselves for events and then arguing about who gets to go, forgetting to organize babysitting.
Weekly food prep: I know I linked to my food strategy earlier in the post but we try and take some time and do some weekly food prep, as required. When I am working Sundays are usually the time we bake a loaf of bread, prep the yogurt for the kids for the week, make muffins/cookies & I’ll also cut up vegetables as required. Sundays are a good time to look at the food you have on hand and plan meals around what needs to be eaten before it spoils.
Alternative universe: tons of spoiled food, spending money on more convenience food, boring lunches & dinners for the family that would lead to buying more meals out, lack of prep costs more in higher energy costs, being tired at the end of the day means we would most likely eat more dinners out.
A basic budget: I know this is a knee-jerk idea for some people but honestly, knowing what I have to spend frees up my time to worry about other things. Most of our bills are automated but I still find comfort in a basic spreadsheet detailing what we have spent and what we can spend. I also love looking at how our financial goals are doing keeps us on track.
Alternative universe: this one is kind of easy, it would mean bounced payments, overspending, having to spend more time thinking about money than necessary, using credit to fill the gaps, not knowing if there are erroneous charges in our accounts, bad credit.
A good start: I allow the kids to pick their clothes the night before or if they don’t, the rule is I can choose. That’s had a fairly good success rate. Getting books, papers and other accoutrements all ready to go the night before saves so many headaches. Knowing I just have to stuff a lunch into a backpack makes the mornings run so much smoother.
Alternative universe: absolute chaos in the morning, arguing with the kids about clothes, lunches taking twice as long to make as we are trying to do too many things at once, the day starts out on a stressful note.
All of it and more? Stress, stress, stress. Unhappy parents, unhappy kids, more bickering and less time to spend together. Being disorganized is a complete life-killer.
My Achilles heel
Do you know what causes the most chaos in our lives? Laundry. Both Mr. Tucker and I don’t mind washing it but we hate folding it and putting it away. We both intellectually know that if we spend the time to actually fold and put away the laundry it will save us hours of time where we won’t be hunting down miniature socks at 6:30am. However, do you think that knowledge spurs us into action? Nope. For some reason we always insist on what I call the “roving basket” system: one dirty, one clean. Take from one, wear, toss into the other. It’s incredibly inefficient, it stresses us out, it clutters our bedroom and inevitably we end up re-washing clean stuff when the baskets get mixed up – and usually during high peak times when electricity is at a premium. It’s Holistic disorganization! I am still working on ways to get ourselves on track with this one thing, it seems to be the one holdout chore that negatively affects our life that we can get a handle on.
Seriously laundry, I really don’t like you
In the end, everyone has their own things that they excel at and others they don’t. It’s important to not think about tasks in a vacuum, however. Oftentimes, when you let something slip it becomes a snowball of bad habits, stress and often money. Giving yourself an intervention and changing the behaviours that negatively affect your life may mean you get huge returns in life quality that you may never had even considered.