My brain is pretty full just musing over my latest read, one of the various internet discussions I ?m participating in, and which name goes with which of my children. If I had to remember every appointment, every event, every tidbit of information that helps me function, I ?d be a lost cause. For me, the answer is typing everything I will ever need to know in my lifetime into my computer and synching it with my palm. Here ?s what I do, maybe some ideas will help you, too.
In my quest for organization and family sanity, the first thing I did was write a mission statement, as recommended by Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Now why in the world does an individual person need to do something so business-like, so institutionally-minded? Perhaps you don ?t. My parents have lived full and productive lives and I think they might just snicker at the whole idea. But for me, deciding to run my home and my life a bit like a business made a wonderful difference. Homemaking became interesting, challenging, and intellectual, rather than mundane. In addition, writing out a mission statement required me to really think about what I wanted my life to be like in the long run, and to evaluate whether what I was doing in the short run was really going to get me there.
While formulating this statement I discovered that my goals and aspirations can be grouped into eight categories. They are: spiritual, family, intellectual, service, physical, homemaking, financial, and other. (Which roughly translate into the areas of this site: moral; matriarchal; mindful; mansion; muscular; ministering; millionaire; miscellaneous.) My mission statement includes how I want to end up in each of these areas. It stands as my ideal, what I want to be like, what my goals should lead me to.
Next I began a life-long master list. This list has a section for each of the eight areas of focus. In these sections I write down every single thing that I ever think of that sounds like something I would like to do. Really! Sometimes these goals are completed, some are revised, some stay on the list waiting their turn for years, and many are removed from the list entirely because my interests, ideas, or circumstances have changed.
Examples from my current master list:
Spiritual: Learn how to study genealogy using a local Family History Center; read Proverbs 16: 18 ?22 and set goals to eliminate pride
Family: Finish writing kids ? musical computer program; go camping
Intellectual: Get master ?s degree; pick three books of university honors list to read and study.
Service: Do an anonymous act of service for someone for whom I have bad feelings; take Sam out for a surprise lunch
Physical: Get in the habit of going to bed early; earn a black belt in karate
Homemaking: Create a two-month menu plan; frame cross-stitch
Financial: Accumulate 20% of annual salary in liquid emergency fund; publish book
Miscellaneous: Be on time to every appointment for two weeks
This is just a small sampling. I have dozens more things on each list. Is it overwhelming? No! These don ?t have to be done this week, or even this year. This is a lifelong plan of improvement!
Now that you see what you want with long-term perspective. Step back into your real life. We can ?t spend every minute of our lives doing these wonderful life- and character-enhancing activities, as fun as it may sound. We ?ve got diapers to change and floors to sweep for heaven ?s sake! And the best thing I ever did, in this business-mindset, was to realize that while modern life requires maintenance, there are efficient ways to handle that maintenance, allowing time for the less urgent, but most important activities.
You’ve heard the old saying “A place for everything and everything in it’s place”? That’s great advice to begin with. I’d also like to add “A time for everything and everything in it’s time.”
There are so many time-management systems on the market today. And I have personally tried out, looked over, and read entire books about many of them. Parts of them worked well for me, parts didn’t. So, over a decade ago, after designing a couple of day planners for clients, it finally occurred to me that I could custom design my own planner! I used my personalized planner for years. Now I am all digital with programs that transfer to my phone/palm.
I use a plan-by-the-week system, as that allows much greater daily flexibility to me. Each and every task that must be completed to maintain our home and lives is assigned a frequency. Every day we make beds, do dishes, do general cleanup, exercise, and read scriptures. Other things we do less often. Within the assigned frequency, all chores are written down on the appropriate day, with similar chores grouped together.
While our schedule is modified frequently to accommodate our changing schedule and family dynamic, this is what it looked like a number of years ago:
Sunday: church, journals and photos, family council, planning, service
Monday: laundry, vacuum, mop, family night
Tuesday: bookkeeping, bathrooms and floors, wash towels
Wednesday: ironing, correspondence
Thursday: deep-clean kitchen, bathrooms, plan menus
Friday: dust and vacuum house, wash sheets
Saturday: yard work, bathrooms, grocery shopping, personal care (hair cuts, manicures, etc.)
Once the chores are assigned, and some delegated to other family members, it is relatively easy to look over each days tasks, take into account any scheduled appointments or activities, and determine which days would allow for work on one or more of the items on my master list.
With a house full of kids it is usually necessary to break these goal down into bite-sized portions that won ?t suffer terribly with minor, or even major, interruptions.
I have been learning over the years how to put spare moments to productive use. I ?m constantly striving for a balance between being motivated and determined to fulfill my goals and being flexible enough that I don ?t miss the wonderful, spontaneous joys of my family and my life. (When I master that goal I ?ll let you know!)
This system, with all its ongoing modifications, works well for me. Nowhere on my list of lifetime goals will you find: Watch every episode of Seinfeld, read each 1996 issue of Family Circle cover-to-cover, or even attend every support group meeting, activity, and field trip, whether we like it or not. Reading over my list reminds me that I must not sacrifice what I want most, for what I want at the moment.
If you need an extra kick, or a strong dose of how-to there are many resources to help.
If your home and life are a total organizational disaster, I would start our with a remedial get-it-together course. Check out Sidetracked Home Executives written by sister team, Pam Young and Peggy Jones. This book changed my life as a newlywed. They have a newer book that has also been well received, titled Get Your Act Together.
If you just need some guidance on particular methods, not an entire organizational system, pick up Don Aslett’s The Cleaning Encyclopedia. I also highly recommend his best-selling trilogy Clutter’s Last Stand, Do I Dust Or Vacuum First?, and Is There Life After Housework? (I’ve been such a good customer of his over the years that once he called me personally in Florida to answer a cleaning question I had emailed in to his staff, and a couple of months ago when I finally met him in person he gave me a free, autographed copy of his great book How to Have a 48-Hour Day.)
If you’re looking for a whole house cleaning system, you cannot miss Jeff Campbell’s Speed Cleaning. Yes, I use the whole system, the apron and all the rest. Don’t judge.
Other helpful resources are Confessions of an Organized Homemaker: The Secrets of Uncluttering Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life and Confessions of a Happily Organized Family: 100’s of practical ways to have a neat house, happy kids and calm parents – all at the same time!, both by organization guru Deniece Schofield.
Life is more successful, more relaxed, and more fun when our lives and our homes are in order. We are able to focus on and enjoy each other when we don’t have the nagging feeling that there are a million things to do. Chaos is distracting. Breaking up the maintenance into a fairly regular schedule allows us to get things done quickly so that we can get on to the good stuff.