Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I had the opportunity to attend a local homeschool mom's encouragement meeting this week and listen to Allison Carter, a professional organizer share some tips of the trade. I will attempt to translate my notes here and share with you some of the most meaningful tidbits I gleaned(at least meaningful to my situation).

Part of being organized is not needing to do extra work. Keep your system simple, and easy to use, not one that creates extra work. I knew she was talking to me here because my systems are always so complicated that I can't seem to follow through with them or be consistent with them because they OVERWHELM me! She also addressed the fact that many of us creative types change our systems constantly not because they are not working but because we are bored with them. Yep, that's me again! And of coarse there is the fact that my perfectionism knows there must be a more "perfect system" that will bring magical results and it is just waiting for me to create it or discover it. We all agreed that the purpose of organizing is to save time and money, reduce stress, promote peace and harmony at home and train our children in stewardship of time and things.

Keep in mind that in running our homes we are running a business, only thing is we can't fire the help, aka: our family. We need to: 1. Give clear instructions. 2. Have clear expectations. 3. Clear and consistent consequences. Remember up above where I said I became overwhelmed? Help! How exactly does one give clear instructions, clear expectations and consistent consequences??? I better take these to the Lord in prayer and seek my husband for wisdom.

As far as expectations go, well we were exhorted to set our perfectionist tendencies aside, lower our expectations to achievable and let our kids help, but don't try and redo or fix what they do. Ahhhh, some lessons are learned very slowly. At least I'm free from sock matching perfection...just find a similar shape and color put them together and call them a pair or better yet let the kids grab two out of the large drawer full of unmatched socks. I also no longer wince when I find the kids have washed their white socks with their jeans, they really aren't white very long anyway because of all the mud and dirt in their shoes.

Here is another solved mystery! For years I tried to set up a separate homeschool area, first one was in the basement...we NEVER went down there, it was drab and depressing and felt like it was too far one was in the sun room right off the kitchen...still felt closed off from life, although at least this roomy was bright and sunny...the house we are in now I set the dining room up for school, but we always end up at the kitchen table or in the den on the sofa. Why? Kids want to be near mom! Where is mom? In the kitchen, which is the hub of the house. So store you books and supplies out of the way in portable containers that can be moved to the hub of the home when least I had finally figured this one out, but I now have the freedom to enjoy this discovery and the fact that the laundry room is just a step away from the kitchen table so now our school really is in the heart of where I spend my time...the kitchen and laundry room.

Are you like most Americans, who is drowning in paper. Well here is the overview of Allison's Communication System where all paper must pass. The key here is sorting by what it the next action that needs to be taken.

Here are the File headings she recommended:

1. To Do - anything that needs immediate attention, like repairs, phone calls, etc
2. To Pay - make sure to check this one weekly or bi-weekly and take care of them in a timely manner, to avoid late fees and such.
3. To Go - events, appointments, anything you will attend.
4. Waiting For/Pending - this would be things like insurance bills, rebates you've submitted, orders waiting to receive, things that you need to discuss with you husband before a decision is made.
5. To File - items that you need to keep and file away
6. Coupons - this is service, restaurant coupons, gift cards etc. If you are a coupon clipper you want a system devoted entirely to organizing those.
7. To Enter - items of information that need to be entered into your computer or address book. Allison recommended as a way of storing and organizing this information on your computer.

You can set up folders of these same titles in your email program to help you sort emails as they come through as well.

For school paper organization you will want a separate file area and possibly more depending upon how you choose to sort. You may want to sort by child, year, subject, etc. The key to remember is that you don't need to keep everything but only a representation of the work each child has done or is doing. For keepsakes give each child 2 boxes to store their treasures, again they only need to keep a representation. For Photos start with the current and work backward. Don't get caught up in details. Sort by year or event instead of by date. Drop the perfectionism and enjoy the memories!

Now to tackle our clothing and laundry! Did you know that there are 7 steps involved in doing laundry? Despite the fact that I spend an enormous amount of time doing laundry, I've never stopped to count the steps. Just in case you want to know what you are spending your time on here they are:

1. Into Hamper
2. Sort
3. Wash
4. Dry
5. Hang/Fold
6. Put Away
7. Iron

Doesn't it make you feel more productive to look at how many steps you've been accomplishing? Of course I tend to experience delays and interruption at steps 5 or 6 and I only do step 7 on a need only basis, ie: grab it from the closet and do it right before I put it on. At steps 5 and 6 is where many people get derailed and it is very possibly because of perfectionism and not letting anyone help us in this area. We want our clothes folded and put away neatly. Then again it could be because we don't want to find a pile of clean clothes tossed back in the hamper because someone was just too lazy to open the drawer and put them away. Maybe giving our kids large baskets in which to toss their clean clothes would work better than sets of drawers where they have to sort, open, cram, close, well you get the idea.

Now here is the flip side of the coin: WE OWN TOO MANY CLOTHES!!! How much clothing you can own is dependent upon the amount of available space you have for storing it. You can only own what fits in your space. If you don't have a lot of space, you can't have a lot of stuff. Of coarse this is true across the board not just for clothes. If you have say 6 kids who are sharing a small space you might actually run out of space without having enough clothes to keep everyone dressed in clean clothes. So the larger than the normal family in the normal size family space will have to be creative with storage and brutal when it comes to discarding excess. Just remember it is just stuff and stuff after all is crap! Our internal contentment should come from who we are as a child of God not from our stuff.

Here are a few final tips. Sort everything by how it is used. Examples would be toys, if your children play with the blocks and cars together, then store them together instead of constantly sorting them out. Put things together in kits. Have a paint kit that includes ALL the items your children need for painting: brushes, paints, cups, paper, smocks...

Organizing works best when one little action creates big results.

We are unhappy because we think we NEED new stuff to be fulfilled. This stuff clutters our homes and our lives.

CHAOS=Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome

A final quote that a friend had on her facebook status, which pretty much sums up the importance of having a place for everything, which to me is organization.

"The key to finding a thing is knowing where it is."

I hope my muttled notes and thoughts help you to tackle some of your clutter and bring some order to your CHAOS and I hope they do they same for me.

1 comment:

  1. I was sorry I missed it so this was awesome! Thats for writing all this down. Great Blog!