Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tips for Organizing, from the Disorganized

For those of you who know me well, Organized may not be the first word that jumps to mind if asked to describe my wonderful personality traits (there are many, many wonderful ones). Even so, upon entering this world of motherhood and wifedom I was forced to reexamine the way I had been doing things. Here are some pointers that I’ve found to help keep me on the straight and narrow in the midst of the total chaos that comes from a disorganized person raising a kid!

1.Plan What You Can

Life with a toddler is so unexpected. Everyday has challenges and surprises, and you are going to have a lot less say in your days than you would like. Sure, a trip to the grocery store sounds like a good idea, until your kid wakes up screaming and doesn’t stop all day. Another night of spaghetti looks real good on hour 3 of the whining tsunami! That being said, it’s good to make plans, and let your munchkin in on your plan. If we have something on the schedule the next day, I always tell Lexi about it the night before (this works as a bedtime incentive too. “the sooner you go to bed the sooner we can wake up and go to music class”). This way she knows there is something coming the next day and is more likely to wake up in a good mood with something to look forward to rather than another day hanging around the house with me and the dog! Having plans ahead of time also helps when trying to get ready to pack a bag for the day. I always do what I can at night after Lexi is sleeping so there is that much less to do the next day and we can hit the ground running in the morning!

2.Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

That may be one overused cliché but So. True. Not everything is always going to go the way you want it to. As a matter of fact, 75% of the time your plan isn’t going to come to fruition the way you envisioned it, and that’s ok. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart or the freaks of control. Kids spill, kids fall, kids climb, kids make enormous messes when your back is turned for more than 5 seconds, because that is who they are, and what they are good at. They were obviously put on earth to teach us a lesson in rolling with the punches. So next time your daughter empties all the laundry out of the laundry basket you were folding to play fishing, don’t get mad or upset, hop in the boat and go for a ride with her. Laundry can ALWAYS wait an extra 10 minutes!

3.Pick a Day, Any Day

The biggest challenge for me has always been cleaning. I don’t enjoy cleaning, I don’t find it therapeutic or relaxing or any of that garbage! I clean because if I don’t, we will have nothing to eat off of, our floor would be carpeted in dog hair and we would all be running around naked. So in the name of Hygiene, I clean. As a reluctant cleaner, I’ve noticed that some of the big things can go every other week and others need to be done more often. I will pledge my undying devotion and gratitude to Josephine Cochran (for those of you who don’t know shame!!!! She invented the wondrous dishwasher) because dishes are an everyday. The rest of the stuff can be spread out over the rest of the week. In the beginning of the week I pick 2 days where I am going to vacuum the rug, one day for Laundry and one day every other week to clean the bathrooms. When we have company coming I will always clean a little more, but my general rule is I pick one day to do each of my chores and never feel too overwhelmed!

4.Know Your Limits and Don’t Push Them, Too Far

I think it is healthy to discover what you can and cannot do, push your boundaries. Take on too much once in a while, but don’t make it a habit. If you are doing too much you are going to have no energy left over for enjoying your time as a parent. Some days I have class, a ton of homework, a dog to walk and Alexis all afternoon, which usually involves a trip to the park. These are the days when frozen chicken nuggets and french-fries are a God-send. I’ve tried to do too much enough that I have a good feeling for when I need to stop. Not to say that it never happens, I’ve been known to get stressed out and -gasp- lose my temper with Alexis or Sunny. I’ve also noticed that Alexis senses my bad moods and instead of keeping her distant, the whining increases. Don’t think just because you are a grump, your kid is going to be on their best behavior, chances are they will act out more. Better safe than sorry and keep within your boundaries, it’s better to have a happy night dirty dishes than clean dishes and a grouchy family!

5.Prioritize the Demons

There are no human clones yet (that we know of), so one of me has to be enough. This is where it’s good to prioritize!!!! Not everything can be on top. Bleeding child takes precedence over straining pasta, for example. We don’t have emergency situations everyday but everything is an emergency to a 3 year old. There is no patience button we can press to let them know that getting them a fruit snack is lower on the priority list than cleaning up a doggy vomit. You have to recognize what is more important than something else and stick to your guns, take care of the priorites first, screeching child and all.

6.Mark Your Calendar

No, seriously, buy a calendar and mark your activities on it. I have a little $5.00 calendar by my sink that I mark birthdays, dates when people are coming to visit and big events like weddings and birthday parties. I look at it 10 times a day without ever having to look for it. I am technologically stunted, I can admit it, I’ve come to terms with it and I embrace it. My calendar has all my big events I need to worry about and it is all I need for my day to day things. When I reenter the work world I may need a slightly larger calendar but for now, a 1’X1’ block a day suits me just fine and I have yet to forget to pick someone up from the airport or show up late to a party!

7.Use Technology, Don’t let Technology Use You

Now that you know that I am technologically stunted let me tell you what works for me: a cell phone, a computer (that never leaves home), and an occasional GPS. I should note the GPS is new and I still don’t understand it completely, but it is a handy little guy. I should also note my cell phone is a little Verizon slide closed one, not a fancy pants $600 internet-surfing, meal-planning, calendar-keeping super phone. I don’t understand the stay at home moms who can’t leave the house without 1 of each of the following: their Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, Mac Books, and whatever else ridiculous things they have in their purses. A good website for simplifying without ovverwhelming is www.iconapps.com Being a stay at home mom is a busy thing, I understand that, I am one, but pretending you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 is not the way to go about life. Use what you need to get by, but don’t become dependent on your technologies. Remember all it takes is one Starbucks to the purse to wipe them all out, and then where will you be? Lost in your town with no idea how to get home, no way to get a hold of anyone and without any coffee to get you through it!

8.Have a Routine Without Becoming Routine

Routine is important for kids, I know this because I have heard it numerous different times from numerous different people with numerous different degrees. Duh! Of course routine is important, you can’t have your kid having a bedtime at 7:00 one night, 11:00 the next, then throw an 8:00 one in there just to mix things up. Certain routines are important, we have bedtime between 8 and 9 every night. Before bed we eat dinner together, take a bath, brush our teeth and read a story. Sometime around the middle of the day we take a nap. We go to preschool the same two days every week and go to music class the same day every week. Other than that I’m not a dictator. If Alexis is having a great time at the park and she’s not cranky or tired, we can either skip the nap or take a later one. Life is boring when you live or die by your routine, consistency is good, a stifling rigid schedule is bad! Loosen up a little the world will keep on spinning if lunch is an hour late!

9.A Happy Mommy Means a Happy Family

Yes, now that I am a mother and a wife, Alexis and Matt come first, however it is so important not to lose myself. A problem I have is letting go of some of my control with my daily life. Matt works hard, long hours so I do all Lexi stuff and the majority of the house stuff. Not good. I’ve discovered that I am so much more effective as the organizer of the family if I am not miserable. A palm to forehead moment, right? It’s one thing to know this and another to act on it. Take 20 minute showers (the drought is over), go for a run by yourself and if you really need it, run to San Diego with your best friend for the weekend. A cranky Mommy is a sluggish Mommy and a sluggish Mommy just can’t get done what needs to be done! So I’m OK with being selfish every once in a while, as long as my selfishness is kept in perspective and gratitude is shown for the selfish trips to San Diego (by the way Matt, thanks, for watching the baby this weekend!)

10.Communication Makes the World Go ‘Round

Talk! Converse! Contemplate! Check In! Again, something that is a work-in-progress in our household, but how are things supposed to get organized of everyone’s not on the same page? Matt travels a lot with work, it is a rare treat to have him home for a full week, and his schedule changes on a week by week basis. Floppy schedules make it difficult to organize outings as well as identify the things that need organizing. I’ve gotten in the habit of asking Matt what his next week looks like over the weekends and what the next day looks like every night. Tedious and repetitive? Yes. Effective? Most of the time! If I know the schedule in the beginning of the week, I know how many times that week I am going to need to cook dinner (poor Lexi is a hot dog and nugget girl when Daddy isn’t home) and how much sanity I will have left by the end of the week! We’ve been getting a lot better about letting each other know what’s going on with our schedules so that we can make sure we all get to spend some family time together during the week!

This post is part of a blogging contest from the TwitterMoms community. There is a chance this post could be randomly selected to win a $50 Target GiftCard, so wish me luck! For more details, you can view the contest page here (http://icomp.ly/IconApps).

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