Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, April 2, 2010

Organizing Tips

Hi, and welcome to my blog for this week's 

Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner


I'm a busy mother of four (including three very active and involved-in-tons-of-stuff young boys), so organizing isn't a luxury for me- it's a must!

I'll keep it very simple, as I think good organization should be....simple
I rely on the following things to keep our home running as smoothly as possible
  • a color-coded family calendar
  • a reliable cleaning schedule
  • a simple weekly meal plan/menu
  • a willingness to purge, often and ruthlessly
  • easy storage for special items like love notes & pictures
  • designated places for keys, mail, toys, crafts, etc.

Our normal-sized (those ginormous ones always call out to me in the store, but I can never make them work!) calendar hangs in our main hallway from the kitchen to the garage so we can all catch a glimpse as we exit our home; each person is assigned a specific color to keep track of practices, music lessons, appointments and such...right now, we aren't yet in the thick of sports, so I can get by with simply writing an initial, but once practices and games are involved, I go right back to colors to keep everything straight.

A few years ago if you asked me what I'd be cleaning at 3:18 on a Tuesday afternoon, I would've been able to tell you exactly, without even hesitating!  Okay, so maybe I would have hesitated, but I had set up such a stringent routine for myself that I felt completely dictated by my cleaning expectations.  I grew resentful, and then I didn't enjoy making our home clean and healthy, which is the whole point!  

I decided to focus my attention cleaning and sanitizing the rooms we spend the most time in- kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms, and now that our children are older, they are responsible for certain cleaning tasks as well, which is such a huge help for me and a source of accomplishment for them!  (I try to heap on the praises to keep them motivated- their future wives will thank me, ha!)  I regularly clean and tidy up the other rooms in our home, but the occasional wayward couch pillow or left over toy don't send me into panic mode anymore.  I think deciding which spaces to really focus on helped me streamline effectively, so you have to decide for yourself what matters most in your home.

Maybe it's just me, but even something as simple as having the clothes baskets in my closet designated for darks and lights helps me considerably.  There is also a hamper in each child's room.

I use one blank 3x5 index card and write out breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for each day of the week, and then post the card on the fridge- this dictates my shopping list.  Easy peasy!  I even stick it over a pretty piece of 4x6 scrapbooking cardstock so it looks more appealing than a plain white index card.

School papers can be the death of me, seriously!  So Much Stuff!!!  Anything that doesn't get recycled immediately gets put in a folder, and special keepsakes in ziploc bags until we sort through them in summer.  (I keep a yearly manila folder with these keepsakes for each child.)  Papers like permission slips and such get sent back to school asap so they aren't laying around my kitchen (AFTER dates are written on the calendar of course).

As mentioned above, labeled manila envelops and folders work great for special items; before digital camera days, I relied on ziploc bags to store favorite pictures designated for memory books or scrapbooks- now of course I can simply keep them online, printing only what I need, and when.  I still haven't caught up with my albums, though- I'm a traditionalist at heart when it comes to "real" albums.  I also use labeled ziploc bags to keep the birthday letters I write my children each year- otherwise they end up tossed in some drawer, or worse, lost.  I promise, I haven't been endorsed by ziploc, but those bags are so versatile and AWESOME!

I limit the toys in my children's bedrooms (we have different play areas elsewhere in the house), so it's much easier for them to be responsible for their own things.  Well, that was the plan...ha!  For the most part, they do a great job, but it can be such a slippery slope when I let things slide (totally unintended pun!).  We also have a garage sale corner set up in the basement where we put retired toys, and I give too small clothes to friends and neighbors on a continuing basis.  I even make a little cash selling some of Isabelle's things on eBay once every season.  I'm even getting better at not running right out and "refilling" the empty closet spaces and cubby holes, which also makes it easier to stay organized.  Since we live in an area with varying seasons, we use large plastic bins to store seasonal clothes.  Let me tell you I am just itching to drag out those summer boxes, but we could still see snow in the next few weeks!  I hear we're in for a lovely Easter weekend, though!!!!!

The one thing I can't master?  LIBRARY BOOKS!  I'm not kidding you!  I've tried using baskets, keeping the books in each child's room, designating a spot for them in the upstairs hallway...nothing works!  They float around the house, get lost under couches and slip down beside the beds, argh!  All in all, I guess I prefer that they're reading, but still...    :)

Lastly, I try to keep like-minded things together.  We have a great desk/hutch that houses stamps, address labels, an assortment of thank you, birthday, get well, etc. cards, and envelopes on the top, and arts and crafts on the lower half.  I also use a sofa table in my kitchen because its slender size fits perfectly in the somewhat cramped space- it's a fantastic message center!  We have a small, decorative metal "pocket" in our busy hallway which holds the mail and circulars- then bills go straight to our desk caddy; junk goes into the recycling, and invitations and such get marked on the calendar immediately so I can recycle them- it saves tons of space!  Our keys get hung in this hallway as well since it was the most logical place to keep track of them.  And what doesn't "belong" always looks nicer in a pretty bowl!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I'm looking forward to reading about organizational tips from other readers so I can get even more ideas!

Have a blessed Good Friday
& a wonderful Easter!


Tina said...

I love your hutch. It's beautiful!
We're in Czech Republic, but moving to a suburb of Madrid, Spain in a couple of months!!
Where did you live in Spain?
We also have a beautiful dark-skinned beauty that we adopted in Czech Republic (she's Roma)! =)
Glad to find your blog!

Let'sMakeADifference said...

Just 'found' your blog! You have some great tips and a beautiful family!

Sarah @ Picture Window said...

Hi- you left a comment on my blog yesterday. I'm happy to have found a fellow New Englander's blog to follow! We are in MA but I grew up in the seacoast NH area. I saw a mention of Portsmouth (one of my favorite places) in one of your other posts :).

You have great organization tips, and I'm sure you need them as a mom of four!

Erika said...

What great tips, Bethany! I am all about organization and am always on the lookout for new ideas! Thanks for taking the time to write this down for us!

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

Love your tips...Have gotten so many good ideas from this SHOW ME..

Hope you will stop by and leave a comment....On Sunday night I will be drawing for

Marcia said...

Great ideas! I swear the school work will be the death of me. I recycle a lot of it too and keep the special things. I hope the boys appreciate it someday. We should talk about scrapbooking sometime soon, I'm forever behind, but have some great organization tips for that if you're interested!

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