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Ask The Green Mama: How to get my home and family organized

Dear Green Mama,

Help! My house looks like someone dumped their Sally Ann [Salvation Army for you Americans] donations and strew them around our house. I remember you’ve posted some tips before on getting organized, will you please post them again. Any other tips for starting the new year off with a bit more organization?

Thank you!

Fran (frazzled by the festivities)

Dear Fran:

I feel your pain. I may write the articles, but this is still an area where I am improving.

Here are a few tips to help:

1. Read this blog on 8 Steps to Getting Organized and this one on Clutter.

2. Consider hiring a professional organizer. Seriously. I know this might sound crazy, but I (who am quite resistant to paying money for anything I think I can just do myself) have done this and it has changed my life for the better.  The professional organizer taught me the process of getting organized, helped me learn the power of containers, and then simply taught me a few tips that have helped. (Such as labeling electronic cords, do the things you can do in less than two minutes immediately, and using a clear, door-mounted shoe organizer to hold those labelled electronic cords and other small tech items.) Go to the National Association of Professional Organizers easy search page to find a professional organizer near you.

3. Create a schedule. I just started doing this and I wish somebody would have told me how much easier life would feel once I had done it. (Well, maybe they had, but I still resisted.) I have created a schedule for what meals we have on what days (at least for dinner and a “rhythm” for breakfast). Monday is stew night. Tuesday is Tacos. Wednesday is pasta. Thursday is dahl.  It goes on and on…. but this way I actually can think ahead when I am at the grocery store over the weekend and I don’t forget to take the pre-soaked beans out of the freezer on Monday. Add this tip to making big batches of pancake/waffle batter over the weekend and the stress of cooking has gone down. I also have a schedule for the kids school transportation and next is a cleaning schedule. (Most organizers would put that last one first.)

4. Do less. Every professional organizer I know has gotten to a point in her (or his) career where they realized the key to being less cluttered was having less STUFF and less on the mind. Clutter is immobilizing and that includes the clutter of too many choices and too many activities. If you can do one thing for yourself this year, I suggest you give up doing one activity and help every member of your family do the same. You can spend the extra time being together as a family and finally tackling that disorganized craft cupboard.

5. Consider the Holiday Box. You can read more about this here, but in short: create a box where all of your most special holiday treasures live: ornaments, lights, special toys and momentos, candles, holiday-themed books. Then, put everything back in the box either on boxing day, epiphany, or some other prearranged time.