Hello, readers of Bona Vita! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Kathy's oldest daughter, Emily, and the author of another blog The Orange Slate.
I write a lot about simplicity and organization, two things that affect everyone, from the busy working young professional to the equally busy stay-at-home-mom.
The coming of the New Year gives us all a chance to re-evaluate our time management, to set new goals, and to tackle our beautifying, organizing, and simplifying projects with renewed energy.
I have been talking a lot about organizing on my own blog and when Mom asked me if I had some tips to share with her readers, I jumped at the chance! I truly think people who live simpler, more organized lives are happier and more successful and I love encouraging others towards happier, more organized lives.
So for this first real back-at-the-grind day of 2014, here are 10 tips to help you begin a more organized year.
1. Use a physical planner or calendar. Digital calendars are great supplements and provide a wonderful way to communicate among family members, but to do the real work of planning, you need physical paper. I promise you. (I'm currently giving away a printable planner over at The Orange Slate, so head over there if you still need the perfect planner!)
2. Spend 20 minutes every Saturday or Sunday planning the coming week. Yes, things will happen that are entirely out of your control or ability to predict. Having some kind of framework and being mentally prepared for the week ahead will still help you be more effective and will help you get back on track more quickly when the plan falls apart.
3. Have a few clear goals for yourself each week. I'm not talking about grocery lists, honey-dos, or the scheduled events. If your goal is to finish reading Jane Eyre, then it has to find a place into your weekly calendar or it will never happen. No matter how busy you are, commit to a few, small, unscheduled personal goals each week and note them down in your weekly plan. The feeling of accomplishment will boost your mood when the soccer schedule comes crashing down.
4. Give your children a few clear goals for each week (or day). My mom is a huge believer in clear goals and has talked about her book lists at length on this blog. Children (just like adults) are enormously motivated by clear goals and rewards. So help your children set some goals for themselves early in the week (100 pages a day by Friday, 3 math lessons in before the weekly Co-op, etc). You and they will be satisfied and less overwhelmed by the week knowing what is expected by the coming weekend.
5.Plan your meals. This is on my 2014 bucket list. Confession: I've never done this. Mark and I winged our way through the married part of 2013 cooking a lot and eating well. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure an unnecessary amount of food went to waste and there were definitely a couple of those "Um, I didn't thaw anything. Let's go out to dinner!" moments. I think we could have more effectively managed my time and our food budget with just a little bit of planning. So this year, I'm going to put a few minutes each week into planning our meals so that I know exactly what to buy when I'm at the store.
6. Stop being a perfectionist. This is a big one. And it's important. Seriously, just give it up. You're stressing yourself (and probably everyone in your family) out by being a perfectionist. Your house does not have to be perfect before you let anyone in the front door. Your meal does not have to look like it fell out of Bon Appetit. The extra rant you went on right before the Smiths came over did not make the house cleaner and probably made your children a lot less happy. I promise you that no one cares as much as you do. Practice letting one really really important thing not be perfect every week until this becomes a habit.
7. Set semester, monthly, and weekly goals. Spend a couple of hours sometime this week or next laying out a framework for yourself and each child for the spring semester. Having a map will help remind you of the big picture. When the math lessons slip behind, when someone gets sick, or when life and school just become overwhelming, having a larger framework will help everyone stay on track.
8. Create a structure that everyone can depend on. Come up with a loose family framework ("We all eat together on Wednesday nights, no matter what;" "Thursdays are frozen pizza days; etc.") and then let your children and husband depend on that structure. Everyone will be better planners if everyone knows what the expectations are.
For instance, last fall, Mark and I each had separate church commitments Tuesday and Thursday. The combination of that and our work schedules meant that we didn't see each other until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and only briefly passed each other early in the evening on Thursdays. So on Thursdays, I made something that was easy for both of us to grab whenever we were hungry (pasta salad or some variation thereof) and didn't cook at all on Tuesdays. I was relieved from the pressure of preparing and timing a meal that neither one of us had time to eat and we both felt free to plan our evenings separately, knowing that we'd spend time together in the middle of the week.
Bonus: your kids will be able to be more independent. If the expectations and structure for the week are constantly changing, everyone will be less effective and will eventually get caught up in a cycle of constantly double-checking to make sure everyone is on the same page. Help your children become organized, effective adults by giving them a structure and then giving them some independence.
9. Throw lots of stuff away. Spend 30 minutes every week during January getting rid of stuff. If no one has worn it, played with it, or used it in a year, you don't need to keep it. Put it in a trashbag and throw it out. Better yet, take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. A home that is free of clutter is a less frantic, more organized home. Stop cleaning and moving all of that stuff that no one is using and just get rid of it.
10. Relax. This is not a race. Leave some unstructured time in your day and week. Spend time cuddling with your kids on the couch. Let them read books they want to read. They do not need to know three languages before 9th grade. They do need to know that their mom loves them, that mistakes are ok, that the entire world does not come crashing down because they forgot to do an assignment.
Thanks for letting me spend some time over here! Hopefully these tips will help all of you start 2014 effectively and happily.
~Emily from The Orange Slate