Whether you’re always tripping over toys or carrying around a two-ton handbag, there’s always some hurdle a busy mom can’t seem to clear. Though you may believe that this is just your lot in life, it’s not. Take a moment to reset with these simple organization tips for common problems.
Your Home is Overrun by Toys
Lego has invaded every crevice of your couch. Navigating your stairs, and the trail of toys on them, puts you at risk of injury. Here are some simple ways to organize your home and reduce the toy clutter.
- Designate toy-free rooms. Bathrooms are a good place to start. Add non-child bedrooms, the kitchen, and any den or home office to the list. Implement the new house rules by sweeping all toys into kids rooms and the living room.
- Box up forgotten toys. Once the kids have gone to bed, fill a few boxes with their more neglected toys. Hide the boxes for a few months and if they don’t ask about the contents you’re safe to donate them.
- Create a playroom. Often toys are littered through a home because there is no designated play space. Turn a guest bedroom, basement, or open den into a playroom. Move all the toys into the new space leaving just books and favorite stuffed animals in bedrooms.
- Stick to favorites when buying new toys. Separating Duplo from Lego from Playmobil can eat up many afternoons. Ask your child to choose their favorite and start collecting just that brand. Your child can get their fix of their second tier favorites at their friend’s house.
- Allocate toy space for each child. You’ll never keep the toys at bay if they don’t all have a storage space. Give each child a chest or bin that they can easily put toys into themselves. Add time into your evening routine to put toys to ‘sleep’ for the night in their bins.
You’re Always Running Late
You’re constantly late and can’t remember the last time your kids arrived at school before the first bell. Here are ways to get you and your family back on track:
- Make a real schedule. People are horrible at estimating how long things take. Give yourself 30 minutes to pack up and get out of the house instead of five and estimate drive times in bad, not the best, traffic. Put your schedule where it works for you most: Blackberry, Google Calendar, small notebook, or day timer. It doesn’t matter what you use, it just matters that you use it.
- Create your exit path. If everyone enters through the garage, but your mud room or coat closet is in the front of the house, you have road blocks to getting out the door. Take an afternoon to put some hooks up and add a shoe bin where you really need them. This will reduce the time spent doubling back for forgotten items.
- Hang clothing in sets. Indecision over what to wear can steal your morning away. Instead of hanging shirts with shirts, group outfits together in your closet. A grab and dress system will save you time every day.
- Lighten your schedule. If you, and your kids, are constantly overbooked with after school activities and play dates, start saying no. Better to do fewer things and enjoy them.
- Pack the night before, not the morning of. Before the kids go to bed, get them to pack schoolbooks into bags and whatever is needed for the next day’s activities. Make lunches in the evening, and put any non-perishables like cereal and bread out for breakfast.
Your Purse is so Heavy it Needs Wheels
You bring everything with you and yet, you never seem to have what you need on hand. Here are ways to lighten the load and still be prepared:
- Pack for 95% of your life. Don’t pack for the what-ifs and extremes. Chances are, if your newborn needs more than two outfit changes, you’re heading home. Keep a minimum of what-if items like toiletries and clothing in your purse.
- Use pouches and small packing bags to stay organized. Even a few Ziplock bags can help keep your handbag organized. Keep all liquids packed together and papers in a small document folder.
- Create activity bags. In a small tote, or reusable bag, pack a few kits for your activities and store it near the door. Throw a few granola bars, a water bottle, and sun block in a bag for a long afternoon at the park.
- Offload your kids’ items to their own bags. As soon as they’re ready to wear or carry a small backpack, make use of it. Store small water bottles, sun hats, and toys in your kid’s bags – not yours.
- Edit what’s in your bag weekly. Stuff accumulates fast, like magazines, receipts, and children’s miscellany. Take five minutes once a week to empty your bag and remove the unneeded. Your sanity, and back, will thank you for it.
A Home-Cooked Meal Means Frozen Pizza at Your House
You have take-out menus bookmarked and sent your pizza delivery guy a card for his birthday. Your children actually complain about eating out. Here are ways to get organized for easy meal planning:
- Keep a list of go-to meals. It can be a note on your iPhone or written on the back of a receipt and tucked in your wallet. Find five meals that most of your family will eat and that have a small number of ingredients, like beans and rice, spaghetti, or grilled cheese with cut-up veggies and dip. Often it’s the stress of finding something everyone will like that leads to dialing for dinner.
- Take some shortcuts. Instant foods, like canned soup, can make a great base for a quick dinner. Add fresh vegetables to bulk them up, and cut your work in half. No time to chop vegetables? Buy them pre-cut in the produce section.
- Save experimenting for the weekend. Overly complicated and ingredient-heavy dishes are time and energy drains. Stick to recipes you know well and that you can put together in less than 30 minutes.
- Clean out the fridge. It might sound counter intuitive but having less in your refrigerator will help you see what’s there. You’ll actually use up leftovers instead of letting them mold, and you’ll have an easier time making shopping lists. Aim to be able to see the back of your refrigerator.
- Plan fewer meals. Plan for five nights of meals instead of seven. Save two nights a week for using up leftovers or an unexpected dinner out. And if you made it five nights in a row eating dinner at home, celebrate with some take-out. You deserve it!
You Can Never Find Anything
Your home is the Bermuda triangle. New shoes and keys slip into the ether, never to return. Here are some simple ways to find a place for everything and put everything in its place.
- Start today. Don’t focus on the murky depths of your closet just yet. Instead, start by putting that bill, the one that just arrived in the mail, on your desk to be paid later tonight when the kids are in bed. Commit to putting anything new entering your home in its intended slot, drawer, and cubby.
- Make room to get organized. If your home is packed to the gills, you’ll find it difficult to stay organized and know where things are. Pare down wardrobes and toy collections with a garage sale or by donating items. You’ll have an easier time finding your little black dress with an unstuffed closet.
- Create a catalogue. If you have large collections of sports equipment or decorations, create a spreadsheet of what you have and where it is. This will also give you a chance to consolidate items and sell or give away any duplicates. You can quickly check your spreadsheet the next time you need to find something.
- Find a visible home for things you use every day. Your keys should have a hook or resting spot they can call their own. Same with your sunglasses, umbrella, and purse. Find them a home, preferably near your front door, and you’ll never lose them again.
- Commit to de-cluttering one drawer or cupboard a week. Slowly chip away at any overstuffed drawers and put those two-year-old account statements where they belong. Any found cash or checks should be used to reward your hard work.