Staying organized

If you come into my house right now, you might not think I’m organized.  My house isn’t spotless.  I don’t have everything labeled and in its place.  I have small piles of toys strewn about.  I have a stack of papers to go through on my kitchen counter.  I won’t even tell you about my office.  It’s beyond description.  Beyond.  However, under the surface, I am organized.

I’m not so great at physical organization (as my husband who is good at it will gladly attest), but I’m good at what I call mental organization.  It makes me happy.  It keeps me on track and helps me ensure a few small things like my family has clean clothes and food to eat.  I’m not an organizational genius.  I’m not a guru, but I do know what works for me and I thought I might share in case it could help someone somewhere.

I use a binder clip to mark the date so I can easily flip right to it. I also store a pencil in the spiral to have with the notebook at all times.

Old school notebook. Before I had my daughter, I used Outlook to organize my life.  Each day had appointments and tasks set for what I needed to do.  Sometimes I’d use a small white board in my office to write other miscellaneous to-do items.  Nowadays, I’m not at my desk in my office all day any more.  I’m all throughout the house.  So, I use a small notebook.  I’ve gone old school and it works great. I suppose I could use a planner, but I’ve not found one that is exactly what I want.  The top of each page gets the date and day of the week (I usually fill in the dates at the beginning of each month).  Saturdays, Sundays and holidays get half pages.  Then I list everything that I need to do that day.  And I mean everything.  I have work stuff on there, personal stuff, everything.  I write down what laundry needs doing, when I’m bathing the kiddo, who I need to call, what bills I need to pay — everything.  It keeps me sane.  I love my notebook.  My life is filled with more distractions than ever before.  Having everything written down keeps me on track so I can remember what I need to get done each day.

Laundry. I have one child and know the amount of laundry that our family goes through.  I can only imagine how that multiples and multiples with more children.  I don’t know if my system would work with even more laundry, but it works for us for now.  I have a laundry schedule.  My grandma comes from the mindset that all laundry should be done on Monday to be followed by all ironing on Tuesday.  She has stuck to that schedule for longer than I’ve been alive.  That doesn’t work for me.  If I were determined to do all laundry in one day, I’d probably be up until at least midnight doing so, because I get interrupted — a lot.  There is work, a toddler, cooking, a toddler, eating, a toddler…you get the point.  And as far ironing, I laugh in its face.  My version ironing is buying washer friendly fabrics and hanging them up still damp straight out of the dryer.  This happened way before my daughter was born.  In fact, when we moved into our house eight years ago, our iron got broken.  I realized this fact at least three years later.

So, I schedule laundry by load per day.  And to remind myself, I put it in my notebook for the day’s list.  On Monday, I wash towels.  Tuesday is the kiddo’s stuff.  Wednesday is darks.  Thursday is whites as needed (read: every other week).  It keeps me sane.  And it keeps me from doing last minute laundry at night because my husband tells me he is out of shirts for work.  That kind of stuff.  It used to stress me out when I was doing laundry as needed.  Having a schedule keeps me happy and sane.  Of course sometimes life gets in the way and it changes up a bit, but mostly this is what I follow.

The meal plan calendar on my fridge. New recipes currently on the schedule are clipped behind it.

Menu planning. Another stress for me is what to make for dinner.  I don’t mind cooking so much as I hate trying to decide what to make.  About a year ago when Lexiana was really starting to eat whatever we ate, I got into menu planning.  It has saved my sanity and my grocery budget.  It’s a pain in the backside sometimes, but it makes me so happy.  I plan major grocery shopping trips about every two weeks.  That’s when I do my menu.  Some people do a month at a time.  I find that two weeks at a time works better for me, especially because there are times when maybe we end up eating out with family or something and I have meal ingredients left to use in the next cycle.  I do a bit of rummaging through my kitchen before planning to see what I already have on hand.

I use Google calendar (love!) and share it with my husband so he can see what’s planned.  I just put in things like “Tacos at 5 p.m.”  I schedule dinners out.  I plan new recipes to try.  Then I rummage through my kitchen and see what ingredients I have and what I need to get.  I then make my grocery list from there.  I try to plan fresher foods first and foods with a longer shelf life later.  I usually have to go to the store in between big shopping trips for perishables like milk, bread and fresh fruit, so I can buy any other needed ingredients at that time.

When my schedule is made, I then print it and clip it to the side of the fridge with a magnet clip.  If we are trying some new recipes on the schedule, then I clip those behind the calendar so they are together and easy to find when I need them.  And that’s it.  It’s pretty simple, but it’s made my life so much happier.

My grocery list from the last big shopping trip I did around the first of November.

Grocery shopping. I explained a little bit about this above, but it warranted its own bullet point.  I am an organized grocery shopper.  First, I love coupons.  I’m not an extreme coupon-er like on that TLC show (though it inspires me to do things like ask my mom to save out her coupons for me), but I do love my coupons.  I have them neatly clipped and organized and sort our expired ones regularly.  When I’ve made my list of items needed for our menu, I then peruse my coupon book and find coupons for needed items and those that are about to expire that I want to use.  Sometimes I do this before I make the menu as well to incorporate things to eat that I have great coupons for.

Second, I save my grocery list on my computer.  It’s organized by category by the layout of the store.  For some reason, I shop backwards from my list.  I start with the end of it and then work my way up.  I keep the list in two columns so that I can easily fold it in half and attach whatever coupons I’m using with a paper clip. Then if the coupons come loose, they go into the folded paper and not to the floor.  On my list, I note what I have coupons for with an asterisk and an amount.  That way if it’s an item that I like the store brand for as well I can determine whether the name brand item and coupon is a better deal than the store brand.  Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t.

Spreadsheets. I truly love spreadsheets.  I use them for all kinds of things.  Right now I have a spreadsheet for our expenses (aka check register), our budget, my weight (I’m at 11.2 pounds down!) and mailing addresses for family and friends.  I have a spreadsheet mapping out our Christmas gift budget and gift ideas.  I have used spreadsheets to organize my to-do lists and upcoming tasks for planning birthday parties and more.  Even better is that you can use Google Doc’s spreadsheets and share with other people who are collaborating on a project with you.  I can’t imagine my life without spreadsheets — and that’s coming from someone who is numbers challenged.  I use formulas so that I don’t have to do some math like figuring out how much weight I lost from one week to the next and how much weight I’ve lost overall.  Spreadsheet formulas also automatically deduct entries in my expense log so I know how much money is left in my checking account.  Ahhhh.  They make me very, very happy.

Clothes sorting. While my closet doesn’t necessarily look like it’s the epitome of organization, it is organized as well.  I have long sleeves in one area, short sleeves in another, dresses in another and so on.  When I’m hanging up laundry out of the dryer, I separate it by person and by type.  My husband keeps dress shirts for work on one side of his closets and T-shirts on the other.  I separate the two to make putting them away quicker and easier.  I do the same with my clothes. In fact, sometimes, my helpful husband will hang up the laundry and I’ll get irritated that it’s not organized this way.  (Sorry, honey.)  It just makes sense to me and keeps me on target.  I’ve organized the kiddo’s clothes as well.  Her drawers are organized by long and short sleeves.  Her pajamas are the same.  I keep outfits folded together so I don’t have to rummage through her drawers to find the cute pants that match the shirt I’ve pulled out.  Again, I’m a bit anal about this and not necessarily a fan of letting others help me with this because they don’t know my system.

Our garage shelf to hold extra items has made me insanely happy.

Bulk items. I’m not a super bulk shopper.  We don’t have any mega stores around us like Sam’s Club or Cosco (we’d have to drive 60 miles to get to them), but sometimes it just makes sense to buy more items when they are on sale or that I know we’ll use before I go back to the store in two weeks, but I just don’t have room for them in the house.  Insert a shelving unit in the garage.  This is new to our family and I love it.  We just organized and cleaned out our garage a couple of months ago.  Previously it was chaos out there thanks to packed boxes and fray from when we thought we were moving.  Now the shelf is great for me to store things like extra paper towels, dog food, toilet paper, canned goods, tissues, soda, bottled water and even cereal.  I group food items and paper items together.  Shelves like this make me immensely happy.

What are some of your best organization tips?

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