Practical Tips for Organization
As mothers of preschoolers, we live in a constant state of flux. You can spend the morning cleaning one room, only to walk into another to discover your precious child has rendered it unlivable. You may ask yourself, how can I maintain any kind of order when I have tiny hands undoing everything I put in place? The answer to that is to establish routines. For the more free spirited among you, that answer may cause you to inwardly groan. Routines are commonplace tasks, chores, or duties that are done regularly or at specified intervals. You can have a routine for just about anything.
Routines are essential to maintaining organization. Look at routines as tools to organizational success instead of something you have to endure. Establish the routines that work for you and your family in your home. Below I will give you some ideas about what routines may help you maintain organization, but you will need to try them and tweak them to fit your lifestyle.
Routines Tip #1: A Day for That
One routine is to do certain tasks on certain days. For example, I have a “sheets day.” Every Wednesday I change the sheets on my bed. In the morning instead of making my bed, I strip it and immediately remake it with fresh sheets. Then I toss the soiled linens in the washer starting the process of making them ready for the next Wednesday. Before I established this routine, I could not have told how long my bed went with the same set of sheets. I would never remember to do this 5 minute task. But I like having clean sheets on my bed. Now that I have a routine, it is a gift I give to myself each week.
You could set up a day for each room in your house. Use Mondays to declutter and clean the kitchen. Tuesdays for the bathrooms. Or maybe you need a day to clean out your vehicle. You decide. If you do this consistently, you will see results. Weekly or monthly, having “A Day for That” could revolutionize your life and help you maintain order. And remember that “A Day for That” doesn’t mean it will take all day. My “Sheets Day” takes 5 minutes or less. It is the weekly reminder that it is Wednesday that makes the difference.
Flylady has a similar system that she calls “Zones.” If you would like more information about the zone routine and teaching it to your kids, visit her website (zones for kids).
Routines Tip #2: Do It Now
I read an article this week about starting a running program. The coach was quoted as saying that the hardest part about running is not running the long miles. It is getting out the front door. I think that concept is true in a lot of areas of life. Getting started is hard.
One routine that you can establish to combat this is “Do It Now.” This applies in many situations. For example, instead of leaving the dishes for later, do them right after you finish a meal. Taking 5 or 10 minutes right now will save you time later. Put those dishes in the dishwasher, wash those pots and pans, and wash off the table. That mess won’t be staring you in the face the next time you walk in the room.
The bottom line is, whenever you can, don’t leave for later what can be done right now with a little effort. As a MOPS mom, I know you can’t always do it now. There are babies to feed, toddlers to change, and preschooler emergencies that need your attention without delay. However, we can be very tempted to adopt the attitude that “it“ can be done later. The problem with later is that it, like interest, compounds exponentially. A couple of “laters” will turn what was once a manageable mess into unmanageable chaos. Do it now and reduce your stress level.
Routines Tip #3: Make It a Family Affair
One mistake that moms make is to shoulder that burden of household organization alone. You, mom, are not the only person who lives in your house. You need to teach your children to follow a routine as well. It may or may not surprise you but young children love order and routines. They like to know what to expect next. You probably have witnessed this when you disrupted their day with something unusual. An unexpected shopping trip near meal time or nap time has triggered many meltdowns in the average 2 year old. Start now and give your preschoolers some responsibility in the daily routine of cleaning up after themselves and putting things away. Here are some ideas on how kids can participate:
- Put dishes in the dishwasher immediately after a meal.
- Put their dirty clothes in a hamper in their room when they change clothes (even if you still have to help them get dressed).
- Pick up and put away their toys. (Do at regular intervals throughout the day.)
- Help make their beds every morning. (Older kids can do this alone.)
Routines Tip #4: While I’m in there…
Simply being in a room can be the trigger to a new set of routines.
Practical Idea: Swish and Swipe – Flylady has a daily routine she calls the “Swish and Swipe.” Essentially she takes 1 minute when she is in the bathroom getting ready for the day to swish her toilet with a toilet brush and swipe the mirror, sink, and counters. She keeps her cleaning supplies right in her bathroom. One minute a keeps her bathroom clean.
Practical Idea: Bath Time Bathroom Rescue – If your kids are at the age when they can sit up in the bathtub but cannot be left unattended, this idea is for you. My kids have always loved bath time and want to play in the bath. This, of course, takes time. Time I could be doing something else. So I started using my time wisely. I use it to clean or organize my bathroom. I am still supervising bath time but I also wipe down the counters and sink. I scrub the toilet. I reorganize the cabinet if needed. I can even use a Mr. Clean Magic eraser or sponge to scrub the tub. Just use the soapy water already in there with the kid. No special cleaning solution needed.
Practical Idea: Lunch with a Book – Confession time: I find lunch time with preschoolers to be a little boring. They are not usually brilliant conversationalists and my kids are slow eaters. So I started getting audio books from the public library. We listen to a book during lunch time. My kids think this is great. We don’t listen to a whole book (unless it is short) but we can get in a chapter or two. I usually finish eating before them. Now I have some time in the kitchen while the kids are occupied. What to do? Start planning dinner. Get out anything that needs to thaw. Line up your non-perishable foods on the counter for later. Find the pans you need. Clean up the kitchen and remove any clutter. This makes supper preparation that much easier and avoids the 4:30pm what-to-have-for-supper panic.