I have slowly become one of those people: an early riser. My alarm typically goes off at 5:00 am. It’s not because I enjoy getting up early. Because it’s not that. It’s because I need to have some me time before my day begins, which is in short supply the remainder of the day. Other than my drive from school to work and back again (during which time I try to check in with my parents), I am around people basically until I go to bed at night. As an outgoing introvert that needs to recharge frequently, I love having that hour in the morning during the week that I can use for just me.
As we are getting past Halloween, we are officially entering the holiday season. How many things are on there? Is there any time for you? Is there any time for your kid to just play? Just relax? If you’re a parent, you may not even think about the fact that your kid may be an introvert and need some down time. They are constantly on the go from one activity to another, just like us. It’s time to give everyone a break.
Here’s my challenge to you. Take a look at your calendar and find the next completely open weekend. And then mark it as a slow weekend. The entire thing. Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday. Do not add another thing to it. At all. No plans, no errands, no rushing. Do not plan any events before the day. Ask yourself how you see the day going and what your perfect day would look like. Ask your kids that morning what they want to do if they could do anything that day.
I understand that you may still need to do some grocery shopping or meal prepping for the week. Or that you may need to run a few loads of laundry. But resist the urge to stop by the dry cleaners on your way home from the park. Don’t run to Walmart for some batteries. Don’t tackle any home improvement projects (unless your whole family loves doing them together!). Give yourself and your family a weekend to just be together and enjoy a slow weekend of doing nothing. You all may enjoy it more than you think. It may become a new routine.
If you spend any amount of time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen these Ikea/Target carts being pinned left and right, used in every room of the house in a variety of ways: art station, sports equipment, doll storage, book case, shoe rack, baking cart. The versatility of this cart makes it a must have in my home!
In the year I’ve had mine, it started a changing table side (with diapers and wipes, burp clothes, extra diapers) and now it’s been moved to our basement to be a toddler command center for those lazy moments when you don’t want to go upstairs to get a diaper.
I’ve previously talked about the importance of keeping up. I mentioned how a couple of minutes every night doing a quick pick up of the house (before it gets too overwhelming) means saving an hour of cleaning on the weekend. I spend just a couple of minutes getting everything ready for the next day: getting out anything I can for breakfast, ensuring the dishes are all put away, moving any bags to our landing zone, and putting away any paper or toys left around.
Another one minute task I do before going to sleep is to check out tomorrow’s calendar to make sure I’ve got everything I need for the day. My kid has show-and-tell every Friday, usually with a different theme. We came thisclose to missing it this week, but one final peek at 9:00 pm reminded me that we needed to find something orange.
I like to do the same thing at the end of my work day: take a look at tomorrow’s calendar, put together a quick to-do list, make sure my desk is orderly before leaving. Having everything in its place makes a calmer start to my day, especially on a Monday!
That’s really what this 10 minutes of your day is all about: getting you in a calmer, more peaceful mindset to make your day run smoother and your life more organized.
When my amazing mother-in-law (and site proofreader!) recently came for a visit, I saw something new: some colored tape on the spine of her library book with a date on it. Though it was the arrival date for a intralibrary request, I would use this idea and put the due date on there. Remember when there were conveniently placed stamps inside the books and you didn’t have to look at your app to figure out what books to renew or return? (Or what ones are from the library if you have kids with lots of books!) This makes it even easier – you don’t even have to open the book!
I would love to tell you that you can simply just organize your house once and that it will magically stay that way. But that would be a lie. My organizing motto has 3 steps: reduce, arrange, maintain. First, you need to get rid of some stuff. Second, you need to organize it. Third, and most important, you need methods and tips to help you keep it organized.
If you haven’t been organized in a while, you will have to do all three steps, which is always going to be daunting and feel crushing. If you need to tweak an area of your house that was previously organized, you will have to do only the last two, which is definitely achievable. If you have a system in place already, you will only have to maintain. And that is the easiest of all.
When working with clients, I focus on all three parts and I love to give them little tips and tricks to make it easier to maintain with a quick pick up. That five minutes every night means saving an hour on the weekend. Time I’d rather be spending with my family. Time I’d rather be spending with my friends. Time I’d rather be relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine.
Every time I leave a room, I glance around to see if there is anything that needs to go with me. Every night before bed, I walk around the house and get everything put away from the night and set up for the morning. It feels never ending. However, I never feel overwhelmed by my house and I can always find exactly what I need when I need it.
Let’s be real: it’s hard work. At the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is pick up a bunch of toys or wash dishes, but I do it anyways. Because organizing is an ongoing process and it’s always easier to keep up than it is to catch up.
I recently got motivated to do a little pantry clean up. I used the same technique I discussed in my recent kitchen decluttering post – taking everything out, dividing into frequency of use, then putting the most used items close at hand. Moving some stuff around and spending less than $15 made a huge difference on how my pantry functions. I can now find items right away. Everything is very nicely labeled (due to the fact this was the day after I got my recent label maker). You can check out the before, during, and after in my Instagram Highlights.
I used to have some shelf risers in here for my cans, but some items were still getting lost in the back. I still love shelf risers, as you can tell by the 3rd shelf (as well as my posts here, here, and here) but they were not cutting it in my pantry for the cans. So I got a tiered rack to help keep those cans in check. From the moment I put it in and added cans, I knew it was the best decision of the day!
The other thing that became obvious to me: I don’t bake much anymore. Back in the day, I was a baker – any excuse to make a cake or cookies! I had sprinkles, cute cookie cutters, 20 pound bags of flour. As I decluttered my own kitchen, I realized that it had been YEARS since I had used many of these items.
I may need to repurchase some items when I get back into baking as the kid gets a little older and is able to help. But for now, I’d rather enjoy the extra space in my home.
When it comes to my organization style, I have a pretty simple philosophy: reduce, arrange, maintain. The first step is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. Start by taking everything out of the area that you are working on. Every. Single. Thing. (I like to take this opportunity to clean off the surface since it’s one of the few occasions that everything is off there!) Grouping things is a great way to see what you have. If you’re doing a kitchen, group by type of dish. If you’re doing a linen closet, group by use of item (shaving, hair, hand towels, etc) Take a look at each item and determine its fate:
- Do I really need or want it?
- Do I even like it?
- Have I used this in the last year?
- Would I buy it today? If it broke, would I immediately replace it?
- Is this a quality item?
- Would I keep it if it were originally free?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if I got rid of it?
- Am I only keeping it “in case” I need it someday? (Think about if you can borrow one or buy a new one in 20 minutes for under $20)
- Is it a duplicate?
- Is this the best place for it?
- When will I use it again? And will I remember I have it?
Next, you need to arrange how everything is going to go back into the space. I group everything by putting like with like. In my kitchen, my most often used utensils are grouped together in a drawer. In the playroom, the kid’s favorite books are grouped in the bookcase. In my linen closet, all of our teeth stuff is in one bin. This makes it easy to see what you have, what you’re low on, and what you don’t use!
The last step is sometimes the hardest one and that is the maintain part. You need to have a system in place in order to keep the organization. Labels are obviously a great way to ensure that everyone in your home knows exactly where things need to go. When I first bought our three hampers for our ‘new’ laundry system of sorting while putting dirty clothes away, I put 3×5 index cards on each one so everyone knew which was for towels, darks, and whites. It looked silly and completely unprofessional, but guess what? It worked. When the cat destroyed two of the cards about a month in, I didn’t even need to replace them because everyone had a routine and habit of knowing which item when into which basket.
What’s great about this system is that sometimes you don’t need to do all three of them at the same time. You can do it piecemeal. If you have recently gone through all of your under-sink items, think about whether you could group them better for easier access. If you just redid your pantry, think about why it constantly falls to chaos and what type of maintenance it might take to keep it looking the way you want. Take a look around your house and see if there are any areas that could use some reducing, arranging, and maintaining.
We have a relatively small house under 1,500 square feet. A perfect little starter house. But as our toddler has started moving around, we realized that having an extra space for her to run around would be a great addition, especially during those cold Champaign-Urbana winter months! Since we have a full, unfinished basement, we have been slowly and cheaply setting it up as an extra play area/office space/guest room – basically an extension of our 3rd bedroom upstairs!
After this winter, we will likely evaluate to see if we will spend enough time downstairs to necessitate a little more “finishing.” This is our (unpatented) way to try something out without having to invest a lot of money upfront. We are doing a similar thing in our backyard during the summer months. If it turns out we spend a lot of time in either area, we may consider investing some money. If not, then we will be glad we didn’t spend thousands of dollars on an unused space!
Back to the basement: there are basically four quadrants in the basement: play area (seen above), Organizing CU area (desk, supplies, etc), an extra bed and nightstands, and the storage area. The play area was, of course, the easiest to set up since there are always so many extra toys around the house. We had gotten the mats from a neighbor and they are a great addition to the concrete floors. The paint by the bed (not seen) was leftover from an earlier project. The couch was a remnant from merging households. I did splurge on a $7 desk for my office area (thank you Facebook Marketplace!).
Considering the amount of times our kid will go to the top of the stairs and shake the gate, I think the (slightly more) finished basement is a hit.
Planning your meals will save you time by cutting down on the grocery trips and mental energy as to what you’re having for dinner. Now that we have a little one and I have Organizing CU, which includes adult things like business meetings and organizing sessions, weeknights can get busy in our house. Every Thursday night, my husband and I go through our upcoming schedules and discuss what is going on over the weekend and following week (such as date nights, guests, tailgating) as we decide how many meals we need to plan.
To make it easier, we have the same basic routine for our meals: brunch on Sunday morning, a bigger Sunday dinner, two simple meals during the week, and leftovers in between. He digs through the recipes and chooses some options. I keep notes in the upper corner of my recipes that let him know if it’s a weekend, weekday, or Crock Pot recipe so he can choose accordingly.
After picking the recipes, I check the pantry and make my grocery lists. My husband and I divide and conquer: he gets anything from the Co-Op in Urbana after work on Fridays while I will hit the regular grocery store for everything else whenever my schedule allows.
Sunday mornings are usually reserved for cooking. In addition to prepping my two Sunday meals, I also take care of my lunches and the breakfasts for my husband and daughter: an 8×10 baked egg dish with a variety of ingredients (broccoli and goat cheese; mozzarella and tomato; green chiles and cheddar). Each weekday morning, they get a hot, home cooked meal that I only have to heat up during the busy morning.
Meal prepping takes some time and effort when you first get into it. But eventually, you reach the spot where you’re not worrying about dinner at 3 pm and you have something simple ready to go. If your family likes leftovers, maybe you only cook two meals a week, but double it and freeze half for later. Maybe you end up with a themed week: Meatless Monday, Italian Tuesdays, Pizza Fridays. But I’ve found that a basic routine and some organization and preparation will make your entire menu much easier.