Yeah, it gets hectic sometimes.  You work.  Your spouse works.  Meals have to be cooked.  Errands have to be run.  The kids need help with homework, have extra-curricular activities to be taken to and they still want you to take them to the water park.  As if that’s not enough, you still want to get to the gym, get that continuing education in and have some me time.  Oh, and you still need to get a decent night’s sleep in, right?

Sound familiar at all?  Chances are, you’ve seen yourself in there at least once if not multiple times.  Modern life is anything but slow and steady.  About the only thing you can predict is that it will be unpredictable.  It’s no wonder that so many of us are throwing up our hands in surrender and saying they just can’t get everything done that needs to be done in the course of a week, let alone get the entire family working together on the same page.  But take heart, it can be done.  I’m not going to blow smoke and use mirrors.  It takes some effort.  But once you have a few simple systems in place and the habits to go along with them, you’ll be amazed at how much clutter and chaos you can cut out of your family life in exchange for manageable order.  So, let me share with you a few tools and tips you can use to bring more sanity to your household.

First, set aside time for a family meeting.  This is an important first step.  In order for this process to work everyone must be on the same page and all members of the family need to feel that their opinion matters and that they are not being left out of the decision process.  A great time to do this would be after dinner while everyone is at the table or you could even schedule another time that centers around food or some other fun activity.  The idea is to make it a positive setting and not a drudgery.  At that meeting you will decide everything else that follows in this article.

Set family goals.  There has to be a buy-in for every family member.  In other words, what am I going to get out of this?  Once you identify the benefits to each person then they have a greater reason for joining in.  For instance, will you be able to entertain more because the house is neat and therefore not an embarrassment to potential guests?  Will meals be more satisfying and easier to prepare when everyone pitches in and gets what they want to eat?  Will confusion be cut down and the aggravation that comes along with it?  Will there be more peace in the home and thus more happy times?  These are powerful incentives to getting family members onboard with the program!

Schedule time to declutter.  Schedule a date for everyone to pitch in and help declutter.  I suggest you pick one room for each day, then another and another until you work your way through the home.  Here are a few tips for decluttering on the days that you schedule it to be done:

  1. Set up sort bins with the following labels: Keep, Toss, Donate and Sell.  If you’ve used it in the last year and will use it again in the next year, keep it.  If you no longer have a use for it but someone else could, either donate or sell it.  If you haven’t used it in the last year and it’s of no use to anyone else, that’s a definite toss.
  2. Work in a clockwise fashion. Pick a point anywhere in the room to be 12 O’clock and, starting from there, work your way around the room until you end up where you began, at 12 O’clock.  When you do it this way you can see your progress and be spurred on.  It also makes sure you cover every area and you don’t feel like you’re working in an unproductive, willy-nilly fashion.
  3. Act like you’re moving. If you had to suddenly move across country tomorrow and you had to fit all your belongings into a single mini van, what would you absolutely take and what would get left behind?  This question can help you when you’re teetering on the edge of should it stay or should it go.

Set up your family calendar.  This will be the center piece of your family organization.  When everyone knows what’s going on then there are no excuses, no missed signals and no “I didn’t know I had to do that’s!”  If you’re into technology, use a tool like Google calendar or Cozi.com, which imports Google calendar entries, has a To-Do list and grocery list and even a journal to catch and share those great family memories.

But if low tech is more your thing, set up a black or white board in the kitchen.  Attach a calendar that everyone can write down appointments on.  Include a grocery list section too for folks to jot down items as they run out or are needed. You should also set aside a section that is divided by days of the week with To-Do’s for each member of the family.  An easy trick for handling this and not turning it into an unreadable mess is to color code for each family member.  Let everyone pick their favorite color and buy sticky notes in that color.  Post notes for each member of the family in their assigned color.  That way, each person can see what applies to them at a glance.  Pick a color that represents the whole family too so they can see what events are due for the whole family to share in.

Schedule chores.  Chores are not meant to get everyone jumping up and down with excitement, but they are the grease that keeps the family wheels moving.  Laundry, dishes, trash, cooking and cleaning up are all things that everyone needs to pitch in and help out with.  Find out which days work best for each person and write it into the weekly calendar.  Try to get volunteers to do specific chores on specific days.  But if you need to, draft someone.  Volunteer first yourself.  Setting the example goes a long way.  When everyone agrees with the program then no one can say it doesn’t work for them.  Again, cooperation is key to success.

Plan meals for the week ahead of time.  Unless you are Mary Poppins, then getting meals together for today’s busy family is challenging at best and near impossible at worst.  But again, when everyone has input and chips in, it can be much easier.  Let everyone decide what their favorite meals are.  Scatter in one or two days of serious cooking.  The other days can be left-over days, fend for yourself days or simple theme nights like Mexican (i.e. tacos) or Western (i.e. franks and beans).  Those are simple meals that even the least skilled members of the family can be assigned to prepare.  And they can be fun occasions to break up the monotony!  Lastly, keep in mind that you are not a bad parent if you are not cooking elaborate, food-pyramid-approved meals every night.  The days of June Cleaver and Carol Brady are dead and gone!

Schedule fun.  This is the one thing that so many families fail to do.  All work and no play makes the family home a dull place to be.  Recreation provides great times to build family bonds and generate warm memories.  Once a week or once every other week, schedule something like game night, movie night or some other activity that the family will enjoy.  Fun doesn’t have to cost anything either.  There are plenty of online community calendar resources that post all the free events in your area.  Check them out and use them!  For more ambitious or expensive events, schedule them to happen every other month or every quarter, or maybe each month in summers only.  You decide what works best for you.  Then you can save up for those ahead of time in the family budget so that they don’t hurt your pocket so much.  Family fun is also a great time to reward yourselves when you accomplish a family goal, like decluttering the basement or garage.

Set up a household budget.  This may be something you want to do as parents alone or you may want to include the kids.  Each family is different and you must decide what’s best for your individual situation.  But make a budget!  A budget is a tool that safeguards your family and makes sure the family has a roof over its head, electricity to light the home, gas to warm it and food to feed it.  It also makes sure you are saving for all the important things.  The most important thing a budget does though is keep you from going into debt.  When you tell your money where to go each month instead of wondering where it went, you don’t end up going into debt and you sleep a little easier each night.  You will get excellent budgeting tips when you join our email list.

When you put these simple tips into practice you won’t find that it’s a magic wand that instantly organizes your family.  The goal is not perfection.  It will take work and there will be ups and downs.  Expect whining, forgetfulness and push back (not necessarily from the kids either).  Don’t give up though.  Persistence pays off and if you stick to it, in a few short months your family will find its own rhythm and its own order out of the chaos that used to be the norm.  Keep checking back here at Org4Life Solutions.com for plenty of free and useful tips for keeping yourself, your home and your business organized.  Sign up to join our mailing list also so you don’t miss out on any goodies that can make your life simpler and easier to manage.  Or contact us directly if you would like to have a free evaluation to see if you can benefit from our assistance in getting your life better organized. In the meantime, here’s wishing you and your family all the peace, order and happiness it deserves!

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