I have always been a basically organized adult (my mom may tell you a different story about my teen years, but I was about the only kid in 90s high school who carried a day planner). But through all my organization habits and research I have come to know that there are some basic habits that organized people have.
#1. Write EVERYTHING down. Face it, you won’t remember it. So write it down. Or in this age, put it in your smartphone (I can’t remember the last time I actually made a list on paper). But no matter how you record it, take time to make a record of anything you want to remember.
#2. A place for everything, and everything in its place. This may seem trite, but it is true. Make a place for everything to be put away and then put things away when you are finished with them and teach your kids to do the same. This will eliminate the need for a large “clean up” and generally keep your home looking tidy.
#3. Purge regularly. Every season we get rid of clothes and toys that no longer work for us. Every birthday and holiday we get rid of one toy for every new toy someone gets. Four times a year we go through kitchen items and get rid of anything we don’t use regularly. Bonus – you can sell these unused items and make cash to pay down debt, take a vacation, or buy something you really will use.
#4.Keep a master calendar. Don’t have a different calendar for home, work, kids etc. Keep everything on one master calendar. Record everything (see #1). Check out my post for tips on making a Family Calendar. We use Google calendar to sync Husband’s and my calendars and then record the important events that relate to the family on the calendar in our kitchen. This makes sure everyone knows what is going on. Plus, by only maintaining one master calendar, you always know what time is free and what is already scheduled and you don’t over-book.
#5. Keep a on-going To-Do list. There’s an app for that. Every smartphone has tools for To-Do lists or Tasks. Outlook and various Mac programs have task lists. Use them. Put everything from reoccurring bills to chores to when the library books are due in your task list. Keep track of phone calls you need to make or emails you need to send in your task list. Set reminders for anything that has a deadline. Bonus – crossing something off your list gives you added satisfaction (science has proven there is an endorphin rush when we cross things off our lists!).
#6. File, File, File. This goes with #2. Everything has a place, including your files. Don’t make stacks of mail or bills. Open it, and file it properly. Set aside a specific time each day or week (schedule it with #4) to file things. This can mean putting paper files into folders, scanning documents into online storage, or downloading pictures off your camera or phone into their designated place on your computer or external storage. Whatever the case, take the time to file properly and regularly. This will keep things from piling up.
#7. Keep flat surfaces clear. Flat surfaces (tables, counters, dresser tops) can become a mess of things that belong someplace else (bills & mail, toys, laundry, computers). Follow #2. But in addition to that, keep all your flat surfaces clear and free of clutter (including knickknacks). This will keep your home looking tidy and neat, even if it isn’t freshly cleaned.
#8. Never leave a room empty-handed. No matter how strenuously you follow these rules, the fact is that there will likely always be something out-of-place that needs to be picked up. Before you set out of a room, do a scan and see if there is anything that should be taken to the room you are headed and then take it and put it away. This little trick adds only second to your exit of a room, but will save you from the dreaded whole-house tidy-up.