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8 Great Ways to Keep Your Family Organized

 

I have confessed in the past, to loving organization in all its forms. At work, at home, on vacation... it just makes me feel good. So, without further ado, here are 8 great organizational tips for the whole family.

1. Set an intention.

How do you want your family life to be? What would your best day look like? How much organization do you need to function effectively as a unit? To be happy?

    

Take some time to write down your vision of a blissfully organized life. Craft an affirmation that makes sense for you. Repeat often.

    

2. Get a Guru

    

Some of us are born knowing how to be organized. Some of us are born craving organization, but need to work really hard at staying on track. This would be me.

    

If you are someone who wants more organization than comes naturally, find yourself an organization guru.

    

My sister Patricia serves this function for me. She is known throughout our large, extended family as the person whose house contains no clutter whatsoever. She is the person I call when I am moving houses and need to unpack in two days flat.

    

How does Patricia achieve this elevated condition, while raising four wonderful children and holding down a very demanding job? I quizzed her on this topic, on a recent visit. Here is what we came up with...

    

3. Keep a Family Calendar

     

In this day and age, a family calendar is almost a necessity. Between work, school, baseball games, birthday parties, plumbers and dental appointments, we would be lost without this critical organizational tool.

    

Our master calendar is posted on the wall in the kitchen. I put everything on this calendar – if it ain’t there, it ain’t happening.

     

Your calendar is your family’s organizational cornerstone. This is where you plot your short-term future. It is also from this foundation that you are able to make choices and change direction, as new opportunities arise.

    

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the more organized you are, the more spontaneous you can be.

     

4. Open Every Piece of Mail, Every Day

    

Throw out and shred as much as possible, before it ever lands on your kitchen table. Make one pile of “bills to be paid” and one pile of “opportunities” (such as offers for low-cost insurance policies, or wedding invitations.) Immediately file items such as bank and investment account statements.

     

Periodically devote an hour or two to reducing the amount of mail that comes into your home. Cancel unneeded subscriptions, remove yourself from the mailing lists of catalogs and sign up for electronic billing and account statements.

     

5. Set a Regular Date to Pay Your Bills

     

Pay your bills once – or even better, twice – a month. Set aside a specific day, such as the first of the month, or the first Saturday of the month. Put it on the calendar if necessary, and stick to it.

     

Bless all the people who provide services to you, then break out your checkbook (or for electronic bills, logon to your computer.) Pay your bills. File the receipts in a “Paid” box that you keep in your home office. Every couple months, take out all your receipts, bind them with a rubber band and label their month/year with a sticky note. Box up all your monthly receipts annually.

    

Keep a permanent file in your home office, for things like tax statements, medical and school records, bank and brokerage account statements, etc.

     

Each month, on bill-paying day, decide what you want to do with your “opportunities.” Either follow up on them, or throw them away.

     

6. Don’t Sweat the School Stuff  

    

Decorate a box for each child’s school memorabilia each year. (Or use old boot boxes, if you’re not crafty people.)

     

Make part of your after-school ritual a backpack clean-out. Ooh and aah over each masterpiece, discuss test grades as appropriate. Then get busy.

      

Hang some cool artwork on the kitchen cabinets. Put the rest of the creative stuff, along with all graded papers, into the child’s box. Throw out corrected homework and other items not needed for future assignments.

    

Keep one folder or in-box on the kitchen counter for “in progress” items, such as book report assignments.

     

At the end of each school year, select a couple (or several) items from each child’s box to save in “Mom’s Treasure Box.” Your choice, whether this is an heirloom-quality antique trunk or an old shoe box.

     

The key is to pick just a few items as keepsakes, rather than keeping every paper or painted rock that your child ever produces.

    

7. Fall in Love with Your Laundry

    

Laundry seems to be a very personal thing, deserving of special attention. 

  

My sister, who has traveled weekly on business for most of her married life – and whose husband has quite competently assumed many of the household maintenance duties – insisted on doing the family laundry for years. She just couldn’t release her attachment to appropriate color sorting and dryer settings.

     

I would contrast this with another sister, whose idea of luxury as a newlywed was to send her and her husband’s laundry out to a service. She didn’t care how it got done, so long as it was clean and neatly folded, without her touching it. Now that she has four teenage sons, she has adjusted her expectations and is happy so long as both washers and dryers (she has two of each) are working and in continuous operation.

     

One of my friends was so totally averse to doing laundry that she taught her children to do their own, around the age of seven. They couldn’t actually see into the machine, being... well... seven. Not to worry: She invested in a step stool, taught them to work as a team and all proceeded smoothly.   

      

My mother, who was managing a laundry room that serviced up to eleven people at a time, is another organizational guru of mine. She installed a set of shelves next to the dryer, stacked with one plastic bin for each child. (Our names were written on them and they were arranged on the shelves in age order.)

    

Whenever a load of laundry came out of the dryer, the clothes were folded and placed in the bin of the owner. At the end of each day (just about every day was laundry day at our house), each child was responsible for taking their bin to their bedroom, putting their clothes away in their dresser, and returning the bin to the laundry room.

     

Amazing.

    

My advice then, when it comes to laundry is to figure out what works for your family and make it a habit. Try to get your laundry activities on a regular schedule and stick to it.

    

Also, if you buy your kids lots and lots of socks, you won’t have to do laundry quite so often.

    

8. Get Rid of Some Stuff

     

Remember, excess clutter requires advanced organization skills. Avoid this situation if you can: Practice separating your emotions and memories from your objects. Make a habit of getting rid of unneeded items regularly, to avoid toxic build-up.

    

Cultivate people and organizations to whom you can confidently and happily donate your old treasures. Organize an annual neighborhood yard sale.

    

Trust that your beloved articles will all end up with someone who really needs them, place them at the end of your driveway and let them go.

    

    

Related Posts:

    

For a slightly different perspective on the subject, please see How to Bring Order to Your Chaos and Are You Too Attached to Your Stuff? Also, I've fallen a bit in love with my own laundry. Read about my obsession, in Deepak Chopra and My Washing Machine.

      

Recommended Products:

       

Does your family calendar need an overhaul? My sister uses one like this 2009 BusyBodyBook Wall Calendar, to keep all six of her family members organized and on schedule. Try it out!

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