Woman First

A Mom’s 10 Ways To Get Organized

by Linda Kozlowski

A universal cry from moms is that they desperately want to get organized. I used to be that way, but have reformed. Offered with the enthusiasm of a convert, here are ten of my favorite organizational tricks.

1. Cheat sheets. A challenge of parenthood is coming up with ideas spur-of-the-moment, whether as a response to “I’m bored” or you have an afternoon with the kids but no energy for planning.

One solution is to create a list by season of interesting things to do indoors and outside. A summer list might include sidewalk chalk, bubble-play, egg hunts, wagon rides, nature hikes and sprinkler fun for nice days. For rainy days or during the winter months, things like baking, creating crockpot dinners, an indoor flashlight hunt, dance parties, craft projects and a long bubble bath would be more appropriate.

A list of inexpensive places to visit also comes in handy, places such as area parks, pet stores, local nature centers, skate parks, libraries, shopping malls and the ever-popular fast-food play lands. Use your lists as an on-the-spot reference tool.

2. Bins help hold the mess. Put an empty bin or basket in every room where your children spend a good deal of time. It makes it easy for kids to do a quick clean up by simply putting everything in the bin, or you can easily sweep through a room and stash it all away yourself.

Then once a week, take each bin and put things back where they go. This method is much more efficient, and keeps things tidier, than constantly putting away individual items.

3. Family menu. Create a list of favorite family meals to help speed weekly meal planning. Instead of taking time scanning the store shelves or digging through cookbooks, just scan the list, write up the ingredients for seven or so meals, and you’re set for the week. As you try new recipes that meet with your family’s approval, add them to the ever-growing family menu.

4. Grocery inventory. Another shopping idea is to create an inventory of all the grocery items you typically need on hand. To make the first inven-tory, just save the grocery lists or receipts from three or four shopping trips and compile a list of the common items that you purchased.

You can post this list on the refrigerator, letting your family circle items as they deplete them throughout the week, or just print it out and check through the kitchen, circling the items you need. If you combine this list with the dinner ingredients in tip #3, you’ll have a super-thorough grocery list, compiled in a fraction of the usual time.

5. Binders of joy. A great first step to becoming organized is to use three-ring binders with clear 81/2 x 11-inch sleeves to manage all sorts of papers you probably have cluttering up your house. Instead of letting owner’s manuals pile up in various drawers, label a binder and slip each new manual into a clear sleeve. They can be easily put into alphabetical order for quick reference.

This method also works well for take-out menus, craft projects, recipes, or gift ideas you come across. Rather quickly, you end up with a reference book on each topic, which consolidates multiple piles of papers into one place, and stores easily.

6. Fun on-the-go pack. To be organized anywhere you go, find a large tote bag and fill it with fun on-the-go items. This “fun pack” will prove invaluable when you have to entertain a sibling at soccer practice, get delayed at a doctor’s office or find the time to stop at a park on a beautiful day.

Because you’ll gather all the items just once, and have the fun pack always on hand, you’ll find all sorts of uses for it. You might want to keep it in your car, though watch out for melting crayons in the summer!

Use your imagination to fill the tote big with things your children enjoy most. Consider bubbles, short books, balls, a blanket, puzzle books, coloring books, blank spiral notebook, crayons or washable markers, balloons, binoculars, Lego, a kite, non-perishable snack bags, sun screen or bug spray.

7. Pile it high. Create a reading pile for easy access when you have a few minutes to spare. Instead of saving whole magazines to read, quickly flip through them and tear out articles of interest. Combine these with items that get sent home from school and other paperwork you need to review, putting everything into one consolidated reading pile.

When you have a few minutes, you can easily grab something from the pile, read it and be done! You won’t spend time searching around the house for the school report you’re supposed to review, or end up with stacks of magazines to be read “someday.”

8. Wipes aren’t just for babies. Have a supply of baby wipes around the house and in the car. They are great for quick cleanups, like wiping down toilets and getting a smudge off the wall or the face. Rather than dragging out the cleaning supplies, just grab a wipe and take care of most problems right away. Leave the full cleaning for once a week. In addition, baby wipes lack harsh chemicals, so they are safe for little ones to use as you teach them to clean up after themselves.

9. Stock up at dollar stores. Most areas have stores that sell all sorts of overstock items for a dollar. Use these stores to stock up for rainy days, sick days or other boredom-busting occasions. You don’t need to overdo it, as a mere five dollars can get you quite a bit — soap bubbles, playing cards, toys, coloring books and other dollar store staples. This type of advance planning pays off big when it’s really needed.

10. Self-sufficiency is a beautiful thing. We all long for independent kids, but sometimes forget to put their independence within reach. Start by moving things around in your home to make your kids as self-sufficient as possible.
Set up low kitchen shelves to hold plastic dishes, cups and napkins, along with breakfast or lunch items and healthy snacks. Bath supplies and toiletries should all be within reach as long as the child is old enough, and all clothing should be readily accessible.

Believe me, the time it takes to lower a closet rod, install additional coat hooks or buy a stool, will be quickly repaid in the time saved, and independence gained.
Remember how we all learned to crawl around on all fours to view
the world as a baby when we were childproofing? Well do the same, but on your knees this time, to look for safety dangers and make sure your child can practice independence.

Some moms long to be organized. I long to be able to relax next to a pile of magazines that haven’t been sorted by date order. So feel free to add a few of my tricks to your own repertoire, but also celebrate the way you are — just don’t make a mess.

Linda Kozlowski is a freelance writer.