Building the Organized Home

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We do a lot to keep the Fortress Peschel going. It sounds like when you read my posts (over 140,000 words written!) that I never stop working, that I never sleep, that I never do anything other than what I need to do to meet my goals.

This isn’t true. I waste my fair share of time. You can’t stay focused every second; it’s not possible and anyway, all work and no play makes Jack a management consultant.

But if I do more than most people, it’s probably because I’ve been good at setting goals. Visualizing what I need to do gives me a direction, and if what I’m doing isn’t moving me towards one goal or another, I ask yourself why am I you doing this?

I say that frequently after yet another game of Spider solitaire. I just love that game, and I’m really good at it too.


I’m aces at Klondike, too

Goals help us divide tasks into categories that we can attack at the best time. Some of them have an end-date, some never end, and some are kind of in the middle. They require work now and then, but not all of the time. Gardening is a good example.

Some jobs require a lot of work upfront, and then they take care of themselves forever after. Insulation and paying off consumer debt fall into this category. So does painting rooms and redoing kitchen cabinets. Once I’ve got a room painted, I don’t go back and redecorate. I’ve got better things to do.

Other jobs never end. Laundry, cooking, sleeping, and exercising fall into this category. No matter how much laundry you wash, a few days later, there’s more. No matter how much you exercise today, you’ve got to do it again tomorrow to stay in shape. I sleep eight or nine hours a night, but every night I’ve got to do it again. meals have to be made, consumed, and cleaned up afterwards.

Good organization makes it easier to get all the routine stuff done, allowing time for doing the tasks that actually move you forward. An awful lot of life consists of performing boring and mundane maintenance, but it has to be planned for and done otherwise you look around and see not piles of laundry but tottering, reeking mountains.

Think of organization as the structure, the skeleton of your life, that lets you get through the routine stuff and leave time to accomplish the bigger stuff, the fun, creative stuff, the stuff that moves you ahead.

Being organized does not come naturally to most of us. On the other hand, this is an easy excuse. “I’m just not organized!” is a comment often heard, but is that true, or is it that you’re not motivated enough? Think of how you perform your job. How often can you say “I’m just not organized!” to your boss. I’ll bet only once. You have to be organized on the job, you have to accomplish your assignments or you get fired!

If you can do it at work, maybe, just maybe, you can do it at home.

The problem is that we are very poor managers of ourselves. We’re not bad employees, we’re bad bosses because we accept excuses from ourselves that no real boss would accept. No matter what kind of aimless life people live at home—messy, chaotic and never getting the house insulated or the garden beds dug—they don’t do the same thing at work!

At your job, you can draw on structure and routine to get your tasks done. You need this at home, too. I can’t tell you exactically how to organize your home and time as I’m not riding along inside your skin. The library is full of countless get-organized books; I’ve read many of them and some have useful tips.

What I can say is: Review your goals, then ask yourself as you’re playing Angry Birds on your cellie again, is that getting you there? Or are you just wasting time?

Building a Structure @ Home

Organization consists largely of structuring your home life like your work life. Know what you have to do, allot the time for it, and then make it easier to get it done.

I do this in various ways. I have a year-at-a-glance calendar on the wall in our dining area. All appointments, meetings, trips, school events and everything else goes on this calendar so I can see what is coming up next.

organized home

Wall by Martha Stewart, calendar by At-A-Glance

The year-at-a-glance calendar is hung on a wall Bill constructed using a design from Martha Stewart Living. We have a shelf for cookbooks, several bulletin boards, even space for wall pockets for school paperwork, bills, and anything else we need at hand.

The Martha Wall was worth every second of its cost and aggravation to build. All family business is tracked on the calendar. The bulletin boards (made of yellow painted Homasote, a miracle product) let me pin up notices, ads for upcoming events, and lists of things to do. The wall pockets are for short-term storage, like one school year for one kid or the current set of bills (which if you look carefully hasn’t been emptied in a year … ohhh, Biiillllll!).

I have a desk calendar that duplicates the wall calendar events but it has room for phone numbers and notes. I don’t use it as much as the wall calendar but I’ve found that I need it too.

Several years ago, I also started keeping a daily logbook. I use a composition notebook, the kind that has 80 pages that they sell at Staples for 50 cents when the school year starts. I use a page a day and since each page is double-sided, (160 days worth) it lasts a long time.

organized home notebook

suburban stockade 021I list all my usual daily events, appointments, things that have to be done by family members, memorandums and notes. The logbook also gets things written in it as they happen and the events of the day that don’t fit into the routine schedule. The logbook lets me open my Visa bill, notice a purchase at Kmart, go to that date in the logbook, and recall why I went to Kmart that day and what I bought.

The logbook remembers upcoming events and past happenings for me. I would be lost without it and I highly recommend using one. Is it work to keep up with? Of course it is, but far less work than trying to remember everything that I have to do. Since it is non-electronic I don’t have to worry about batteries or mechanical failure or upgrades. I can write in it in the dark with a flashlight and a pencil if I had to. It’s cheap too, 50 cents for the book and a pen.

organized home

“Who needs to know what we did on November 3, 2007?”

It shows how routine my day is, but a routine-oriented day lets me be more efficient. A written routine also can show you what you do versus what you think you should do. I exercise nearly every day, and my logbook lists this as the first line item. I get it done, check it off, and I move on throughout my day.

I use a logbook for my bills. My records for bills, taxes, and other expenditures goes back to when Bill and I got married. I learned how to do this from his mother. The money logbook remembers for me, and I can go back in time and track my spending easily for taxes, insurance, energy costs, and the like. Since I record every bill, its due date, its paid date, and how much, I don’t make very many mistakes in getting things paid. And on those rare occasions when a company claims I haven’t paid something, I can easily find the information to prove that I’m right.

I keep lists of all kinds: writing projects, home improvement projects (huge!), sewing projects, whatever I think I need to do. As things get done, they get checked off. Some projects or ideas never get done but I don’t have that many things that slip through the cracks anymore. The lists, they can be multi-page, get pinned onto the Martha Wall bulletin board or by my sewing area as appropriate.

As things change, lists evolve, grow, or go away altogether.

My lists, the Martha Wall and its year-at-a-glance calendar and bulletin boards and the logbooks let me track mental clutter and control it.

Next Week: Home decluttering made easy