Thursday, February 28, 2013

organize now challege: memorabilia

Oh, the stuff that piles up when you have four children. My word, people, it can get ugly so fast. The papers, the artwork, the random sticks and stones and bottle caps and strings. Add to that moving into a house packed to the brim with a all of the things your husband's granddad and grandmother owned... Oy.

The Mister and I got married in 2001, months after his grandfather passed away, and we moved into his grandfather's house. Everything was there. Pots, pans, dishes, silverware, linens, furniture, all.of.the.things. On one hand, it was a huge blessing to have everything provided for us. On the other hand, it was just a lot of stuff. And on the other hand, it was very interesting to sort through all the things with my new mother-in-law. 

Most of my stuff from my childhood and college years was in boxes in the garage and basement, where it stayed for YEARS because a) I had no immediate use for it, and b) there was no place to put it. Last summer I went through most of the boxes and discovered that there was next to nothing in any of the boxes that was even sort of important to me. I filled our big green garbage bin; I filled contractor bags. It was SO.CRAZY.GOOD to have it gone.

One of the first things Jen says in her chapter about memorabilia is to save only what is STILL MEANINGFUL to you, not what was meaningful to you back in the day. I pitched random tchotchkes, all the letters from former boyfriends (I had one that really embraced the idea of the love letter), programs from concerts I performed in college that I didn't remember. It felt really good to shed all those extra pounds of things I had stopped caring about.

Another idea Jennifer proposes is to organize photos into archival-quality albums. My two oldest children have well-documented albums of their first few years. I don't have albums of the last two, but I do have thousands upon thousands of digital files of photographs that are organized by month on our computer. And yes, they are backed up. Because seriously people? BACK.UP.YOUR.FILES. It's so easy I can do it all by myself, and I will not have to perform The Ugly Cry if our hard drive bites the dust.

I do have two clothing items I am saving: my high school jacket (I'm really not sure why I'm keeping it, other than that I'm just not ready to pitch it yet), and my wedding dress and veil. Right after our wedding, I had my dress cleaned and preserved, and it lives in the back of my super-small closet in an enormous box. There are some tiny baby clothes saved from when my people were tiny, and those are wrapped in tissue and stored in our non-hypo-allergenic cedar chest, away from the nasty moths.

Now. If only I could part with yarn and fabric as easily. Hrmph.

Check in to see what the other super-organizers are doing!
House of Grace

Monday, February 18, 2013

organize now challenge: post four - the routine

I may have mentioned once or twice that I'm not really a morning person. Turns out that five out of six Daytons in my house is not a morning person. Those are HORRIBLE ODDS, people, horrible. We thrashed through preschool with the oldest two, and very nearly lost our minds with the third. We sent our oldest to public school, and no matter what we did to make it easier, happier, better, it just wasn't a good fit. We went to church Every! Sunday! Because! That's! What! We! Did! It was brutal, and I'm pretty sure that the answer to the cliche "What Would Jesus Do?" was nothing that was actually happening in our home.

So we stopped. We evaluated our options. We slowed down.

And oh, my word, people, the thrashing about and soldiering on fell away. We found our rhythm, one that is a little bit flexible and a little bit scheduled. Some of the short people like to cuddle in our bed in the morning and talk about The Things and The Stuff; another one grabs his school books and joins in the pile. Some days we school at the kitchen table, on others we grab a quilt and head to the back yard (not now, obvs, but in the autumn and spring), sometimes everyone fetches their own quilts and hunkers down on the sofa with assorted school books and novels.

It works for us. 

Even so, there are days when we need to get up and out in short order, namely homeschool group days. The short people each have three classes, and I usually teach one or two fiber arts classes. This semester it's crochet. 

The first tip in the Organize Your Morning Routine chapter is to have a list for each person's to-dos, including chores, grooming habits, breakfast, etc. Next, Jen suggests that you estimate how long it takes each person to do each item on the list, and plan a Rise-and-Shine time based on that. The third tip is to pare the list down, and eliminate all the things you can do the night before. Jen also recommends establishing a family "Launch Pad", a resting place for all the items that will be grabbed on the way out the door.

This is how it works out for us:

The Night Before:
  1. Pack all the supplies I need to teach my classes. This semester, it's extra crochet hooks, scissors, extra yarn, finished squares for the blanket we're making.
  2. Pack snacks for after class. Usually I stuff our picnic basket with apples, cheese sticks, yogurt and something salty. And water bottles. Lord help me if I forget the water bottles.
  3. Round up anything each of the short people needs to take to class. This is usually a pretty quick item, but one semester I forgot to double check that a certain girl-child had packed the novel the class was discussing and the notebook... EVERY CLASS. Six times in a row. I earned an F for FORGETTER.
  4. Pack five pairs of shoes, so that when the winter boots come off, shoes can go on. My people are notorious for forgetting shoes (see item 3 and know they come by this honestly).
  5. Take all of the packed things out to the car.
  6. Remove bagels and cream cheese from the fridge so breakfast is easy-peasy.
  7. Load slow cooker with next-day's dinner. Plug slow cooker into the outlet, otherwise the Ugly Cry is guaranteed at approximately 3:25 the next afternoon.
The Morning Of:
  1. Wake everyone by 7:45. Except Jack, because he's always already up.
  2. Wake everyone up again at 8:00.
  3. Forcibly remove girl-child from bed no later than 8:10. 
  4. Everybody gets dressed before going downstairs. Except Jack, because he's already dressed, and has been entertaining himself for an hour.
  5. I toast bagels and spread cream cheese and make coffee for me (and sometimes the girl-child will get a mocha if she's playing nicely with others; I'm not above a bribe).
  6. Short people put on coats and boots, and when their bagel is wrapped in a napkin, they get in the car.
  7. We need to be driving away from the house no later than 8:45 in good weather, and no later than 8:30 in wretched weather, because we have an hour drive.
Jen's tips for Organizing the Evening Routine are pretty similar, but also include setting consistent dinner and bed times.

We usually eat dinner between 6 and 6:30, depending on when The Mister gets home from work. The boys are in their pajamas by 7:30, and they snack while The Mister reads to them. They are in bed around 8:30, and then we spend time with Miss O and Elliott; they're the night owls of the bunch. 

I think the most important question to ask when you're creating a routine and a daily schedule is, "Is this good for my family?" Parents are so busy paying attention to so many things that it is really easy for us to forget that we are growing the next generation of adults. Doing all of the things all of the time is not always the best lesson to teach our babies. 

Here's what the other (much more prompt) ladies have to say about their routines:
Bonnie at House of Grace
Jennifer at Mother Thyme
Linda at Tapas Lifestyle

P.S. It sounds like I kicked church to the curb, but that's not the case. The Mister works at a church with a Saturday night service, so we attend there. And when it doesn't work out, we put our big kid pants on and pull it together for Sunday morning service.

organize now challenge: post OMG THE SICKNESS

I have totally dropped the ball with the Organizing Things Now.  And yes, this is where I blame everything on my children and the Cold Of Death I had for days and days and days.

I was on a roll, people. I had MOTIVATION! and AMBITION! and I was making SERIOUS PROGRESS.  And then I sat on the sofa with my snot-nosed, barfy kids for the better part of three weeks, which is totally what I really should have been doing, you know, the whole mothering thing

But dang. 

Yesterday I cleared my kitchen counters and scrubbed all the things. Today, I made some pretty awesome refried beans for burritos, watched my six year old make cupcakes, and then watched all four of them dump sprinkles all over my kitchen. 

The laundry has erupted. Again. The bedrooms are a mess. There are sprinkles in my socks.


Tomorrow we will be back at the routine. Wish me luck. Send cake. Both.

Friday, February 8, 2013

organize now challenge: post the fifth - papers

Here's a tip to reduce the number of trees you are killing: take your kid out of public school. 

I KID. Really. I'm joking. Pulling your kid out of school to manage your paper issues is a terrible decision, and if your paper issues are that bad, I'm really sad for you.

Not a joke: We do not have mail delivery on my street. There's a real live mail delivery lady who lives on our street, but the only time the mail Jeep drives by is when she's headed to work, or on her way home. We have to go to the Post Office to fetch our mail.  

You might think it's annoying, but let me tell you what the Post Office has besides mail: RECYCLING BINS. All my junk mail? Stays at the Post Office. Stuff never enters my home unless The Mister happens to be the one to get the mail because he just grabs the stuff and gets in the car. Not me. I open, read, and pitch what is useless. I LOVE HAVING TO GO TO THE POST OFFICE.

Another superty awesome thing I have discovered is that EVERYTHING CAN BE PAID ONLINE, thereby eliminating (almost) all of our outgoing mail. We get the occasional invoice in the mail, and if I'm really on top of things I pay it while I'm at the post office sorting the day's mail. This also means I don't keep stamps at my house (translation: I don't LOSE stamps at my house).

My favourite part of each chapter in Jen's book is the Stay Organized! list of suggestions. I can institute a new system like a boss, but sticking with it is not my strong suit. She suggests cleaning out your mail basket once a week, and once a month, making sure you've addressed all the invites/bills/random letters that are piling up. 

Want to see what the other participants are doing with their papers?
Jennifer Ford-Berry
Linda DeFalco 
Jennifer from Mother Thyme
Michelle McDermott