Systems and Routines for Busy Families

June 7, 2017


For the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to work really closely with quite a few families. In each of these engagements, I was excited to be able to offer some advice for new systems in organization.


I also knew that I would learn just as much from them as they would from me. Boy did I learn a lot!


Every family unit is unique and special in their own way. However, there are also some common patterns that most families deal with to get their home and life organized. I thought it would be great to share some of the most recent lessons that I learned:


1.    Appreciate what matters - If you are spending time with your family reading, laughing, walking or snuggling… than give yourself some grace! These are the things that matter. Don’t strive for perfection. It’s okay if things slip from time to time as long as you don’t let it pile up to the point of creating stress and reducing happiness in the home.


2.    Reduce friction from your morning routines – Mornings seem to be hectic for almost every family. To streamline your morning do as much as you can the night before (ending the day right helps you start the day right). Pack your school bags, work bags, and gym bags. My son used to take this as far as sleeping in his clothes so he was already dressed (not that I recommend that). Run and empty the dishwasher so that you start fresh the next day and don’t pile up dishes.


3.    Combine similar tasks into routines – Pack lunch while you are finishing dinner and already in the kitchen. Pack your gym bag while you are already folding laundry. I recommend keeping your gym bag packed with two sets of clean clothes. Make a list of your common routines and see where you can combine them.


4.    Put important tools in the right places – I keep a couple of swifters (dusters) in the top drawer of every piece of furniture that I wipe down. So for example, when you open your dresser drawer to get a pair of socks, a clean swifter is there so you can quickly wipe down the top of the dresser. Likewise, keep a nice neat box in the trunk of your car with towels, wipes, band-aids, snacks or other things that you now no longer need to remember to pack when you are running out the door.


5.    Outsource where you can – If you can afford to splurge on a little outsourcing you can free yourself to spend time with the family or tackle more pressing tasks that can’t be outsourced. Some examples: If you can order groceries online (Amazon Fresh and Jet are good options) and have them delivered you might actually save money from reduced wasted food (buying what you need “just in time”) and impulse purchases. Hire a young neighborhood entrepreneur to cut the grass. Hire a cleaning service to come in 1 or 2 times a month so that you only have to focus on maintenance.


6.    Categorize wherever you can - Categorization is a fantastic way to remember an item’s “home.” If you have clear containers for this, great… but if not it’s fine to use items that you already have (shoeboxes are great). Categorization works great for almost every work area in your home. For example you your pantry should have categories of: baked goods, dry goods, “eat next” (items that are getting ready to expire), and canned goods. However, maybe most impactful is the categorization of your kids toys. I’ve mentioned this in posts before and I cannot emphasize it enough. If you keep your kids toys categorized together it is easier for them to find things and play with things, you are teaching them organization at an early age and you are improving their playtime. Mesh bags are a great way to keep toys together.


7.    Divvy up the tasks - I met someone recently who said to me “Delegate and Celebrate.” I said, “yes… exactly.” Get the whole family involved. Make it fun… set a timer and have everyone do family clean up together.


8.    Make it easier to “let go" - Keep a donation box accessible and when you see something that you don’t really understand why you are keeping… put it in the box. Don’t assume that it would not be someone else’s treasure. You might look at it and think “Nobody would ever want this”, but that’s a big assumption. I am very close friends with an employee at Good Will and she will tell you with great confidence that people get very excited by even the “strangest” finds. Remember the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” When the box is full… put it in your car.


9.    Create systems that prevent paper clutter - Prepare a “school memory box"with files that are categorized by school year and when you get something that is really special and worth saving from school, put it in the file right away (vs. your counter top). Prepare a system for displaying your little one's artwork (Pinterest has loads of ideas) and when your artist hands you her latest piece don't delay in displaying it. When you get an invite RSVP right away or make it a task on your “to do list” and then throw the invitation away. Got junk mail? Don’t just throw it out, get off the list.  Create a tickler file for paperwork that can’t be dealt with immediately. Those are some of the big ones.


Here are some great opt-out resources for Junk Mail: mail resources


Above all, it’s about how you feel Do you love your spaces? Are you comfortable in your spaces? Often people think about organization as perfection.  I don’t look at it that way. Create systems and routines for yourself that enable you to feel good with how and where you spend your time.


Feel free to email me or message me if you have any questions or additional ideas that you’d like to offer.

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