I don’t care how much you organize, when you have too much stuff it never works! That’s where the simplify part comes in: less stuff = more organized. Whenever a space is too crowded you can never find the things that you actually need because it’s covered up with all those things you never use (or maybe that’s just me).
Maybe I should’ve started off the year talking about eating right or exercising, but right now what’s driving me crazy is the sheer amount of stuff that accumulates over even a small amount of time! We just went through a few weeks where we put together all our paperwork for taxes (for 2 businesses), and sent in what seemed like a million forms to the government, (let me add this is my first time for a lot of this)! So… it follows from simple logic that simplifying and organizing have been on my mind as a #1 priority to get started on.
Whenever I have ‘my ducks in a row’ it frees up so much extra time (ie: when you’re not hunting around for just one more piece of paper – I mean I know it’s here somewhere)! And… the more years I gain into my twenties, the less time I seem to have, and I don’t want to waste it on my own bad habits. I used to be organized – like uber organized, maybe even a tad annoying and I really miss that girl – where has she gone off to anyways? I know for myself, I’ve let the pressures of life build without taking adequate action. So both Tyler and I have decided that it’s high time to be more on top of things.
We’ve taken a few steps to help with the madness that might be useful to you as well:
1. Offensive vs. Defensive – you always want to be acting instead of reacting. When you fall a few steps behind, it gets harder and harder to catch up. Whenever this happens to me, I find myself doing things the harder way simply because I didn’t take the time to think ahead. This, for me is the single most important part of being organized.
2. Information – whatever it is that you’re dealing with, it’s best to start by being informed about what’s involved. For us this year, it meant several meetings with our accountant to figure out our next steps. If you’re self-employed, I cannot recommend this enough – a good accountant will save your life (dramatic I know, but they will save you time and money)!
3. Google Calendar & Notebooks – I use several different calendars and notebooks now to keep track of the different aspects of my life. Google Calendar is great for all those things that repeat week after week and for things you need to remember way down the road!
For instance, we received a tax form calendar from our accountant and we put the dates into Google Calendar where I’ll get reminders that the form needs to be sent off to the government. We’ve also added our insurance renewal dates, property taxes, and all those reoccurring kind of things. This step has helped curb the chaos more than I can even tell you – there’s no more last minute forms that have to be sent out yesterday.
I write my business goals for each month in my business calendar and plan out my recipes for the month (I rarely follow my exact recipe schedule, but it’s nice to have it as a backup in case creativity fails me). For personal/home to-do’s, I keep my lists in 1 notebook, and I write my recipes in yet another notebook – for a total of 3 notebooks that I carry with me. This might sound too out there for some, but I’ve found keeping each one separate really works well for me. Some day, I’ll get with the 21st century and automate everything, but for now I’m ok with being a bit old school!
4. Have a plan – or at least an outline will save you so-much-time, and this goes hand in hand with creating a schedule of important daily/yearly events. Having a plan really helps dial down the craziness. I love winging it in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s just too much after a long day and I really just want to come home to a wonderful smelling house and something in the crockpot. And… speaking of winging it, the grocery store is not the best place for that. Every time I go in without a list, I leave with too much food for 2 people, and I usually have to go back for a few specific ingredients that I forgot (going to the grocery store every other day is just not how I want to spend my evenings)!
Real Life Example: every week I try to sit down and figure out some easy dinners for the tougher days, and all the ingredients I will need to test my recipes. From there, I check my fridge and pantry and add to my on-going grocery list.
Tip: keep a grocery list in the kitchen while you cook, that way you can add it to the list as you run out!
5. Set the tone – often the difference in how a day goes is all in my attitude. If I start the day in the offensive, armed with a plan, things go pretty well. Of course this only happens occasionally at this point, but it’s a start! When I know things are going to be crazy/rushed, I like to make lunches the night before and lay out my clothes. In the morning, I’ll put something in the crockpot and that seems to take a lot of the stress out of the day.
Today, I’m sitting in a café in Helena, Montana writing this while my husband is taking an exam that would allow him to finally be able to work in the United States. This is a really big deal for us because we’re coming up on our 5th anniversary and it’s been a long haul with immigration and transferring his work license from Canada to the States. And, because it’s such a big deal, I actually had my act together! Yesterday, I packed breakfast, lunch, waters, and smoothies – laid our clothes out and got all the paperwork stuff ready. It made all the difference when we had to get up at the crack of dawn and drive 4 1/2 hours on treacherous snowy/icy roads to get to the exam on time. The morning went well – no stress, and we even left early!
Now… I know all this common sense is easier said than done. I’ll be the first to admit, there’s days that go by when I forget to feed myself breakfast and sometimes lunch as well, and the dirty dishes sit on the counter for days at a time during the week (my all-time record is 6 weeks, but you didn’t need to know that)! But… the days when things go well are awesome, and I want some more like that.