Organization is a Journey, Not a Destination

The following is a guest post from Michelle from The Parent Vortex:

organization is a journey

source: Hartwig HKD

I’ve been blogging in this space — first Organizing Your Way and then Life Your Way — for over three years now, and there are some great posts in the archives that don’t get much attention anymore. This week, I’ll be sharing some of my favorites. Whether you’ve been around since the beginning or are a new reader, I think you’ll enjoy them!

My mother likes to tell the story of my kindergarten report cards. Each one that was sent home said, “Michelle is a good student who learns well but she has trouble cleaning up after herself.” Unfortunately, it was true, and it still is to some extent. I like to start things, spread out all my craft supplies or cook an elaborate meal, and then when I’m faced with a giant pile of mess that needs to be cleaned up, well, I heave a big sigh and fight the urge to abandon it and start something else.

The problem with this approach is that it stopped working for me awhile ago.

Before I had kids, I could let the messes pile up and then tackle them all at once in a mad frenzy. Now that I’m a mom I don’t have the long stretches of time required to clean the entire house in a frenetic afternoon. I need to get organized and stay organized so that I can keep the house clean in the smaller stretches of time I have throughout the day.

I’ve been working towards organizing my house and building better time management skills lately. My first steps have been small and tentative, but as each bit of the routine really clicks into place it takes less effort than my previously haphazard approach did.

Here’s what I’ve been doing that has worked for me:

  • Each day of the week has one “big” household task assigned to it, as well as the tasks that must be done each day, such as running a load of laundry, a load of dishes and putting all the toys away. This helps me avoid feeling so overwhelmed, because I don’t feel like I have to get everything clean at once. I don’t stress about cleaning the bathroom on Tuesday because I know it will get done on Thursday.
  • I keep a massive to-do list of every single thing I want to get done, fixed, cleaned or reorganized, usually separated into categories like Upstairs, Downstairs, Outside, Admin, Writing or Crafting. I have designated writing time set aside each week, and each morning I write a to-do list for the day with our planned activities and housework on it.
  • Keeping my floors clean is something that takes relatively little effort to yield a big reward in terms of my sense of order, cleanliness and sanity. Even when everything else is falling to pieces, I know that sweeping and mopping the floor will make me feel better, so I often do this task first. For someone else, it might be having a neatly made bed or clean counters.

Of course, there are many other things I would like to improve in my household organization and routines. The two biggies? Decluttering and time management. These skills are where I really struggle, but I suspect the more I get a handle on the amount of stuff in my home and how I spend my time, the easier it will be to keep a clean, organized house.

My kids are still young at 3 and 1, and I am just starting out this journey of getting organized and running a home while young kids are growing and learning here. There are days when I face the mountain of laundry piled up on the couch and I feel completely overwhelmed by the nature of housekeeping. Like Sisyphus, who was faced with the eternal task of rolling a boulder up a hill and watching it roll back down before it got to the top each time, I know there is no way I will ever be finished organizing and cleaning my house. There will always be more dirty socks.

By looking at cleaning and organizing as a learned skill and something I will get better at the longer I work at it, it’s easier for me to stay motivated when the going gets tough.

What are your best tips to help a newbie get organized and clean house efficiently? Does organizing come naturally to you or do you have to work at learning these skills?

Michelle is a freelance writer, the Parenting Resources Feature Writer at Suite101.com and mama to two little girls. Michelle blogs at The Parent Vortex and can often be found hiking through the forest or knitting socks at the playground.