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Magically Organized

Author: Mary Keating

For:  Family Living Magazine

Date:  January 2010

(1920 words – not including sidebars)    

I am hopelessly organized. I love lists. I sometimes have lists of my lists. I believe that a well-kept home has a place for everything, and everything has a place. I also am aware that this concept is not always compatible with familial living. We must not forget, although I am the queen of my castle, I share the space with two princesses who are 6 and 9 years old, a King, and a handful magical creatures.

However, despite incompatibilities in the organizational hierarchy, I continue to organize, set goals, create deadlines, pick up clutter and blurt reminders. A pinch of organization, a dash of creativity and a sprinkling of motion with deadlines would probably sum up my existence. I am a fan of clean sheets, made beds, storage boxes, sticky notes, paired socks, fluffed pillows, folded towels, organized closets, crisp laundry rooms and vacuumed carpets. I don’t do windows.

Admittedly, I adhere, for the most part, to eight of the 10 habits of highly organized people. I think I have convinced myself that I work best under pressure — so I do not score highly on the ‘do not procrastinate’ item. I have a lot of unnecessary hubbub that I love, so I manage and store it. And I have a couple of closets that could be considered manic messes of paper, old stuff and dust.

Over the years, I have learned the many pitfalls of being overtly organized. On the top of that list would definitely be the fact that family members think I have photographic recall of misplaced items, and they occasionally mistake me for a walking schedule of events. Of course, the territory is also fodder for jokes and oddly inappropriate nicknames.

Up until recently, I have been the Organizer-in-Chief. But what to do when your personal hard drive is faltering and the clock seems to skip an hour each day? When being in charge and on top of the ball turns into chasing the ball, and details begin, one by one, to flutter down to the ground? When M.O.M., Multi-tasker of Many, morphs into crazy overworked, underpaid and on-the-edge lady?

Delegate, organize and apply creativity. There comes a time in every mom’s life when de-cluttering your brain is good and essential for each member of the team. Frankly, everyone in my family is beyond being capable of and willing to take ownership. It is just that I have, for lack of a better phrase, absconded with the reins. Given the current status of my plate, which seems to ‘runneth over’ daily, I made a list of ideas to de-clutter my mind and relinquish the daily job of Aide Memoire and Pesterer-in-Chief.

Organizing is not a one-time deal; it needs to be a habit and needs frequent adjustments to meet current needs. For those who don’t know, it takes 21 days to make something a habit. But more than that, there are two steps to an organized home. The first step is getting things under control, and the second is establishing routines that work for you and your family.

At this point, our house is mostly under control. It is the daily life that is sucking my energy and overwhelming my thoughts. As a perpetual list maker, I am happy to list the various routine strategies I have implemented to help de-clutter my brain, rely less on RAM and enable my children to take responsibility and ownership.

Weekend WARrior

On so many levels, organization, simply put, is preparation and forward thinking. It is putting in place systems to keep the machine functioning and on time with relatively few fits and starts.

If “I have nothing to wear,” “I can’t find my shoes,” “What is for dinner?”, “I lost my homework,” “Oh, you can’t wear that to school,” “Hurry, we are late again,” are phrases echoing day after day in your home, it is time to become a weekend WARrior and establish a Weekly Activity Routine.

Around our house, the weekends are used to right the compass and prepare for the week ahead. Clean house; wash, fold and put away laundry; update calendars, draft a weekly list of meals and hit the grocery store with another detailed list.

When raising two girls, simply getting dressed in the morning can be overwhelming and filled with frustration — need I continue? Been there, done that, and definitely did not enjoy the daily flutter of clothes and dialogue. So, every weekend, both girls lay out five to six outfits for the week. Together we decide what outfits (including socks) are best suited for each day based on after-school activities, school events and, of course, the weather.

Just a side note: We went through an extended period of ‘sock-drama’ that often resulted in daily multiple sock on/off follies and copious adjustments. Therefore, we adjusted and added socks to all outfits. End result: the girls are empowered to pick their own clothes, socks don’t create upheaval every morning and Mom only has to make minor adjustments once a week.

And, best of all, the girls get up and get dressed with little fanfare.

As for the whole meal deal, a list of nightly meals that everyone will eat is wonderful. We all talk about dinner ideas, then we plug certain meals into the schedule based on timing and activities throughout the week. My husband usually, well almost always does the shopping on the weekend. When I come home with an exhausted brain, I know what we planned and I know the stuff to make it is on hand.

Daily Don’t Forgets

I have yet to meet a family whose weekday mornings are filled with freshly squeezed orange juice, white bathrobes and a relaxed atmosphere. At the start of the day, everyone is moving, gathering, dressing, eating. Important reminders and details consistently get overlooked, and sometimes the dog doesn’t get feed.

I, like the rest of the family, have to get ready in the morning. I cannot just sit and blurt reminders and check backpacks.  I needed a plan. I scratched my head for a few days. I began scribbling reminders on sticky notes, placing them on the breakfast bar at night like a reminder fairy.  I waited. The notes helped the children to get their own things out the door in the morning.

It worked for a bit, but the little sticky notes were getting tossed in the garbage day after day. With added brain power, those handwritten notes morphed into clear contact paper-wrapped 2×4 cards that can be reused. Better yet, I can use a dry-erase marker on the contact paper notes. I no longer have to write daily notes such as “Don’t forget your lunch,” “Remember your robes and wand,” “Is your History of Magical Creatures book in your bag?” and “Don’t forget potions class after school.” Ok maybe not those exact things, but you get the idea.

At night before I turn out the lights, I pull the clamp magnet off the side of the fridge, sort through the cards and lay out the pertinent little reminders on the breakfast table. The greatest benefit is, I rarely hear, “You forgot to remind me.” Now that they can both read, they are responsible for checking the notes and getting what they need out the door in the morning. And, of course, I still blurt out friendly reminders.

And then comes after school. Part and parcel of having a child in school is paying attention to what is happening. Notes slip to the bottom of backpacks and often see daylight weeks later. I am not a huge fan of the broken record syndrome, and asking the same questions day after day gets tiresome. So, we got a white board for the girls. On the board is a list of after-school reminders and daily chores, such as hang robes, practice potions, clean wands, library reading, studying and tend to magical creatures. Each day they get to check off their own “to-dos.”

Note to all: I am not above bribery and rewards when it comes to getting their lists completed.

Weeknight Follies

Keeping everyone on the same page is certainly problematic when we have weekly Quidditch practice, Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons, Muggle Studies and Hogsmeade meetings. Your family probably has their own activities. Your family might have squish ball practice or xylophone lessons. When the girls were knee-high and barely walking, I saw a great idea in a magazine: a wall chalkboard. The creator wanted a place to write notes for her family and a place for her children to be able to “draw on the wall.” Sharing her creativity, I immediately affixed plywood to the wall, painted it with black chalkboard paint (found in most home centers) and crafted molding around the edges. In the center of the 4 x 8 chalkboard, I added some corkboard.

Over the years, the lower section has been a math board, a flower-covered canvas and even a doll house façade. The upper area has been reserved as a place to write the daily activities for the members of the family. Now, rather than asking me when we need to be at Quidditch practice, everyone can clearly see where and when they need to go.

Note Collector

Of course, hanging on the corkboard is the family calendar. Every time a note, deadline, an appointment or an event comes from the recesses of a backpack, pulled from a purse, or out of the pocket lint, it is written on the calendar. The original paper is either push-pinned to the corkboard or tossed in the garbage. Daily updates and the old write and toss concept helps keep paper from piling, things in order and appointments remembered.

Ok, I can hear it now. Wow, where on earth does she find the time to do all those things, come up with stuff and make the necessary notations? Frankly, those are great questions. I think the more one develops their organizational skills, the more problem solving solutions come to mind. I find that the more I organize, delegate the little stuff and think about more efficient ways to make the day work better, the more time I actually have to get other stuff done including coming up with more ideas.

With a little thought and a dash of creativity, moms can find hundreds of ways to de-clutter their minds, ditch the label of Aide Memoire and Pesterer-in-Chief, and help their families pick up the reins.

In a picture perfect world, all these ideas would happen without a hitch. But in everyday reality, sometimes they work; sometimes they need adjusting and other times a new idea must be eked out. There is great value in finding ideas that work for your family. The benefits far outweigh the racing to school to deliver a library book, failing grades from missing homework assignments, missing a classmate’s birthday party or the daily struggle to just get out of the door in the morning with all our limbs intact.

In the end, de-cluttering our mind from the mundane blurts and reminders is worth the effort. And best of all, it does not require a magic wand.


Top Ten Habits of Highly Organized People

  1. Place for everything
  2. Put things back after use
  3. Write things down
  4. Create a family a calendar
  5. Don’t allow paper piles
  6. Don’t procrastinate
  7. Set goals and assign deadlines
  8. Keep only what you use and/or love
  9. Leave spaces cleaner than when you entered
  10. De-cluttering is part of your daily activities


De-Clutter Today

Don Aslett, world-renowned cleaning expert from Pocatello, states in his book, “Clutter Free! Finally & Forever,” that clutter is the direct cause of at least 40 percent of all cleaning time and expense.

“At least 40% of what we call ‘house cleaning’ is just junk tending — not just dusting and polishing it, but keeping track of it, storing it, insuring it, protecting it, organizing it, and repositioning it,” Aslett writes.

If de-cluttering factors on the top of your New Year’s resolution agenda, take note and start with holiday stuff at the end of the season. Dispose of items that are broken, torn, stained, or haven’t been used for a period of time. Toss them, trade them, give them away or sell them, but get rid of them.

Purging items that have lost their usefulness will make it easier to find what you want and give some needed room to store new items.

After organizing and de-cluttering the holiday stuff, make a commitment to travel from space to space in your house picking a different space every couple of weeks throughout the new year. Don’t forget closets, drawers, attics, basements, garages, purses, shelves, file cabinets and desks.

First things first. Pull everything out. Sort the contents into piles for rubbish, recycling, charity, selling and keeping. While the space is vacant, give it a good cleaning. Store those items that are to be kept and purge the rest and move to the next space.

Plan your goals and work your plan. In less than a year, your family could be clutter-free.

Sources:, Don Aslett’s books