Friday, September 21, 2012

Good Ideas

More than one teacher has told me that my son "responds well to structure."  He comes by that naturally, as without organization, lists, and schedules, I'm pretty much useless.  This fall, our schedule seems to have kicked into an even higher gear, and it has forced me to make a few organizational tweaks.  As so often happens with such things, I found that one good idea leads to another.  I'm feeling more streamlined and organized and couldn't resist the urge to share.

It all started when I reorganized the pantry.  I'll spare you the exciting details of that project, except that I decided it made sense to have a lunchbox-packing area so I could grab all the pantry items for that dreaded chore in one swipe.  Enter one Dollar Tree container that I place on a pantry shelf, and problem solved.

We are always running from school to activities and have become a little too dependent on pre-packaged snacks like granola bars.  I haven't solved the healthy eating issue there, but I did make grabbing the snacks easier by removing all the packaging and putting them all in a single place, another Dollar Tree basket on the pantry shelf.

The "no packaging" is my greatest revelation.  Eliminating all the boxes, bags and other containers as soon as I get home from the grocery store means that I don't need to open packages and rummage around every time I want to take out a food item.  I also can see easily when we're running low on an item and need to restock.  Here are our cereal containers (from IKEA).

No more opening and trying to pour around the box and the crinkly bag, and no risk of that crinkly bag being left open.  The kids can even manage this, which means I can sleep a little later on weekends.

After putting away groceries this morning, I had this much packaging to recycle or throw away.

By my count, emptying all these packages as I put away the groceries not only saved the time otherwise required to dig around for what I need, but also saved me fourteen future trips to the recycling bin and two trips to the trash can.  Streamlining the process is step one.

Step two is reminding all four of us where we need to be and when.  I am a digital girl with a heavy dependency on my iPhone, iCal and the magic of the cloud.  At the beginning of each week, I used to print out the week's calendar for my quick reference and post it next to where I pack lunches.  I realized that wasn't going to be enough anymore--that the other three people in the family needed to know what was in store for the day--so we now have a color-coded weekly wall calendar that I update each Sunday.

The kids have responded well to knowing what's next, and my husband seems to like knowing where we are.  Like menu planning (an area in need of work here), I found that writing on the calendar at the beginning of the week the days I plan to exercise and days the kids should practice piano makes it much more likely those events will occur and will do so with fewer complaints.

Finally, my last tip is not a new development here but is a huge favorite of mine.  I thought I'd toss it in as a bonus, in the spirit of sharing tips that make drudgery ever so slightly better.  This time--dishes.  I hate them.  I hate hand washing, I hate loading the dishwasher, I hate emptying the dishwasher and putting the dishes away.  I really hate sorting the silverware.  Solving the silverware problem made the whole task more bearable and appeals to my organized mind.   

It's a simple solution:  I sort the silverware as I'm putting it into the dishwasher.  After all, I'm already putting it in a few items at a time, why not put spoons in one silverware slot, forks in another, knives in another?  When the dishes are clean, I just grab a handful from each slot and put the entire handful in the appropriate section of the silverware organizer.  Those of you who may not "respond well to structure" will certainly find this to be insanity, but for those of you with this affliction, I highly recommend it.  

Little changes like these make me less anxious and annoyed.  When I'm less anxious and annoyed, it's a good thing for everyone else in the house. I wish the same for you, your house and your family.  Enjoy!


  1. I also use my iPhone e-calendar for everything, but have a similar system using a magnetic dry erase board on the side of fridge where I write out the weekly schedule to keep us all on track! Great minds think alike. Oh, and mine is color coded too!

  2. I'm buying a dry erase board like yours right now! I especially like putting instrument practice on the board.

    1. It's been a huge help. One other tip: I used strips of velcro to attach it. That way, I can easily take it down weekly to write everything on it, which I find helpful.

  3. Not surprisingly, I have the same containers you do and feel the same way about calendars and organization. I am like Charlie, too - I need structure.

  4. Can you please tell me where you got your weekly wall calendar? Thx!