The days are long. It’s amazing how much we get done—or how hard we try—when someone is watching over our shoulders at work or in school to get the projects completed and the next one begun. At home, however, it’s a different story. We try to get the bills paid on time, keep the dishes clean and find something to eat. Usually, though, we find it difficult to get it all done. The last thing we want is taking care of our home to be “work.” Here are some ideas and tips for making home more enjoyable, organized and efficient.
“Everything in its place and a place for everything” may be extreme, but reserving a few places for important things will certainly help in organizing your home. Make a place by the door for keys, wallet and outgoing mail. One “reserved” spot for dirty clothes will make sorting and washing much easier. As soon as bills arrive in the mail, deposit them in a designated place. Kitchen items need a special place in your home belonging only to them.
[CREATE JOB CARDS]
Take some index cards (or scrap paper) and on each card write down one job that needs to be done in your home every week or 10 days. Examples of cards might be “vacuum the floors,” “take out the trash,” “laundry,” “mow the grass,” “pay the bills,” “clean the bathroom,” “tidy the kitchen,” etc. These jobs will vary depending on what type of home you live in and what things are important to you. Once you have a stack of seven-10 cards, put them in a pile or small box, and then commit to completing one of the tasks every day. When you finish a job, put that card on the bottom of the stack—when it comes back to the top, it’s time to do it again. This will eliminate the need for days of major cleaning, and one job a day won’t wear you out. Make another stack of cards with special projects and commit to doing one of these a month. These might include washing windows or re-painting a room. Modify the job cards as you wish, but once you create them, reserve a spot for them reminding you of daily tasks.
[HONOR THE “BEFORE BED RULE”]
In addition to the job card for the day, some things just need to be done everyday. Yes, it’s a pain, and if you’re like me, you’ll put it off until the last moment possible. The “Before Bed Rule” says that before bed each night, all the dishes must be washed. A housemate in college refused to abide by this rule, resulting in an amazing stack of dirty dishes and a horrifying scent to the room. Not only will taking the five minutes a day to clean the dishes keep it from being a two-hour job on the weekend, but you’ll begin to wonder how you got rid of the smell emanating from the kitchen since the second week you moved in. Another tip on making this job easier, honor the “only one glass” rule. None of us really need a clean glass for the milk a couple of hours after dinner. If so, clean the dinner glass before using it again. At the end of the day, the dirty dish pile will be amazingly smaller.
[PREPARE FOR DINNER]
Grocery shopping can be grueling—especially on Saturday afternoon at the local supermarket. Therefore, it’s always good to keep it to a minimum. Additionally, when we run out of food at my house, we end up eating out rather than cooking—a timesaver, but a costly one in the long run. Take some time to peruse the cookbooks your mom gave you and write down the recipes that sound good and their page number. Organize these and other favorites into a menu for the month. Yes, you’ll probably skip some of them, but that’s okay, your menu will then last longer than a month. Write down everything you need and go get it at the store. Then follow your menu, keeping your cookbooks handy, if needed. The page numbers will help immensely when you can’t remember how to whip up the meal. Not only will you have the food you need, but you won’t waste time staring into the fridge trying to find something to eat. Most cookbook meals will make more than enough for the mouths you may be feeding, so remember to schedule some “leftover” days in your menu—or have it for lunch.
[TRACK YOUR MONEY]
Now that you have a reserved spot for your bills and you have come to the “pay bills” job card, it’s time to sit down and take care of it. It’s been an enormous pain, yet huge help, to keep track of all my bills and finances using a computer finance program. These you can buy, but there is probably something that will do the trick on your standard operating system (there was on mine). Put in your expenses, reconcile your statements and pay your bills. These programs help remind you about upcoming bills yet to be paid (as well as incoming paychecks on their way). Keeping receipts and an accurate financial record can be time-consuming, but it will be worthwhile in the long run. If nothing else, it will provide some entertainment at the end of the year when you look back and see where you money went—did I really spend that much money on movies last year? Once all the checks are written, in envelopes and stamped, write on each one the day it must be mailed (not the due date!). Then place it in the reserved spot by the door for outgoing mail. If you have enough money to pay them all right then, go ahead and mail them; if not, be sure to check each day on the way out to send the payment before the due date. Reserve a spot for the receipts and statements and file them there.
Following these tips may go a long way in getting organized at home, or it may make the task seem even more daunting than it really is. Remember, it’s okay to skip a job card every once in a while, it’s okay to go to bed without washing the dishes, and, yes, it’s even okay for the dirty clothes to be scattered everywhere—occasionally. Have fun with the jobs. Enlist help from family, roommates or friends. The key to organization is keeping on top of it. If you’ll do a little each day, your home will always be ready to practice hospitality on friends and strangers, and you will be available for the divine appointments placed in your day, as well as for relaxing, instead of blocking a day to cleaning the kitchen or washing clothes.[Brad Carter lives, works and attempts to keep his home clean and organized with his wife, and he is preparing for the new adventure of fatherhood.]