I don’t know anyone that would describe me as organized, type A, or even having all of my ducks in a row. My ducks aren’t even in a cluster. In fact, I don’t even know where half of my ducks are most of the time. Last year alone, I left my phone on the back of the car three different times and had to replace it each time. Last week, I found my phone in a craft closet at work. Sometimes, I find my keys in the pantry. I’d like to blame the two toddlers that run loose in my house, but it’s all me. It’s been kind of a joke to people that know me that I’m ditzy or scatterbrained. I laugh, but it’s actually not something I enjoy or am proud of.
The past two years have been extremely difficult for me.
I’ve struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, lost a close family member, moved twice, discovered that my son needs speech therapy, along with a whole other host of daily challenges. These events have forced me to face many truths about myself and learn a lot about who I really am, not who I wish I were. And though I wish I were, I am not a naturally organized person. I love to organize things, but I don’t have the follow through to keep them that way. Unfortunately, my unorganized and “scatterbrained” tendencies only exacerbate my anxiety and depression. When my surroundings are cluttered, my mind and emotions are cluttered. When my anxiety and depression are at a high, I lose motivation to do anything. This just creates a vicious cycle of messes and clutter which increase my anxiety, which increases the chaos. I’ve also learned that the state of my surroundings often feed into my feelings and vice versa.
To help myself cope with these feelings that can often get out of hand, I decided to take some practical steps to grow in my areas of weakness as an organizer:
One thing I struggle with is a brain that doesn’t quit…I’m sure all moms can identify with this. I’m constantly thinking about things to do around the house, money, my husband, my kids’ well being, projects, meals, what I wish I could do with free time…you name it, I’m thinking about it. This makes it super hard for me to fall asleep. And then, even when I am asleep, I’m not fully resting, which makes for a cranky tired mama the next day. To combat this, I keep a “Night Notebook” beside my bed. Every night, I do a brain dump — literally anything that pops in my brain, I write it. Literally. Anything. I try to end it with affirmations, prayers, verses, inspiration quotes, or something to bring me joy. I also try to make a list of things to do the next day or that week. I write and write until my brain is calm and ready to shut down for the night.
Mommy Morning Basket
If you’re a homeschooling mama, you have probably heard the term “morning basket.” Essentially, it’s a basket of books and activities that you do as a group together at a designated time. I have one that I do with my children each morning as we eat breakfast. I decided that it would be beneficial for me to have my own mommy morning basket. In my basket are things that I want to make sure I get done so they’re tackled first. I keep my planner so that I can go over the things I need to get done as well as make any changes. I also keep a book or Bible study. Anything that I want to learn and need to focus on BEFORE the tiny people wake up. I also keep a journal or notebook in the basket. This way I can do another brain dump if I can’t focus on what I need to do.
Calm Down Corner
Like I said before, last year was difficult for my family. After my father-in-law’s death, my son was referred to speech therapy for articulation issues. We also moved. This was a lot for his little toddler self to process. Heck, it was a lot for me to process. He began having behavioral issues that we believed needed intervention. Our behavioral therapist suggested having a calm down time for when he felt those big emotions coming. Of course, I went to Pinterest and created a beautiful corner for him to go to and relax. It had a teepee, floor pillows, and a basket full of activities. He even had a chart where he could identify his feelings and a ring of calm down strategy cards.
I’m not suggesting this for mamas, but we SHOULD be allowed to have calm down moments too. If not for our own sanity, then to model to our children what to do when our feelings and emotions start to get the best of us. I began using the same terminology with myself that I used with my son so that he knew I had big feelings, too sometimes…and that it was normal and OK to need to take a minute to collect yourself. Now, when I feel the chaos from my surroundings overtaking me, I tell my kids, “Ok, guys. Find something to play with in your rooms. Mommy needs to go to her calm down corner for a few minutes so I don’t make bad choices.” While I don’t have a ring of calm down strategies, I have a few that I go to often. Sometimes, I step out on the porch and take a few deep breaths. I look around at beautiful things and think about the wonderful things I have. Another thing I do is turn on some music that makes me happy; sometimes it’s calming, sometimes it’s music to make me dance, and sometimes it’s just music to get my frustrations out. Coffee is always one of my go-to options as well. But it’s definitely NEVER the pint of Ben and Jerry’s hidden in my freezer.
Time Management Systems
This was probably the most helpful for me, but my one caveat is START SMALL. Especially if you’re someone like me who gets overwhelmed and gives up easily. The first step I took was from a book called Having a Mary Home the Martha Way. In it, Sarah Mae expresses the same struggles that I have. She explained that she uses the “Six List” system to stay on task. At the beginning of each day, you choose SIX tasks (no more, no fewer) that you want to get accomplished for the day. These should be six things that if you got nothing else accomplished for the day, you would still feel successful. I used this system until I no longer felt like I got sidetracked picking up a sock and spent 47 hours on Pinterest looking up ways to organize my pantry. Once I felt confident with the Six List, I began using Block Scheduling, which I learned from Jordan Page on Fun, Cheap, or Free. Basically, you divide your day into time chunks (blocks). I do 3-4 hours for each block. You add a few tasks for each block of time. You have 3-4 hours to accomplish those tasks in whatever order you like. This helped me still have structure, but also a little more flexibility, because let’s be honest, toddlers really know how to throw off any plan you may have for the day. I still use block scheduling for my daily time management, but now I have added the Fly Lady System to organize my week/month. This system helps you organize your time by creating routines. It’s especially beneficial for keeping your home in check without spending hours week trying to deep clean or play catch up.
Am I still an unorganized hot mess mama? Yeah, some of the time. These things haven’t transformed my home into a Home Edit home and they haven’t eliminated my depression and anxiety. They have however, given me the confidence to manage my time and surroundings. Implementing these simple systems have helped me find order when things seem anything but. When everything seems so chaotic that I can’t find a place to start, I remember these wise words from Elisabeth Elliot: “Sometimes life is so hard you can only do the next thing. Whatever that is, just do the next thing.”
Mamas, if you’re struggling because your house is a wreck and you can’t keep track of anything, you’re not alone. If you’ve gotten one too many “last reminder” letters in the mail because you forget to pay a bill or it’s missing in the giant stack of unsorted mail, you’re not alone. If you’ve missed one too many appointments and deadlines because it’s all you can do to stay afloat, you’re not alone. If you feel guilty because you sent your kids to school with no socks on because the mountain of dirty clothes is so high that no one has clean clothes, you’re not alone.