We all live very busy lives, however when you add the lives of each of your family members into the mix -- things can get a little, or even a lot, hectic. You know what I mean - the missed doctor's appointment, Johnny forgot his science report, Dad can't find his keys, on the way to practice Jenna realizes she doesn't have her tennis racket or Mom has no idea what to make for dinner. And when you get behind, some of your good green habits may go out the window -- making unnecessary car trips, forgetting your reusable grocery bags, or (gasp) buying fast food for dinner. A busy family can make saving time at home and on the go a challenge. However, you can solve a few of your problems just by being organized. Read on to learn 7 ways organization can save you time at home and on the go.
1. Plan it. Schedule it. Write it Down.
First things first, make a schedule and stick to it. Managing a family is easier when there’s a routine. If your children get up, eat breakfast, get ready for school, eat dinner and go to bed at the same time each day – it’s easier to keep things running smoothly, even when you need to add ballet lessons, swimming class, Eric’s birthday party, or the spelling bee to the schedule. Whether you use your iPhone, computer, individual reusable planners or a large family message board, when you keep everyone aware of the schedule, everything else falls into place.
2. Be Prepared
Spend 15 minutes every night before bedtime getting things organized for the following day. Encourage children to return homework, signed permission slips and library books to their backpacks before they go to bed. Put your keys, wallet, letters to be mailed and sunglasses back in your handbag. Lay out your clothing and your children’s clothing for the next day, including shoes, coats and hats. Another great option is to have a bin for each family member by the front door. Everything that they will need for the following day, is placed in the bin, ready to be grabbed on the way out the door the next morning. This includes equipment for sports practice, instruments for music lessons, packages that need to be mailed, library books that need to go back to the library and anything else that will be needed for the following day. This prevents unnecessary trips back home because someone forgot something.
3. Leave it in the Car
The backseat of the family car can start to look like a pig pen if things aren’t organized. Use a backpack to help you keep each of your children’s things organized. Remove the headrest from the seat directly in front of the seat that your child sits in, slide the bars through the hanging loop on the backpack and secure the headrest back into place. Use the backpack to house books, games, notebooks, sketch pads, handheld video game systems and toys for on the go fun. Smaller pockets are perfect for trinkets, video games and DVD’s. Keep a filled reusable water bottle and non-perishable snacks in a pocket for those “Mom, I’m hungry!” moments. This will make it much easier to skip those stops at the fast food drive thru.
4. Know What’s for Dinner
Spend a few minutes each weekend planning your meals for the following week. Do an inventory to see what ingredients you have and what you need to pick up. Write down your weekly menu, attach it the refrigerator door and stick to it. You can also spend time on the weekend, making meals for the week ahead and refrigerating or freezing them. Either way, planning your meals in advance will prevent you from “picking up” dinner because you don’t know what to make, don’t have the right ingredients or just don’t feel creative. Get the kids involved by taking their suggestions for a meal or two each week and letting them help with the prep work, cooking, and cleanup.
5. Stick to a Station
Craft projects and bill paying can seem daunting if you don’t know where the glue or checkbook is. Keeping things organized by station can save a lot of time. Keep everything that you will need for a particular project in one area. For example all of your child’s eco-friendly art supplies in a kitchen cupboard. This makes quick after dinner crafts a breeze. If everything that you need to pay the bills, or make follow up phone calls is neatly organized in your computer desk, these things become a snap. If everything in your home has a place and is put back in it’s place once someone is finished with it, you will never waste time looking for or buying new items that you already have.
6. Stay 10 Minutes Ahead of the Game
If you are at least 10 minutes ahead of your schedule, you should never be late. How many times have you jumped into the car, only to see that your teenager left it on empty. Or, your daily schedule is thrown out of whack due to traffic, or the never-ending drop off line at your child’s school. If you plan ahead for these surprises, they don’t feel so much like –well, surprises. And if everything works out, the worst that happens is that you are 10 minutes early to work, with time to grab a cup of tea.
7. Organization Can Take you F.A.R.
I use what I call the F.A.R. system in our home. F.A.R. stands for File, Act, Recycle. As soon as any type of paper or package comes into our house, I use the F.A.R. system. If it is something that I will need to keep such as a tax document, receipt, or coupon, I file them in their appropriate place. If it is a bill, permission slip, or reminder, I act on it immediately. If it is a bill – I immediately pay it, a permission slip – I sign and return it to my son’s backpack, a reminder – I update it to my planner. Everything else is recycled including junk mail, non-important documents and school papers. We never have the huge stack of papers to deal with at the end of the month.
How does your family save time at home and on the go?