The Ultimate Organization Station
Let’s be honest: you’re the keeper in your household, aren’t you? Keeper of appointments, keeper of birthdays, keeper of school start and finish times. The smooth running of multiple lives rests squarely on your shoulders, and though we may get some help from our significant others, the mental load is still a massive part of the home life we all enjoy, and women do the bulk of it.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, the mental load is the huge amount of information, reminders, tasks and general stuff we need to keep on top of, so the household runs without a hitch. It’s knowing not only when bin day is, but also ensuring the bins are taken to the curb, adding more bin bags to the shopping list, and remembering to wipe down the kitchen bin before moving on to the next job.
It’s your family being invited to a birthday party, but there’s the subconscious expectation in your house that you will organize the present, wrap it, write the card (from the entire family, no less), know what time the party starts and where it is being held, and have a nice outfit prepared for the kids.
It’s why I have multiple list apps on my phone, and eight different Google Calendars, but my husband has an empty default calendar and asks me to text him a list if he has to drop by the shops on the way home from work.
I could go on, and countless articles explain in great detail the incredible unfairness of the mental load, and the anger so many women now feel upon realizing that this has been happening for so long. This post, however, is not going to go into this topic any further.
A Working Mom’s Secret to Staying on Top of the Chaos
While the ultimate solution is an equal split of the mental load between men and women (in a hetero-normative household; yours may look completely different), until we get to that point I want to highlight strategies to tackle the mental load head-on.
I found that particularly as a working mom, I was struggling to remember events the kids were invited to at daycare. Wet and Messy Day is a great example, where the daycare gives us a week or so notice and we need to remember to bring in a swimsuit and towel on the right day. I dutifully added the event to my google calendar, even going to far as to set up a notification ten minutes before we were due to leave for the morning drop-off. Nevertheless, I forgot about Wet and Messy Day. So did my husband. Multiple times!
After a few of these incidents, and feeling thoroughly annoyed with myself, I decided something needed to change. I wanted information and events front and centre where I could view them with little effort and make reminders difficult to miss. Something that would complement my Google calendar, which held the fine details and locations. Enter my command centre!
I am always trying to be more productive and a big part of being able to stay on top of the chaos in my house comes from routines, such as my morning routine and my command centre. Located in my kitchen, the command centre has a few aspects that work together to ensure I am (almost) always ready for the day and week ahead.
Let’s get into the details!
I use this calendar from Kikki K and I LOVE it. It hangs centre-stage on my fridge and is covered in highlighted events, reminders about whether the recycling gets emptied this week, and tells us when visitors are coming to stay.
I love the columns for each family member and the boxes have just enough space for the most important schedule items each day. My husband’s roster goes in his column, any parties or family events we attend are entered, and we even have a column dedicated to Reminders, and another for birthdays and visitors (we have guests pretty often).
It’s a great central point for my husband and me to see what’s coming up in the next week, and I make a point of taking my time filling in the calendar for the next month so it looks appealing!
Lots of people I speak to have a digital shopping list or use a clever app that allows you to sync your list with your partner so you can add shopping items on the go. While I do use Wunderlist for storing longer-term lists (I have lists for Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse, the Bulk Food Store – places I go to often, but not weekly and definitely not with kids if I can avoid it!) I prefer a paper list hanging on my fridge with a pen attached for a couple of reasons.
I add the most things to the shopping list when I’m cooking in the kitchen and notice we are running short on an item. It’s super easy to lean over to the fridge, write it down and forget about it, instead of stopping cooking to search for my phone to add it to a digital list.
The list I use (which I got for a bargain at Kmart) divides the items into sections. This makes it that much simpler to find things in the supermarket on the rare occasion I do the shopping myself instead of online. I can also see the whole list in one go rather than scrolling back and forth, which is a personal preference I’ve developed.
Note: for the small mid-week shops where I need milk and bread, I will use my phone to write a little list. It’s just simpler than remembering a physical list during the hectic morning run.
It took a bit of convincing to get me to turn my hopes and dreams into actionable goals and stick them front and centre on my fridge, but I am so glad I did! In the past, my goals would often go forgotten because I’d hide them away. Probably because I felt embarrassed at the possibility I would fail. And you know what, I always did fail to reach those goals!
Keeping my goals on the fridge means I see them every day and keep them at the front of my mind. I am accountable to my husband, who also sees them every day and often asks about my progress.
I am also able to tick off progressing goals, like my goal to post each week. This gives me small bursts of satisfaction and keeps me motivated for the week ahead.
These don’t have to be blogging goals either. You could write down your personal, fitness, parenting, or professional goals and hang them on the fridge. What’s important is that you see them every day!
In-Tray and Accordion File
My most recent addition to my command centre is an in-tray placed on the bench directly beside the fridge. Having a place to collect all the bits and pieces at the end of the day makes me feel so much better as I’m tidying up. Every few days I go through the tray and sort the papers, mail and receipts that have collected there.
From the in-tray, the paper will either go in the recycling, be actioned immediately (if I can send an email/make a phone call and get rid of the paper, I will do it straight away), or be put into my accordion file to be actioned at a later date. I chose a cheap as chips accordion file from Kmart with 12 dividers so I can sort paperwork into the month it will be relevant. At the start of each month, I check the folder and start the sorting process again (Action/File/Throw).
There you have it! My one-stop, organisation-station, central command centre! I hope this post has inspired you to try one (or all) of the strategies above to help deal with a little bit of the mental load every family seems to struggle with.
If you’d like me to go into more detail about how I use my digital calendar to complement my command centre, let me know in the comments. I’d also love to hear what hacks you use to stay on top of the chaos!