1. The Junk Mail Wars
Every day the mailman delivers what feels like an acre of trees to my mailbox. Sometimes the sheer volume of advertising just astonishes me. This used to sit on my counter or in my office, and pile up. Every six months or so I would determine to organize my office and sort it all out while watching Pride and Prejudice (the six hour BBC version), going through every bill and ad to make sure I didn't need it.
I don't do this anymore. Thanks to my lovely husband (who was born organized), I've learned a new trick. It goes like this: I get the mail. As I walk back to the house, I'm going through it, pulling out bills and items that I need to review. Mailers, credit card offers and catalogs go straight into the recycle. (I do tear up the credit card offers.) Legitimate mail gets opened and organized by if action is needed or not. Bills on auto pay get torn up and recycled as well. Filing gets filed right then. Usually, this reduces my pile to zero. If not, I have one or two items that need addressing instead of a mountain of junk that has taken over my life. My house is tidier and I'm less overwhelmed.
2. The Five Minute Mantra
I used to avoid doing dishes, because I felt they took too long, and I "never had time" to do them. But one day, with a huge pile of dishes on my counter, I decided to time myself. Twenty minutes later, the whole huge pile was gone, and it occurred to me that I was really making this more of a chore than it had to be. I don't spend twenty minutes anymore, I spend five. In the morning while my coffee brews and I'm making breakfast I spend five minutes emptying the dishwasher. After breakfast, I spend five minutes loading the dishwasher. After dinner I spend another five minutes loading the dishwasher and then I run it. If I have hand wash items I let them soak and then I spend five minutes washing them before I go to bed. I'm still amazed at how much kitchen cleaning I can accomplish in five minutes if I just decide to do it!
This mantra works for laundry, too. Five minutes to hang up my clothes before bedtime or five minutes to throw a load in the wash, five minutes of folding laundry, etc. And if all else fails, I guess there's always the six hour version of Pride and Prejudice to fall back on!
3. Fun for the Whole Family
When I was a kid, my mom had this great game for tidying up the house. We never knew when it was going to be time to play, but we thought it was great fun. Best of all, the whole family, even my sister who was three, could play. The game was simple. My mom would call out "Blitz", and then we ran around and "blitzed" - tidied - the house as fast as we could for about ten minutes. With more people involved we got a lot done in a short time. Plus, we knew that there was always a reward at the end - a story or ice cream or some kind of quality family time together, so we looked forward to it. To this day, one of my best childhood memories is playing this game.
Staying organized is an ongoing process, but it doesn't have to take up much time every day. The key is to make it a part of your daily routine so it doesn't become a monumental chore. And if I may suggest a reward for your new-found organizational savvy? Hire a maid service to do the rest of your deep cleaning for you!