By Tara Aronson
We’ve just come through the sound and fury of the holidays – and our homes, nerves, and bank accounts reflect it. Relax. It’s a new year, and we can get things back under our control. The 7 tips below are the place to start. The best part? They all build on one another.
Consider instituting this post-holiday rule: for every new item (bathrobe, earrings, slippers) that arrives, three things have to say adios. Call it the get-organized, one-for-three rule. Before anyone puts away presents, he or she must fill a minimum of three bags for donation to children’s charities. Now move on to your holiday stuff. Any decorations you didn’t use this year? Chances are you won’t them next year, either. These go in the donation pile.
Yes, you want to keep a few cozy T-shirts and jeans for Saturday sports or painting with the kids. But you don’t need two dozen. Donation to children pile. And that collection of hotel shampoos that you’ve been working on for the last decade? This is going to be an organized new year, remember? You don’t need them all (if you did, they wouldn’t be there.) Donate these to your neighborhood shelter.
2. Divide, conquer, and label.
Label every box or bag you stash or store in the garage this year. It’s a key element to an organized new year. When you take down the tree and decorations, label each box before it heads into a year of storage. Next, find a corner or area in the garage, basement or attic for storing these boxes.
Apply the same strategy throughout the house, starting with closets and drawers, and ending with neatly labeled storage boxes from each.
3. Resolve to have a neater, cleaner home.
Now that you’ve decluttered and organized, cleaning should be a breeze. Often, clutter is what really makes cleaning hard. Start your organized new year cleaning routine by setting aside an hour or so several days a week to tackle essential tasks. For example: Laundry is Monday nights; bathrooms are Saturday morning; trash is Sunday nights, etc.
This ensures nothing is overlooked. It also spreads the work out into more manageable chunks of time throughout the week.
4. This is the year for simpler, saner lives.
We not only ricochet through the house – it often seems we ricochet through life just as madly. Downsize and organize family activities so family breakfasts and dinners won’t be endangered times in the year ahead. Breakfasts are a free-for-all-mad-dash most mornings. Dinners are endangered. Homework goes on into the wee hours of the night. We didn’t grow up like this. What happened?! We unwittingly veer into the fast lane of family life and can get stuck there. . . if we don’t take the driver’s seat instead of going along for the ride. This is fixable.
Here’s how to start:
Allow everyone in the family a maximum of three sports, activities or hobbies, not to exceed three commitments each (practices, meetings, etc.) per week. If you have more than two kids, the limit might be two hobbies. Now look at your own hobbies and interests. A little tougher. Parents not only have hobbies they love to do, but also commitments they should do (PTA, etc.). Save at least two time slots per week for something you love to do. Limit volunteering to two more slots. 2015 is the year to learn to say ‘No’—and mean it. It’s a crucial part of your organized New Year’s success.
5. Resolve to save money.
If you faithfully adhere to resolutions 1 and 4, this resolution will wonderfully take care of itself. After all, we’ve been spending money on things we don’t really need and on too many expensive extracurricular activities for the kids. Pare down the essentials list and you’re halfway home. For the other half, list all the bills that have a fixed amount paid monthly, such as the mortgage or rent, health insurance, car payment, tuition, etc. Finally, list luxury expenses: lessons, clothes, Starbucks, movies, dining, etc. Set a budget for each. Include the kids in the process for this one. Tell them how much is budgeted for family entertainment and let each kid vote on how at least part of the money should be spent. Call this your resolution for an organized new year for the entire family.
6. Resolve to take care of yourself.
The above resolutions are about helping take care of yourself, of course. After all, if your home is clean, efficient and organized and your time and money are well-managed, you are taking care of yourself. And remember those time slots? Don’t cut corners here. Your slot could be as extravagant as an occasional day at the spa or as simple as taking a long soak in the bathtub. You choose, but do it!
7. Resolve to be the best you can be.
If you have accomplished resolutions 1-6, this one, too, takes care of itself. If you find time to be good to yourself, you will find the time, energy and patience to be good to your loved ones. One just flows from the other. But you can’t go directly to Resolution No. 7, unfortunately. These resolutions are like building blocks. If the bottom layer is unstable, you can’t build on top of it.
So take a deep breath and resolve to start anew with No. 1. Don’t expect to finish the resolutions in a day, week or even a month. This is a continuous process that will provide ample rewards in the year ahead.
Happy Organized New Year!