How To Organize Your Life (With Kids!) In 12 Simple Steps
Want the secrets to staying organized as a busy mom? These 11 actionable steps will help you declutter, organize and destress your home and family life.
OK, admit it. You read that headline and immediately thought, “an organized life with kids? Ha, good one!”. While we don’t disagree that staying organized as you juggle your family life – full of laundry, cooking, activities, carpooling, and good ol’ tantrums – sounds like a pretty daunting task, we’re here to be your cheerleader and tell you: “it can be done!”.
With the help of our sponsor, Pampers Pure, we’ve outlined 11 actionable steps to help you refresh and organize your home for the New Year (and keep it that way!).
We know your life is busy, but we promise that dedicating your time to put these ideas into practice can reap huge rewards: you’ll feel less overwhelmed, less stressed, and more in control of your everyday life – ultimately giving you more focused, free time to enjoy with your family.
Now we’re not naïve enough to say that these steps will transform your house into a perfectly organized Pinterest-worthy abode – there will still be toys on the floor and messes on the counter – but they will help you put systems in place to keep your home feeling clean and organized. Cue breath of fresh air.
PIN for when you’re ready to start fresh!
#1. Purge, Donate & Sort
First things first, you have to start with a clean slate. That means it’s time to systematically go through your house, and purge or donate the items you don’t use. Easier said than done, right?
The hardest part: getting started.
The thought of going through all your belongings can be completely overwhelming – but the relief you will feel when you’re done will be well worth the effort, and it will give you the space to properly organize.
The key to getting started is to break down the task into more manageable chunks. Make a list of all the different areas of your house that need to be addressed, so you can tackle them one by one. And get specific. This means instead of just putting “bedroom” on your list, you put specific places like the closet, bedside table, and dresser, as well.
Start with one of these smaller areas and you’ll find it’s easy to get hooked…it just feels so good to start fresh! Decide how much time you can dedicate every day, whether it’s 15 minutes, or a few hours, and make your way through your list.
As you work, look at each item and decide if you’ll:
- Donate/Recycle – group these items together and take them to your local donation center
- Save – for things like outgrown children’s clothes you’re keeping for a sibling, sort and label them in large bins and then store them away
- Throw Away
- Keep – read on for tips on how to organize these keeper items
A good rule of thumb when deciding what things to keep: if you haven’t used it in the past year, it’s time to use the space it’s taking up for something you will. So donate or toss it. If you really aren’t sure, you can make a “Maybe” box and place things inside that you’re on the fence about keeping. Store this box away and revisit it in a year (you can put a sticky note on top of the box with the year-from-now date, or better yet – set a reminder on your phone) – if you still haven’t used it, it’s got to go!
This step will take the most time, but it’s so important, because getting rid of your clutter will free up valuable space for you to organize.
#2 Stock Up On Essentials
Now that you’ve decluttered, it’s time to stock up! Nothing makes you feel more disorganized than not having essentials on hand when you need them – and the right ones that you feel good about using with your family.
Take a Target run and stock-up on all your essentials for your family, which may include:
- Household Items: Paper Towels, Toilet Paper, Tissues, Batteries, Cleaning Supplies
- Office Supplies: Printer Paper, Printer Ink, Envelopes, Pens/Pencils, Stamps, Greeting Cards
- Bathroom Supplies/Toiletries: Shampoo, Conditioner, Hair Products, Toothpaste, Electric Toothbrush heads, Floss, Hand Soap, Body Wash, Moisturizer, Sunscreen, Razors, Shaving Cream
- Non-perishable food items like Cereal, Snacks, + your favorite freezer foods.
- Baby/Kid Items: Diapers/Wipes, Medicine, Bandaids, Art Supplies, Hair Bands/Clips
There’s never a good time to run out of diapers, so if you have young kids, having a few boxes of diapers and wipes in stock will ensure that you’ll never be caught unprepared. We also recommend grabbing a package of diapers in the next size up so you’re ready for their next growth spurt.
Target now sells our favorite Pampers Pure diapers and wipes that are made from premium cotton and are free of fragrance, chlorine bleaching, lotion, parabens, and natural rubber latex. We’ve tried a lot of natural/organic diapers that have let us down in the past, but with the thoughtfully selected materials of Pampers Pure, plus their trusted leakage and dryness protection, you don’t have to compromise.
Same goes for the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes which are 99% pure water with a touch of cotton. We love their size (you don’t need to use multiple to get the job done!), softness, and how they have a little stretch to get in all those nooks and crannies. They’re hypoallergenic and safe for use on newborn hands and faces too. Anything that can be used for multiple purposes is a win in our book!
#3 Create a Home for Everything
As you de-clutter your home, put your “keep” items back in logical places based on what they are, and how often they are used. Resist the urge to just stick them back in the same old junk drawer!
Group similar items together and make a designated space for them. Order storage bins to help you organize – having individual bins for things like batteries, nail polish, sewing/repair kits, shoe cleaning supplies, etc. will instantly give them a “home” so they’re easily accessible when you need them.
Think about how often you use the item – is it something you use every day that needs an easy-to-access home, or something you don’t use often that can be stored out of sight?
For parents, the Playroom is often an area of disorganized chaos. No matter how organized you make it, toys will end up everywhere…and it won’t take long! But let your kids play. If you have individual, labeled storage bins for similar-type toys, like LEGOS, blocks, musical instruments and dolls for instance, it can make a world of difference when it’s time to clean-up…for both you, and your kids!
Make sure you loop in everyone in your family about any new “homes” you create for things that they might also use. There’s no point re-organizing if things aren’t put back in the right spot, and this will get everyone on the same page. Teach your kids where their toys should live, and how to sort them while they’re cleaning up. Editor’s note: I keep a catch-all bucket in our playroom so while the kids are cleaning up, if they’re unsure where a toy goes, they’ll put it in the bucket which I will then sort through every few days.
#4 Put it away. Right away.
Now you’ve worked so hard to give everything a home, you just have to keep it that way. It may seem like common sense, but an extremely simple way to keep things organized is to put items away in their designated place immediately after using them. It can be as simple as brushing your hair and then placing your hairbrush back with your other hair accessories, or putting your hat and gloves back into your “cold weather” bin in your mudroom. The more little things you can do throughout the day, the less likely you are to create clutter in the first place.
Teach your kids to do the same and you’ll really be in good shape! A few things they can do to help:
- Hang up their coat
- Put shoes away neatly
- Put dirty clothes in hamper (bonus if you can teach them to turn their clothes around so they’re not inside out…huge time saver when it comes to folding laundry!)
- Take lunchboxes out of backpacks and put away
- Place toothbrush/toothpaste back in designated area in bathroom
- Hang up towels/robes
- Put back toys once finished playing
- Pack up all board game or puzzle pieces and put back on shelf
- Clear plate and put in dishwasher
#5 Schedule Time to Re-organize
But not to worry, we get it, you’re a busy Mom being pulled in a hundred different directions, and sometimes doing #4 just isn’t possible. Which is why we suggest scheduling time to re-organize and re-declutter into your calendar.
Make a standing time each week (or bi-weekly, monthly; whatever is right for you) to put things that are out of place, back in the right spot – or to neaten things they you may not have had a chance to put away properly the first time. Make it a family affair where everyone pitches in to get the job done.
#6 Delegate Cleaning/Organizing Tasks
Don’t put all your organizing eggs in your own basket…everything is easier with a team, so get your kids and significant other on board to help keep your home spick and span.
A few different ways to do this:
- Assign a specific area of the house for each family member to keep clean and tidy (for kids, this could be their bedrooms, the playroom, etc.)
- Delegate specific tasks on a weekly basis – create a “chore” chart that serves as a visual reminder. You can either keep their chores the same every week, or rotate them to keep them fresh
- Give each child a special “helper” job for a certain period of time (it could just be for a weekend, or for an entire month) – for example, a laundry helper could help round-up dirty laundry and place in the washer, match up socks, put clothes away, etc. A kitchen helper could help wash dishes, unload dishwasher, create snack baggies for grab ‘n’ go lunches, chop veggies, set the table, wipe the table and sweep after dinner, etc.
Hopefully your family will soon see that the more they help keep the house tidy, the more time you will ultimately have to spend with them doing things that are much more fun!
#7 Create a Family Command Center
Creating a family calendar in a central place in your home is a game-changer for staying organized and keeping everyone on the same page. Add all of your family’s upcoming activities – from school events and extracurricular activities, to doctor’s appointments, play dates, important meetings and special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays.
We love a simple white board that is easy to adjust as plans change. Assign each family member a different color to make it super simple to figure out who’s doing what each day. Then with a quick glance you can see exactly what the day holds. Add a pin board to hang paperwork that needs to be completed and important reminders.
You can also use a synchronized calendar app, which can be updated by all family members, and is great for avoiding scheduling conflicts and for looking at while out and about.
#8 Organize & De-Stress Your Mornings
For most families, mornings are the most chaotic time of the day. Getting yourself ready and out the door in conjunction with your children is no small feat, and one that often involves lots of rushing around, nagging, stressful conversation and everyone feeling frazzled.
But with a little organization and some forward thinking, you can snap out of your morning rut. Head to our post 67 Life Changing Organization Tips & Hacks for Stress-Free Mornings to learn more about creating a winning morning routine, prepping school lunches and snacks, organizing outfit selections and more.
#9 Keep a To-Do/Today List
Is there ever a day where you actually feel like you accomplished everything on your “To Do” list? If you’re anything like us, the answer is likely a big ol’ “no”. With never-ending To Do lists, it can often feel like you’re not making any progress, and that’s often accompanied by feelings of being overwhelmed and unorganized.
But a simple tweak to your “To Do” list can change everything.
Keep your full “To Do” list, which includes all of the things you have to do, but add an extra column marked “Today”. Then move the specific things that you can/need to accomplish today to the “Today” column. This essentially helps break your list down into more manageable parts, so at the end of the day you can feel like you successfully completed your tasks, instead of working off an endless list.
#10 Meal Plan
Getting a home cooked meal on the table for your family takes A LOT of work. Between the searching for recipes (that everyone will like!), grocery shopping, prepping and cook time – repeated every day, it can become a stressful and unwanted “chore”.
The solution: meal planning.
Meal planning is something we once thought was pretty intimidating, but it’s actually a very simple thing to put into action. By spending a little time upfront, it allows you to plan your week of meals so you only have to take 1 trip to the grocery store – and when you know “what’s for dinner?” every day, you’ll feel more in control and significantly less stressed
Think of it as 4 separate steps:
- Choose your meals/recipes for the week
- Make a shopping list + shop
Some helpful tips:
- Look at your calendar (hello #7 above!) and see how many nights you will be making dinner at home. For the nights that you are cooking, consider your schedule and work it into your plan. For instance, does your son have a late soccer game? Then a slow-cooker recipe that can be ready as soon as you get home might be best. Maybe you have to fit in a quick dinner in between dance and swimming, so heating up a casserole would be easy. No afternoon plans? Perhaps it’s time to try a new recipe. By working around your plans you’ll end up less stressed, more prepared and with healthier meals.
- Plan around theme nights – assign a theme to each day of the week and plan around it. Things like Taco Tuesday, Casserole Wednesday or Seafood Friday not only make your job of choosing recipes more focused, but make it fun for kids as well.
- A lot of people think meal planning involves finding and cooking new recipes. You don’t need to! Sure you can aim to try something new every week or two, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking with your family’s favorites (they’re favorites for a reason, right?).
- Prep food after you grocery shop – doing some simple prep as you put away your weekly groceries can save you tons of time during the week. Wash your fruit and veggies; chop veggies into smaller pieces ready to cook; prep any marinades/dressing, etc.
- Make extra for leftovers – consider doubling your recipes so you have leftovers for lunches, or to freeze for a future night-off of cooking!
- Keep a well-stock pantry (see #2) – meals are much easier to prepare if you have all the essentials like olive oil and spices on hand.
#11 Not Just Your House
Organizing your life doesn’t just mean getting your house into tip-top shape. Apply the declutter and organizing steps above to other places where you spend time like your office space or your car, and to items like your wallet.
Create a schedule for going through these areas/items on a regular weekly or monthly basis.
#12 Cut Yourself Some Slack
Remember, there is no way to possibly keep your home organized 24/7. You’re busy. Life is hectic. Things come up. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t look perfectly placed all the time…because they won’t!
Have realistic expectations about what is possible. Still use your stuff. Let your kids make a mess.
If you use the tips and systems we outlined above, you’ll feel a huge weight lifted from your shoulders. It will take you less time to clean your house. You’ll have a daily plan to follow and you’ll never run out of your favorite essentials. And most importantly, you’ll ultimately have more time to spend with those that matter most: your family.
Tell us some ways you and your family stay organized in the comments below.
Thanks again to our sponsor, Pampers, for making the Pampers Pure collection of diapers and wipes that are made with thoughtful materials but don’t sacrifice performance. We feel good using them on our children…and stock piling them to make sure we never run out!