Organized Chaos 

I am typically a very organized person, almost to the point of obsessive compulsive behavior sometimes possibly… Ok, I’m a little obsessive compulsive.  But, it’s almost impossible to be organized all of the time, especially when the little people in your life seem to be hell-bent on destroying your organized home!

Here are some ways that I attempt to organize our chaos to make it possible to keep my sanity, and to help my children and husband to know what to expect, and what my expectations for them are.

1 – A color coded calendar.  This makes it so simple to see at a glance who has what going on each week.  It helps my husband to know which days of the week he is going to need to be responsible for picking up kids from daycare or cook dinner because I have a meeting or an after-school responsibility.  I put the kids stuff in one color and use another color for my commitments.  This makes it so easy to quickly look and see what stuff I have going on and what stuff the kids have going on.  At some point I am sure I will need more colors so that each member of the family has their own color, but at this season in our lives two or three colors is enough 🙂

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I made this awesome dry erase calendar for less than $10 and I have been using it for several years now.  I bought a cheap frame from the dollar store ($5 I think), used a ruler to draw 6 vertical lines and 5 horizontal lines to make a 5×7 grid on a piece of fabric (which was leftover from my kitchen bar stools and matched my kitchen perfectly!) that was slightly larger than the frame (11×14), then I glued the fabric to the back of the frame so it was behind the glass.  The last step is to either hang the frame up, or you can do like I did and add some magnets to the back to hang it on the fridge.  I will say, we had to get some really good glue to get the magnets to stick and hold the frame up, so be careful to make sure you have good glue and magnets or this won’t work.

HERE is a link to a frame on Amazon that would work well for this project.

I just write on the glass with dry-erase markers each month and it wipes off easily with a paper towel when it’s time to change it over to the next month.  I have trained my husband to check this at the beginning of each week so that he knows exactly what is going on that week!

2 –  Plan laundry out ahead of time.  This one might sound silly but it truly saves me time and stress most weeks.  One reason that this is really important for our family is because we have cloth diapers that need to be washed, and we also have some days of the week where we have our two older boys at our house and they create extra laundry that obviously needs to be washed as well.  I try to think ahead about what nights I will have time to do laundry, what laundry is going to need to be done for different activities we may have going on throughout the week, and I also try to take the the weather into account during the spring and summer so that I can plan to do laundry on some days that I might be able to hang some stuff outside.  Some weeks I just need to make sure I do a load of laundry every day, sometimes it’s more or less than that depending on what we have going on!  Most nights I don’t have time to do more than one or two loads of laundry, so it’s nice to plan ahead a little bit so that I don’t have a ton to do all at once.  Also, some weekends we are gone so I have to get it all done during the week, which is sometimes a challenge!

3 – Menu planning.  After I look at what we have going on each week, I then plan our menu out for the week.  Some weeks I may only be cooking 3 or 4 meals depending on what we have going on, but knowing ahead of time and planning out what we are going to eat makes a huge difference in my grocery bills and in the stress of tying to figure out what we’re going to eat on the nights that we are home.  I try to know what we need for the week ahead of time, find a night to go buy groceries for the whole week, and find a night or several nights when I can do some meal prepping.  I try to prep all of our breakfast and lunches ahead of time and then the only meals I have to worry about cooking each day is dinner!  **Keep your eyes peeled for a post on what I prep ahead of time for lunches and breakfasts ;)**

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I try to post our meals for the week here so that everyone in the house knows what I’ve got planned! This chalkboard is just a old cookie sheet that I spray painted with chalkboard paint and then drilled a hole and added some ribbon for hanging.  I am wanting to create a family command center to replace this old chalkboard, but I need to figure out exactly what I want to create.  I’m sure once I find something to replace this I will write about it here!

Planning out your menu can make it so much easier to get grocery shopping done more efficiently.  I know ahead of time what I am going to need to make all of our breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week so I can get in and out of the stores I need to go to quickly, and I spend less money in the long run because I am only buying what we need.  We really have it down to a science how many times a month we need to go to Aldi, Target and Costco and I spend WAY less money now that we have it figured out!

I have also tried planning meals out for the whole month and doing the majority of our grocery shopping all in one weekend then buying very minimal groceries for the rest of the month.  This was HARD for our family.  It just didn’t quite work for our lifestyle to try to plan out meals a month in advance, but I’m sure for some families this is a great system!

4 – Lists and reminders. Some people say that lists are a form of procrastination.  While I can totally understand where that comes from, I NEED lists to keep my brain organized.  (like I feel like I could never remember to do anything if I didn’t write it down and then drink a cup of coffee before doing it…)

I have a few different ways that I make lists.  I have lists in my “notes” app on my phone.  This is great because I have grocery lists and to-do lists constantly at my fingertips so that when I think of something while I’m about to fall asleep I can just quickly add it to my list and then it is off my mind so I can worry about other things, like falling asleep 😉  I also have lists and post-it notes all over my desk and computer at work, as well as in a basket that is attached to my refrigerator.  I would be lost without my lists and I would forget A LOT of things.  I am the type of person that needs to write things or type things in order for me to remember to get them done.  I have many long term lists (like big projects that we want to get done around the house) and short term lists (like small things that I need to get accomplished throughout the weekend such as laundry, cleaning, shopping and other small projects).  I would never manage to get all of the groceries that we need without a grocery list.  Sometimes I take a picture of it before I leave in case I forget it at home!  In short, lists keep me organized and I am more likely to accomplish the things that I need to get done if I have it written down on a list.
5 – Budget planning.  One of the most stressful things in our family, in my opinion, is often money.  We operated for years with no budget really, but we needed to go through our finances and really make a solid budget and STICK TO IT.  We had tried to make budgets before, but if you don’t stick to your budget then it is essentially worthless!  I made a simple document that we filled in to categorize what we were spending our money on and figure out how much money could be saved each month and how much we could spend on food and clothes and stuff like that.  We occasionally try to do the envelope system where you figure out your budget and take out cash for each category and when the cash is gone for the month, it’s gone.  A few areas that work really well for this type of budget are eating out and clothing.  When our cash for eating out is gone, we don’t eat out for the rest of the month!  We like saving cash, so it’s fun when you have cash leftover at the end of the month and it can go into savings!

Dave Ramsey has tons of ideas on how to set up your budget, but one thing I came across that inspired me to work on our budget was a chart that showed that 30% of your income goes to housing, 10% to food, 15% to savings, 10% to charity and 35% to everything else.  When we went through our budget, this just didn’t quite make sense for our family.  For example, our mortgage is very cheap and our mortgage plus our household bills like insurance, electricity, cable and internet and water just didn’t add up to 30%.  And then the “everything else” category added up to way more than 35% when you added in daycare for our littlest boy and child support for the oldest two.  We adjusted the percentages to work for our income and our bills, but either way it was nice to go through and think about how much we are spending on each category and what our budget is for each category each month.

We also needed to think through all of the non-monthly things that we have to pay for, because those are always the things that sneak up on us and destroy our budget.  If we can make sure we are thinking ahead about things like vet visits, membership renewals (Costco and Amazon), and car registrations and property taxes, then in theory we should have money in savings for those things so that we don’t have to alter our budget the month that those things are due to try to cover them.

All of these ideas are basically just planning ahead in different ways.  They are simple and easy, but effective ways to organize your chaos!   What are some ways that you organize your lives?

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