Hey Mom, you can organize your entire life the 80/20 way.
By Sarah Mueller, Contributing Writer
If you can get a few key areas organized, your life can run quite smoothly. It’s the 80/20 rule in action: organize 20% of your home (or your habits or your activities) and you’ll streamline 80 percent of the time you spend on homemaking activities! That’s a pretty sweet return on the investment of your time, don’t you think?
So let’s talk about where that critical 20 percent lies for many moms.
If you can organize just these 3 areas of your household, you’ll experience a huge benefit:
- Food (cooking, shopping, cleaning up, etc.)
- Laundry and clothing
- Money (budgeting, saving, etc.)
Sure, there are plenty of other things you could organize as well and maybe something else is causing a huge headache for you, but in general, these 3 items are a great place to start.
So what do you do to get these 3 areas of your life humming along smoothly?
Let’s start with how to organize all things food-related.
Everyone needs to eat and those little people in your home seem to expect to be fed on an almost continual basis! Or is that just me?
And just when they can feed themselves, they start raiding the cupboards like hungry wolves.
So every mom needs to have a plan that’ll keep the pantry stocked and the family happy and satisfied.
The most important thing you’ll need to properly organize the food realm is a menu or a meal plan.
You can get as detailed and specific with your meal plan. Plan out meals, snacks, shopping lists, coupons, to your heart’s galore. Or keep it simple and stick to a basic meal plan that covers dinners.
For your meal plan or menu, you probably find yourself buying many of the same foods over and over (there’s that 80/20 rule again!)
If this is the case, why not take 15 minutes right now to type up your “regular” shopping list in a document, print up 10 copies and hang 1 on the fridge? Then when something runs low, you can just check it off on the list (and teach your family to do this as well!).
When it’s time to make a shopping list, you’re ¾ of the way done!
(You can see exactly how I do this and get a pre-filled, editable shopping list template as part of my Feed Your Family Planner.)
Having a pre-printed shopping list is so helpful because it conserves your mental energy for more important things. And if you’ve had a rough day, the help you’ll get from that automatic habit can be a huge blessing.
Other ideas to help you organize the food and cooking area of your life:
- Create a recipe binder with your favorite recipes all together (or weed through the stack of recipes that’s piled up!)
- Plan weekly theme nights like tacos on Tuesday or Italian on Mondays. Knowing you have these themes in place gives you a structure that’s easier to fill in than staring at a blank menu-planning form or just a piece of paper.
- Revisit who does what kitchen chores in your family. If your kids are getting older, maybe they can take on some more of the kitchen jobs.
- See if you can schedule a batch cooking session once every week or two. Bake a triple batch of cookies or make some freezer meals to help out on busy nights. If you plan for it ahead of time, you’re more likely to do it than if you just try to see when you have free time. (What’s that anyway?)
In addition to meal planning, it pays to make your kitchen as well-organized as possible.
Since so much time is spent in the kitchen, it makes sense to make sure it’s working as hard as it possibly can. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Do you have the right equipment?
- Do you need to invest in a few new pots and pans?
- Or do you have too many pans cluttering up your cupboards?
- Can you free up some counter space?
- Are the cleaning supplies conveniently located?
Spend a few minutes looking at your kitchen with fresh eyes (or ask a friend if you’re stumped for ideas). You might find one or two tweaks you can make that would make cooking more pleasant or faster.
In my book, Step-by-Step Decluttering, I recommend that people tackle the kitchen first because the rewards are so great! If you do this a little at a time, it’s not an overwhelming job and you can free up so much space!
Once you’ve got the kitchen under control, it makes sense to tackle the laundry.
Is laundry such a pain because it’s so easily ignored? (That pile of clean laundry isn’t really that much trouble is it? Only if it sits in a corner for a week!)
Or because the sheer quantity is so large?
Or because there are so many steps involved?
Whatever the issue, take a few minutes to see if any of these items describe your problem.
1. We have so MUCH clothing it feels like we’re never caught up with the laundry.
- Declutter your closet
- Make sure kids re-wear clothes that aren’t dirty.
- Get a larger washing machine and dryer (Seriously! I was using an ancient set and when I upgraded to a new front loader, I couldn’t believe the amount of time I saved!).
2. It’s not a problem to start the laundry, but I never seem to get it put away and the piles just grow from there.
- Rally the troops to fold and put laundry away – why should Mom do all the work?
- Do all the laundry on one day and fold and put away everything on the next day. Then give yourself a break for several days. (This might not work for larger families.)
- Make your older kids responsible for their own laundry (here’s how we do it).
3. I detest doing the laundry. It’s a thankless job that never ends.
I hear you! Maybe you’re dealing with laundry way too often.
If you’re trying to squeeze in folding half a basket here and there and still never finding that you’re done, maybe it would work better for you to take my advice here (that post is quite controversial post, by the way) and not start on the folding until you’re able to completely put away one full basket.
You won’t have to touch the laundry as much as you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you finished a basket. And when you do get to it, you’ll be reminded to finish it instead of stopping halfway and racing off to fight another “fire.”
So now that you’ve got laundry under control, let’s talk about money.
If your money isn’t organized, you’ll run into problems sooner or later. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure in this area!
And you don’t have to get all detailed and fancy with your budgeting and money management.
I’ve used a system called YNAB (You Need a Budget) for many years and it’s a completely automatic habit for me. Even my kids know how to enter a transaction when we’re out shopping and so it’s easy to know how much money we have in the bank account at any point in time.
My budgeting routine hasn’t changed for years! Here’s a peek into what that looks like.
Other options for organizing your finances include the envelope system, Quicken, Mint, or a plain old spreadsheet.
Whichever option you choose, you want to know where your money is going and how much is available to you at any point in time.
Why bother tracking your spending?
When you track your spending and budget your money, you’ll be less tempted to overspend. You may feel like budgeting will only stifle your freedom, but actually the reverse is true.
Knowing where your money is going and how much is left frees you up to make decisions that won’t cause stress down the road.
- The 80/20 rule says that you can achieve an 80% improvement in something by changing 20% of the inputs.
- Make your kitchen more organized by using a shopping list and doing simple meal planning.
- Find a laundry system you can use without having to think about it.
- Put your money habits on autopilot.
Do you have the above 3 areas of your life well-organized? Which area is the easiest for you to manage?