I am not a naturally tidy person. Not that I don't love everything neat and tidy, it's just that it takes work for me to do it. My Nana and mother-in-law are both naturally tidy. They immediately see disorder and almost subconsciously clean as they go. I do give myself a bit of slack giving that I have three young children, but I always wondered why it was such a struggle for me to have everything in its place.
A new book provided some much needed insight for me. The author wrote of "Circles of Organization". You see, everything we do creates disorder, but we need to complete the circle by bringing things back into order. For example, when it is mealtime, we need to pull out food, dirty pots and pans, and use dishes. So often we consider mealtime over once we have eaten the food when in fact we are only part way through the job. Instead of designating the clean up as a separate job, which leave you open to leaving the clean up for another time, think of loading the dishwasher, putting away leftovers, wiping the table and doing the dishes as part of mealtime. Mealtime is not over until all that is done.
In her own wise words:
"As I observed women who seemed to be more organized, I discovered they move around their organization circles from order to disorder back to order again without getting stuck at the bottom of the circle. They make a mess as they fix lunch, bu then they stay until their kitchen is ordered again...
In other words, we may be juggling multiple circles of organization, but we shouldn't stay at the bottom of any one circle and let inertia trap us there in a place of disorder. We need to learn to finish. If we don't leave the dishes undone after breakfast, or clean the clothes unfolded on the couch, or an ongoing creative project on the table when we leave to pick up the kids from school, we will always be traveling toward the top of our organization circle (order).
This simple habit of finishing what we start will enable us to have more order in our lives. It allows us the freedom to have some messes out, but not have the whole house be a mess."
Isn't that brilliant? It will be, to any people out there who struggle, as I do, with restoring the home to order. It is simply a matter of finishing what I start.
My biggest problems occur in these areas:
- Diaper changing - too often I change a diaper and just leave the dirty one tucked away under the living room table rather than taking it immediately to the garbage.
- I rarely do a full clean-up in the kitchen after a meal, opting instead to get to the dishes after bedtime. Then I find myself exhausted from the day and grumpy at having to do the clean-up or simply leaving it to the morning. And there is little worse than a messy kitchen when you wake up.
- Laundry. Laundry, laundry, laundry, you are the bane of my existence! I always manage to get it into the washer and dryer, but the folding and, even worse, the putting away can sometimes linger on for days after.
- Coming in the from car. This always seems like such a chore, getting three kids in and out of coats and boots and lugging in bags and toys and food. I usually get the kids in the door, leaving a collection of items at the front door and a whole host of stuff still in the car.
At least now that I know my weaknesses, I can consciously try and finish those circles of organization more often. And I can tell you, it seems to be working! Even with the three boys running around, it isn't taking much more time to completely finish what I have started.
Granted, oftentimes multi-tasking is a necessity. The important thing to remember is not to start more projects/tasks than I can handle at one time. The author recommends starting with only two or three, and seeing how you manage. It will soon become second nature to understand how many things you can do at once and still bring them all back to order. My biggest problem is starting something I want to do because I want to do it right now. Just the other day I was in the middle of doing the laundry. Obviously I don't need to sit idle while the wash and dry cycles are going. But this particular day I wanted to do a little baking for my own purposes. Just as I was about to pull out the ingredients, I heard the dryer beep indicating the cycle was finished. I held the tantalizing recipe for gingerbread cake in my hand and paused in the kitchen. I considered getting the cake mixed and into the oven before folding the laundry, since I would have 45 minutes while the cake baked. But the more I thought about it, I realized that as soon as the cake was out we were leaving to pick Colin up from school and then heading out of town overnight. There was a good possibility that Benjamin might start to fuss or Caleb would wake up grumpy or I would remember something I forgot to pack...and the laundry would be left in the dryer. So I put the recipe back down and went to empty the dryer. I quickly folded the load, put it away, and then to my delight realized I still had just enough time to bake the cake. Once the cake was in the oven, I did the dishes and put on a light load in the dishwasher so that I would come home to an ordered home after our trip.
So that is a summary of my organization revelation this week. The book (called "Project: Organization") is full of great ideas to help get you organized around the home and in your life. Although many of them I simply don't have time to get to right now (each project takes 20 to 50 minutes, but with young children, it's often impossible to even find an extra 5 minutes!), I'm so glad to have learned this new finishing-things-off technique. Even James noted the other day how things seem to be a little less chaotic around the home. Success!