In my book, Secrets of an Organized Mom, I compare the lives of mothers to one big game of Whac-a-Mole. Just when we’ve smacked down one problem or responsibility, another one pokes up its stubborn head. Let’s face it; life as a mother is inevitably unpredictable. Just when we think we have everything under control, a child breaks a leg, a partner gets a new job (in another state), or a roof springs a leak. So much rests on our shoulders that it’s easy to see why we’re all running on a treadmill to stay still. It’s a classic catch 22. If we could just find the time to get organized, life would be calm and peaceful. But life is never calm and peaceful, so there’s never time to get organized.
Moms often ask me for the single organizing tip that will make the biggest difference in their lives. In Secrets of An Organized Mom, I talk about the “Ten Commandments of Organizing”. Although all of these commandments are important, there are three tips that, taken together, can help busy moms conquer the organizational challenge once and for all.
- Routines work. If you always put your cell phone in the same pocket of your purse, you’ll always know where it is when it’s ringing. If you always put the bills in the same place, you won’t lose any bills. If you always take medication at the same time in the same place, you won’t forget to take it. When things are done the same way every time, the behavior becomes rote. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing. This is the fool-proof way to avoid misplacing anything or forgetting anything again.
- Group like things together, and designate a place for everything. This is the only way to know how much of something you have and when you need more. You’ll also always know exactly where to find what you’re looking for. This applies to everything in your house, from black sweaters to magic markers to batteries. This will help you avoid having too much of one thing and not enough of what you really need!
- Store things where you use them. Keep school supplies where your kids do their homework, keep your reading glasses next to your bed where you read at night, and keep tote bags in the closet where you store sports equipment. It’s easy and convenient!
There’s nothing worse than rummaging through your purse, looking for your cell phone, while someone watches, witness to your disorganization, as you miss a phone call. When your purse is organized, you’ll feel in control and more powerful. So, here are some tips for organizing your purse:
• Never buy a bag that doesn’t have at least two internal pockets. You need one for your cell phone, and one for keys and other items that you reach for often.
• Avoid bags with dark linings. It’s very difficult to find things when they’re inside a dark bag.
• Use brightly colored cosmetic bags for smaller items such as lip gloss, band aids, and ibuprofen.
• Carry only what you truly need. Bags get heavy, so eliminate what’s unnecessary. You don’t need 5 pens, 2 phone chargers, or 6 packs of gum.
• Don’t save unimportant receipts. Don’t clutter your bag with Starbucks receipts and the receipts from the dry cleaner.
• Carry store credits in your bag. You can’t use them if they’re home in your night table drawer.
• Make a photocopy of everything in your wallet (front and back). In the unfortunate event that your wallet is stolen, you’ll have a record of what you’re missing and which credit card companies you need to call.
How many times has this happened to you?
You find yourself with the phone tucked between your ear and shoulder, on hold for an eternity, multi-tasking while you wait, and think: There must be a more efficient way to get what I want.
Well, there is. It’s called cracking down on service providers who aren’t providing service.
I recently called a local caterer to order a holiday dinner. I was calling about their business during business hours. I was told they would have to call me back. Ok, maybe they were busy at that moment, but I would have expected a call back within 24 hours. The next afternoon, I realized I hadn’t heard back, so I called a second time. Again, I was told that they would have to call me back. I asked if they could just look up my order from last year (and the previous four years). I was told that wasn’t possible, but I could order online. I replied that I was happy to order online, but I had a quick question. They were very sorry, but the only person with the answer would have to call me back. I’m sorry, is this high school? Is the caterer playing hard to get? Are they joking? I was done. When they finally called me back the next day, I had already found another caterer.
Here’s the bottom line: my time is valuable, and I have too little of it to spend it chasing down service providers. This month I have resolved to eliminate any service provider that requires more than one phone call, who wastes my time, or is otherwise not providing service.
Here are just a few infuriating service provider snafus I’ve experienced recently.
The Four Hour Window
Remember the last time you were given a FOUR HOUR “window of time” for a repair person? When I make appointments, I don’t tell someone that I’ll be there between 12:00 and 4:00; I give them a specific time. And to add insult to injury, often these so called service people are either early or late. If a service provider offers a window of time, is it not common courtesy to show up at some point in the window? That’s how a window works. You can’t come an hour early—I’m not home! The window is closed! The same goes for showing up late—in both cases you have to reschedule, and that, my friends, is another phone call. Eliminate that service provider!
Waiting When You Have a Reservation
What about when you go to a restaurant with a reservation, and they tell you your table isn’t ready? Isn’t the whole point of a reservation that you will get to the restaurant at the appointed time and NOT wait? There are lots of great restaurants that do honor reservations, so don’t stand for the ones that don’t!
Your Doctor’s Waiting Room
One of the most frustrating and prevalent misuses of time occurs in the dreaded waiting room at doctors’ offices. I refuse to wait in the Waiting Room. If I wanted to read Highlights Magazine and listen to Lite.fm I could do it on my own time. It is so unacceptable to be left waiting when you have an appointment. I understand that doctors, unlike most other service providers, actually have real emergencies. Yet, shouldn’t the doctor’s office call you if s/he is running more than a few minutes late? My strategy is to schedule the first or last appointment of the day. The first appointment is guaranteed to be on time, and by the last appointment, your doctor wants to go home. If you still find yourself in the waiting room for too long, find another doctor!
Taxi Cab Drivers That Take You Out of Your Way
Isn’t it the responsibility of the taxi cab driver to take you to your destination the most direct way possible? How many times have you been in a taxi, fully immersed in your phone/email, when you look up to find you’ve been taken out of your way? It’s infuriating. And, it’s impossible to know whether the driver did this intentionally or just didn’t hear you (even though you repeated the address at least three times). The solution…tell the driver to stop the meter, and do NOT give a tip!
What’s the most annoying service provider snafu you’ve encountered? Let me know…I’d love to hear from you!
For Professional Organizer Barbara Reich of Resourceful Consultants, eliminating clutter is a way of life. Barbara tackles organization with a 360-degree approach, streamlining the homes, schedules and daily lives of discerning clients. Equal parts affable and type A personality, Barbara’s tough-love approach yields real results and lasting change.