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  • Get Ready for the Holidays: How to get your house in order

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    Yesterday, we discussed the need to get our homes in order so that we can celebrate the holidays in a relaxing environment. And we focused on the what we need to do to make that happen, rather than the how.

    So, today let’s talk about the how. You’ll need your list from yesterday, and a calendar of this month and next month.

    The first thing we need to do is prioritize. For example, if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to prioritize decluttering and cleaning the living room, dining room, and kitchen ahead of the bedrooms.

    We also need to break the tasks down into bite-size pieces. For example, as I described in my series about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I implemented the KonMari method piecemeal rather than all at once, as the author recommends. I decluttered and tidied my shoes, then my coats, then my clothes, then my jewelry. In the kitchen, I decluttered and tidied my utensils, then my pans, then my food storage containers. On my to-do list, I would actually write “tidy utensils” rather than “tidy kitchen.”

    There are two major advantages to breaking up tasks. First, the smaller the task, the more do-able it seems. Second, you don’t need a lot of time. Decluttering and tidying some categories, like my clothes, took a lot longer than other categories. If I’d waited until I had time to declutter and tidy the whole house, I’d still be waiting!

    So now that we have a list of tasks we want to accomplish, it’s time to match that list up with our calendar. On the days when you will be particularly busy, plan to do small tasks – for me, that’s things like scrubbing the baseboards in one room. On days when you have more time, you can plan for bigger tasks, like steam cleaning the carpets (I’m not looking forward to this but we’re way overdue). You may find it helpful to work backward from a special event, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can also plan to delegate the tasks – when my kids are off from school the week of Thanksgiving, I’m planning to send them around the house wiping their dirty handprints off the walls!

    Original image via by Stuart Miles.

    Get Ready for the Holidays: Get your house in order

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    Now that we have a goal and budget for this holiday season, it’s time to turn our attention to our surroundings, and get our house in order so we can enjoy a relaxing environment during what can be a very stressful time.

    The single best thing you can do to make your home feel better is to declutter. I know that sounds simplistic, and it’s certainly not easy to do when you live with other people (this is my own personal struggle at the moment), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. So at least declutter what you can.

    I highly recommend the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I actually wrote a short series of posts about the book, which you may also find helpful.

    My kids are off from school tomorrow as well as the entire week of Thanksgiving, so barring any all-consuming projects, I plan on using the KonMari method described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to help them declutter their possessions.

    Once you’ve decluttered (or while you’re decluttering, if you prefer), you can clean your house. Make a list of cleaning projects that need to be done. My list includes steam-cleaning the carpets, thoroughly wiping down the kitchen cabinets (not just the parts that are easy to reach), and scrubbing the baseboards. The tasks may seem overwhelming, but don’t think about the how right now – just think about the what.

    Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the how.

    Original image via by Stuart Miles.

    My Biggest Morning Sanity Saver: An Evening Prep Routine

    I get up fairly early every morning but I spend most of my pre-breakfast time rounding up the new deals, coupons, and info for Morning Coffee. On school days, at 7 a.m., I have to turn my full attention to getting the kids ready for school. So the last thing I want is more things to do or think about when the day starts.

    It’s no surprise, then, that I’m happiest (and most patient with my kids) in the morning when I take some each night to get ready for the next day. I’ve always been good about doing the dishes and generally cleaning the kitchen after dinner (even before we had kids), but now I’ve added the following to my post-dinner routine:

    Prep the kids’ backpacks. My kids are still quite young, so I pack and unpack for them. (Now that I think about it, I should probably start involving my older son in his daily preparations next year.) I usually go through their backpacks when they get home from school, and after dinner, I make sure their homework is done and in their backpacks, along with anything else they’re supposed to take the next day.

    Prep lunches if possible. My husband usually takes leftovers for lunch at work, so I prepare his lunch bento-style the night before as I’m cleaning up after dinner. (These containers make getting his lunch ready super easy.) At the same, I prep any components for the boys’ school lunches that I can do ahead of time. I also try to keep milk and juice boxes, applesauce pouches, and pre-sliced organic apples in the fridge at all times so I can just grab them in the morning.

    Clear the dining table. Our dining table is centrally located and something of a magnet for clutter, like the mail. A few months ago, I realized how stressed I got when I came downstairs for breakfast and the dining table was still covered with pencils, scraps and other remnants of the previous night’s homework. I made one simple change and starting clearing the dining table every night, and saved myself from many disheartening moments in the morning.

    Prepare anything that needs to go out the door with me in the morning. This isn’t an everyday thing, but on those occasions when I need to deliver baked goods or other items to school, I pack them up and leave them by the door so I don’t forget them in the morning.

    Mentally prepare for the next day. As I mentioned earlier this week, I make a to-do list every night, which boosts my productivity tremendously. I also plan out my schedule, thinking about places I need to go and the order in which I will go there. If I need to dress a certain way, I make a note of it (and maybe even lay out an outfit). If I didn’t make the boys’ lunches ahead of time, I at least plan out what I’m going to pack in the morning.

    While it might seem like a lot to do in the evening, all of these steps really don’t take that long. It takes maybe 10 minutes if I don’t have much to do (for example, if we ate out and there weren’t any dishes to wash), and 30 minutes if I have to do a lot (when I’ve made a huge mess in the kitchen, the dining table is covered in papers, etc.). Plus, they’re all things I’d have to do at some point anyway, so it makes sense to do them when it has the greatest benefit – in the evening, when I’m calm, instead of in the morning, when having to do them makes me stressed.

    If this sounds good to you in theory, but implementing a new evening routine feels too overwhelming, pick one small thing and commit to doing it for two or three weeks. Once you see how little time it actually takes, and what a big impact it makes on your mornings, you’ll be motivated to make more changes!

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    The Household Control Journal – Baby Step #2: Organize the Information

    Last spring, I mentioned that I was putting together a Household Control Journal that lists all the things I handle on a day-to-day that my husband would need to know if anything happened to me. The information includes the institutions where we bank or invest and the corresponding account information, insurance policies, important contact information like our doctors, and so on.

    I recently added a list of details that my husband might or might not know, but that are frequently used to verify identity – you’ve probably answered questions like What is the name of the street you grew up on?, What make was your first car?, and so on. I want to make sure my husband can access accounts that have registered my information, even if I’m not around.

    It’s taken me pretty much a whole year to gather all of the pertinent data, but I think our Control Journal now contains all of the important information my husband would need. The journal will need regular updating, but I am quite happy to have the list done.

    So Step #2 is organizing the information in a way that not only makes sense to me, but more importantly, to my husband. I put the information is a simple Word document, and divided it into categories that seemed logical. The nice thing is that the document is searchable, so even if my logic doesn’t necessarily make sense to my husband, he should be able to find what he’s looking for.

    The data is on a flash drive so the information is easily accessible to him at anytime. I’m also going to scan important documents like birth certificates and our marriage certificate, and put those jpgs on the flash drive as well. The flash drive will serve double duty in an emergency, if we ever have to flee our home with minimal belongings. And, I’m considering a hard copy version for just in case. I’m not sure in case of what, but I tend to be overcautious with these types of situations.

    The most important thing, of course, is that whoever handles the finances in a family makes the information available to another responsible adult so that if the unthinkable happens, the survivor isn’t left trying to dig up account numbers and passwords or worse, unable to access their money, all during an already-traumatic time.

    Do you have a Household Control Journal, or something similar? If so, did you include anything else in it?

    The Household Control Journal – Baby Step #1: Gather as you go

    I first learned the concept of a “control journal” from Flylady, who recommends making one for your daily routines to help get you and your home organized. I haven’t made one of those yet, but I’ve started making a different kind – one that has all the information my husband would need if something happened to me.

    Since I’m the “Chief Family Officer,” it probably comes as no surprise that I manage most of our household. I pay the bills, manage our investments, register the kids for their activities, and so on. My husband is well aware of all aspects – that is to say, he knows we have various accounts, but doesn’t know the various passwords and logins I’ve set up.

    So a household control journal is my way of organizing all of this information – bank accounts, bills, investments, school stuff, activities and anything else my husband would have to hunt for if the unthinkable happened.

    It’s an overwhelming project, and one I’ve put off for a long time because of that. So I’m starting with baby steps (another Flylady concept), and a very doable first task: Gather information as it crosses my desk or desktop.

    As I file bills, or log in to pay them online, I enter the relevant information into a word processor document on my computer. A spreadsheet might be better but it’s more complicated to set up. We’ll see how it goes – I may end up transferring the info to a spreadsheet later, but for now, the simple text document is working. At least I’m making some progress on my control journal. My goal is to have it done by the end of the year, and then I will update it annually.

    And hopefully, we’ll never actually need it.

    Daily Worth
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