by Esperanza DeLaLuz
Organizing is what you do before you do something,
~~ A. A. Milne
Let’s start with this premise: Organizing things does not make you a better mom. But it does make it easier to find the Band-Aids, and for me, being ADHD, I am able to be a better mom when I have inner peace; and my personal inner peace is disturbed by chaos. But I know lots of wonderful mothers, including my own, who love and care exquisitely well, in a state of frequent disorder.
That said, I am a passionate organizer. People actually pay me to come organize their kitchen or garage. There are some basic principles to organizing that might be useful to most people to one extent or another, that I thought I might share:
1 Simplify – there are lots of wonderful systems to encourage us to simplify, but most of them boil down to only keeping things that you need, or use, or enjoy. Less stuff means less clutter and less maintenance. But there is also something to be said for having useful backup supplies like food storage, meds, or craft supplies, for preparedness purposes also. But remember, those things are only useful to you if you can find them when a crisis makes them necessary.
2 Contain things – using baskets, boxes, bags, bottles, tubs, cupboards, drawers, etc., This is probably the most important element of organizing. My grandmother used to say “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” My father used to line his top drawer with all kinds of tiny boxes with places for each thing he kept there: watch, coins, keys, etc. So I come by it naturally. But when things are where they belong, my environment is neater, I can find things I need, and I am aware of how much I have and if I have things I can do without.
It is also helpful to use similar sized and shaped things. For example, having all your dishes or food storage containers the same size makes them stack more neatly. This doesn't have to be expensive -- I actually cut the tops off plastic bleach bottles and used them to stack all my round containers of that size inside them, which kept them from falling over.
3 Put like things together – it continually surprises me when I go to help someone clean or organize, how often I find similar things in several different places. Now, it makes sense to have things in different places when you use them in multiple places. I have scissors in every room, for example, and of course, toothpaste in most every bathroom. But keeping things together that are the same, or that are used together makes sense. And subdividing those grouped things, so that each kind of thing has its own place can be very useful. You will notice if it is missing, for one thing, or if you have more than you need.
4 Label your stuff – I am probably too focused on labels, because I am absent-minded, and my labeler is one of my favorite tools. But labeling things helps us remember where they belong. Labels can help you identify what goes where and if it is missing. Most of the time you can do this subtly; you can have specific colors of towels for each bathroom, for example, or other visual cues that identify where things belong without actual labels. But you can also do them in cute ways, with fancy labels that are part of the décor.
My sister pointed out that using pretty baskets to organize my craft supplies was more appealing, more “Feng Shui” than using my labeled assortment of plastic boxes. She was right! So, over the years I picked up lots of fancy baskets at second hand stores. But then I found that they didn’t look good with labels on them. (But it gave me another fun crafting project to make a lot of cute little wooden plaques to attach to the fronts of the baskets.)
When keeping multiples for utility purposes, labeling which set goes where is very useful. For example, I write on those scissors with a permanent marker which room they belong in, so they don’t end up all in one room when I have used them.
5 Store things where they are used – we keep the dishes in the kitchen naturally, but sometimes don’t apply that same idea to other places in our home. Closets, cupboards or drawers are less likely to become catch-alls, if you limit them to containing only things that are useful in that place. Of course, there are things that get used in multiple places. Some people keep multiples like I do with the scissors, others make a specific cabinet or dresser drawer for all those things. I have a “utility dresser” with drawers for simple household tools, tape, batteries, lightbulbs, and other things that everyone needs to get to often. Some people keep a “junk drawer” for things that have no specific place, but this is a poor idea since it gets crammed full of stuff that does not ever get assigned to its own place.
6 List stuff – Keeping a list, in a notebook, on the back of a cupboard, or on a computer, can be very useful, especially with stored supplies. It also helps keep supplies current. If there is a list on the back of the medicine cabinet mirror of what you plan to keep in that cabinet, you might be more likely to notice you are out of Band-Aids. A list of what goes in each cupboard on the back of the door, or a master list of desired food storage items, or a list of where important documents are stored can be very useful. Just make sure you have a specific place to keep the lists!
7 Put things back! – This is probably the hardest part for most people. We are naturally lazy, and we don’t want to get up and put things away all the time. But a basket on the stairs for things that need to go upstairs, or a defined place in each room to set things that don’t belong in that room, can make it easier to go around and put things back. You can also make a game of it for little children. Some younger children actually think it is fun to go put Daddy’s tie in the bedroom for a few raisins! But you can also set up a pattern of going around gathering and putting things back once a day, if you cannot make yourself put things back right away.
8 A few clever helps – everyone has stuff in their house that other people left there. Setting up a basket by the door for these things not only contains them, but also makes it easier to remember to give them back or return them. A box by the garage door for things that need to go out of your home on errands makes it easier to get those errands done and get those things out of your house. Having a specific shelf for your purse, or for school books and back packs, makes finding them much easier.
Drawer dividers, hook racks, extra shelves inside cabinets, and tote bags can be very useful tools. Having a tote specifically to hold smaller things for organizing (tiny boxes, plastic packets, bags, and such) makes it easier to find something to use to contain and organize things. A place to set things when you first come home, such as a table, bench, or shelf keeps things from getting piled up on the floor.
Setting up a specific rack in which to put outgoing and incoming mail, a key rack, a mirror, the family calendar, and a place to leave notes, all by the front door can be very useful. A hook rack for hat, coats, sunglasses, flashlight, umbrellas, tote bags, sunscreen or other things that are often needed as leaving the house is useful, too, especially if it can be near the door.
I hope that these general principles can make your life a little bit easier!
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing.
~~ Doctrine and Covenants 88:119
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Have you ever noticed the oddities of life?
...like how the birthday cake you’re making never looks like the one in the picture?
Never mind comparing it to the picture – which is actually a cake made of four layers, so that means you actually have to use TWO cake mixes... but the picture won’t tell you that.
Pay no attention to the fact that the sad crack in your attempt at the cake will NOT stay “glued” together, no matter how much frosting you use to cement it together.
And don’t even notice the huge crumbs that are adhering to the once-white frosting (maybe some sprinkles will hide them!!). Perhaps, you conclude, the sides look better unfrosted anyway!
OR - Does it ever seem that the most meaningful conversation you get to have with your spouse is:
-- at the end of the day,
-- at the bathroom sink
-- while you are foaming at the mouth with an electric toothbrush wildly sputtering, unable in the least to utter a sensible word?
So, you play the game of charades or better yet – an impromptu sign language which you try to decipher without splattering toothpaste blobs on the mirror as you laugh through the hilarity of it all?
OR - Do you find yourself seething at the injustice of finding that there are always at least 3 diapers left in the package that absolutely WILL NOT fit your baby before they transfer to the next size up?
AND - Have you tried to mathematically explain why, with so few people in the family, every single cup in the house gets dirtied – including the measuring cups?
I’m probably not the only one who has had more than her share of Pinterest fails and foibles. But if my Better Crocker skills don’t take the cake at least my attitude will. If you’re like me, and even one of these scenarios rings true for you, this might be a good time to take a look at a happy principle that can help every mother and homemaker: realistic expectations. Yes, with a little reality check, you can take anything that comes with ease.
Did you know that some things are supposed to be imperfect?
Mismatched socks... scuffs on your best running shoes... sticky fingerprints on the fridge door handle... Almost imperceptibly, flabby bellies, burnt toast, and layers of dust just happen. Life happens!
There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your family. It is what it is.
And it’s not only OK for it to be this way, it is supposed to be that way!
Take the coffee table for example – an innocent enough piece of furniture wouldn’t you say? But in a house full of children, is it really going to stay a focal piece impressively set with elegant table top décor? Of course not! You and I both know that even the best homes aren’t picture perfect.
We can expect that homes with children have their fair share of crumbs, smelly socks, broken figurines, lost items, scattered toys, ripped pages in books, smears on the sliding glass door, and on and on. It helps when I know that some things will inevitably happen, because it allows me a great deal of sanity for when the unexpected happens and things don’t work out perfectly.
In fact, if you can look at it with a smile in your heart, you might just find it so ludicrous that it provides a moment of laughter that you look back on with fondness.
While mothering my Littles, I frequently found peace of mind through a quote often attributed to Marjorie Pay Hinckley to help me remember that my priorities were just where they should be:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived.
Expecting reality doesn’t mean admitting defeat!
I can expect, for example, that my children will make endless messes (and I will too), but that doesn’t stop us from cleaning it up at the appropriate time.
My communication with my spouse may be spotty at times, but that doesn’t mean we neglect our relationship. We regularly and consistently schedule time to be with one another to just TALK (most times without a dental implement in hand).
We are gloriously imperfect in each and every way, but we set goals, and give assignments. And we put our plan into action with a little elbow grease. We do it, remembering the WHY of it all – not to satisfy some plausible guest who never seems to stop by, nor even to catch up to the Jones family (although we admit that they ARE a nice bunch!) - but because we like it that way. In fact, we even enjoy it!
I am enough.
I can be happy without being Pinterest Perfect. While the Internet world of “reality” sometimes creates a facade of perfectly clean homes, the Gerber baby who never cries, and homes decorated to a “T,” I can be happy with what we have and who we are becoming. I may also (heaven forbid) go without some of the niceties of the luxury homes in order to allow myself to spend more time concentrating my efforts more closely on building a strong home and family. We can also give ourselves credit for being creative, even if it means that we make a mess for a while. We are, after all, learning, growing, and developing together. In fact, we are a living, breathing work of art! I suppose the casual passerby may judge me and my efforts (or seemingly lack of them), but that judge won’t be me. I will give myself grace allowing me and my family space to be real humans. We ARE indeed “good enough.” We can have strength and self - confidence to do and be and achieve in real albeit imperfect ways.
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
Snuggled up in my arms, my little grandson stares up at me with his big beautiful innocent eyes. Together we rock back and forth in the overstuffed chair singing song after song and I’m convinced that I love him more every second! As I sing, my mind wanders back to yesteryear when my babies were tiny and I sang song after song to them – hoping to relax them and hush their sleepytime fears. Hoping to instill in them the things I knew were true. Hoping to fill their hearts with the love that I had for them.
It’s amazing how magical music can be! Music has a way of touching our hearts and filling our memories with the best things of life.
Music was at the heart of the home I grew up in, so naturally, as an adult, I shared it with my children. We sang lilting lullabies and fun children’s sing-along recordings. We also offered xylophones, harmonicas, recorders, and rhythm instruments for the little ones to explore creating their own sounds.
As a classical musician, I knew the benefits of classical music: an increased learning capacity, creativity, and self-esteem, to name only a few. Knowing that our children weren’t going to grow up on a farm (like my parents did), we still wanted to teach them hard work, patience, and discipline. We decided to instill these values through formal music lessons! Thus, we became the beneficiaries of practice sessions, morning-noon-and-night! We eagerly attended recitals and concerts galore! Music sweetly and simply lent a soothing atmosphere to our home and even our car, as we traveled to and fro.
Music became a parenting friend that would quiet the mayhem of the moment. When life became a little hairy and scary and the decibel level was a little too high, I would nonchalantly pop in a CD of classical music or church hymns (my secret weapons!) and - voila! - an essence of calm and peace would descend! Soon, things would settle down.
With a house full of rambunctious kiddos, we found that with a little creativity, there seemed to be a song for every situation that could gently persuade, teach, or motivate. Songs to make diaper changes more pleasant, songs to make hair washing less scary, songs to help children cooperate when it was time to brush their teeth. Sometimes songs distracted us from the mundane and helped to pass the time while we did the dishes or other chores. At bedtime, songs even helped us march up to bed in a happy way! We became a train connecting arms at the shoulders and chugging up the stairs singing, “Choo choo choo, what’s coming down the track?” The person in the lead would “pull the whistle” and up we went.
Music was an unseen friend that added joy and spontaneity to our lives at just the right time! Sometimes the music was a toe – tapping “Turkey in the Straw” for a Thanksgiving program! Or the girls would make up choreography to a whimsical children’s song, their fancy dresses swirling in a wide circle. Sometimes a child surprised us with an unsolicited solo of a kindergarten-melody as they stood atop a make-shift stage (aka a chair in the dining room). And impromptu Family Talent Shows gave us rousing marches, emphasized by mini flags in the front room!
With littles on the loose, life is more pleasant with a song in your heart. In your home or on the go, music has the power to create a sort of a haven that smooths the creases of chaos and lifts the spirit. So, whether your family chooses to learn an instrument or two, sing at top volume in the shower, or pop in a favorite CD, music is the power to make any moment a happy one!
By Esperanza DeLaLuz
I hate to hear someone say that! Mothers do the most important job on earth when they raise healthy, happy, productive children. Abraham Lincoln, our great president, said, “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
What not everyone knows is that the angel mother to whom he refers is actually his stepmother. His birth mother died when he was nine and, the following year, his father remarried. Sarah had children of her own, yet she was a loving and devoted mother to all of the children, and she especially nurtured Abraham in his desire to learn and read.
This is a comforting thought to those of us who are stepmothers, aunts, foster moms, and grandmothers, or who are in other positions of nurturing. The task of mothering is not only the province of those who give birth. To “mother”—which is defined as “to look after kindly and protectively”—is incredibly demanding, and just as incredibly—and critically—important. To mother is a noble task and those who participate in it, to any extent, are doing a great and valuable work.
However, in the midst of diapers, tantrums, mischief, and defiance, it may be a challenge to feel that one is engaged in a noble task. Often it feels like we are in “survival mode.” Roseann Barr once joked that if her children were alive at the end of the day, she had done her job as a mother.
I know for every mother there are days which feel like that. On those days, it can help to remember Abraham Lincoln’s feelings about his “angel mother,” and recognize that someday it may be your influence that sways the world.
The next time you are deciding whether to scrub the crayon mural off the wall or frame it, remember Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, and mother on!
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