By far the most common question I am asked is where to start getting organised at home? And my most common reply for women who want to start on something straight away is to suggest they tackle:
But after years of recommending this and reflecting further on my own experience, I realise while these routines are an essential part of being organised at home, they are not step one if you want to make the change to being organised at home sustainable.
I have worked out they are not step one because I have seen so many women with the best of intentions set up these routines, only to end up abandoning them a few weeks later. They don’t abandon them because they don’t work; they abandon them because making the change is hard, or they get push back from family members or they just can’t quite see the bigger picture of how they will benefit from the effort required in the shorter term.
And I understand how this happens. They have taken the advice from someone they trust but there is a disconnect from this advice and their own real life. Making changes can be hard and if you are trying to implement change to family life it can be even harder as you have so many personalities to deal with.
Successful change comes from knowing why you want to make the change and having an end goal clearly in mind to work towards. Of course if you implemented these three routines or even just one of them, you would make a difference to the organisation levels in your home, but to reap the full and sustained benefits, you need to tackle step one.
Step 1 – Setting your goal
Being “more organised” is too vague to be helpful as a goal. Few of us want to be more organised just because! So step one is setting a goal that gets to the core of why we want to be more organised. In general most us want to be more organised so:
- The house is calmer
- We can spend more time with the kids
- We can have more time for ourselves
- We can have more time with our partners
- We do not feel like we are constantly chasing our tail
- We can enjoy family life more
I have written a number of posts on goal setting which can help you set a single goal:
- 2015: the one thing – my first year of setting a single goal and why I chose to take this approach.
- Setting one personal goal for 2016 - a step by step approach to how I set a single goal.
- A single goal for 2017 – how I set my goal for 2017.
Setting a single goal has been a complete game changer for me and for many readers who have adopted this approach over the last few years and I can’t encourage you enough to take the time and set one for yourself.
Step 2 – Setting your habits
Another hard truth about getting organised at home, is that even though it requires work from all family members we need to start with us first. With a goal set we need to identify habits we can implement to help us achieve our goal.
Look at habits (the positive ones) as your friends. Once set they help make your life so much easier. I loved The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change by Charles Duhigg. If you are interested in finding more abut habits I can highly recommend reading this book. The following is how the book defines habits:
the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.
The book notes that scientists generally believe habits emerge because the brain is always looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.
How the brain does this is through what Duhigg describes as The Habit Loop:
This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
So to achieve your goal you may need to start or stop some habits. It could be that you:
- Need to go to bed 30 minutes earlier, so you can get up 30 minutes earlier to have calmer mornings.
- Need to put your phone in another room when you come home from work, so you switch off from work.
- Do yoga twice a week to have more time by yourself.
- Start single tasking, to be more present with the kids.
- Walk the dog every night to help you move more and wind down.
Step 3 – Setting your routines
Now you are clear about why you want to get organised and have set up your habits to help work towards this, you can tackle routines in the home that will also support this goal. These routines are habits for the home!
As noted in the beginning, I recommend starting with the following routines:
- Menu planning – I suggest this as the first routine as it has the biggest impact for the least amount of effort. When you plan out meals, you save yourself time, energy and money! You can complete a monthly menu plan in less than an hour (with help from the family) – compare that to how much time you might currently spend thinking about what to cook for dinner? It saves you time, money and energy through reduced trips to the shops as you have shopping lists to buy for the whole week.
- A night time routine – the key to organised mornings start the night before. Work out the key tasks you can do the night before to take the pressure off in the mornings.
- A morning routine – this doesn’t need to be an army like drill, but a routine so that everyone knows what they need to do in what order, so everyone can leave the house on time.
No magic wand
The reality is there is no quick fix to getting organised at home. There isn’t one quick hack you can implement. There is no magic wand to wave and it will all be sorted.
The good news is though, is that through some thought, application and effort it is attainable while still having time to enjoy family life.