Sometimes, life has a way of getting on top of you. Things pile up, you’ve got nothing for dinner, your bank lets you know you’re into your overdraft – oh, and you’ve got no clean pants to wear. We’ve all been there, right? Here are 7 ways in which you can feel you’ve got it together with your home organisation. Before we talk about the specifics, there is one habit which underpins all of these – routines. I don’t generally like to be tied down, and I don’t like to feel like life is too ‘samey’ – but routines are different. Routines help you to feel like you are in control, and by doing things on a (fairly) set day, or time, you know that little by little, things will get done.
1 – Money
I’m talking about this first because I feel like it’s the most important thing. If you’re worried about your money, it will impact on other areas of your life. Getting to grips with your money can be a big job if we are talking about EVERYTHING to do with your finances – but here, I’m going to concentrate on the basics. The first thing to do is get yourself a baseline – how much money is in your current account, how much is due to come in and how much is due to go out? Once you’ve established that, if you haven’t already got one, I suggest you set yourself a budget – you don’t need to be too specific here, but general budget headings of what your expected costs are and what income you expect will help you understand whether you are living within, or beyond your means. A great app that I use is You Need A Budget It’s free for the first 34 days, after that it’s $99 a year (it’s American, so that’s about £73 depending on the exchange rate). That’s quite pricey, and there are free alternatives available (such as Money Dashboard and Emma – which is free with paid options), or you could make your own spreadsheet. The key is finding one you will use and that suits you. Once your budget is established, you need to ensure you keep it updated with what you are spending, earning, and saving – so set a time every week when you will sit down and update it with what has happened over the past week – and balance it to your bank accounts. If you keep on top of things this should take you no longer than 20 minutes or so weekly. Every month, you can then (if you want to) review how your overall budget is going, whether you need to tweak any areas – for example, did you spend more on groceries than you planned? Have you got money left over in your ‘social spends’ category? Decide what to do with these categories (especially any overspends) and prepare your budget for the following month. If you are checking in on your budget every week, you will feel closer to your money, and much more in control.
2 – Laundry
Ah, the never-ending pile of laundry – whether it’s washing to be done, sheets to be dried or clothes to be ironed, it never seems to be finished! Well, making a routine out of doing it (several times during the week if necessary) means that this task becomes less overwhelming. This, along with cleaning, is one of those tasks that is very visual – a bulging laundry basket or overflowing ironing pile is a very obvious reminder that you do not have your s**t together with the washing! Breaking it down over more than one day helps to stop this feeling of overwhelm. If you have a big family (or even if there are only two of you and one is a young adult son who plays ice hockey….#justsaying), doing it more than once over the week is absolutely vital. If not, it can take up a whole day and you will be heartily sick and tired of it by the end and vowing never to touch it again (until the following week!). Have a routine whereby you wash and dry sheets on one day, towels on another, light coloured clothes another day, darks on another – or even go mad and do two loads in one day! If you have a washing machine with a ‘delay’ function, this magic little button can REALLY help you feel like you are on top of stuff – simply load up the machine before bed, set it to come on an hour before you get up and then bingo, washing is all waiting for you when you stumble into the kitchen to get your morning coffee….
The key is to do the washing, drying, and putting away on the same day – and the putting away doesn’t necessarily have to mean ironing it – I mean to fold and put away anything that doesn’t need ironing. If it needs, ironing, pop it into the ironing basket. But you do need to plan one or two days when you will actually do the ironing. Keeping the ironing pile to a reasonable level means that it doesn’t become overwhelming in itself. A couple of ways to deal with this could be – declutter your clothes, and buy less stuff that needs ironing, and often if you hang something up to dry, it won’t actually need to be ironed. Bonus!
3 – Meal planning
This is kind of one that links in with budgeting – after housing costs, the biggest cost for most people is their weekly food shop. If you are not on top of having something prepared (or even just thought about), you will spend money on extra groceries, takeaways or a surprise meal down the pub. Plus, having a plan in mind saves having to make a decision about what to eat when you’re probably at the end of a busy day and have decision fatigue, which often leads then to buying takeout or eating something unhealthy.
The first thing to do is find out where you are at with your current food stocks – so again, forming that baseline or starting point. Check what’s in your fridge, throw away the mouldy stuff lurking at the back of the shelves or in the salad drawer, check the use-by dates on what’s left and make a note of them. Then check your cupboards – put ‘like’ things together (so all your pasta and rice in one area, all your tinned meat and fish in another, all your beans together and so on). Check the best before dates and get rid of anything a bit iffy. Remember though that best before is a recommendation – it’s use-by dates that must be kept to. Don’t forget to look in your freezer – again, organise it by putting similar items together – so all meat in one area, bread in another, frozen chips/peas/veg somewhere else. When I’m particularly on top of things, I have a running list of what’s in my freezer, so I don’t have to root around in the frozen wastes to see what I have; it’s written up and pinned next to my kitchen noticeboard. Then you can start to think about a meal plan, beginning first with what you already have. If you need a little inspiration, there are websites that you can plug in your main food item (e.g. tinned tuna) and it will come up with a list of recipes. Lovefoodhatewaste is one that I like – there are plenty of recipes on there, plus lots of information about why it’s good for us and the planet to use up leftover food, tips on thrifty cooking and much more. Bonus tip – if you can, try and think about having a meal where you can make a double portion and freeze the rest – these are fantastic on those days when you really don’t want to cook, just get it out of the freezer, whack it in the microwave to defrost and it will be ready quicker than your local takeaway can deliver.
Write up a list of what you need that’s not already ‘in stock’ and you are ready to go shopping. Which leads me nicely into……
4 – Online grocery shopping
Ordering your shopping online is an amazing convenience. I really love it, and it’s even better now that Aldi have got into the market with ‘click and collect’. It can really help you to save money, because you’re not in the supermarket, wandering the aisles, looking at all the very tempting stuff that somehow then finds its way into your trolley. You do have to be careful not to be drawn in with the messages that pop up about ‘have you seen this special offer?’, or ‘you usually buy this’ – stick to your list! You may have to be organised and book your slot in advance or depending on which supermarket you choose you may be able to book a last minute one. And yes, sometimes the substitutions can be a bit strange (onions instead of white wine anyone? 😒) and you do have to make sure you’re ordering the right size – I once thought I had an absolute bargain with a pack of Diet Coke that turned out to be the mini cans that you use as a mixer….. BUT – overall, the supermarkets have ALSO got themselves organised (generally) and give a good service.
5 – Cleaning
Having just spent what feels like the whole weekend dealing with household tasks, I feel your pain on this one. Last week got away with me, and I didn’t stick to my daily habit of cleaning, and so it all piled up and was waiting for me this weekend. So last night I sat down and went back to planning out my week, on a day-by-day basis, of cleaning tasks to be done. This is very loosely based on The Organised Mum Method and Flylady whereby the task of keeping on top of your cleaning is split into zones and days. So for me, Monday is cleaning my living room and dining area (which currently is one long room). So I dust, polish where necessary, get rid of dead flowers, water any plants, I might wash throws, I vacuum the floors and look for anything to declutter while I’m cleaning. Tuesday is bedroom day – dust and polish, change sheets, hoover upstairs, clean mirrors etc. I also empty the bins and put the bins out as it’s binman day on Wednesdays! Wednesday is hall day – but as my hall is small I also use this day to do any other jobs, which includes cleaning the bath and shower cubicle, cleaning windows, admin work, making phone calls). Thursday is kitchen day, when all the surfaces get a clean down, I clean out the microwave and toaster, wipe the cupboards and door handles and clean the sink out properly (i.e. put some hot water and disinfectant in, and then clean it with a cream cleanser). I might also wipe out the dishwasher – if I don’t do this weekly, I do it every couple of weeks or so.
Obviously, as I am using the kitchen daily, I will be keeping on top of the daily stuff like clearing away any cooking dishes, filling and emptying the dishwasher, emptying the kitchen bin and the food waste/recycling as needed.
Friday is hard floor cleaning day – so I will vacuum downstairs and the bathrooms, get out my squirty mop for the downstairs LVT floor, and the steamer for the bathroom floors, and get to work. I also check and clean out the fridge, meal plan for the following week and prepare my shopping list.
Through the week, there are some things I will do every couple of days – for example, cleaning down the basins and the toilets, and vacuuming the high traffic areas. I will pop these onto my schedule where I think they need to be done, and where I have the time to fit them in. The important thing is that I don’t have it all to do at the weekend. The other important thing (for me) is that it’s written down, so I have a clear plan for the week ahead and I get the achievement of ticking things off as they are completed! I used to think that doing housework every day would be much more work than doing it once a week, and that the house would never feel clean, but I have been proved wrong. Maybe when you first start, it will take slightly longer to clean daily but as you get into a routine you will definitely speed up, and knocking something off every day means you do not have to spend a huge chunk of your weekend cleaning the house.
6 – Birthday cards and gifts
This, I have to say, is one of the things which, if I am on top of it, makes me feel like I rule the world. If I am not on top of it, I feel like the worst mum/friend/sister/aunty in the world! Hero to zero….. The trick is to plan ahead – use a system (either a calendar, planner, or your phone) to log the birthday of everyone that is important to you, and then put a reminder in your phone or on your planner, a couple of weeks ahead of time, to organise the card and present. I would give yourself the buffer of two weeks to do this rather than one, because then if, for whatever reason you don’t do it two weeks out, you’ve still got a week to get it done. You could set another reminder in your phone if necessary if you didn’t get to it. Another way to manage this could be to buy a stack of cards that are suitable for birthdays and keep them in a box, refilling them every so often – I find that the lower priced shops have some really excellent cards, instead of using more well-known (and higher priced) stores. If you have more money than time, you could also put some money onto an online account (such as Moonpig) annually, or every six months, and then use that to despatch your cards. This is useful if it’s a friend or relative where you don’t buy presents, or they are too far for you to deliver in person. What I’ve started to do recently is to buy all the cards for the upcoming month’s birthdays at the start of the month, usually by shopping at a specific card store. Any of these ways will work, and it will mean that you don’t feel that dread when you realise it’s someone’s birthday in a couple of days and you do not have their card already sorted.
With presents, this is something that may need a little more consideration. I tend to keep a running list through the year as I see things that might be a good birthday idea – for example, something you see on a Facebook or Instagram ad, or your friend mentions something they like. If you were super-organised you could buy them there and then of course – but if not, then buying them at the start of the birthday month is also a good idea. Of course, online stores like Amazon will also deliver presents directly to the recipient – which is especially helpful if they don’t live nearby.
7 – Paperwork organisation
This, for me, is a tricky one. I am still, in this digital age, a fan of paper. I like to have a physical journal or list of things to do to tick off, and I also have paperwork which I really don’t need to keep but still do (estate agent’s booklet on the house I sold 8 years ago, for example). So, writing this for me is quite cathartic, and a bit of a kick up the bum to up my paperwork game!
Start off with checking what comes through your front door and have a method for dealing with mail straight away. Anything urgent should be dealt with immediately, junk mail either straight into recycling or (better still) return to sender so you get taken off the list.
I tend to have a folder where stuff ‘to deal with’ is put, with the plan being that I look at the folder once a week, having set aside an hour to do so. As I say, that’s the plan…..
Household gadget manuals is something that can quickly pile up, and that also takes up a lot of space. But you don’t really need these if you have access to the internet – manuals are usually available online (double check before you throw something away that you think you might need to refer to though!).
Finance paperwork is another thing that can pile up – and sometimes you do need to keep this for a period of time – e.g. payslips. Many employers now have switched to digital versions though, so keep these online if you can (making sure you also have a backup of important files!).
If you have access to a scanner, you could also scan in important documents – and then have a filing system using folders that makes sense to you.
You may still need originals of some documents – e.g. birth certificate etc. Don’t get rid of or digitise these! Have a place to keep them – I have a fireproof portable safe in which I keep my really important documents – passport, birth certificate, divorce paperwork, car ownership documents.
So there you have it – these are the things that make me feel like I’ve got it all together, but I’d love to hear what makes you feel organised! Drop a comment below, or message me on Instagram and tell me your methods!