Breaking the code of life organisers and PA’s everywhere, Time Wizard Joanna Pieters teaches us the top secrets every woman should know about how to breeze through life calmly and without panic.
Women are notoriously bad at delegating. Maybe because we’re control freaks, or maybe because we simply have too much to do. Why can’t we seem to let anything go or ask for help?
Running a family is a full-time job, but if you combine it with paid work, you’ve got to be super-organised to make it work. Having great systems at home can make all the difference between calm and chaos. The aim is to minimise the time you spend on looking for things, and to get everyone in your family involved in making all your days run smoothly.
1. Give everything a place – school bags, house keys, sports socks, homework diaries, notes from the nursery. Keep a mental note of what you end up searching for – if you’ve wasted time looking for something more than twice, it’s a sign it needs a new or more practical home.
2. Label all your storage, so everyone in the family can be involved, whether that’s coat hooks, jars, shelves, drawers or toy baskets. Use pictures if your children are young: you could even take pictures yourself and print them out. Make it clear, calmly but consistently, that everyone needs to use the system. With young children, it may feel like even more time taken, but hang in there – it will pay off in the long run.
3. Make your storage as child-friendly as possible: at their level, and with drawer or door openings they can manage. Make sure they can get to their own clothes, including school uniform, coats, gloves and shoes, and put them back again afterwards. Keeping tableware accessible means they can they can lay the table for dinner, and a box of general birthday cards means they can choose one when it’s a friend’s birthday. Encourage them to take responsibility from an early stage, whether that’s getting together the things they need for the next day or putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
4. Keep control of small things. Clutter starts with lots of small bits and pieces, which is why it’s so important that you have a place for everything. As soon as small things get out of control, you’re on a downwards spiral until you give up some more time to tidy everything away.
5. If you have lots of paperwork, you need a great filing system. Have clearly defined files: utilities, each child, health, guarantees, and so on. Use lots of labelled dividers and internal sleeves to keep relevant information together. Get into the habit of filing papers within 24 hours of getting them. That way you’ll always be able to find important information quickly.
6. Keep a weekly calendar in full view of everyone, saying what needs to be done on which days. As soon as children can read, encourage them to look at it and understand what needs to be done, such as find their swimming costume and a towel for the next day. You could even turn it into a game, or put it on a reward chart.
7. When you get a letter from school or nursery, put any important information immediately into your calendar or to-do list. If you’re likely to want to refer to it on the run, take a photo of it and keep it on your phone.
8. Electronics are your friend. Share a calendar on your smartphone with your partner, childminder or anyone else who needs to know what’s going on. Put everything you need in it – things you need to take, things you need to tell people, reminders to buy birthday presents or cat litter. Automate as much as you can: you can put ‘pack ballet kit’ in on a repeating note for every week. You could also try sharing a to-do and shopping list (via an app such as Errands or gTask) and encourage everyone to enter things on it as they run out.
9. Spending 15 minutes a day on keeping control of everything makes a huge difference. If you can keep things in their places as you go, you’ll have to spend much less time and energy tidying, cleaning, and searching for things.
10. If you can afford some help, do it. Decide the thing that most damages your quality of life, whether that’s cleaning or filing paperwork, and prioritise finding someone to help with that, even if it’s just a few times a year. Alternatively, you might be able to skill swap something you hate for something you enjoy. You might love making birthday cakes, for example, but hate ironing – another mum who hates baking might be delighted to swap some time with you.
Joanna Pieters runs Time Wizard, a London-based lifestyle company that helps busy families be healthier and happier by taking on their to-do lists. http://www.timewizard.co.uk.