“I don’t know how you do it! How do you freakin’ do it?”
I think, at some point or another, many of us have been asked some variation of this question; whether you were asked because you were juggling more than one job at a time or if you were tolerating an intolerable manager at work. Basically, you were “handling” the seemingly impossible (the unfathomable) and your secret to survival had to be shared. What are you doing that I need to be doing? At least that’s where my mind goes. But I feel like this question most often gets directed at moms. Admittedly, I’ve asked my fair share of mums that loaded question myself. And the response I almost always get back is this: “You just do.”
When a close friend recently asked me this very question about how I balance family responsibilities and work challenges (she’s a stay-at-home mom and I’m a work-outside-the-home mom), my response was one of humour but also, I didn’t know anything truer: “I make sure everyone in my house has two weeks’ worth of underwear.” Yep. That’s the bloody secret.
Okay, no, not quite.
The infinite pile of laundry can sometimes be daunting at the end of a long work week when all you probably want to do is splay out on the couch and fall into a voluntary coma. And for whatever good reason, laundry is most often on the women’s list of household to-dos. For better or worse, in my household I actually prefer to do it, but it doesn’t mean I adore it! (I just don’t want to walk around in life with expensive shrunken sweaters and pants three inches too short.) Envisioning everyone still having plenty of clean underwear after a full week of life was like finding a pot of gold because I now only had to worry about laundry twice a month. Once I changed the frequency of when ‘laundry’ appeared on my chore list, it greatly increased my quality of life. That meant I could go two whole weeks without the laundry nagging at me (laundry can be such a downer).
Yes, our hampers go untouched for that long. Some might balk at the bulk of that uncleanliness, but I feel like this change freed me from the buckling restraints I sometimes tie myself to in order to keep the façade of a tidy, ‘perfect’ household. Well, I no longer strive for ‘perfection.’ In fact, now I simply strive for basic necessities- you will, at the very least, have clean underwear! Boom. #Privilege.
Don’t get me wrong- things can get misplaced in my house too, but I wouldn’t call it messy. If anyone ever asks whether or not my house was clean 24/7 I’d likely answer with: “It’s always company-ready.” And what I mean is don’t look too closely behind closed doors, under blankets, in ovens/fridges. Basically, if you just showed up unannounced, I’d be able to host you and your squad without asking you to wait in your car for 30 minutes while I morphed into a high-speed tornado, whirling around the house picking stuff up off the floor and angrily shoving miscellaneous items into random crevices (which I’ve certainly done before too).
I like things tidy. That won’t ever change but being able to unshackle myself from the invisible expectation of constant perfection was the game-changer for me. Sometimes this idea of perfection would even paralyze me to the spot, prohibiting me (mentally) from even starting a task unless I knew the outcome was absolute perfection. It reminds me of one of my favourite YouTubers, Kathryn Snearly of Do It On A Dime, and what she often reminds her viewers about: “A done something is better than a perfect nothing.”
So, here are five hacks/tips/methods my family lives by to stay organized. Although nobody asked, you’re so welcome.
1. Buy Lots of Underwear.
See above. Basically, panic-buy underwear. Forget about the other stuff!
2. Let Go of the Idea of Perfection.
Do just enough of what you need to, in order to do a lot of what you love. The concept of “enough” is different for everybody and everyone’s passions will vary but I think we all know what our tolerance levels are. And if you don’t, it’s something worth looking into.
3. Give Yourself a Pass. No Guilt.
There truly are so many things in life to feel guilty about, honestly. Not doing something that only you expected yourself to do shouldn’t be one of them. Sometimes you have to ask yourself why you’re doing it, what it’s taking you away from, if it’s adding negative or positive energy into your life and whether or not it’s worth it (your time, your effort, the stress). Then, try letting go- bit by bit. What’s left should be only things that truly matter.
4. Make Lists.
I have lists of lists probably- okay, no I don’t. That would be counterproductive. But, I love making lists. I am a huge over-thinker (see previous post). The only way I can find peace is to be able to offload what’s on my mind somewhere tangible where I can refer back to or remind myself of later. It calms my anxiousness knowing I’m not the only one having to remember everything (that piece of paper or Microsoft document now has that responsibility)! Also, I enjoy making lists because I can unpack everything and rank items based on priorities. When you rank by priority, it sort of forces you to look deeper at the task at hand and place a value of importance on it. Not all items are as relevant to your immediate goal. Fair warning- lists only work if you do it habitually and if you have one centralized place for your list. Otherwise, you’re just a lost soul trying to remember where you put all your lists and what was on them!
5. Keep a Family Calendar.
Whether you keep it on your fridge or electronically on a shared app, having one common area for notable dates (family and friend’s birthdays), upcoming school events, important reminders, tasks you want to get done on free weekends, appointments, and playdates is key. It’s helpful to see a month in advance with everyone’s availabilities in one spot. If you have a major event coming up, you can also use this calendar to break up the to-dos leading up to the event and block enough time to tackle said tasks.
Please keep in mind this is just what works for me and my little family of three. I have one child. For some, that’s one too many and for others that’s a piece of cake. My life is still manageable in the grand scheme of things. I am only an expert at raising my child and functioning within my life but if anything above helps you out, then that’s a positive in my books! In conclusion, always do what works for you!
So, how do you cope with your endless list of responsibilities?
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