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How to get organized and keep the house under control when you have no time

by respaced on January 30, 2012

Sometimes our disorganization isn’t caused by a lack of motivation or organizing know-how — it’s caused by a lack of time. Some of us may be looking around at huge piles in our house and wondering when we are ever going to have free a afternoon to tackle them, especially if we have children underfoot. Other people might be reluctant to sacrifice a free Saturday morning to get their home organized, because it seems like such a (insert one) boring/difficult/overwhelming/tedious task.

Here are some ways to find time to tackle the clutter in your home. I’ve included tactics for those who have a large chunk of time and for those who have very little free time:

If you have less than 30 minutes:

1. Do a commercial break clean-up. During the commercials of your favorite TV show, you focus on cleaning up the room that you are sitting in. This means you grab empty laundry baskets and put all of the things that don’t belong in the room, but go upstairs into one and all of the things that go downstairs in the other. You quickly hang up clothes, throw toys back into the basket, recycle the old magazines, whatever the room needs. Be sure and get your spouse and kids to help if they are watching the TV show with you!

2. Combine cleaning up with other tasks that you already do. For example, fold laundry while quizzing your child on her spelling or her arithmetic. Sort through the mail after you pay the bills. Do the dishes while waiting for the meat to brown or the water to boil.

3. Institute a 30-minute clean-up time each night for the whole family after dinner. Write down a list of tasks that you know the family can complete in 30 minutes and have each family member pick a few from the list (it works much better if they get to CHOOSE which tasks to complete, rather than being COMMANDED to complete specific tasks). If you have younger children, try to include tasks that they can help with such as folding the towels, putting the silverware away or picking up their toys off the floor. (This is the method we use in our house. Works great; in fact it’s the only way we get housework done!)

4. Choose a room, set a timer for 10 minutes and have a beat-the-clock race with the family to see how much they can pick up and put away before the timer goes off. Create a reward to go with this (eg. If the whole family gets the whole living room cleaned up before the timer goes off, everyone gets dessert.)

If you need to find a large chunk of time:

1. Swap babysitting with a friend. They watch your kids for an afternoon so you can organize a room, then next weekend you watch their kids for an afternoon so they can organize a room in their home.

2. Plan to throw a party in 3 weeks’ time. Nothing like knowing you have 30 people coming over to inspire you to sort, purge and clean!

3. Get an accountability partner. Find a friend whom you trust and feel comfortable around, but who can also be firm with you. Have them stay at your house in the room with you while you organize. If you get off task or start to make excuses to quit, the friend’s job is to tell you to get back to work!

4. Use good stress to your advantage. Set a lunch date or movie date with a friend and tell them you cannot go unless you do 3 hours of organizing in your home office. If you think you might be dishonest with yourself (hey, I’m not here to judge!), ask the friend to come to your house after your three hours to check on your work.

Whatever method you use to clear the clutter in your home, it helps to know when your peak performance time of day is and only work then. For example, if you are a morning person, then don’t plan on doing all of your housework after work. If you know you have a tendency to sleep in on the weekend, don’t schedule an organizing project for Saturday morning. It’s always best to work with the habits we already have.

How do you keep your house under control when you have very little free time?

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