The holidays are over, the kids are back at school and you’ve racked up an impressive list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s time to get everything running smoothly -- a difficult feat for a busy family. But this is your year! If you’re looking to make 2015 your most organized year yet, here are some places to start. Capitalize on that New Year’s energy, and make it happen!
End the nightly debate over what’s for dinner, and plan a month’s worth of meals in under 10 minutes. Simply assign a theme to each day. For example, you might have “meat-free Monday, slow cooker Tuesday, comfort food Wednesday, soup and sandwich Thursday, fun and easy Friday, leftover Saturday, and family dinner Sunday.” Grab a blank calendar and pick a meal for all the Mondays, then all the Tuesdays and so on. Use whatever categories your family likes, and rotate them seasonally. For example, add in grilling for the summer and soups for winter.
Most of our families go in a million different directions each day. Keep everything together by using one large family calendar hung in a central location. Most office stores sell large format calendars designed as desk blotters. These make perfect family calendars. While you’re out calendar shopping, pick up a pack of colored pens and designate a different color for each family member.
In families with older kids, you can go high-tech. There are a variety of smartphone apps that let you share calendars between all your family devices. Train your teens to add their obligations to the family calendar, and save yourself the trouble.
Create a command center
Do you feel like you’re drowning in paper? Between all the bills and stuff that comes home from school, most families generate an entire forest of flyers throughout the year. Keep it all corralled in one central location.
Buy magazine files and pocket folders and start organizing. Make one magazine file for school papers, and assign each child a different color folder to keep inside. Label another magazine file for bills, and keep separate color folders for each company you pay. Designate a third magazine file for important documents, then label separate folders for insurance documents, birth and marriage certificates, mortgage or loan documents, warranty information, health insurance information and retirement paperwork. You may also want a magazine file for home design inspiration — a place to store paint chips for the current colors in your home, etc.
Stay on top of cleaning
Get the family involved in picking up. Set a timer for 10 minutes before dinner each night, and challenge your family to see who can pick up the most items before the timer goes off. If you have kids, consider a small reward such as getting served first at dinner or a sticker for the nightly winner. For teens and tweens, give them more screen time or extend curfew by 15 minutes to keep them motivated.
To keep up with harder cleaning tasks -- like scrubbing bathrooms and vacuuming -- commit to a schedule that keeps you doing one big chore and one load of laundry each day. No one wants to spend an entire Saturday morning cleaning the house, so spread tasks throughout the week. Don’t forget to enlist your kids for help. Assigning chores teaches responsibility and encourages a strong work ethic.
When you think decluttering, your mind probably goes to “stuff,” but this is the perfect time to declutter your whole life. Get rid of all the unnecessary objects in your home, and while you’re at it, get rid of all the unnecessary commitments in your schedule. Say “no” more often, both to bringing needless objects into your home and to demands on your time.
If you’re looking to make changes in your life, there’s no better time than the present. It’s hard making organizational changes with a family, but keep everyone on track until it becomes part of the routine. With a little persistence, 2015 can become your most organized year yet.
(Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to three crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. She writes about passionate parenthood at moderatelycrunchy.com.)