Taking the Time to Organize

Getting Organized or Something

The days when I have the most piled on my mental to-do list are often the days when I get the least done. Makes no sense. But I feel so overwhelmed by everything I’m behind on that it’s crippling. And so I just do nothing. I’ve tried explaining this phenomenon to Johnny and he says, “Jooooo… I don’t get it.” while shaking his head in exasperation.

A few weeks ago, I decided this madness had to stop. I was always behind on my self-inflicted chores, and I wanted to either get it all done or nothing done. And so I was doing the bare minimum. The laundry was getting washed, but not folded. Our house appeared clean to any guests who stopped by, but that’s only because they never saw our bedrooms. I was getting dressed each day, but throwing my hair in a bun and wearing no makeup. Sally was wearing clothes each day, but never a diaper. Okay, that one’s mostly exaggerated.

In short, things were a mess. And so back to stopping the madness. It all started on a Sunday night. We’d done three loads of laundry, and we were sitting on the floor in front of the TV folding it together. “Let’s make Sunday laundry day,” Johnny said. “Every Sunday we’ll do laundry.” “Yes. I approve.” I doubt I actually said that because I can’t imagine responding that way. All I know is that I was excited to be able to compartmentalize Sundays as Laundry Day. So maybe more like, “YES! I approve!!!!!” All the other days of the week, I would no longer stress about laundry because I knew it was coming up on Sunday.

So then I decided I wanted to do this with all my other to-do’s, too. And Johnny agreed to help me figure out a good system. And so we’re working at it. For now, it’s as simple as focusing on one thing at a time. We’re doing laundry on Sundays. I’m going running on MWF so each day isn’t a mental battle of asking myself, Will today be the day you run? WILL IT?? I scrubbed the bathrooms one days this week and vacuumed and mopped another day.

We don’t have a schedule worked out perfectly yet because we’re still too behind on everything for that. I think working full time from home while also trying to care for Sally caused a slow but steady disorganization of our entire house. For instance, for months I’ve had frames to hang up in our bedroom and half-finished DIY crafts on the bedroom floor. I finished the two crafts on Wednesday. And yesterday I hung up the frames and did a general decluttering of our bedroom. #humblebrag But we can’t make a chore chart until those kinds of things are all caught up. Such as our bursting closet and drawers, which we’re tackling this weekend. It should be absolute chaos because one of us is a saver and the other is a purger when it comes to clothing. I think I feel a He Says/She Says coming on.

Of course, while the rest of the house crumbles to the ground, I’ve kept Sally’s room and closet obsessively organized and up to date because I guess I need a little control somewhere. Once we’re up to date, I’ll share our finalized household cleaning chart. In the meantime, it feels pretty darn good to finally be getting caught up — even if we still have a long way to go.

Can anyone relate to this at all? How do you stay caught up? If your name’s Martha or Stewart, please don’t comment. Did this post confirm your suspicions that I am indeed crazy?

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  • Reply Michelle August 15, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I laughed in a good way when I read this post because I too get super overwhelmed by all that needs to get done-and I don’t even have a kiddo! I try to get a lot done on Friday nights (if I don’t go out) or Saturday mornings. I really hate it when I have to do the lawn!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Girl, since writing this post, I’m back to feeling super overwhelmed again. Will the madness ever end?? :)

  • Reply TT August 15, 2014 at 7:39 am

    “…I wanted to either get it all done or nothing done.” Ugh. I’m the EXACT same way, and it drives me crazy. For me it has more to do with to-do’s at work, but I imagine if I were at home most days it would be the same. I’ve tried lots of to-do lists/services (my latest is trello.com) and they help, but I find the most effective thing for me are large calendars. Somehow ‘seeing’ everything all planned out over a week or month at a time helps me stay focused.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      I took your advice and put up a huge whiteboard calendar in the hall near the kitchen! I’m hoping it will help me be able to take in all my to-do’s without hyperventilating. :)

  • Reply Paula August 15, 2014 at 7:40 am

    This is my daily life in a nutshell lol. I get so overwhelmed with my mental to do list that I just don’t do anything. I have started writing it down and that has helped a little bit. My other downfall is that I tell myself I can’t do one thing until I do this other thing, well then nothing gets done. This is starting to carry over into our budget as well.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      It sounds like we both need a vacation!! :) I always come back from even a weekend away feeling refreshed and re-motivated.

  • Reply B August 15, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Ha I am the same way! A year ago I stumbled upon Fly Lady’s website, She has great cleaning ideas. For me, I need to do a little something for at least 15-20 minutes every night or my weekends are consumed by household/adult boring stuff, and nobody wants that! Cant wait to see your list when done!

    • Reply Tarynkay August 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      I second the Fly Lady recommendation. I worked through her system a few years ago. At first I felt really silly, like, hey now. I a grown-up. Do I really need some lady emailing me about when to clean my house? The answer was yes, yes I do.

      The key to doing anything well is to take it seriously. I think that the problem with housework is that we don’t take it seriously. We feel like we should just be able to do it, anybody could do it, right? I could get into a whole thing about how things traditionally considered womens’s work are routinely devalued and trivialized in this way, but I will spare you.

      The nice part is that once I worked through the Fly Lady schedule, I was able to keep up with it on my own. So it is similar to what people say about weight watchers- you learn the system, then it starts coming naturally. And sometimes you need a little refresher.

      I don’t have any affiliation with the Fly Lady, and I’m sure that any system you commit to will work the same way, that’s just the one I used.

      • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Great recommendation, Tarynkay. It makes me want to try it right this second!! I’m gonna sign up and give it a try!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Awesome!! Thanks for the tip, B!

  • Reply Megyn August 15, 2014 at 8:21 am

    We JUST made a chore chart a couple weeks ago as we were getting behind on general cleaning tasks. I’m a professional organizer, so I can (and sometimes do) spend all day de-cluttering and re-organizing every little thing. However, this means I generally suck at day to day cleaning as I want every organized before I get to work. Here is the chart we made. I like that it’s super-duper easy (https://www.facebook.com/177578972417909/photos/a.183573455151794.1073741827.177578972417909/309457385896733/?type=1&theater).

    If you ever want some de-cluttering/how to break attachment to stuff tips, I’d be more than happy to do a free consult via email or Skype :)

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Very cool chart! It makes everything seem so manageable. My problem when I make charts is that I get wayyyy too detailed and soon it’s completely unrealistic. Thanks for sharing… I might be printing that out for our our house! :)

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls August 15, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Seriously, cleanmama.net!
    She has a calendar each month to do just a little at a time. And you don’t have to be caught up. Just start on the days task and go forward!
    She has 4 things to do daily, then one bigger task to focus on each day that ties into a theme for the week. I am not affiliated in any way and I get nothing for saying it. It’s just the simplest method I have come across. I’m trying to fit it into our day which is a little tougher since we are all out of the house about 10-12 hrs a day. But I’m trying! She actually suggests doing just one load of laundry every single day from start to finish. It’s just a chore that is never done (gets worse with more/older kids…they actually find totally we messes!) so why not just do a little each day to avoid the mountain!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      She has so many good printables! I think you’ve mentioned her before, and I looked her up but forgot about her…. just super organized like that! 😉

      The laundry idea is a good one… we don’t have enough for every day, but we could probably break it up into three or four days. I REALLY hate laundry.

      • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls August 25, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        Wait until Sally is potty training and then heads off to school…you will have PLENTY of laundry! It’s not the washing or drying…the darn folding and putting away is awful! I emptied every single basket Saturday night before bed and Sunday morning there was another full load…grrrr
        I am training the littles to help. My youngest is more into helping…the 6 yo throws herself on the floor in a tantrum that would put most others to shame! The 5yo will take what I fold and put it away for everyone. I hang stuff and she’ll put in the closets!

  • Reply Heather August 15, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I am generally really organized, but I recently moved in with my boyfriend, and I can fully unpack until he gets done certain things ( e.g. finish painting the office so I can finally move all my crap off the kitchen table!). It’s driving me BANANAS!!!

    I would offer advice, but I don’t have a kid, so I think it’s much easier for me. Although, I have a super long commute, so by the time I get home and get dinner done, it feels like the whole evening is gone and nothing gets done. I still live in the 19th century and operate off of to do lists on paper. I make one per week with (hopefully) realistic goals of what to get done. And I’m a big fan of schedules!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      I’m like you… I have a planner that is full of my to-do lists and scribbles. I love your idea of doing one big list at the beginning of each week!!

  • Reply Wade August 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Does this have a name? I set my mind to do something. As I’m walking to do it I see something that needs to be picked up or put away. I do that on the way. While doing that I see something else and then something else. Pretty soon I’m 7 tasks removed from the original task I set out to do. It is so hard to ignore the things. It is some type of brain hiccup and performance optimization thing. Oh, I’ll do that, then that, then that. Sometimes I forget what I originally set out to do. Calgon, take me away! :-)

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I’m not sure what the name is, but it sounds like a pretty good trait to have, Wade! Keep it up!!

  • Reply Little House August 15, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Mr. LH would say I’m the messy one and he’s the one always trying to clean up after me, which drives him nuts! I do make an effort, but sometimes I have so many other things going on, it’s hard for me to prioritize cleaning. 😉 I often hear myself say, “I’ll take care of that later,” but later never comes. The only thing that’s currently organized are all my school supplies and lesson plans (well, sort of. )

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      I hear ya. I know things have gotten bad when Johnny says, “All right, we need to clean.” That’s my cue that I have REALLY let things go!

  • Reply Hilary August 15, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I totally have a chore list – one per day, generally. Money & Market Monday, toilets Tuesday, wash Wednesday, tidy Thursday, floors Friday. Kind of like Ma Ingallas in Little House on the Prairie. :)

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Alliteration! I like it!!

  • Reply Holly S August 15, 2014 at 10:05 am

    So glad to read this. My kids started back to school this week and our house looks like a hurricane swept through. Our house usually looks very lived in since we stay crazy busy with my two teenagers hectic schedules but when it gets this bad I tend to look around, decide it’s way too much of a project to tackle, and collapse on the couch and turn on the Waltons. I think maybe I should try the cleaning project a day.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      I needed to read all of your comments! There’s been nothing more motivating than hearing other people’s tips and knowing other people get where I’m coming from!

  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF August 15, 2014 at 10:10 am

    We don’t have any children, but we have let our house “go” in the last few months as we’ve both been finishing graduate school. In my upcoming funemployment I definitely want to get things organized around the house! There’s nothing like a routine to help you get things done IMO. I’m trying to get into one right now with workouts – running is MWF, tennis is TSa, weights are Th, Su is off. Like you said, it’s much easier to complete the workout when you’re not deciding whether to do it for the whole day!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Way to go on having such a great workout routine! Nothing feels better than taking the time to take care of yourself!

  • Reply Sarah August 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    “I wanted to either get it all done or nothing done.” ME TOO. If I have so much on my to-do list that I know I can’t tackle everything it makes me want to just quit right there. Ugh!!
    Good for you guys on getting into a schedule though. Normally either Saturday or Sunday is laundry day for us, but the rest of our cleaning isn’t on a routine. It probably really needs to be…. womp womp :(

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      You and me both. I’m really hoping I can figure out something that sticks this time!

  • Reply Shay August 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

    When our lives get busy and we go from one activity to another, our house suffers.
    When we take the time to look around, it’s easier to see what needs to be done.
    Setting a timer for 5 minutes gets me going and I run around and get things picked up. In 15 mins, I can clean up one whole room.

    FLYLADY. Net gives you steps, baby steps, to get your house in order. Just like our financial baby steps! She also has a Facebook page as well.

    Good luck!


    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      A few people have mentioned FlyLady, so I’m excited to use some of her resources! And timers are such a great idea…. my mom always did that with us kids, and I forgot about it until you mentioned it!

  • Reply Jen August 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Not crazy at all! I do a load of laundry on Thursday night with towels and whatever else is dirty and another load on Sunday with sheets and whatever else needs washing. Every night I try to load or run the dishwasher and tidy the kitchen before bed, and empty the dishwasher in the morning and do a quick pick up before my husband and kiddo are up and we have to get ready for work. Tuesday nights I vacuum and mop floors, and Wednesdays are usually for a quick dusting and cleaning bathrooms (while giving kiddo a bath) . This leaves the rest of the week for other projects or deep cleaning certain rooms as they need it. Just go with what works for you!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      I try to do the same thing with our kitchen! I’m always glad I did it come morning, but it is really tough to convince myself it’s worth it some nights!!

  • Reply Alice @Earning My Two Cents August 15, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I hear you! I am constantly behind on chores. I see dust bunnies and stress about how I don’t have time to sweep or mop. But I find that listing things that I need to do and then checking them off helps. And I also find that even when I am tired and just want to plop on the couch, I tell myself that it only takes 5 minutes to do those dishes and then its something I can check off. Then it’s done and one less thing to do. I find that once I get started on a task I am way more likely to finish it, its just getting motivated to start that’s hardest.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      You’re right, Alice! Once I actually get up the motivation to start a task, I’m unstoppable!! It’s the starting that’s so tough!

  • Reply Sharon August 18, 2014 at 10:53 am

    There is a vlogger – How Jen Does It that absolutely takes the guess work out of organization and routines. Check her out here:
    She’s helped me enormously just be offering out a few morning/evening/weekly routines.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Awesome! Thanks, Sharon. I’m excited to check her out!

  • Reply Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans August 19, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Oh man, I know this struggle all to well! Compartmentalizing all chores sounds like a great idea. I definitely need to do that with cleaning my bathroom/bedroom/every room! Otherwise nothing gets cleaned until it all just looks like one huge mess, and then I get overwhelmed and get into “Angry Lisa cleaning” mode, haha!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      I know all about angry cleaning mode! Sometimes that can actually be very effective!

  • Reply Halsy August 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    We moved about 5 weeks before our second child was born ( now 3 months old!) and I still haven’t found a good system for cleaning yet! We now have 2 floors, 2 more bedrooms and 2 more bathrooms! It’s wonderful to have those things but cleaning twice as much house not so much fun :/ I think I’m going to try a master checklist of household chores for week and just check them off as I can do them. I might even put them into 2 categories “quiet” and “noisy” so I can better decide what to do during naps!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      I totally know what you mean. However crazy it sounds, it was a lot easier to keep our 500 sq. ft. apartment clean than our current 1600 sq. ft. place. And I really like your quiet and noisy idea!

  • Reply Geraldine April 4, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks for this simple reminder of choosing days so you don’t wonder if this is the day I’ll get to my exercise or chore done.
    My mom saw “those” people that did laundry on “Saturdays” as overcomplicated. She was super woman somehow in the organization and budget department, but she had her own schedule as an independent business woman and single mother who bent her schedule however she pleased, and before that she grew up with maids. So this idea, sounds a little stiff to me, but I have to try it. Now will I stick to it? I am glad to know now I am not broken because I need a day of the week to be a “chore” or “exercise” day. Thank you!
    BTW..I think most parents ask and keep their kids rooms and bathrooms way cleaner than we do our own. I feel my kid needs to grow up knowing what a clean and organized house is, at least before they go to college and live like piggys for a few years, and then start to organize their own life again 😉

    • Reply Johnny May 10, 2015 at 8:22 am

      We also know people like your superhero organizer mom. I envy them. The main point for assigning days is to alleviate the stress and anxiety in your head about all of the things you have to do. Instead, you just fall back on your system and know that everything will be taken care of in its due time.

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