Want to Streamline Your Life? Get a System.
The idea of implementing household systems may seem cold and impersonal, but by streamlining life’s boring essentials, you can spend more time and energy on the people and things you love. While technology is a great way to get organized, there are also lots of physical systems you can establish to make your day-to-day tasks much less stressful.
In past ideabooks I’ve talked about setting up your home to serve you by embracing your habits and then organizing around them. Creating systems takes the same idea a step further -- but the first step is still recognizing what will or won’t work for you.
Confession: I’m a piler. My desk used to be covered in piles of mail and receipts. I’m never going to be a daily filer. That doesn’t mean my files are disorganized. On the contrary. Every day I drop my receipts and nonurgent mail in a basket on my desk (it’s not even small). I don’t even have to think when throwing everything in.
On Friday, I sit down and deal with it all. In less than 30 minutes I’ve sorted through it, piling all of my receipts and bills into categories, paying bills and then filing -- which goes sooooo much faster when everything is already sorted. Instead of trying to be an awesome immediate filer and then beating myself up for failing (while spending hours wondering where my cell phone is), I created a system that works for me.
What systems support your lifestyle and that of your family? Families with kids might benefit from a big schedule on the wall. Saturday is cleaning day. Or Tuesday is trash day, and it’s established that everyone will empty the wastebaskets in their rooms and take the trash out to the bins on the way out the door.
Systems are great for maintaining harmony in a home. Instead of being aggravated that the garbage is overflowing, you will have set up a plan that makes your expectations clear.
A physical system that’s helpful for kids is a great entryway. If you want your little ones to come in, take off their shoes and begin their homework, set up an space that makes it easy for them to do just that. Provide hooks for coats, cubbies for shoes and book bags, and an invitation for your kiddos to put all papers that need signing into a basket (which you might need to hold as they walk in the door). By making a routine easy, you can get business out of the way and get on with spending time together.
By setting up systems, you’ll ensure that things get done seamlessly and quickly -- but also correctly. If your daughter’s soccer uniform is never clean on game day, a laundry schedule is a system you could use.
As long as you’re implementing systems, go for the gold! Documenthow to do your laundry in a binder or even just on a small sign in the laundry room. Your kids or spouse can be reminded which items require special care and which are OK to toss in with the beach towels. Documenting laundry procedures might seem like something only the Stepford Wives would do, but it could also save your favorite sweater from an untimely demise, or be the difference between a pregame car ride spent in irritated silence and one of laughter, connection and encouragement.
Setting up systems that work for you is fabulous, but documenting them ensures that they’ll work for everyone else, too. You’ve set up a cabinet of cleaning supplies and know when you intend to use them. Why not also have a list of special instructions?
If you want the linens changed on the beds every other week, or for the refrigerator to be cleaned out once a month, write it down. It may take an additional 30 minutes up front, but it will make the plan clear to people who don’t live in your brain -- like your spouse, kids or (if you’re lucky) housekeeper.
Documenting the systems that work for your kids will ensure that new babysitters don’t get sold a bill of goods about midnight bedtimes, and that if you’re out of town, visiting grandparents can quickly see the inner workings of the house while keeping your kids or pets on a consistent schedule.
But it’s not just about keeping the kiddos or your furry kiddos on a consistent schedule, as much as it is about getting business out of the way quickly and smoothly so that more important things can be accomplished -- like quality time.
Little things in life pile up, and they’re important because they need to get done. But they’re not what life is really about. I like to focus on the actually important things I can do with the time I save by using systems. Less time wading through receipts equals more time with my family. Less time stressing about a complete lack of clean jeans equals more time to call an old friend.